100 books like Migrating to Prison

By César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández,

Here are 100 books that Migrating to Prison fans have personally recommended if you like Migrating to Prison. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California

Nancy Hiemstra Author Of Detain and Deport: The Chaotic U.S. Immigration Enforcement Regime

From my list on why the U.S. has the biggest immigration detention system.

Why am I passionate about this?

I first became aware of harms of immigration enforcement policies while volunteering to tutor kids of undocumented migrant farmworkers in the 1990s. Through a variety of jobs in the U.S. and Latin America, my eyes were opened to reasons driving people to migrate and challenges immigrants face. I eventually went to graduate school in Geography to study local to transnational reverberations of immigration policies. A project in Ecuador where I helped families of people detained in the U.S. led me to realize how huge, cruel, and ineffective U.S. immigration detention is. I hope these books help you break through myths about detention and make sense of the chaos.

Nancy's book list on why the U.S. has the biggest immigration detention system

Nancy Hiemstra Why did Nancy love this book?

This book is key to understanding the economic, political, and social drivers behind the rise of the incarceration industry, which moved on to promote and expand immigration detention using the same playbook.

Ruth Wilson Gilmore provides a powerful case study of the explosive growth of California’s prison system since the 1980s. The book traces how corporate lobbyists for the prison industry took advantage of local economic downturn and racist narratives to push new laws that massively increased the number of people incarcerated, fueling a prison boom.

While a depressing account, Gilmore leaves the reader with a sense of hope and purpose by recounting the rise of a determined grassroots movement fighting the hungry carceral industry, with lessons that can be transferred to stopping detention expansion.

By Ruth Wilson Gilmore,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Golden Gulag as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Since 1980, the number of people in U.S. prisons has increased more than 450%. Despite a crime rate that has been falling steadily for decades, California has led the way in this explosion, with what a state analyst called 'the biggest prison building project in the history of the world'. "Golden Gulag" provides the first detailed explanation for that buildup by looking at how political and economic forces, ranging from global to local, conjoined to produce the prison boom. In an informed and impassioned account, Ruth Wilson Gilmore examines this issue through statewide, rural, and urban perspectives to explain how…


Book cover of Deported: Immigrant Policing, Disposable Labor and Global Capitalism

Sarah Tosh Author Of The Immigration Law Death Penalty: Aggravated Felonies, Deportation, and Legal Resistance

From my list on challenge the “good immigrant/bad immigrant” binary.

Why am I passionate about this?

Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, I was acutely aware of the way my non-white and non-citizen classmates were treated differently by police and other authorities. Studying racial inequality in the War on Drugs as an undergraduate and graduate-level Sociology student, I began to understand the many links between the criminal and immigration systems, and how often the stories of criminalized people are left behind. I became committed to bringing attention to the racially inequalities that shape these systems. In doing so, I aim to uplift resistance to the “good immigrant/bad immigrant” binary that frames non-citizens with criminal records as undeserving and disposable.

Sarah's book list on challenge the “good immigrant/bad immigrant” binary

Sarah Tosh Why did Sarah love this book?

Deported was one of the first books I read that fully explained the links between deportation and inequality, in both readable and evidence-backed ways.

I appreciate it for the way it uses riveting narratives from deportees themselves, to demonstrate how the unequal conditions of global capitalism spur migration in the first place, while inequality in the United States leads to the criminalization and deportation of men of color.

This book stands out to me in its focus on Black and Afro-Latinx immigrants from the Caribbean, a group known to be targeted by the US War on Drugs, who are often left out of the literature on immigration enforcement and deportation.

By Tanya Maria Golash-Boza,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Deported as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Winner, 2016 Distinguished Contribution to Research Book Award, given by the American Sociological Association Latino/a Section
The intimate stories of 147 deportees that exposes the racialized and gendered dimensions of mass deportations in the U.S.
The United States currently is deporting more people than ever before: 4 million people have been deported since 1997 -twice as many as all people deported prior to 1996. There is a disturbing pattern in the population deported: 97% of deportees are sent to Latin America or the Caribbean, and 88% are men, many of whom were originally detained through the U.S. criminal justice system.…


Book cover of Boats, Borders, and Bases: Race, the Cold War, and the Rise of Migration Detention in the United States

Nancy Hiemstra Author Of Detain and Deport: The Chaotic U.S. Immigration Enforcement Regime

From my list on why the U.S. has the biggest immigration detention system.

