Engage and Evade

How everyday forms of surveillance threaten undocumented immigrants—but also 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’ high 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, Bookshop.org here, or Amazon here.

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

Advance Praise for Engage and Evade

Engage and Evade offers a definitive microsociology of undocumented life in the United States, expertly detailing the complex ballet of institutional engagement and evasion that undocumented parents must undertake in response to the mixed signals emanating from America’s surveillance state to ensure a viable future for their US-born citizen children.”—Douglas S. Massey (Princeton University), Author of Categorically Unequal: The American Stratification System

Engage and Evade blends meticulous research, a keen sociological eye, and engaging writing to reveal how immigrant families perceive their myriad routine yet complex interactions with the institutions that surveil them. A splendid work of scholarship, this invaluable book shows us how to see state institutions as immigrants do.”—Cecilia Menjívar (University of California, Los Angeles), 113th President of the American Sociological Association

“A remarkable contribution to the study of contemporary migration, Engage and Evade shows how difficult it is for today’s migrants to experience membership when the very institutions that aid in assisting and integrating newcomers are also part of a complex web of surveillance and punishment. Theoretically nuanced and compellingly argued, this important book sheds new light on one of the most vexing issues in immigration studies today. A must-read.”—Roberto G. Gonzales (University of Pennsylvania), Author of Lives in Limbo: Undocumented and Coming of Age in America

Engage and Evade is a captivating sociological study that explodes the myth that unauthorized immigrants live in the shadows. Asad’s research deftly examines the ways in which those without formal immigration status nevertheless participate extensively in their communities, selectively engaging with authorities to build a better life here.”—Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, Policy Director at the American Immigration Council