Secondary ensnarement: Surveillance systems in the service of punitive immigration enforcement

Publication Date01 Oct 2020
DOI10.1177/1462474519900325
AuthorAna Muñiz
SubjectArticles
Article
Secondary ensnarement:
Surveillance systems in
the service of punitive
immigration
enforcement
Ana Mu~
niz
University of California, USA
Abstract
Relatively little scholarly work explores US interior immigration enforcement through a
surveillance lens. This article asks how US immigration authorities have designed and
deployed surveillance systems to facilitate enforcement practices, specifically regarding
the construction of immigrant subjects and interior apprehension and deportation.
Drawing upon a qualitative analysis of 291 Department of Homeland Security docu-
ments authored between 1995 and 2017, this paper examines the evolution of a pri-
mary immigration enforcement information system currently called the Enforcement
Integrated Database. The analysis reveals that over the course of 33 years, the US
Government has transformed Enforcement Integrated Database from a case manage-
ment system into a mass surveillance system. Specifically, I argue that immigration
authorities have deployed secondary information collection in the Enforcement
Integrated Database to expand (1) the volume of people under surveillance, called
ensnarement targets and (2) the opportunities to categorize people as criminal or
dangerous, called ensnarement opportunities. As a result, Department of Homeland
Security amplifies punitive enforcement against broader populations of noncitizens and
potentially, citizens as well.
Keywords
crimmigration, Enforcement Integrated Database, immigrant punishment, immigration
databases, surveillance
Corresponding author:
Ana Mu~
niz, University of California, Irvine, 2340 Social Ecology II, Irvine, CA 92697-7080, USA.
Email: anamuniz@uci.edu
Punishment & Society
2020, Vol. 22(4) 461–482
!The Author(s) 2020
Article reuse guidelines:
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DOI: 10.1177/1462474519900325
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Introduction
Scholars have established that administrative immigration practices are both expe-
rienced as punitive by those who are subject to them and intended as such by
system architects (Garcia Herna
´ndez, 2014; Lynch, 2017; Reiter and Coutin,
2017). Thus, Mary Bosworth et al. (2018) call upon socio-legal scholars to examine
deportation and exclusion from citizenship as a form of punishment. Particularly
since the 1980s, immigration enforcement agencies and multiple presidential
administrations have framed deportation as a matter of removing “criminal”
rather than “innocent” immigrants (Obama, 2014; Trump, 2017, 2018).
Although there are substantive subareas of literature that examine the construction
of immigrants as criminalized (Chac
on, 2007; Eagly, 2013; Kanstroom, 2007;
Mac
ıas-Rojas, 2016; Welch, 2012), disintegrated (Reiter and Coutin, 2017), and
hybrid legal (Lynch, 2017) subjects deserving of punishment, less common are
empirical deconstructions of the information systems that are now integral to
the categorization process.
Recent scholarship on technologically meditated punishment decisions
(Hannah-Moffat, 2018; Werth, 2018), new surveillance practices (Marx, 2016),
big data policing (Brayne, 2017; Ferguson, 2017), and automated immigration
policing (Kalhan, 2013) indicates that information infrastructure is central to
social control practices. Yet, compared to work that focuses primarily on
European migration control (Aas, 2011, 2014; Bigo, 2006, 2008; Bigo and Guild,
2005; Braverman, 2011) and policing by local law enforcement agencies in the USA
(Brayne, 2017; Ferguson, 2017), social scientists have given less attention to the
technological infrastructure shaping interior immigration surveillance outside of
the Secure Communities program and the Criminal Alien Program (Cox and
Miles, 2013; Mac
ıas-Rojas, 2016) (for important exceptions in legal scholarship
see Kalhan, 2013; Noferi and Koulish, 2014). This article seeks to f‌ill an important
gap by asking how immigration authorities have designed and deployed informa-
tion systems to facilitate immigration enforcement practices, specif‌ically regarding
the construction of immigrant subjects.
Drawing upon a qualitative analysis of 291 Department of Homeland Security
(DHS) organizational documents authored between 1995 and 2017, this paper
examines the evolution of a primary immigration enforcement information
system now called the Enforcement Integrated Database (EID). Building upon
and expanding Keramet Reiter and Susan Coutin’s (2017) conceptualization of
“disintegrated subjects,” I argue that over the course of 33 years, the US
Government has transformed EID from a case management system to a mass
interior surveillance system. Specif‌ically, I argue that immigration enforcement
authorities have deployed secondary information collection in EID to expand
both the number of people under surveillance and the opportunities to categorize
people as criminal or dangerous. As a result, DHS and Immigration and Customs
Enforcement (ICE) off‌icials use technology to amplify the political project of
462 Punishment & Society 22(4)

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