In the Shadow of Liberty: The Invisible History of Immigrant Detention in the United States (Hardcover)

In the Shadow of Liberty: The Invisible History of Immigrant Detention in the United States By Ana Raquel Minian Cover Image
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“Meticulous . . . Storytelling allows Minian to convey the physical and emotional toll of detention with potent specificity. The result is a book-length plea against dehumanization, at least for those who are willing to listen.”
—Jennifer Szalai, The New York Times

A probing work of narrative history that reveals the hidden story of immigrant detention in the United States, deepening urgent national conversations around migration.

In 2018, many Americans watched in horror as children were torn from their parents at the US-Mexico border under Trump's "family separation" policy. But as historian Ana Raquel Minian reveals in In the Shadow of Liberty, this was only the latest chapter in a saga tracing back to the 1800s—one in which immigrants to the United States have been held without recourse to their constitutional rights. Braiding together the vivid stories of four migrants seeking to escape the turmoil of their homelands for the promise of America, In the Shadow of Liberty gives this history a human face, telling the dramatic story of a Central American asylum seeker, a Cuban exile, a European war bride, and a Chinese refugee.

As we travel alongside these indelible characters, In the Shadow of Liberty explores how sites of rightlessness have evolved, and what their existence has meant for our body politic. Though these "black sites" exist out of view for the average American, their reach extends into all of our lives: the explosive growth of the for-profit prison industry traces its origins to the immigrant detention system, as does the emergence of Guantanamo and the gradual unraveling of the right to bail and the presumption of innocence. Through these narratives, we see how the changing political climate surrounding immigration has played out in individual lives, and at what cost. But as these stories demonstrate, it doesn't have to be like this, and a better way might be possible.

About the Author

Ana Raquel Minian is a professor of history at Stanford University and the author of the award-winning book Undocumented Lives, published by Harvard University Press in 2018. They are a recipient of the prestigious Andrew Carnegie fellowship, and their writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, and Foreign Affairs, among other outlets. Originally from Mexico City, they now live in the Bay Area.

Praise For…

“Meticulous . . . Storytelling allows Minian to convey the physical and emotional toll of detention with potent specificity. The result is a book-length plea against dehumanization, at least for those who are willing to listen.”
—Jennifer Szalai, The New York Times

“This is a book with gravitas and a hopeful spirit. In looking to the past, Minian sees that progress is possible.”
—San Francisco Chronicle

“A scorching indictment of America's immigrant detention system, In the Shadow of Liberty is as moving as it is urgent. Through deep archival research, unflinching historical analysis, and fearless reporting, Ana Raquel Minian explains how a country that prides itself as a nation of immigrants became, at the same time, a nation of prisons.” 
—Jill Lepore, author of These Truths: A History of the United States

“Minian’s up-close narration of her subjects’ lives brings home the intimate and unbearable human suffering of incarceration . . . It’s a must-read for anyone invested in U.S. immigration policy.” 
Publishers Weekly

“A strong indictment of long-standing anti-immigrant practices in the U.S. ... A grimly persuasive history.” 
Kirkus Reviews

In the Shadow of Liberty tells the devastating story of how ‘a nation of immigrants’ came to create the largest immigration detention system in the world. By narrating the riveting story of four migrants who lived through transformational periods of enforcement, Ana Raquel Minian reveals how conceptions of immigrant rightlessness have undergirded the creation of carceral black sites at, within, and beyond our borders—all while never losing site of our capacity to move America toward a new era of justice and dignity.”
—Francisco Cantú, author of The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border

“This is an extraordinary book I wish everyone would read. It captivated me from the first page. Minian probes deep into this country’s shameful history of detention to help us understand how we got to where we are today. I hope this book changes minds and hearts.”
—Reyna Grande, author of The Distance Between Us

"It's impossible to understand the history of immigration in the US without focusing on how the government treats those who are most vulnerable when they first arrive. Ana Raquel Minian is unflinching, exacting, and meticulous in bringing that story into view. The scope of this book is impressively vast, from the years of Chinese exclusion to the Holocaust, the Mariel boatlift, and Trump's family separation policy. Minian makes a forceful and eloquent case: this is a past we have to reckon with, because it will continue to shape our present and future as a country."
—Jonathan Blitzer, author of Everyone Who Is Gone Is Here

