The Shadow of El Centro: A History of Migrant Incarceration and Solidarity

The Shadow of El Centro: A History of Migrant Incarceration and Solidarity

by Jessica Ordaz
The Shadow of El Centro: A History of Migrant Incarceration and Solidarity

The Shadow of El Centro: A History of Migrant Incarceration and Solidarity

by Jessica Ordaz


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Bounded by desert and mountains, El Centro, California, is isolated and difficult to reach. However, its location close to the border between San Diego and Yuma, Arizona, has made it an important place for Mexican migrants attracted to the valley's agricultural economy. In 1945, it also became home to the El Centro Immigration Detention Camp. The Shadow of El Centro tells the story of how that camp evolved into the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service Processing Center of the 2000s and became a national model for detaining migrants—a place where the policing of migration, the racialization of labor, and detainee resistance coalesced.

Using government correspondence, photographs, oral histories, and private documents, Jessica Ordaz reveals the rise and transformation of migrant detention through this groundbreaking history of one detention camp. The story shows how the U.S. detention system was built to extract labor, to discipline, and to control migration, and it helps us understand the long and shadowy history of how immigration officials went from detaining a few thousand unauthorized migrants during the 1940s to confining hundreds of thousands of people by the end of the twentieth century. Ordaz also uncovers how these detained migrants have worked together to create transnational solidarities and innovative forms of resistance.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781469662480
Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
Publication date: 01/29/2021
Series: Justice, Power, and Politics
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: eBook
Pages: 196
File size: 11 MB
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About the Author

Jessica Ordaz is assistant professor of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado Boulder.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

Jessica Ordaz excavates unknown and forgotten histories, documenting the violence embedded within the immigration enforcement and detention system as well as the remarkable way migrants resisted their confinement through escape, hunger strikes, and solidarity movements.—Amada Armenta, University of California, Los Angeles

This compelling book interrogates the intimate and transnational configuration and implications of U.S. domestic detention centers and practices as an economy of underestimated emotional hauntings, protest, and trauma.—Ana Elizabeth Rosas, University of California, Irvine

The Shadow of El Centro casts new light on America's dark history of migrant detention. Far from simply being the infrastructure for enforcing the nation's deportation powers, Ordaz shows us that detention centers are in fact durative carceral institutions that shape the everyday geographies of economy, community, and power of the places in which they are erected. A first of its kind, this seventy-year history of the El Centro Detention Center revises how we think about migrant detention, revealing the power and resources it creates for capitalist society and the contradictions that give rise to migrant resistance. As a history at the important nexus of immigration, carceral, and labor studies, this is an indispensable book for anyone interested in the history of twentieth-century racial capitalism.—Chandan Reddy, University of Washington, Seattle

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