“In this deeply-researched and eye-opening book, Kristina Shull traces the history of one of the least understood dimensions of mass incarceration: the immigration detention regime that emerged alongside the War on Drugs in the 1980s. She illuminates how the systematic imprisonment of migrants—particularly from Central America and the Caribbean—functioned as a mechanism of US empire and a method of warfare while drawing attention to the way the tens of thousands of people detained during this period fought back against state-sanctioned violence through peaceful protests, hunger strikes, and direct action. As we continue to confront the atrocity of border enforcement in our own time, Shull’s groundbreaking work is an indispensable contribution.”

—Elizabeth Hinton, author of America on Fire: The Untold History of Police Violence and Black Rebellion Since the 1960s

"For anyone who wants to understand the origins and architecture of the for-profit immigration detention system in the United States, this is essential reading that never loses sight of the individuals and families targeted for exclusion, nor the acts of resistance that shaped decision-making at top levels of government. This is their story as well."

Maria Christina Garcia, author of State of Disaster: The Failure of US Migration Policy in an Age of Climate Change

"A unique and timely bridge between the literature on 'crimmigration' and refugee studies. Assessing the centrality of asylee deterrence to the establishment of the United States' modern migration detention system, Shull solidifies the connections between asylum politics, US war-making, and empire."

—Jenna M. Loyd, coauthor of Boats, Borders, and Bases: Race, the Cold War, and the Rise of Migration Detention in the United States

“Kristina Shull’s book is a revelation for anyone interested in the history and lessons of the immigrant rights movement in the United States. It brings to life powerful examples of resistance to Reagan-era immigration detention and deportation policies, with perspectives that center immigrant experiences and resonate with resistance movements today.”

—Alina Das, author of No Justice in the Shadows: How America Criminalizes Immigrants

JAH Detention Empire Review.pdf

Journal of American History

Steven Wilson, March 2024


Rountable, David-James Gonzales, Hardeep Dhillon, Michelle Paranzino,  Danielle Olden, Jason Colby, and Kristina Shull, January 2024

Western Historical Quarterly Book Review.pdf

Western Historical quarterly

Cinthya Martinez, September 2023