A provocative account of the long, racist history of our immigration system, revealing how it has become the brutal machine that today upends the lives of millions of immigrants
Each year in the United States, 300,000 people are arrested, detained, and deported, trapped in what leading immigrant rights activist and lawyer Alina Das calls the “deportation machine.” The bulk of the arrests target people who have a criminal record–so-called “criminal aliens”–the majority of whose offenses are immigration-, drug-, or traffic-related. These individuals are uprooted from their homes, their families, and their communities, banished by a country that celebrates itself as a nation of immigrants.
Through the stories of those caught in the system, Das traces the ugly history of immigration policy to explain how the US constructed the idea of the “criminal alien,” effectively dividing immigrants into the categories “good” and “bad,” “deserving” and “undeserving.” As Das argues, we need to confront the cruelty of the machine so that we can build an inclusive immigration policy premised on human dignity and break the cycle once and for all.
Alina Das is an immigrant rights activist, lawyer, and professor. A professor at New York University School of Law, Das is the Co-Director of the New York University Immigrant Rights Clinic, a leading institution in national and local struggles for immigrant rights. Her legal scholarship has been published by leading law journals, and she is a frequent commentator on immigration policy for outlets including MSNBC, CNBC, PBS, WNYC, PRI, The Atlantic, Democracy Now!, The New York Times, The Nation, and VICE News. Das was previously a Soros Justice Fellow and Staff Attorney at the Immigrant Defense Project, which works at the intersection of immigration and criminal law. She has been awarded the national LexisNexis Matthew Bender Daniel Levy Memorial Award for Outstanding Achievement in Immigration Law, the Immigrant Defense Project Champion of Justice Award, the NYU Law Podell Distinguished Teaching Award, the NYU Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Faculty Award, the NYU Center for Multicultural Education & Programs Nia Faculty Award, and the NYU Women of Color Collective Woman of Distinction Award. Das lives in Brooklyn, New York.