Michael Kagan, "The Battle to Stay in America: Immigration's Hidden Front Line" (U Nevada Press, 2020)


The debate over American immigration policy has obsessed politicians and disrupted the lives of millions of people for decades. In The Battle To Stay in America: Immigration's Hidden Front Line (University of Nevada Press, 2020), Professor Michael Kagan focuses on Las Vegas, Nevada. Las Vegas is a city where more than one in five residents was born in a foreign country. It's a city dependent on its immigrant population, but one where the community is struggling to defend itself against the federal government’s crackdown on undocumented immigrants. 

Professor Kagan tells this story not just as a front-line immigration lawyer, but also as a citizen, as a friend, and a parent. His intensely personal account converts headlines, complicated and punitive legal processes, and unjust bureaucratic procedures into the personal stories of the struggles to survive the severe immigration policing of the current administration. This is the immigration story that needs to be told: the disappearances of neighbors, the breaking up of families, the parents who are forever relegated to working jobs below their potential because immigration laws prevent them ever being free and equal.

Kagan explains how American immigration law often gives good people no recourse. Under President Trump complex bureaucracies that administer immigration law have been re-engineered to carry out a relentless but often invisible attack against people and families who are integral to American communities. Professor Kagan tells the stories of people desperate to escape unspeakable violence in their homeland, children separated from their families and trapped in a tangle of administrative regulations, and hardworking long-time residents suddenly ripped from their productive lives when they fall unwittingly into the clutches of the immigration enforcement system. He considers how the crackdown on immigrants negatively impacts the national economy and offers a deeply considered assessment of the future of immigration policy in the United States. Kagan also captures the psychological costs exacted by fear of deportation and by increasingly overt expressions of hatred against immigrants.

The Battle to Stay in America could not be more timely; with a changing Administration it's time not just to rethink America's immigration policy, but change how we think about immigration entirely.

Professor Michael Kagan is the director of the UNLV Immigration Clinic, which defends children and families fighting deportation in Las Vegas, and is a Joyce Mack Professor of Law at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He was a plaintiff that prevented the Trump administration from adding a question about citizenship to the 2020 census. He has written for The Washington Post, Salon.com and The Daily Beast, and is a leading national scholar of immigration and refugee law. He is one of the most widely cited immigration scholars in the United States, and his work has been relied on in courts in the United States and beyond.  

Jane Richards is a doctoral candidate in human rights law at the University of Hong Kong. You can find her on twitter @JaneRichardsHK where she follows the Hong Kong protests and its politics. 

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Jane Richards

Jane Richards is a Lecturer in Law at York Law School, UK.

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