Why am I passionate about this?

I first became aware of harms of immigration enforcement policies while volunteering to tutor kids of undocumented migrant farmworkers in the 1990s. Through a variety of jobs in the U.S. and Latin America, my eyes were opened to reasons driving people to migrate and challenges immigrants face. I eventually went to graduate school in Geography to study local to transnational reverberations of immigration policies. A project in Ecuador where I helped families of people detained in the U.S. led me to realize how huge, cruel, and ineffective U.S. immigration detention is. I hope these books help you break through myths about detention and make sense of the chaos.

Nancy's book list on why the U.S. has the biggest immigration detention system

Nancy Hiemstra Why did Nancy love this book?

While most academic work on detention focuses on immigration enforcement on the U.S.-Mexico border or in the U.S. interior, this book traces the origin of detention to U.S. efforts to deter the Cuban and Haitian migration that occurred as part of U.S. Cold War dealings.

With fascinating, painstaking historical research, Loyd and Mountz argue that the legal and infrastructural foundations of the contemporary detention system were established through the U.S. response to Caribbean migration in the 1990s and the goal of preventing migrants from claiming the international right to asylum.

The book also shows how racism—especially anti-Black racism—has been at the core of immigration detention since the beginning, as have abhorrent, shocking conditions of detention facilities.

By Jenna M. Loyd, Alison Mountz,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Boats, Borders, and Bases as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Discussions on U.S. border enforcement have traditionally focused on the highly charged U.S.-Mexico boundary, inadvertently obscuring U.S.-Caribbean relations and the concerning asylum and detention policies unfolding there. Boats, Borders, and Bases offers the missing, racialized histories of the U.S. detention system and its relationship to the interception and detention of Haitian and Cuban migrants. It argues that the U.S. response to Cold War Caribbean migrations actually established the legal and institutional basis for contemporary migration and detention and border deterrent practices in the U.S. This book promises to make a significant contribution to a truer understanding of the history and…


Book cover of American Gulag: Inside U.S. Immigration Prisons

Nancy Hiemstra Author Of Detain and Deport: The Chaotic U.S. Immigration Enforcement Regime

From my list on why the U.S. has the biggest immigration detention system.

Why am I passionate about this?

I first became aware of harms of immigration enforcement policies while volunteering to tutor kids of undocumented migrant farmworkers in the 1990s. Through a variety of jobs in the U.S. and Latin America, my eyes were opened to reasons driving people to migrate and challenges immigrants face. I eventually went to graduate school in Geography to study local to transnational reverberations of immigration policies. A project in Ecuador where I helped families of people detained in the U.S. led me to realize how huge, cruel, and ineffective U.S. immigration detention is. I hope these books help you break through myths about detention and make sense of the chaos.

Nancy's book list on why the U.S. has the biggest immigration detention system

Nancy Hiemstra Why did Nancy love this book?

Unfortunately, the word “gulag” is all too apt for describing U.S. carceral systems.

While this book came out nearly twenty years ago, I picked it because its gut-wrenching descriptions of what goes on inside U.S. immigration facilities still reflect contemporary reality.

Journalist Mark Dow draws on interviews with detainees, guards, and immigration officials to document the atrocious material conditions, violations of human rights, and abuses routinely experienced by detainees.

He details how guards are conditioned to treat all detainees as criminals, regardless of who they are, and how using private companies helps shield facilities from scrutiny and accountability. Given the horrors revealed in this book, it is especially alarming that the detention system has more than doubled since its publication.

