DU Law Professor’s Book Challenges U.S. Obsession With Imprisoning Immigrants

In his new book, Migrating to Prison, leading scholar award winner Cesar Cuauhtemoc Garcia Hernadez takes a hard look at the immigration prison system’s origins, how it currently operates and why. Cuauhtemoc Garica Hernandez spoke with KGNU’s Rossana Longo about his research and how his work exposes a “broken” immigration system “working exactly as designed.”

“The system has not malfunctioned. It is intended to punish, stigmatize, and marginalize– all for political and financial gain. Politicians get elected, local governments receive revenue, corporations profit and white racist find comfort against the prevailing winds of change that bring different languages, different people, and new challenges to old communities. That is exactly what is happening.”

– Cesar Cuauhtemoc Garica Hernandez, DU Law Professor, Author and Immigration Lawyer

Cuauhtemoc Garica Hernandez point out locking people up for migrating to the United States is a fairly new phenomenon and 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, roughly 400.000 people a year of all ages now spend some time in detention centers pending the result of a civil or criminal immigration proceeding.

When speaking to KGNU, Cuauhtemoc Garica Hernandez said, “there’s a common assumption that the people who are locked up don’t have the government’s permission to be in the United States. That’s not true…There are are people who I talk about in the book and many others who have the government’s permission and in one way or another they show up on the government’s radar. The government thinks, ICE thinks, they’ve done something to make them deportable and so we’ll lock them up while we figure that out.”

In his book, 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.

Cesar Cuauhtemoc Garica Hernandez is a professor of law at the University of Denver and an immigration lawyer. He runs a blog. Crimmigration.com and regularly speaks on immigration issues. He has appeared in the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, NPR, the BBC, and many other media outlets. A native of McAllen TX, a city at the heart of the American immigration debate, he now lives in Denver.