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Immigration Law

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

Prof. Kristina Shull, Sept. 14, 2022

"... My forthcoming book, Detention Empire, zeroes in on the early 1980s as a critical turning point in the rise of mass incarceration. An event known as the Mariel Cuban boatlift, a large-scale migration of 125,000 Cubans to south Florida during the summer 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. Demonstrating how detention operates as a form of counterinsurgency at the intersections of U.S. war-making and domestic crime-fighting, Detention Empire traces the Reagan administration’s development of retaliatory enforcement measures to target a racialized specter of mass migration. Laying the foundations of new forms of carceral and imperial expansion, these measures included the systematic detention of asylum-seekers, drug and immigrant interdiction programs, the militarization of a more broadly imagined U.S. border, and prison privatization. ..."

Kristina Shull is an assistant professor and Director of Public History at UNC Charlotte, and the the author of Detention Empire: Reagan's War on Immigrants and the Seeds of Resistance.