& Media

BOOK: Detention Empire

UNC Press, Justice, Power, and Politics series, 10/22

The early 1980s marked a critical turning point for the rise of modern mass incarceration in the United States. The Mariel Cuban migration of 1980, alongside increasing arrivals of Haitian and Central American asylum-seekers, galvanized new modes of covert warfare in the Reagan administration's globalized War on Drugs. Drawing on critical refugee studies, community archives, and newly available government documents, Shull demonstrates how migrant detention operates as a form of counterinsurgency at the intersections of US war-making and domestic carceral trends, laying the foundations of new forms of carceral and imperial expansion.

Yet Reagan's war on immigrants also sowed seeds of mass resistance. Detention Empire also shows how migrants resisted state repression through hunger strikes, prison uprisings, caravans, and the Sanctuary movement. As the United States remains committed to shoring up its borders in an era of unprecedented migration and climate crisis, these histories take on new urgency.

Preorder Now with 40% off code: 01DAH40

Hidden Transcripts

Read a preview of Detention Empire
in Inquest Magazine

The Institute to End Mass Incarceration at Harvard Law

Abolition Feminisms, Vol.1
Haymarket Books

QTGNC Stories from Immigration Detention
and Abolitionist Imaginaries,

Shifting Climates, Shifting People
Pilgrim Press

A Climate of Refugee-ness? Violence, Voices, and Vulnerabilities from Around the World

Somos los Abandonados:
Mariel Cuban Stories from Detention and Resisting the Carceral State

Reagan's Cold War on Immigrants
Journal of American Ethnic History

Climate Refugee Stories Project

Biden's Anti-Black Border Patrol
Migration Archives

We Will Not Be Silenced By ICE Truthout

Immigration Detention in the Media: Missing Migrant Voices
Freedom for Immigrants

Freedom for Immigrants

Why Are We Locking Up Immigrants for Years?

Scholarly Publications


Detention Empire: Reagan's War on Immigrants and the Seeds of Resistance.

University of North Carolina Press, October 2022. Justice, Power, and Politics series.


Somos los Abandonados: Mariel Cuban Stories from Detention and Resisting the Carceral State.

Anthurium: Caribbean Studies Journal 17, no. 2 (2021), p. 5, DOI:

Reagan's Cold War on Immigrants: Resistance and the Rise of a Detention Regime, 1981-1985.

Journal of American Ethnic History 40, no. 2 (Winter 2021): 5-51.

*Winner of the 2022 Judith Lee Ridge prize for best article in History, Western Association of Women Historians

QTGNC Stories from Immigration Detention and Abolitionist Imaginaries, 1980-Present.

In Abolition Feminisms: Organizing, Survival, and Transformative Practice, edited by Alisa Bierria, Jakeya Caruthers, and Brooke Lober. Haymarket Books, July 2022.

A Climate of Refugee-ness? Violence, vulnerabilities, and voices from around the world.

Co-authored with Tanaya Dutta Gupta, Saumaun Heiat, Emma Crow-Willard, and Christine Wheatley, in Shifting Climates - Shifting People, edited by Miguel de la Torre. Pilgrim Press, Fall 2022.

A Roundtable on Environmental Injustice and Border Abolition.

Co-authored with Ilana Cohen, Emma Crow-Willard, Tanaya Dutta Gupta, Jamila Hammami, Guerline Jozef, Steven Sacco, Angela V. Walker, Aly Wane, Daniel Watman, and Christine Wheatley. Radical History Review 145 "Alternatives to the Anthropocene," edited by A. Naomi Paik and Ashley Dawson (January 2023).

America for Americans: A History of Xenophobia in the United States (Review).

The Journal of Arizona History 62, no. 3 (Autumn 2021): 431-34.

Detention and Deportation.

Co-authored with Caitlin Patler and Katie Dingeman-Cerda. In Routledge International Handbook of Migration Studies, Second Edition, edited by Stephen J. Gold and Stephanie J. Nawyn. London: Routledge, 2019.

Boats, Borders, and Bases: Race, the Cold War, and the Rise of Migration Detention in the United States, (Review).

Criminal Law and Criminal Justice Books, Rutgers University, September, 2019.

Private Detention Centers and Immigrants.

In People of Color in the United States: Contemporary Issues in Education, Work, Communities, Health and Immigration, edited by Alvaro Huerta, Norma Iglesias-Prieto, and Donathan Brown. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO Greenwood, 2016.

A Recession-Proof Industry": Reagan’s Immigration Crisis and the Birth of the Neoliberal Security State.

Border Criminologies: Foreigners in a Carceral Age. University of Oxford and European Research Council, April 2015.

Nobody Wants These People": Reagan’s Immigration Crisis and the Containment of Foreign Bodies.

In Body/Nation: The Global Realms of U.S. Body Politics in the Twentieth Century, edited by Emily S. Rosenberg and Shanon Fitzpatrick. Chapel Hill: Duke University Press, 2014.

