Litigation by Attrition: Power, Order, and Capability in US Immigration Detention

55 Pages Posted: 29 Oct 2018

See all articles by Hallam Tuck

Hallam Tuck

University of Oxford - Saint Antony’s College

Date Written: 2018


Through a case study of Stewart Detention Center (SDC), this dissertation proposes the concept of ‘litigation by attrition’ to understand the operation of power within the system of immigration detention in the United States of America. SDC holds roughly 1,900 non-citizens in removal proceedings under the custody of United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Although nominally managed by ICE, the day-to-day operation of the facility is contracted out to CoreCivic, a private prison corporation. Since opening in 2006, Stewart has gained national notoriety as an example of the harshness of the detention system. From 2007 to 2018, 96.7% of detainees from Stewart were ordered deported, contrasted with a national average of roughly 60%. Moreover, three detainees have died in controversial circumstances while detained at the facility since May 2017. How, then, can a process of exclusion so harsh be compatible with the established legal and political order of the liberal state? To address this question, this dissertation develops the concept of ‘litigation by attrition’, referring to a defined relationship between the legal process of removal and the carceral system of immigration detention.

Keywords: immigration detention, USA, immigration, deportation, exclusion, liberal state

Suggested Citation

Tuck, Hallam, Litigation by Attrition: Power, Order, and Capability in US Immigration Detention (2018). Criminal Justice, Borders and Citizenship Research Paper No. 3274549. Available at SSRN: or

Hallam Tuck (Contact Author)

University of Oxford - Saint Antony’s College ( email )

United Kingdom

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