Migrant Detention, Deportation, and COVID-19 Transmission: Public Health and Safety Challenges in New Jersey

Project Abstract:

Growing evidence reveals institutions of confinement are ill equipped to manage public health challenges associated with COVID-19. Prescriptive guidelines like social distancing and the prohibition of large gatherings are structurally incompatible with the carceral infrastructure of jails, prisons, and detention centers. An early epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, New Jersey is also a key site of migrant detention, where approximately 2,000 migrants are confined as they await adjudication in NJ and New York City-based immigration courts. This project examines empirically whether and how institutions of confinement serve as vectors for COVID-19 transmission, with an emphasis on the impacts of New Jersey-based processes of migrant detention and deportation on measures of coronavirus transmission. Through a mixed methods case study designed to meet the exigencies of conducting research during an active pandemic, this NJ-based case study will be used to advance empirical inquiry of the intersection of migrant detention, deportation, public safety, and COVID-19; and to catalyze extramural funding for sustaining a research program on the nexus between migration, state governance, and pandemic preparedness.

*This research is funded by the Center for COVID-19 Response and Pandemic Preparedness (CCRP2) at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. Learn more about CCRP2 here.


Research Team:

  • Ulla D. Berg, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Latino & Caribbean Studies (RU-NB)
  • Kenneth S. León, Assistant Professor of Latino & Caribbean Studies and Criminal Justice (RU-NB)
  • Sarah R. Tosh, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminal Justice (RU-C)