In the Shadow of Liberty is a critical contribution to the long and hidden history of immigrant detention in the US. Through meticulous research and superb storytelling, Ana Raquel Minian pinpoints key historical moments that chart the evolution of an immigrant detention system designed to exclude and deter people from seeking refuge by inflicting unimaginable pain and suffering. With great care and respect for the lives at the center of her story, Minian paints a vivid picture of the unbearably cruel and torturous detention practices and illustrates the arbitrary and senseless nature of today’s immigration system, one that comes with a horrific human cost. It is precisely the historical context that we need to chart a more perfect path forward.”
—Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES)

"A valuable contribution to our understanding of the US immigration system, In the Shadow of Liberty explores the sordid history of imprisonment and abuse of migrants seeking new lives in the United States. Based on an extraordinary study, this remarkable book shines much-needed light on a system of cruelty enacted away from the public eye yet nevertheless consequential to our broader narrative as a nation. Elegantly written, rigorously researched, and cogently argued, this is one of the most important books on immigration in the last decade."
—Roberto G. Gonzales, author of Lives in Limbo: Undocumented and Coming of Age in America

"In the Shadow of Liberty both infuriates and inspires, as the best books do—a masterful march through the evolution of a uniquely American conceit: deterrence by detention, at any cost. Meticulously researched and powerfully told, the resilience of the protagonists shines through this dark history. If only it were required reading for those charged with policymaking today."
—Molly O'Toole, Pulitzer Prize−winning reporter

“Seamlessly blending history and narrative, Ana Raquel Minian dismantles the myth that dehumanizing immigration policies make our country safer. Instead, Minian’s impeccable research reveals the profound financial, emotional, psychological, and moral costs of those policies over generations. With specificity and candor, Minian argues that our current dysfunctional system not only harms those who are detained and deported but all residents of the United States. This book is gripping and heart-wrenching but also hopeful—it’s a must read for anyone who loves this nation enough to want us to live up to our own promises.”
—Jessica Goudeau, author of We Were Illegal: Uncovering a Texas Family’s Mythmaking and Migration

"From the ugly days of Chinese exclusion to the sordid policy of separating migrant families, detention has been a key part of immigration law for more than a century. Ana Raquel Minian's In the Shadow of Liberty brings detention's legal rationale and its hard realities to life through the people who have experienced it most directly: migrants who have found their path into the land of the free halted—sometimes for years—by the doors of an immigration prison. Through careful research and vivid storytelling, Minian turns bureaucratic decision-making and political calculations into a memorable tale of resistance, rebellion, and fortitude by generations of migrants who pushed the United States to live up to the promise of its greatest aspirations."
—César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández, author of Welcome the Wretched: In Defense of the "Criminal Alien" and Migrating to Prison: America's Obsession with Locking Up Immigrants

“Ana Raquel Minian has produced an engrossing work of narrative history that no reader will ever forget. The lives and families they follow through immigration detention and its aftermath bring palpable humanity and immediacy to debates often waged in terms of legal categories, statistics, and overly simplistic political calls to control the nation’s borders. Through painstaking reconstruction of individuals’ experiences of major geopolitical events, Minian offers a beautiful and heartbreaking work that should guide us as we grapple with one of the defining questions of our national history.”
—Cristina M. Rodríguez, author of The President and Immigration Law

"Through the stories of four individuals at distinct points in history, Ana Raquel Minian shines a light into the dark corners of the American project where decency, justice, and democracy itself disappear. Minian demands readers assess the quality of our democratic ideals against the brutal reality of so-called immigrant detention, a condition of purposely created legal limbo that strips people of constitutionally enshrined protections and facilitates their torture, indefinite incarceration, despair, separation from family, banishment, irreparable psychological harm, and in many cases, death. Minian thrusts the history of 'immigrant detention' into the reader's chest close enough for them to feel the breath of those whose freedom we've denied. This book should be required reading for every person who believes America stands on liberty and justice for all."
—José Orduña, author of The Weight of Shadows: A Memoir of Immigration and Displacement

Product Details
ISBN: 9780593654255
ISBN-10: 0593654250
Publisher: Viking
Publication Date: April 16th, 2024
Pages: 384
Language: English