By Mark Dow,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked American Gulag as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Before September 11, 2001, few Americans had heard of immigration detention, but in fact a secret and repressive prison system run by the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service has existed in this country for more than two decades. In "American Gulag", prisoners, jailers, and whistle-blowing federal officials come forward to describe the frightening reality inside these INS facilities. Journalist Mark Dow's on-the-ground reporting brings to light documented cases of illegal beatings and psychological torment, prolonged detention, racism, and inhumane conditions. Intelligent, impassioned, and unlike anything that has been written on the topic, this gripping work of investigative journalism should be…


Book cover of No Friend but the Mountains: Writing from Manus Prison

J. Alison Rosenblitt Author Of The Beauty of Living: E. E. Cummings in the Great War

From my list on that write about injustice in different ways.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a biographer, and my biography of E.E. Cummings centers on his unjust imprisonment in France during the Great War in dangerously brutal conditions—cold, underfed, and subject to the sadism of the prison guards. It is hard to imagine anything more imperative than writing about injustice. But perhaps for that very reason, it is difficult to write without the consciousness of a deep inadequacy to the task. I feel therefore an enormous gratitude towards those writers, five of whom I have chosen here, whose honesty and courage in writing about injustice serves as an inspiration and a beacon. 

J.'s book list on that write about injustice in different ways

J. Alison Rosenblitt Why did J. love this book?

Cummings and his friend William Slater Brown were imprisoned in a detention center for foreign ‘undesirables,’ and to this day we are guilty of locking people up because they are stateless or nationals of another country. Behrouz Boochani’s No Friend but the Mountains, translated by Omid Tofighian, recounts his imprisonment along with fellow refugees on Manus Island. It is a visceral and vivid account, and it speaks in an unrefusable voice. I think it is an act of true human generosity that someone who has suffered so much at our collective hands would still choose to reach out and tell his own story; simply choosing to speak is an act of great hope and belief.

By Behrouz Boochani,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked No Friend but the Mountains as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Award-winning International Bestselling Story of One Man's Six Year Detention in Australia

'A powerfully vivid account of the experiences of a refugee: desperation, brutality, suffering, and all observed with an eye that seems to see everything and told in a voice that's equal to the task.' - Phillip Pullman

In 2013, Kurdish journalist Behrouz Boochani sought asylum in Australia but was instead illegally imprisoned in the country's most notorious detention centre on Manus Island. This book is the result.

Boochani spent nearly five years typing passages of this book one text at a time from a secret mobile phone…


Book cover of We Are Not Dreamers: Undocumented Scholars Theorize Undocumented Life in the United States

Sarah Tosh Author Of The Immigration Law Death Penalty: Aggravated Felonies, Deportation, and Legal Resistance

From my list on challenge the “good immigrant/bad immigrant” binary.

Why am I passionate about this?

Growing up in Brooklyn, New York, I was acutely aware of the way my non-white and non-citizen classmates were treated differently by police and other authorities. Studying racial inequality in the War on Drugs as an undergraduate and graduate-level Sociology student, I began to understand the many links between the criminal and immigration systems, and how often the stories of criminalized people are left behind. I became committed to bringing attention to the racially inequalities that shape these systems. In doing so, I aim to uplift resistance to the “good immigrant/bad immigrant” binary that frames non-citizens with criminal records as undeserving and disposable.

Sarah's book list on challenge the “good immigrant/bad immigrant” binary

Sarah Tosh Why did Sarah love this book?

I loved this anthology of writing by undocumented scholars for its disruption of the “dreamer” narrative so popular in mainstream arguments for the rights and potential of immigrant youth.

Reading the essays in this edited volume, I was struck by the many ways this meritocratic narrative denies the nuances that define the everyday lives of undocumented people, privileging one specific picture of the “deserving” immigrant who should receive legal status and human rights.

I appreciate the diverse perspectives included—particularly those often excluded from this picture of deservingness—for example, Black, queer, trans, and criminalized migrants, as well as older people, parents, and youth who struggle academically.

We Are Not Dreamers inspires me to strive for a broader understanding of undocumented people in my own work, through the breaking of binaries that uplift certain migrants through the alienation of others.

