Guest post by Dr Monish Bhatia, Lecturer in Criminology at Birkbeck, University of London. His research focuses on asylum and state violence, and race, migration and criminal justice. Monish’s recent co-edited volume Media, Crime and Racism was published by Palgrave. He is currently writing a monograph titled Border Harms: Treatment of Asylum Seekers and Illegalised Migrants in Great Britain, to be published by Palgrave (paperback). 

Review of Forced Out and Fenced In: Immigration Tales from the Field, by Tanya Golash-Boza (ed.) (Oxford University Press, 2017).

Towards the end of May 2018, a 20-year-old woman called Claudia Patricia Gómez Gonzáles, a Guatemalan national belonging to the Maya-Mam indigenous group, was shot dead by a border patrol officer in Texas. Claudia came from a poverty stricken village in the western region of Quetzaltenango, and she had travelled to the US to go to school. Her ambition, hopes and dreams of realising a better life were brutally ended by Customs and Border Protection agent. After the incident, reports emerged that the officer was placed on administrative leave. However, violence towards migrants is not confined to any one single individual misadventure. Far more disturbingly, it is systemic and operates as a structural, historical and routinized set of practices and official policies, designed to force the racialized ‘other’ out. While the image of Claudia and video of her grieving mother was still fresh in my mind, I started reading Tanya Golash-Boza’s edited collection titled Forced Out, Fenced In: Immigration Tales from the Field.

It is a well-known fact within academic circles that such edited volumes are notoriously difficult to pull together to form a coherent whole. This is largely because they require every chapter to consistently follow a central theme and meet the aims and objectives of the broader writing project. Golash-Boza achieves this difficult task admirably. From start to finish, every contribution in this book is powerful, scholarly and interdisciplinary, highlighting the sheer racism, violence and brutality that constitutes the daily reality of the US migration control regime. The uniqueness of this volume lies in the fact that it foregrounds migrant narratives and experiences of ‘living’ in hostile America. It is written in an accessible style and free of unnecessary jargon, with an eye not only on students and researchers, but also on readers beyond academia. The book contains twenty-two captivating chapters, divided in seven parts, addressing different aspects of the migration experience: migration journeys; families torn apart by deportation; living as an undocumented migrant; seeking refuge; gendered experiences of deportation; aftermath of deportation; and the ways youth navigate their lives post-deportation.   

In How Will I Get My Skull Back, Nolan Kline brings voice of an (undocumented) man called Miguel to explain the health-related consequences of immigrant policing. Miguel was a victim of a hit-and-run incident. He was hospitalised and during surgery a large portion of his skull was removed. The result left him with a permanent disfigurement to his head, now resembling a curious crescent shape. Discriminatory employers were unwilling to hire him due to assumptions about his health and ability derived from his appearance. The subsequent corrective surgery on his skull was cancelled, as Miguel owed money to the hospital that removed   the bone from the first surgery, which they refused to release. Typically, undocumented migrants lack health insurance and within the US they are further prohibited from purchasing one through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. This leaves people like Miguel subject to considerable financial risk should they be unfortunate enough to require medical attention, as they are required to pay their own treatment costs. The chapter raises a number of alarming questions about the biological rights of migrants, the ownership of body parts, the exclusion from healthcare provision due to immigration status and the consequent harms suffered therein.

Bringing the voice of Ramon (and his family) in‘Til Law Do Us Apart, Ruth Gomberg-Munoz describes the heart-breaking consequences faced by families of mixed migration status. Lupita –Ramon’s partner and mother of his three children--was one of the 20,000 undocumented migrants who had to travel back to their countries of origin (in this case Mexico) to undergo a consular process that if successful, would lead to the legalisation of  their immigration status in 2011. Lupita was also one of the thousands of unsuccessful cases, and was barred from returning to the US. This separation caused the family great distress, as Ramon mentions: 'Everything I have here, photos of her, I can’t look at them, I feel so desperate because my heart starts to vibrate like it’s telling me that my need for her is here' (p. 72). The chapter shows the ways in which policies that target undocumented migrants can also devastate citizens. The family’s story highlights the irrationality of the immigration policies, and the gap between social inclusion and legal exclusion, in which undocumented migrants and their (mixed status) families can become quickly trapped. More crucially, the chapter showcases the different ways in which immigration systems can inflict excruciating emotional pain by forcefully splitting loved ones apart from each other. 

In From High School Graduation to Deportation, Alexis Silver explains the ever-present threat of deportation and the climate of “legal violence” undocumented families face. The chapter highlights the story of a young man called Ezequiel, who was deported from America soon after his High School graduation, and who after several attempts and with the help of a coyote, managed to re-enter the country. After 4 years, he was once again ‘profiled’ while driving and questioned by the police, without any reasonable suspicion of involvement in a criminal activity. Ezequiel was eventually deported for the second time and was forced return to Mexico, where he experienced considerable social isolation and stigma. Simultaneously, he endured the trauma and pain of being separated and forced to live away from his family, who were in America. Graduation marks a key moment in every young person’s life, who hope and dream for a better and brighter future – however, for Ezequiel and many others, these were curtailed due to deportation and becoming trapped in limbo.  The chapter uncovers the lives of youth who are deported: their experiences of exclusion from two nations and the feeling of perpetual confinement.

I highly recommend this book. Each contribution is critically, empirically and creatively written, and it contains a depth and breadth of information about the US racialized immigration control regime and its impact on the lives of people who are undocumented and illegalised. The text also constitutes a useful teaching aid for undergraduate and postgraduate modules related to the study of race, migration as well as explorations of social justice.

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How to cite this blog post (Harvard style) 

Bhatia, M. (2018) Book Review: Forced Out and Fenced In: Immigration Tales from the Field. Available at: (Accessed [date]).