Jessica Ordaz

Assistant Professor of Ethnic Studies, CU Boulder

  • Chicanx and Latinx History
  • US/Mexico Border Studies
  • Radical Social Movements
  • Migration Studies
  • Labor History
  • Carcerality
  • Migrant Detention Camps and Incarceration
  • Food Justice and BIPOC Veganisms

Jessica Ordaz

Assistant Professor of Ethnic Studies, CU Boulder

  • Chicanx and Latinx History
  • US/Mexico Border Studies
  • Radical Social Movements
  • Migration Studies
  • Labor History
  • Carcerality
  • Migrant Detention Camps and Incarceration
  • Food Justice and BIPOC Veganisms

Assistant Professor, Ethnic Studies, University of Colorado Boulder

Jessica Ordaz is an Assistant Professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of Colorado Boulder. She received her doctorate from the University of California Davis in American History. During the 2017-2018 academic year, Ordaz was the Andrew W. Mellon Sawyer Seminar postdoctoral fellow at the University of Washington, which focused on comparative racial capitalism. Her first book, The Shadow of El Centro: A History of Migrant Incarceration and Solidarity, was released in March 2021. Her second project will explore the multifaceted history of veganism and plant based foods throughout the Americas, focusing on colonization, food politics, and social justice. This research will illuminate the wider and transnational history of Latinx veganism and how communities of color have engaged with questions of animal, human, and plant relations for centuries.

Listen to Ordaz discuss her research journey in the following interviews:
New Books Network

Carceral Studies Conversations

Unsung History

IRISE RAGE

Migrant Detention Radio

Immigration and Ethnic History Society

Ordaz is also the Veggie Mijxs Denver Metro Co-organizer. The goal of the collective is to center women, non-binary, femmes, and trans BIPOC while providing a safe place for folks to explore decolonization and plant based food justice. Read more about Veggie Mijxs here: https://www.veggiemijas.com/meet-the-organizers

Book

The Shadow of El Centro

Bounded by desert and mountains, El Centro, California, is isolated and difficult to reach. However, its location close to the border between San Diego and Yuma, Arizona, has made it an important place for Mexican migrants attracted to the valley’s agricultural economy. In 1945, it also became home to the El Centro Immigration Detention Camp. The Shadow of El Centro tells the story of how that camp evolved into the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service Processing Center of the 2000s and became a national model for detaining migrants—a place where the policing of migration, the racialization of labor, and detainee resistance coalesced.

Using government correspondence, photographs, oral histories, and private documents, Jessica Ordaz reveals the rise and transformation of migrant detention through this groundbreaking history of one detention camp. The story shows how the U.S. detention system was built to extract labor, to discipline, and to control migration, and it helps us understand the long and shadowy history of how immigration officials went from detaining a few thousand unauthorized migrants during the 1940s to confining hundreds of thousands of people by the end of the twentieth century. Ordaz also uncovers how these detained migrants have worked together to create transnational solidarities and innovative forms of resistance.

"Jessica Ordaz excavates unknown and forgotten histories, documenting the violence embedded within the immigration enforcement and detention system as well as the remarkable way migrants resisted their confinement through escape, hunger strikes, and solidarity movements."--Amada Armenta, University of California, Los Angeles

"This compelling book interrogates the intimate and transnational configuration and implications of U.S. domestic detention centers and practices as an economy of underestimated emotional hauntings, protest, and trauma."--Ana Elizabeth Rosas, University of California, Irvine

"The Shadow of El Centro casts new light on America's dark history of migrant detention. Far from simply being the infrastructure for enforcing the nation's deportation powers, Ordaz shows us that detention centers are in fact durative carceral institutions that shape the everyday geographies of economy, community, and power of the places in which they are erected. A first of its kind, this seventy-year history of the El Centro Detention Center revises how we think about migrant detention, revealing the power and resources it creates for capitalist society and the contradictions that give rise to migrant resistance. As a history at the important nexus of immigration, carceral, and labor studies, this is an indispensable book for anyone interested in the history of twentieth-century racial capitalism."--Chandan Reddy, University of Washington, Seattle

"One of few works that fulfills its promise to tell a desire-based narrative of “transnational migrant solidarity” without losing the analytical power necessary to confront immigrant incarceration in the US. . . . This short book packs a powerful punch . . . [and] explains the rise of the immigrant punishment system without attributing a complex issue solely to race, capitalism, or xenophobia."—"Antipode

For more information or to purchase the book visit:
 https://uncpress.org/book/9781469662473/the-shadow-of-el-centro/

Book

The Shadow of El Centro

Bounded by desert and mountains, El Centro, California, is isolated and difficult to reach. However, its location close to the border between San Diego and Yuma, Arizona, has made it an important place for Mexican migrants attracted to the valley’s agricultural economy. In 1945, it also became home to the El Centro Immigration Detention Camp. The Shadow of El Centro tells the story of how that camp evolved into the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Service Processing Center of the 2000s and became a national model for detaining migrants—a place where the policing of migration, the racialization of labor, and detainee resistance coalesced.

