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NATIONAL BESTSELLER

A leading scholar''s powerful, in-depth look at the imprisonment of immigrants addressing the intersection of immigration and the criminal justice system

For most of America''s history, we simply did not lock people up for migrating here. Yet over the last thirty years, the federal and state governments have increasingly tapped their powers to incarcerate people accused of violating immigration laws. As a result, almost 400,000 people annually now spend some time locked up pending the result of a civil or criminal immigration proceeding.

In Migrating to Prison, leading scholar César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández takes a hard look at the immigration prison system''s origins, how it currently operates, and why. He tackles the emergence of immigration imprisonment in the mid-1980s, with enforcement resources deployed disproportionately against Latinos, and he looks at both the outsized presence of private prisons and how those on the political right continue, disingenuously, to link immigration imprisonment with national security risks and threats to the rule of law.

Interspersed with powerful stories of people caught up in the immigration imprisonment industry, including children who have spent most of their lives in immigrant detention, Migrating to Prison is an urgent call for the abolition of immigration prisons and a radical reimagining of the United States: who belongs and on what criteria is that determination made?

Review

Praise for Migrating to Prison:
"Hernández lays out in a lucid, linear fashion the evolution of immigration law and its enforcement in the United States."
The Intercept

"César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández''s Migrating to Prison uncovers the history of U.S. immigrant detention‚ from the 1980s to the present."
Bustle

"[García Hernández] argues compellingly that immigrant advocates shouldn''t content themselves with debates about how many thousands of immigrants to lock up, or other minor tweaks."
Gus Bova, Texas Observer

"In tracing the history behind today''s record levels of imprisonment, García Hernández reveals the haphazard ways immigration enforcement has been devised and administered, how supremacist notions of nationalism and race have long guided our policymaking, and how adherence to procedural guidelines was gradually reframed as a question of criminality."
The New York Review of Books

"An immigration lawyer takes the U.S. immigration imprisonment system to task in this passionate, credible treatise."
Shelf Awareness

"A chilling, timely overview of the American tendency to first exploit and then criminalize migrants. . . . García Hernández balances current controversies and historical perspective to heart-rending effect [and] counters pessimism with in-depth research and measured, passionate argument."
Kirkus Reviews

"Exuding humanity, insight, and forbearance, Garcia Hernández offers a concise and powerful look at a complex and perplexing challenge."
Booklist

"A thought-provoking perspective on immigration and U.S. immigration policy."
Library Journal (starred review)

"An accessible history and fierce critique of the U.S. immigration system. . . . His thoughtful mixture of reportage and legal scholarship makes for an important entry in the immigration debate."
Publishers Weekly

"Timely, informative, expertly written, organized and presented, Migrating to Prison: America''s Obsession with Locking Up Immigrants is unreservedly recommended."
The Midwest Book Review

"Migrating to Prison makes the persuasive case that the astronomical boom in imprisonment of immigrants stems from exactly the same root causes, both financial and political, as the dramatic escalation in mass incarceration."
The Baffler

"Required reading for anyone fighting for a new immigration policy vision that welcomes immigrants. We need to understand the sadistic, multibillion-dollar industry of immigrant detention so that we can rip it down and make sure it never comes back."
―Cristina Jiménez, co-founder and executive director of United We Dream

"Essential for anyone trying to understand how the United States came to have the world''s largest detention infrastructure. García Hernández does a masterful job of laying out the turning points of immigration imprisonment from Ellis Island to family separation and the case for abolishing the practice altogether."
―Silky Shah, executive director of Detention Watch Network

"García Hernández provides an insightful examination of the eerie parallels between immigration imprisonment and mass incarceration. He makes a compelling argument that criminalizing immigration enforcement is not only a seriously flawed practical strategy, but an affront to human rights as well."
Marc Mauer, executive director of The Sentencing Project and author of Race to Incarcerate

"A ''must-read'' for any American interested in the tragic humanitarian impacts of the mass detention of immigrants as a central tool in contemporary immigration enforcement. García Hernández writes cogently, intelligently, and passionately about the increasingly expansive use of detention to regulate immigration. The book could not be more timely."
Kevin R. Johnson, dean, University of California, Davis, School of Law

"At a time when child migrant camps and family separations have drawn the attention of Americans, Migrating to Prison provides a vital road map to understand how the immigrant detention industry has evolved over the years. A critical and accessible primer for anyone interested in understanding the system―and abolishing it."
Deepa Iyer, author of We Too Sing America

"Migrating to Prison rips the veils off of the immigration detention system. García Hernández brings a sharp legal eye to showing how our immigration system has become so twisted that we take for granted the outrageous. If you want a crystal clear explanation of why we need to abolish immigration detention, this is the book for you."
―Aviva Chomsky, author of Undocumented


About the Author

César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández is a professor of law at the University of Denver and an immigration lawyer. He runs the blog Crimmigration.com and regularly speaks on immigration law and policy issues. He has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, NPR, and many other venues. The author of Migrating to Prison (The New Press), he lives in Denver.

