Greg Prieto, Immigrants Under Threat: Risk and Resistance in Deportation Nation

AuthorRobert Koulish
Published date01 July 2020
Date01 July 2020
Subject MatterBook reviews
Book review
Greg Prieto, Immigrants Under Threat: Risk and Resistance in Deportation
Nation, New York University Press: New York, 2018; 245 pp. (including
index): ISBN 978-1479821464, $19 (pbk), $74 (cloth)
The book reviewed here provides a critical analysis of the effects of immigration
control practices on the everyday lives of undocumented Latinx immigrants, and
individual and collective responses to them. The focus on migrant responses to
criminalization is much needed in the growing crimmigration scholarship in the
US. It is important to see this book highlight migrant agency and strategies for
social and political change that emanate from people whose liminal legal status
turns collective action into a particularly risky strategic choice.
The book deals squarely with the fear that comes with having undocumented
status, but Prieto poignantly emphasizes that fear is simply part of human agency
that the migrant relies on to maneuver around and against repressive state forces.
More to the point, Prieto reveals a dialectical struggle pitting the punitive state
against undocumented migrants. As migrants push back, they help create social
change. Sometimes the struggle reveals opportunities and other times threats. Over
time, undocumented immigrants have become integral to the process of reforming
crimmigration laws or protesting against them, depending on circumstance.
There is perhaps no better spot to analyze the intersection of immigration
law and criminal law than with police checkpoints, vehicular stops, and car
impoundments, which comprise the substantive enforcement mechanisms of
control under study. Law enforcement has rare authority to establish border
checkpoints and undocumented immigrants are uniquely vulnerable. Prieto’s
analysis of the checkpoint also includes the role that race and class play in crim-
migration, an under-analyzed part of the crimmigration scholarship that nonethe-
less explains government strategies for administering checkpoints. The analysis
about checkpoints and car impoundments is particularly compelling, a seemingly
mundane topic that Prieto uses to reveal nuanced layers of oppression and migrant
responses to it.
The traffic checkpoint is a low-tech, low-risk, high-reward mechanism of law
enforcement, which means it is highly available and much relied on as a control
mechanism. The checkpoint constrains mobility, and can strategically create a
makeshift prison by trapping undocumented residents inside their neighborhoods
Punishment & Society
2020, Vol. 22(3) 380–382
!The Author(s) 2019
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/1462474519884294

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