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Durham Research Online
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Documenting Detention: The Politics of Archiving Immigration Enforcement Records in the United States’ National Archives and Records Administration

Hughes, Sarah M. and Martin, Lauren L. (2022) 'Documenting Detention: The Politics of Archiving Immigration Enforcement Records in the United States’ National Archives and Records Administration.', Professional Geographer, 74 (3). pp. 415-429.

Abstract

On 14 July 2017, the US National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) announced that it would shorten the time period for holding 11 kinds of noncitizen detainee records and invited public comment on these changes. NARA stated that the decision to recategorize many of these records as ‘temporary’ was because they held “little or no research value.” The files included records of abuse, assault and deaths of people in immigration detention. Curious how NARA’s valued research, we designed a project asking what could be learned—about abuse in detention and NARA—from these documents. This article describes our methodological approach, our findings, and discusses the implications of both for future research on immigration, government archiving practices, and accountability. We submitted Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Requests for the 11 document types slated for earlier disposal and analysed ICE’s documentation of neglect and abuse in immigration detention. To do so, we traced the documents’ intertextuality, showing how each document relied upon—and further produced—other documents. Challenging NARA’s calculative logics, we show that disposing of these documents would widen gaps, holes, and silences in an already partial, state-centric archive, limiting which future histories of US immigration policies may be told.

Item Type:Article
Full text:Publisher-imposed embargo
(AM) Accepted Manuscript
Available under License - Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial 4.0.
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Available under License - Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives 4.0.
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Status:Peer-reviewed
Publisher Web site:https://doi.org/10.1080/00330124.2022.2037439
Publisher statement:© 2022 The Author(s). Published with license by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/), which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.
Date accepted:11 November 2021
Date deposited:24 November 2021
Date of first online publication:13 April 2022
Date first made open access:30 June 2022

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