by César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández, University of Denver Sturm College of LawRead **“Abolishing Immigration Prisons”** by César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández, published in the Boston University Law Review and the University of Denver Sturm College of Law Legal Research Paper Series:
The United States has a long and inglorious history of coercive state practices of social control that are motivated, explicitly or implicitly, by race. From chattel slavery to modern incarceration, state actors have regularly marginalized, demonized, and exploited people racialized as nonwhite. Immigration imprisonment — the practice of confining people because of a suspected or confirmed immigration law violation — fits neatly into this ignoble tradition. The United States’ half million immigration prisoners, who are overwhelmingly Latino, were almost all pushed and pulled to leave their countries of origin in part by policies promoted or supported by the United States. Yet, once here, Latin American migrants are relegated to a legal system that treats them as confineable based merely on their status.
Even worse is that the practice of immigration imprisonment, as designed and operated, has stripped migrants of their inherent dignity as humans and has instead commodified them into a source of revenue. For immigration prisoners, the prison operates as a means of segregation and stigmatization: immigration prisoners are segregated from the political community and perceived to be dangerous. For other migrants who, for the time being at least, avoid imprisonment, the prison symbolizes the state’s brute power. For the vast network of interested parties who have invested deeply in immigration imprisonment, the prison marks the location of production. Paid according to the number of people locked up, private prisons and local governments profit from human bondage. Meanwhile, opportunistic politicians reap political rewards by pointing to barbed wire perimeters and sizeable prison populations as evidence of their efforts to protect the nation.
This Article is the first to argue that immigration imprisonment is inherently indefensible and should be abolished. The United States should instead adopt an alternative moral framework of migrants and migration that is grounded in history and attuned to human fallibility. Doing so will help discourage harmful immigration rhetoric steeped in myths of migrant criminality and will foster better understanding of migrants and their reasons for coming to the United States.
The entire paper can be downloaded without charge from the Social Science Research Network Electronic Paper Collection.
César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández is an associate professor at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law. He has been publishing crImmigration.com since 2009. César’s academic interests center on crimmigration law, including teaching a seminar on the topic and having published articles about the right to counsel for immigrants in the criminal justice system, immigration imprisonment, and race-based immigration policing in the California Law Review, UCLA Law Review, Boston University Law Review, BYU Law Review, Maryland Law Review, and Georgetown Immigration Law Journal, among others. His book, Crimmigration Law, was published by the American Bar Association in 2015. In addition to teaching a crimmigration seminar, he teaches Immigration Law, Criminal Procedure, and Torts.
Born and raised in McAllen, Texas, César is a graduate of Brown University and Boston College Law School. He is Of Counsel to García & García Attorneys at Law, P.L.L.C.