Engage and Evade

How everyday forms of surveillance threaten undocumented immigrants—and offer them the hope of societal inclusion

Some eleven million undocumented immigrants reside in the United States, carving out lives amid a growing web of surveillance that threatens their and their families’ societal presence. Engage and Evade examines how undocumented immigrants navigate complex dynamics of surveillance and punishment, providing an extraordinary portrait of fear and hope on the margins.

Asad L. Asad brings together a wealth of research, from intimate interviews and detailed surveys with Latino immigrants and their families to up-close observations of immigration officials, to offer rare perspective on the surveillance that undocumented immigrants encounter daily. Asad describes how and why undocumented immigrants engage with various institutions—for example, by registering with the IRS, or enrolling their kids in public health insurance programs—that the government can use to monitor them. This institutional surveillance feels both necessary and coercive, with undocumented immigrants worrying that evasion will give the government cause to deport them. Even so, they hope their record of engagement will one day help them prove to immigration officials that they deserve societal membership. Asad uncovers how these efforts do not always meet immigration officials’ tall expectations, and how surveillance is as much about the threat of exclusion as the promise of inclusion.

Calling attention to the fraught lives of undocumented immigrants and their families, this superbly written and compassionately argued book proposes wide-ranging, actionable reforms to achieve societal inclusion for all.

Available for preorder via Princeton University Press here.

Listen to a podcast interview on the book here (part 1) and here (part 2).