Detention Empire: Reagan's War on Immigrants and the Seeds of Resistance



The early 1980s marked a critical turning point for the rise of modern mass incarceration in the United States. The Mariel Cuban migration of 1980, alongside increasing arrivals of Haitian and Central American asylum-seekers, galvanized new modes of covert warfare in the Reagan administration's globalized War on Drugs. Using newly available government documents, Shull demonstrates how migrant detention operates as a form of counterinsurgency at the intersections of U.S. war-making and domestic carceral trends. As the Reagan administration developed retaliatory enforcement measures to target a racialized specter of mass migration, it laid the foundations of new forms of carceral and imperial expansion.

Reagan's war on immigrants also sowed seeds of mass resistance. Drawing on critical refugee studies, community archives, protest artifacts, and oral histories, Detention Empire also shows how migrants resisted state repression at every turn. People in detention and allies on the outside--including legal advocates, Jesse Jackson's Rainbow Coalition, and the Central American peace and Sanctuary movements--organized hunger strikes, caravans, and prison uprisings to counter the silencing effects of incarceration and speak truth to U.S. empire. As the United States remains committed to shoring up its borders in an era of unprecedented migration and climate crisis, reckoning with these histories take on new urgency.

ISBN 9781469669861
List price $29.95
Publisher The University of North Carolina Press
Year of publication 2022