Long before Abu Ghraib, and even before September 11th, detainees in America's immigration prisons were being stripped, beaten, and sexually abused. Dow has spent years interviewing inmates, guards, and officials, and he gives a jarring account of a dangerously arbitrary system. Alien inmates—from political refugees who present themselves at airports to permanent residents convicted of misdemeanors—can be locked up for years, in harsh conditions, with no real recourse. Dow argues that the practices of the I.N.S. (which was folded into the Department of Homeland Security in 2003) laid the groundwork for the indefinite detentions and the muting of civil liberties after September 11th. By "blurring the distinction between alien, criminal, and terrorist," detention takes on its own brutal logic. After a Somali man is left to bake in the sun in a sealed car to discourage others from applying for asylum, an immigration official explains, "I'm not trying to prosecute them. I just want them to quit coming here."
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker
""American Gulag stands in the best tradition of muckraking journalism. . . . Dow traveled from Bakersfield to Houston to Brooklyn to hear the stories of detainees and concerned BICE employees. He points to our government's failure to practice its most basic values, such as the presumption of innocence, the right of habeas corpus and the right to decent treatment. . . . Dow shows us that what we are discovering to our horror and shame in Iraq, our government has built right here at home."--"San Diego Union-tribune"
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