Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Politics and International Relations

Second Department

Asian American Studies

Reader 1

Nancy Neiman

Reader 2

Kathleen Yep

Terms of Use & License Information

Terms of Use for work posted in Scholarship@Claremont.

Rights Information

© 2022 Amber Chong


This article examines the political reasons for the expansion of alternatives to detention (ATD) for immigrants under President Joe Biden’s administration. Enrollment in ATDs has doubled since the beginning of Biden’s presidency in January 2021, a stark growth after over ⅔ of voters polled by the ACLU said they would support the elimination of private immigrant detention centers. To understand the growth of ATD, I analyze the bipartisan expansion of immigrant detention and militarization of the U.S. Mexico border, discussing the Democratic Party’s history of criminalizing immigrants and bolstering surveillance in service of racist notions of “national security.” I then describe the corrupt entanglement between Democratic politicians and private detention lobbyists and interest groups, as well as evaluate their rhetoric to brand ATD as cost-effective and restorative. ATDs constitute an expansion of state control and surveillance over immigrant communities. Biden and the Democratic Party’s pivot towards ATDs reflect their commitment to neoliberalism and a system of racial capitalism, which seeks to create private profit off the exploitation and racialization of BIPOC immigrants as “other” and “criminal.” To bolster their egalitarian image and evade criticism from immigrant rights advocates, the Democratic Party co-opts the language of humane case management and uses it to portray ATDs as reform.