Heritage Foundation; Peter Brimelow; Population Control Groups; Save Our State; War on Drugs; War on Terror.

In Anti-Immigration in the United States: A Historical Encyclopedia, edited by Kathleen R. Arnold. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2011.

Reports and Educational Materials

The #ClimateMigrationSyllabus.

Climate Refugee Stories.

A History of Immigration Detention.

Timeline co-authored with Freedom for Immigrants, 2018.

The #ImmigrationDetentionSyllabus.

IMM Print and Freedom for Immigrants, 2017.

Immigration Detention in the Media: Missing Migrant Voices and the Need for Humanistic Storytelling.

Freedom for Immigrants, February 2017.

The History of Immigration Detention in the US.

Detention Watch Network, January 2009.

U.S. Citizens Harmed by U.S. Immigration Policy: A Report with Recommendations on behalf of American Families United.

Submitted to The Department of Homeland Security, Secretary Janet Napolitano, March 2009.

Authored Op-Eds

Hidden Transcripts: Reagan's inscription of a retaliatory immigration detention regime sowed seeds of resistance that persist to this day.

Inquest, The Institute to End Mass Incarceration, Harvard Law School, September 14, 2022.

Biden's Anti-Black Border Patrol.

Co-authored with Carl Lindskoog and Yael Schacher, Migration Archives, October 1, 2021.

Tiny Love Stories: Never Forget.

New York Times, March 12, 2019.

We Will Not Be Silenced by ICE: Writing After Deportation.

Truth-Out series “After the Raid,” July 5, 2018.

Why Are We Locking Up Immigrants for Years?

Newsweek, November 9, 2017.

Stand with Hunger Strikers at the Adelanto Detention Center.

Co-authored with Alfonso Gonzales, Latino Rebels, July 10, 2017.

OC Supervisors decision to expand detention program overlooks jail conditions.

Co-authored with Jan Meslin, Daily Pilot (LA Times), May 30, 2017.

Why Trump’s Agency, VOICE Should Stand for "Victims of ICE."

Truth-Out, April 6, 2017.

Last chance this term for Supreme Court to stand up for immigrants in detention.

Co-authored with Rachel Levenson and Terry Ding, The Hill, November 28, 2016.

In Limbo.

Chicago Tribune, Featured Article, sec. 2, July 2007.

Interviews and Features

Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure.

Podcast, Historytelling, April 30, 2021.

Kristina Shull: What can you do with a humanities Ph.D.?

Alumni Spotlight, UC Irvine School of Humanities Office of Graduate Study, Fall 2018.

CIVIC: The End to Isolation for Immigrants in Detention.

Podcast, Mobilized News, May 2017.

Ask a Leader.

Podcast, KUCI Radio, March 7, 2017.

Q&A: The Missing Voices in the Immigration Debate.

Open Society Foundations, February 16, 2017.

Alumna Kristina Shull (GSAS ’06) on Giving Voice to Individuals in Immigration Detention Centers.

NYU Arts and Science Alumni Blog, January 24, 2017.

A human(e)ities approach to immigration detention centers: UCI History lecturer and alumna works to give voice to detained immigrants and bring transparency to the system.

Annabel Adams, UC Irvine School of Humanities, September 2016.


Exposed: The Injustice of Immigration Detention.

Producer and Narrator, with NYU School of Law Immigrant Rights Clinic and Freedom for Immigrants, June 2017.

For Private Prisons, Detaining Immigrants is Big Business.

Consultant, Retro Report, October 2018.

Immigrant Prisons.

Consultant, Brave New Films, October 2017.


How can we prepare for the mass migrations that are likely to occur because of climate change?

Ilana Cohen, Inside Climate News.

Iran's Dustbowl Migration.

Saumaun Heiat, Eon, March 7, 2020.

As Harvard Responds to Immigration Policy Changes, Faculty Want a Bigger Role.

The Harvard Crimson, October 24, 2018.

Conditions Worsen for some ICE detainees at Richmond jail.

San Francisco Chronicle, November 10, 2017.

Immigration Detention Syllabus.

ImmigrationProf Blog, August 25, 2017.

Back into the Shadows.

Fort Worth Weekly, August 9, 2017.

Visibility for immigrants in detention increasingly urgent in Trump era.

Media Matters, June 19, 2017.

Soros-Linked Groups Behind California Ban on Detaining Ill** Immigrants.

Breitbart, June 18, 2017.

CIVIC: The End to Isolation of Migrants in Detention.

Media Democracy in Action, May 16, 2017.

The Basis of a Humane Immigration Policy is to Respect People as Human Beings.

FAIR, March 1, 2017.

Study Finds Right-Wing Media Routinely Criminalize Immigrants in Coverage.

Media Matters, February 28, 2017.

It’s official—Santa Ana is Orange County’s First Sanctuary City.

Voice of OC, December 7, 2016

President-elect Trump presses on with border fencing and mass deportation.

Think Progress, November 14, 2016.

Ghana asylum seekers stake out new lives in NYC.

Huffington Post, October 21, 2016.