Working Papers

Spatial Control: Geographical Approaches to the Study of Immigration Detention – Global Detention Project Working Paper No. 24

This paper surveys research on immigration detention conducted using geographical methods, highlighting how geography’s conceptualization of detention as a form of spatial control offers tools to scholars and activists working to contest this form of immigration control.

Immigration Detention through the Lens of International Human Rights: Lessons from South America – Global Detention Project Working Paper No. 23

Why hasn’t South America witnessed the same growth in immigration detention regimes that has occurred in the rest of the world? This Global Detention Project Working Paper discusses developments across the region through the lens of international human rights standards.

Immigration Detention, the Right to Liberty, and Constitutional Law: Global Detention Project Working Paper No. 22

The right to personal liberty is one of the oldest recognized rights in liberal democracies, which raises fundamental constitutional questions about the use of detention as an immigration measure. However, as this GDP Working Paper highlights, in common law countries, lengthy immigration detention on a large scale has become the norm and is largely regarded as constitutional.

When Is Immigration Detention Lawful? The Monitoring Practices of UN Human Rights Mechanisms: Global Detention Project Working Paper No. 21

The authors describe the normative framework governing immigration detention established in core international treaties and discuss how human rights bodies apply this framework when reviewing states’ policies and practices. Their assessment of the impact and implementation of fundamental norms reveals gaps in the international protection regime and highlights how states’ responses to this regime have shaped contemporary immigration detention systems.

Obstacles to Reforming Family Detention in the United States: Global Detention Project Working Paper No. 20

The prospect of ending the detention of immigrant families in the US appears more remote than ever as the new president begins implementing his restrictive immigration agenda. This paper, authored by the former director of ICE’s Office of Detention Policy and Planning, provides an inside look at the failure of the Obama administration to roll back family detention and urges renewed calls for reforms in the face of President Trump’s promised crackdown.

Challenges to Providing Mental Health Care in Immigration Detention: Global Detention Project Working Paper No. 19

The global expansion of immigration detention creates an imperative for the mental health community to develop specialized models of care. The authors employ lessons learned from their experiences in Australia to provide a framework for understanding the corrosive nature of immigration detention and suggest clinical approaches that may be adapted to assist detainees in developing resilience to such settings.

Detention, Deportation, and Waiting: Toward a Theory of Migrant Detainability: GDP Working Paper No. 18

The global expansion of deportation regimes has spurred an analogous expansion of migrant detention. This GDP Working Paper situates the analysis of immigration detention in the framework of contemporary critical theory, interrogating the economy of different conditionalities that undergird the distinct categories of migrants who are subjected to detention power.

Is Infiltrating Migrant Prisons the Most Effective Way to Challenge Detention Regimes? The Case of the National Immigrant Youth Alliance: GDP Working Paper No. 17

The authors highlight efforts by undocumented youth in the United States to “infiltrate” immigration detention centres to argue that civil disobedience, a strategy often ignored by allies and advocates of immigrants, can be an effective tool to counter growing detention and deportation systems.

Capitalism and Immigration Control: What Political Economy Reveals about the Growth of Detention Systems: GDP Working Paper #16

Assessments of the political economy of detention point to a key challenge that is common to countries across the globe: how economic insecurities of host population’s translate into xenophobia and ethno-nationalist demands for more deportations, detentions, and walls.

The Constitutionalisation of Immigration Detention: Between EU Law and the European Convention on Human Rights: GDP Working Paper #15

This paper argues that the increasing regulation of immigration detention in EU law has led to more constitutional protection for detainees, however some new regulations are resulting in more people being detained.

Engaging Governments on Alternatives to Immigration Detention

A leading organizer of the global effort to promote alternatives to immigration detention explores advocacy strategies for spurring detention reforms and the rationale behind the alternatives campaign.

The Impact of Investigative Journalism on U.S. Immigration Detention Reform

An award-winning New York Times reporter reflects on the challenges journalists face in covering immigration detention and the failure of reform efforts in the United States.

Can Inspection Produce Meaningful Change in Immigration Detention?

