Welcome the Wretched

In Defense of the “Criminal Alien”

A powerful argument for separating immigration enforcement from the criminal legal system, by one of the nation’s foremost “crimmigration” experts

In the fevered battles over immigration, Democrats and Republicans alike agree on this: that migrants who have committed a crime have no place in this country. Yet time and again, it has been shown that targeting migrants because they have committed a crime is a short-sighted appeal to nativist fear. To predicate a migrant’s right to stay in the country on whether they are law-abiding and therefore deserving or “criminal” and undeserving does little to improve public safety and has an especially devastating impact on low-income migrants of color.

While César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández’s first book, Migrating to Prison, focuses on the explosion of migrant detention centers over the past decades, Welcome the Wretched tackles head-on what happens when a deeply flawed and racist criminal legal system and immigration system converge to senselessly cruel effect. Drawing on everything from history to legal analyses and philosophy, García Hernández counters the fundamental assumption that criminal activity has a rightful place in immigration matters, arguing that instead of using the criminal legal system to identify people to deport, the United States should place a reimagined sense of citizenship and solidarity at the center of immigration policy.


“[Welcome the Wretched] offers timely insights into the vexing problem of citizenship in America.”
Kirkus Reviews
“A thought-provoking and much-needed perspective in today’s polarized immigration debate, Welcome the Wretched is essential reading for anyone interested in a deep dive into the injustices at the intersection of the immigration and criminal legal systems. Its invitation to ‘imagine a radical reconstruction of immigration law’ is an urgent call we must all heed if we are to live up to this country’s promise as a beacon of hope for the marginalized and oppressed around the world.”
—Efrén C. Olivares, deputy legal director for immigrant justice at the Southern Poverty Law Center and the author of My Boy Will Die of Sorrow: A Memoir of Immigration from the Front Lines
“A brilliant, deeply personal, and highly readable indictment of the violent, racist history of immigration law’s entanglement with criminal law. García Hernández offers readers a powerful blueprint for remaking the entire U.S. immigration system in a way that’s grounded in the fundamental dignity and worth of all immigrants—even ones the law has chosen to mark as “criminals.””
—Aaron Bobrow-Strain, author of The Death and Life of Aida Hernandez: A Border Story

Books by César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández

Migrating to Prison
America’s Obsession with Locking Up Immigrants

César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández

Goodreads Reviews