“Unbuild Walls”: Detention Watch’s Silky Shah on Debunking Immigration Myths & Embracing Abolition

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Amid an intensifying crackdown on asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border, we speak to the author of the new book Unbuild Walls: Why Immigrant Justice Needs Abolition about U.S. immigration policy under the Biden administration. Author Silky Shah is the executive director of Detention Watch Network and a longtime immigration rights advocate whose new book aims to “debunk the idea that immigration is a public safety issue,” in the face of narratives, from both the Republican and Democrat political establishments, of criminality and deterrence. Despite Biden’s campaign promises to reform the immigration system, his administration has “ceded more and more ground to the Republicans and moved the whole conversation to the right,” Shah says. “Legalization isn’t even on the table.” Shah discusses how the immigrant rights’ movement uses the language of abolition to build connections with other social movements fighting oppression, from mass incarceration to police brutality. “These systems aren’t separate. … We have to call for abolition of the whole system and understand those things together.”

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