Using government correspondence, photographs, oral histories, and private documents, Jessica Ordaz reveals the rise and transformation of migrant detention through this groundbreaking history of one detention camp. The story shows how the U.S. detention system was built to extract labor, to discipline, and to control migration, and it helps us understand the long and shadowy history of how immigration officials went from detaining a few thousand unauthorized migrants during the 1940s to confining hundreds of thousands of people by the end of the twentieth century. Ordaz also uncovers how these detained migrants have worked together to create transnational solidarities and innovative forms of resistance.

"Jessica Ordaz excavates unknown and forgotten histories, documenting the violence embedded within the immigration enforcement and detention system as well as the remarkable way migrants resisted their confinement through escape, hunger strikes, and solidarity movements."--Amada Armenta, University of California, Los Angeles

"This compelling book interrogates the intimate and transnational configuration and implications of U.S. domestic detention centers and practices as an economy of underestimated emotional hauntings, protest, and trauma."--Ana Elizabeth Rosas, University of California, Irvine

"The Shadow of El Centro casts new light on America's dark history of migrant detention. Far from simply being the infrastructure for enforcing the nation's deportation powers, Ordaz shows us that detention centers are in fact durative carceral institutions that shape the everyday geographies of economy, community, and power of the places in which they are erected. A first of its kind, this seventy-year history of the El Centro Detention Center revises how we think about migrant detention, revealing the power and resources it creates for capitalist society and the contradictions that give rise to migrant resistance. As a history at the important nexus of immigration, carceral, and labor studies, this is an indispensable book for anyone interested in the history of twentieth-century racial capitalism."--Chandan Reddy, University of Washington, Seattle

"One of few works that fulfills its promise to tell a desire-based narrative of “transnational migrant solidarity” without losing the analytical power necessary to confront immigrant incarceration in the US. . . . This short book packs a powerful punch . . . [and] explains the rise of the immigrant punishment system without attributing a complex issue solely to race, capitalism, or xenophobia."—Antipode

"Ordaz deftly shows the extent to which detention, control, and violence have come to dominate America’s response to undocumented immigration through a history of one of America’s oldest detention facilities."—Boom California

"Illuminating." — NACLA Report

For more information or to purchase the book visit:
 https://uncpress.org/book/9781469662473/the-shadow-of-el-centro/

Teaching

Course Themes

  • Caging and the Carceral State
  • Latinx Migration, Policing, and the Carceral State
  • Foundations of Comparative Ethnic Studies
  • People of Color and Social Movements
  • Chicanx History and Culture
  • Chicanx Feminisms and Knowledges

Teaching

Course Themes

  • Caging and the Carceral State
  • Latinx Migration, Policing, and the Carceral State
  • Foundations of Comparative Ethnic Studies
  • People of Color and Social Movements
  • Chicanx History and Culture
  • Chicanx Feminisms and Knowledges
•  BIPOC Horror

Writing

Publications

The Shadow of El Centro: A History of Migrant Incarceration and Solidarity
Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2021.


"AIDS Knows No Borders": Testimonies of HIV/AIDS, Exclusion, and Migrant Detention."

Radical History Review, Issue 140 (May 2021): 175-185.
“Protesting Conditions Inside El Corralon: Immigration Detention, State Repression, and Transnational Migrant Politics in El Centro, California.”
Journal of American Ethnic History 38 (2): 65-93.
“La Lucha Obrera No la Para la Frontera (There Are No Borders in the Workers' Struggle): José Medina, Transborder Organizing, and the Carceral State."
California History 1 May 2021; 98 (2): 3–23.
"Migrant Detention Centers have a Long History of Medical Neglect and Abuse."
The Washington Post, 2020.




"Immigration and Customs Enforcement's #Pride tweet conceals a violence history"

The Washington Post, 2021.
"Migrant Detention Archives: Histories of Pain and Solidarity."
Southern California Quarterly, Vol. 102, No. 3, pp. 250–273.



"The Detention and Deportation Regime as a Conduit of Death: Memorializing and Mourning Migrant Loss" in A Field Guide to White Supremacy.
Berkeley: University of California Press, 2021.