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David C. Brotherton and Sarah Tosh

While deportation as a practice has roots that reach far back into history, the state’s removal of immigrants in the modern era is unprecedented, in terms of both its mechanisms and its breadth. Over the past few decades, the United States in particular has developed systems of immigrant enforcement, detention, and deportation that serve to restrain and remove hundreds of thousands of immigrants each year. In the late 20th century, along with a punitive turn in criminal justice and drug policy, came an era of punitive immigration legislation in the United States, culminating in the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) of 1996. Among other laws, IIRIRA laid the groundwork for astronomical rates of deportation in the early 21st century—rates the current administration vows to exceed in coming years. The increasingly criminalized immigration policy of the United States has been paralleled in many ways in immigrant-receiving countries around the world, resulting in a “global deportation regime” that transcends national borders. Theories that frame deportation as a necessary product and constitutive practice of social membership in our modern system of sovereign nation states are supplemented by those that view it as a tool used by neoliberal governments to control a vulnerable surplus population of immigrant workers. Another theoretical thread on deportation focuses on the culture of vindictiveness in late modernity, and the social bulimia of contemporary societies that simultaneously integrate and exclude the immigrant Other. Theories of subcultural resistance are also relevant for attempts to understand individual agency and collective mobilization, both of immigrants against deportation, as well as deportees against stigmatization. Post-deportation studies focus on the deportee experience, with a focus on social displacement/exclusion and stigmatization.