Detain and Punish:
Haitian Refugees and the Rise of the World's Largest Immigration Detention System

Carl Lindskoog

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“Shows how systems, policies, and even detention centers that were designed for Haitian refugees grew insidiously over the decades into a more and more encompassing immigrant detention system.”—Aviva Chomsky, author of Undocumented: How Immigration Became Illegal  

“Forcefully demonstrates how the case of Haitian refugee detention became the basis for America’s inhumane response to refugees arriving directly on its shores.”—Alex Stepick, author of Pride against Prejudice: Haitians in the United States

Immigrants make up the largest proportion of federal prisoners in the United States, incarcerated in a vast network of more than two hundred detention facilities. This book investigates when detention became a centerpiece of U.S. immigration policy. Detain and Punish reveals why the practice was reinstituted in 1981 after being halted for several decades and how the system expanded to become the world’s largest immigration detention regime.   

The story begins with an influx of Haitian migrants and asylum seekers in the 1970s. The U.S. government responded with exclusionary policies and detention, setting a precedent for future waves of immigration. Carl Lindskoog details the discrimination Haitian refugees faced, and how their resistance to this treatment—in the form of legal action and activism—prompted the government to reinforce its detention program and create an even larger system of facilities. Lindskoog draws on extensive archival research, including government documents, advocacy group archives, and periodicals, to provide the first in-depth history of Haitians and immigration detention in the United States. 

Lindskoog asserts that systems designed for Haitian refugees laid the groundwork for the way immigrants to America are treated today. Detain and Punish provides essential historical context for the challenges faced by today’s immigrant groups, which are some of the most critical issues of our time.   
 
Carl Lindskoog is assistant professor of history at Raritan Valley Community College.

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