Capitalism and Immigration Control: What Political Economy Reveals About the Global Spread of Detention

Document Type

Contribution to Book

Publication Date


Publication Title

Challenging Immigration Detention




Political economy offers unique tools and perspectives for analysing the growth of immigration detention systems. It highlights changing economic structures, the winners and losers of policy changes and the motives of social actors involved in affecting political decisions. Ultimately, assessments of the political economy of detention point to a key challenge that is common to countries across the globe: how economic insecurities of host populations translate into xenophobia and ethno-nationalist demands for more deportations, detentions and walls. On the other hand, similar factors that have undermined the rationale for private prisons may also empower efforts to limit the growth of immigration detention—namely, the high cost in both monetary and social capital of locking up people who could otherwise be productive members of society.