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4.7 out of 54.7 out of 5
43 global ratings

Top reviews from the United States

Donald Hall Jr
5.0 out of 5 starsVerified Purchase
Great read!
Reviewed in the United States on September 22, 2021
This book was a required text for my sociology course, but I am very glad I read it. Not too long, full of information and a dose of reality.
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Tonstant Weader
5.0 out of 5 stars
Short, Urgent, and Timely with Sound Ideas for Reform
Reviewed in the United States on February 25, 2020
Migrating to Prison traces American’s predilection for locking up immigrants. It didn’t start with Trump and it didn’t start with Obama. In fact, even the famed Ellis Island entry included a detention center. However, we are locking up more people for longer for more... See more
Migrating to Prison traces American’s predilection for locking up immigrants. It didn’t start with Trump and it didn’t start with Obama. In fact, even the famed Ellis Island entry included a detention center. However, we are locking up more people for longer for more specious reasons than ever before. How has this happened?

The first part of the book focuses on the history of immigration laws and detention. None of it is terribly surprising. We have always worked to restrict immigration from nonwhite countries.

However, while detention was always a possibility, today’s explosion of immigrant detention is unprecedented. It’s all about politics and money. Demagoguery about outsiders is an effective way to attract supporters. People like simple explanations that blame other people, the more “other” the better. When politicians seek power through hate and couple that with the profit motive of private detention of immigrants, there is trouble.

He also discusses the lack of second chances for immigrants. People lose any path to citizenship for even slight infractions such as having a joint or driving without a license and can be put on the path to deportation. He discusses the case of Garcia Zarate whose indictment for the shooting of Kate Steinle was demagogued by Republicans even though in the end, the jury acquitted him, but not before Boehner’s House passed Kate’s Law. It died in the Senate. Prison is the first resort for immigrants with even misdemeanor offenses, justified as necessary for public safety.

And yes, the money. It’s not just the donations from private contractors, it’s the communities whose main industry is a prison. Closing a prison means lost jobs, people moving away, and lost government funding. Prisoners count in the census which determines representation in state and federal government and the share of state and federal support communities garner. When a prison is in danger of closing, the townspeople and their reps rush to defend and protect its existence. Locking up migrants is particularly profitable because the cost is born solely by the federal government, no local and state money is kicked in.

Migrating to Prison is an important book. Immigration is a deeply polarizing issue and was the linchpin to Trump’s election. The book is well organized and full of personal stories that should shock the conscience. Best of all, García Hernández has more comprehensive suggestions to reform the system than repeal Citizens United. He knows that abolition requires a sea change in our attitudes, but provides examples of several programs that have worked in the past to prove that immigrants do not need to be detained in order to show up for hearings nor is it necessary to protect public safety.

I received an e-galley of Migrating to Prison from the publisher through NetGalley.

Migrating to Prison at The New Press
César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández family page
Article by the author in Time Magazine
2 people found this helpful
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Deborah Stevens
4.0 out of 5 stars
Good overview of immigration prisons
Reviewed in the United States on December 8, 2019
This is a solid, accessible introduction to an important topic. News junkies will already know much of what is found here, as there has been much recent coverage of the topic. Even so there will be some new information for just about every reader. A... See more
This is a solid, accessible introduction to an important topic.

News junkies will already know much of what is found here, as there has been much recent coverage of the topic.

Even so there will be some new information for just about every reader. A key takeaway for me was how recent the whole idea of locking up unauthorized immigrants is.
6 people found this helpful
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purplepenguins
5.0 out of 5 stars
Must read to understand how we got where we are today
Reviewed in the United States on October 22, 2020
A must read whether or not you are familiar with the history of immigration law in the US. The author is a law professor originally from the Rio Grande Valley, where his family have an immigration practice. His family''s lived experience provides a unique lens. This personal... See more
A must read whether or not you are familiar with the history of immigration law in the US. The author is a law professor originally from the Rio Grande Valley, where his family have an immigration practice. His family''s lived experience provides a unique lens. This personal background further informs his abolitionist argument that detention is an indefensible, moneymaking endeavor.
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Jacob Pederson
5.0 out of 5 stars
America’s gulag archipelago
Reviewed in the United States on November 13, 2020
Excellent analysis of our harsh immigration policies and their consequences for the marginalized.
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Andrew W March
1.0 out of 5 stars
More ridiculous propaganda
Reviewed in the United States on October 9, 2020
A pile of garbage. Don''t waste your time.
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