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Across the Sloping Meadow Floor: An Empirical Analysis of Preremoval Detention of Noncitizens

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  01 January 2024


In many countries, the law permits state authorities to detain noncitizens before deportation. Typically judicial decisions about preremoval detention must be made within a short period of time during which deportable noncitizens are held in police premises, and depending on the country detention may last just one month (e.g., France) or up to 18 months (the Netherlands). While previous research has explored various dimensions of noncitizen detention including the legal procedure, health consequences, the condition of detention centers, and the lives of deportable noncitizens, the empirical assessment of the determinants of decisions on preremoval detention are largely unexplored. Using data from court proceedings of police petitions of detention in Spain and a quantitative strategy, in this article we undertake an empirical analysis of noncitizen detention combining personal background of deportable noncitizens, legal factors of the case, and the behavior of different actors involved in the procedure. To do it, we fit models that take into account variation occurred at judicial district levels. Results indicate, on the one hand, that relevant actors involved in the procedure use different informational cues to decide on cases. On the other hand, the role of prosecutors and attorneys during hearings proves also relevant to predict detention.

© 2019 Law and Society Association.

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The authors would like to thank Júlia Terés, Martí Bonilla, and Paula Regueira for their work in data collection. This work was presented at the research seminar of the Political Science Department of the University of Barcelona and the authors would like to acknowledge their participants' insightful comments and constructive criticism. The first line of the title of this article corresponds to a verse in Robert Grave's poem “Country at war” from his homonymous book published in 1920.


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