By Leisy J. Abrego (editor), Genevieve Negron-Gonzales (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked We Are Not Dreamers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The widely recognized "Dreamer narrative" celebrates the educational and economic achievements of undocumented youth to justify a path to citizenship. While a well-intentioned, strategic tactic to garner political support of undocumented youth, it has promoted the idea that access to citizenship and rights should be granted only to a select group of "deserving" immigrants. The contributors to We Are Not Dreamers-themselves currently or formerly undocumented-poignantly counter the Dreamer narrative by grappling with the nuances of undocumented life in this country. Theorizing those excluded from the Dreamer category-academically struggling students, transgender activists, and queer undocumented parents-the contributors call for an expansive…


Book cover of Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America

Ruth Milkman Author Of Immigrant Labor and the New Precariat

From my list on U.S. immigration policy and politics.

Why am I passionate about this?

I first got seriously interested in immigration when I moved to L.A. in the late 1980s. I had been a sociologist of labor for over a decade already, and now found myself in a city whose working class was overwhelmingly foreign-born. I was amazed to discover that L.A.’s immigrant workers, even the undocumented, were actively organizing into unions and community-based organizations. Trying to understand how this came about, my fascination with the larger dynamics of migration grew, and immigrant labor became central to my research agenda.

Ruth's book list on U.S. immigration policy and politics

Ruth Milkman Why did Ruth love this book?

This is easily the best account of the complex, racialized history of U.S. immigration law, politics, and policy. One of the arguments in it that impressed me most is that the category “illegal aliens”the “impossible subjects” of the title—barely existed in the pre-World War I years, when almost no European immigrants were turned away from the U.S. (Asians were another story). Ngai also brilliantly analyzes two landmark laws: the 1924 Johnson-Reed Act, which dramatically restricted immigration through nationality-based quotas limiting arrivals from Eastern and Southern Europe; and the 1965 Hart-Celler Act, which eliminated the quotas and opened the door to a massive new immigrant influx. This is a densely written book, not an easy read, but no other text has taught me more about this topic.

By Mae M. Ngai,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Impossible Subjects as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book traces the origins of the "illegal alien" in American law and society, explaining why and how illegal migration became the central problem in U.S. immigration policy--a process that profoundly shaped ideas and practices about citizenship, race, and state authority in the twentieth century. Mae Ngai offers a close reading of the legal regime of restriction that commenced in the 1920s--its statutory architecture, judicial genealogies, administrative enforcement, differential treatment of European and non-European migrants, and long-term effects. She shows that immigration restriction, particularly national-origin and numerical quotas, remapped America both by creating new categories of racial difference and by…


Book cover of The Ethics of Immigration

Ilya Somin Author Of Free to Move: Foot Voting, Migration, and Political Freedom

From my list on migration rights and democracy.

Why am I passionate about this?

Ilya Somin is a Professor of Law at George Mason University. He is the author of Free to Move: Foot Voting, Migration, and Political Freedom, Democracy and Political Ignorance: Why Smaller Government is Smarter, and The Grasping Hand: Kelo v. City of New London, and the Limits of Eminent Domain. Somin has also published articles in a variety of popular press outlets, including The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, CNN, The Atlantic, and USA Today. He is a regular contributor to the popular Volokh Conspiracy law and politics blog, affiliated with Reason.

Ilya's book list on migration rights and democracy

Ilya Somin Why did Ilya love this book?

This is the single best book on the political philosophy of immigration. Canadian political philosopher Joseph Carens makes a wide-ranging philosophical defense of  “open borders” migration rights – not just from the standpoint of some one particular political theory, but from that of many. Whether you are a free-market libertarian, an egalitarian liberal, or a moderate, Carens has a case to make to you. He also has compelling responses to a variety of objections. A key strength of the book is that Carens defends his seemingly radical conclusion based on relatively uncontroversial premises of liberty and equality that are widely accepted by supporters of liberal democracy around the world.