In this GDP Working Paper, an inspector from the UK Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons discusses tensions between pushing for short-term progress in the treatment of immigration detainees and long-term reforms. The HMIP focuses on treatment and conditions, not challenging the system, even if immigration detention arguably lacks legitimacy in a way that criminal imprisonment does not. What amounts to “effective” inspection and can inspection promote meaningful change?

Who Is Responsible for Harm in Immigration Detention? Models of Accountability for Private Corporations

This paper argues that private corporations can and should be held responsible for structural injustices that take place in immigration detention regimes in which they operate. It draws on literature from business ethics to evaluate various ethical arguments for assessing corporate responsibility, emphasising models that may lead to the prevention of harm and suffering. In […]

Border Criminologies: Assessing the Changing Architecture of Crime and Punishment

This paper examines contributions from the nascent field of “Border Criminologies” in assessing the changing architecture of crime and punishment, focusing primarily on immigration detention. 

Bureaucratic Capitalism and the Immigration Detention Complex

This paper argues that post-structuralist approaches to the study of immigration detention present a number of theoretical and conceptual problems. Post-structuralist analyses focusing on discourses divorced from actors present teleological problems in terms of theory. Additionally, poststructural accounts of detention centres using concepts such as homo sacer and Banoptican tend to conflate human rights and citizenship rights, […]

How and Why Immigration Detention Crossed the Globe

This paper details the history of key policy events that led to the diffusion of detention practices during the last 30 years and assesses some of the motives that appear to have encouraged this phenomenon. The paper also endeavors to place the United States at the centre of this story because its policy decisions were […]

The Hidden Costs of Human Rights: The Case of Immigration Detention

Many liberal democracies betray a noticeable discomfort when it comes to public scrutiny of immigration detention, neglecting to release comprehensive statistics about it, cloaking detention practices in misleading names and phrases, and carefully choosing which activities they define as deprivation of liberty. On the other hand, these same countries have laboured to expand their detention […]

“Crimmigration” in the European Union through the Lens of Immigration Detention

The phenomenon of “crimmigration”—or the convergence of criminal and immigration laws—appears to have a harmful impact on migrants, ranging from increasing negative attitudes about non-citizens to more restrictive immigration policies. This Global Detention Project working paper argues that immigration detention regulated by European Union (EU) directives represents a peculiar manifestation of crimmigration. In particular, detention provisions […]

Smoke Screens: Is There a Correlation between Migration Euphemisms and the Language of Detention?

Discursive strategies used to describe people moving across borders can have consequences on their well-being, including limiting their access to legal procedures. This Global Detention Project working paper points to an apparent paradox in these strategies: While language used to describe migrants and asylum-seekers is often euphemistic (or dysphemistic), tending to dehumanise them, language used […]

Immigration Detention and Proportionality

Immigration detention is characterized by a tension between the prerogatives of sovereignty and the rights of non-citizens. While states have broad discretion over who is allowed to enter and reside within their borders, their decision to detain and deport is constrained by a number of widely accepted norms and principles. One of these is the […]

Immigration Detention and the Law: U.S. Policy and Legal Framework

This Global Detention Project working paper is intended to assist scholars, activists, practitioners, and concerned members of the public in taking stock of the current state of U.S. immigration detention policies. The paper covers everything from the country’s relevant international legal commitments and the grounds for detention provided in domestic law, to recent court rulings […]

Migration and Detention: Mapping the International Legal Terrain

This working paper maps the web of international and regional instruments and mechanisms that together make up the legal framework relevant to the phenomenon of migration-related detention, or the deprivation of liberty of non-citizens because of their status. This effort serves a number of purposes: First, it demonstrates the broad expanse of international instruments, above and beyond the core […]

The Privatization of Immigration Detention: Towards a Global View

The phrase “private prison” has become a term of opprobrium, and for good reason. There are numerous cases of mistreatment and mismanagement at such institutions. However, in the context of immigration detention, this caricature hides a complex phenomenon that is driven by a number of different factors and involves a diverse array of actors who […]