U.S. detention and deportation : the politics of invisibility, violence, and death




Loera Moreno, Lilia

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Today the United States operates the largest immigration detention system globally, with an estimated 29,613 immigrants detained across 200 immigrant prisons and jails as of June 2023 (TRAC Immigration 2023). According to federal government data, over 70 percent of immigrants detained are held in private prisons, with undocumented migrants comprising one of the fastest-growing prison populations (TRAC Immigration 2023). With this in mind, this dissertation is an ethnography of detention and deportation that examines the state apparatuses that govern U.S. immigration policies from 1924 to today. In particular, I apply and use the concept of the carceral state to consider the interconnected network of carceral and immigration regimes fused together by state and non-state entities at the local, regional, national, and transnational levels. In addition, this dissertation also centers the lived experiences and voices of undocumented immigrants and the ways activism and resistance are enacted within communities. To do this, I conducted an ethnography between January 2020 to December 2021, where I worked with two immigrant rights organizations, Grassroots Leadership and Freedom for Immigrants. My field methods included semi-structured interviews, direct and participant observation, and an oral history component. Based on my findings, violence manifested itself in detention transfers, waiting for resources and necessities, immigration bonds, surveillance, and routinized abuse. I contend that the U.S. has created a necropolitical immigration regime that places migrants in a space of social death where they are ineligible to personhood and made vulnerable to slow and structural violence manifested in the everyday.



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