By Joseph H. Carens,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Ethics of Immigration as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In The Ethics of Immigration, Joseph Carens synthesizes a lifetime of work to explore and illuminate one of the most pressing issues of our time. Immigration poses practical problems for western democracies and also challenges the ways in which people in democracies think about citizenship and belonging, about rights and responsibilities, and about freedom and equality.

Carens begins by focusing on current immigration controversies in North America and Europe about access to citizenship, the integration of immigrants, temporary workers, irregular migrants and the admission of family members and refugees. Working within the moral framework provided by liberal democratic values, he…


Book cover of The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border

César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández Author Of Migrating to Prison: America's Obsession with Locking Up Immigrants

From my list on turning immigration policies into human stories.

Why am I passionate about this?

As an immigration legal scholar and lawyer, I read about immigration a lot. From laws that seem written to confuse to articles in academic journals written for an audience of experts, I’m lucky to love what I do—and so I enjoy most of what I read. But these books are special. They drew me in and wouldn’t let go until the last page. Whether fiction or non-fiction, they are written by storytellers who bring laws and policies to life.

César's book list on turning immigration policies into human stories

César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández Why did César love this book?

Much of “the line,” as Border Patrol agents and migrants sometimes call the border, is far from big cities and curious journalists. And a lot of what happens there, happens under cover of darkness or behind the secured doors of Border Patrol stations.

As a former Border Patrol agent, Cantú saw what happened when no one else was looking. His memoir shares it with the rest of us.

By Francisco Cantú,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Line Becomes a River as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Shortlisted for the Orwell Prize for Political Writing 2019, an electrifying memoir from a Mexican-American US Border Patrol guard

'Stunningly good... The best thing I've read for ages'
James Rebanks, author of The Shepherd's Life

Francisco Cantu was a US Border Patrol agent from 2008 to 2012.

In this extraordinary account, he describes his work in the desert along the Mexican border. He tracks humans through blistering days and frigid nights. He detains the exhausted and hauls in the dead. The line he is sworn to defend, however, begins to dissolve. Haunted by nightmares, Cantu abandons the Patrol for civilian…


Book cover of The Devil's Highway: A True Story

Louis Mendoza Author Of (Re)constructing Memory, Place, and Identity in Twentieth Century Houston: A Memoir on Family and Being Mexican American in Space City USA

From my list on Mexican migration to the United States.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a second-generation immigrant, I knew very little of my family’s migration story. My grandparents never really learned English despite living in the US sixty or more years. In my twenties when the country was undergoing turmoil about immigration reform once again, I began looking at the immigrants all around me (and in literature) and identifying what we had in common—how our lives intertwined and were mutually dependent on one another. In 2007 I traveled 8,500 miles around the perimeter of the US by bicycle on a research trip to collect stories from immigrants and those whose lives they impacted. I wrote two books based on that experience.

Louis' book list on Mexican migration to the United States

Louis Mendoza Why did Louis love this book?

The Devil’s Highway is the 2001 story of the tragedy that befell 26 men and boys from Veracruz who cross the Mexico/Arizona border led by human smugglers who get lost on a stretch of desert known as the Devil's Highway.

Urrea is known for his direct and clear reportage style of writing. As he depicts what happened to these men seeking a chance at the American Dream, Urrea does not lose sight of the broken system of immigration, the border patrol, the smugglers or the criminal enterprise of which they are part.

The actual walk and the deadly mistakes made by their “guide” are not shared until Part Three of the book. Through the recollections of walkers and creative non-fiction he recreates dialogue that captures the motives and dreams of these ill-fated men.

By Luis Alberto Urrea,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked The Devil's Highway as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A widely-praised piece of investigative reporting examining the journey of 26 men who in May 2001 attempted to cross the Mexican border into the desert of Southern Arizona through the region known as the Devil's Highway. So harsh and desolate that even the Border Patrol is afraid to travel through it, the Highway has claimed the lives of countless men and women - in May 2001 it claimed 14 more. History of high acclaim from the author of The Hummingbird's Daughter.


5 book lists we think you will like!

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