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Town Hall Seattle: Civics Series

Town Hall’s Civics series highlights everything from local policies to world politics. These events offer perspectives on a range of topics as diverse as Seattle itself—a bustling forum for activism, discovery, and thought-provoking discussion.

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Dec 24, 2019

For most of America’s history, we did not lock people up for migrating here. Yet over the last thirty years, our country’s federal and state governments have increasingly incarcerated people accused of violating immigration laws. Now almost 400,000 people annually spend time locked up pending the result of a civil or criminal immigration proceeding. Leading scholar César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández joined us to take a hard look at the immigration prison system’s origin and operation with insight from his book Migrating to Prison. 

He tackled the emergence of immigration imprisonment in the mid-1980s, highlighting how enforcement resources were deployed disproportionately against Latinos. Hernández called out the expansion of private prisons and decries disingenuous links drawn by the political right attempting to connect immigration imprisonment with national security risks and threats to the rule of law. Through powerful stories of individuals caught up in the immigration imprisonment industry, Hernández made an urgent call for the abolition of immigration prisons and a radical reimagining of the way we determine who belongs in the United States.

César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández is an immigration lawyer and a professor of law at the University of Denver. He runs the blog Crimmigration.com and regularly speaks on immigration law and policy issues. He has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, NPR, and many others.

Presented by Town Hall Seattle. Recorded live in The Forum on December 9, 2019.