How do discourses of humanitarianism and care shape immigrant detention?: A study of the South Texas Family Residential Center

Authors: Leanne Purdum*, University of Georgia
Topics: Immigration/Transnationalism, Human Rights, Legal Geography
Keywords: immigration, humanitarianism, refugees, law, critical geography, qualitative research, children, family, borders, detention, carceral geography, deportation
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Directors Room, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This presentation analyses the current moment of U.S. “family detention”, or detention of immigrant children with a parent. Much work understandably focuses on the overt violence to children during detention, perhaps most clearly highlighted by the Trump administration’s recent policy of mass family separations. However, my work considers the complex discourses of helping, care, and humanitarianism found in legal struggles over family detention. My analysis centers on my volunteer work in the South Texas Family Residential Center (STFRC), in Dilley Texas, and advocacy in Athens, Georgia. I discuss how the discourses of care and helping interplay with those of enforcement and criminalized migration, shaping policy and the day-to-day workings of detention, in “family” detention centers and beyond. I will consider the implications of these discourses for advocates and those involved in efforts to end detention and challenge immigration policing in general.

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