Unbuild Walls: Why Immigrant Justice Needs Abolition (Paperback)
"Those who build walls are their own prisoners. I am going to fulfill my proper function in the social organism. I'm going to go unbuild walls."
--Ursula K. Le Guin, The Dispossessed
Drawing from over twenty years of activism on local and national levels, this striking book offers an organizer's perspective on the fight for immigrant rights, making a bold case for prison abolition.
In the wake of post-9/11 xenophobia, Obama's record-level deportations, Trump's immigration policies, and the 2020 uprisings for racial justice, the US remains entrenched in a circular discourse regarding migrant justice. As organizer Silky Shah argues in Unbuild Walls, we must move beyond building nicer cages or advocating for comprehensive immigration reform. Our only hope for creating a liberated society for all, she insists, is abolition.
Unbuild Walls dives into US immigration policy and its relationship to mass incarceration, from the last 40 years up to the present, showing how the prison industrial complex and immigration enforcement are intertwined systems of repression. Incorporating historical and legal analyses, Shah's personal experience as an organizer, as well as stories of people, campaigns, organizations, and localities that have resisted detention and deportation, Shah assesses the movement's strategies, challenges, successes, and shortcomings. She highlights the limitations of reformist tactics, explaining for example how the "good" vs. "bad" immigrant paradigm has undermined the broader movement for racial justice and advanced fear-mongering around the US-Mexico border. Through challenging criminalization and embracing abolition, immigrant justice advocates have been able to reduce detention and deportations of immigrants in the US. Ultimately, Unbuild Walls is an expansive and radical intervention, bridging the gaps between movements for immigrant rights, racial justice, and prison abolition.