The Dispossessed
A Story of Asylum at the US-Mexico Border and Beyond
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352 pages / May 5, 2020 / 9781788734721


The basic idea of asylum is simple. Someone comes to your door because they are in danger, because they are afraid. You open your door, and you share your roof. But within the simplicity lies a labyrinth

The Dispossessed is a detailed, novelistic account of one family’s search for safety that lays bare US—in concert with other western nations—gutting of asylum protections. The narrative takes the reader through the inhumane debacle of family separation and the growing global refugee crisis at large. Adding historical, literary, and current political context to the immigration and refugee crises of today, Washington unearths the ancient origins of hospitality practices and traces the rise of asylum law through the Ancient Greeks, the early religious traditions, the international agreements of the twentieth century, and the unmet promises of today’s US refugee policies.

Throughout, he traces one man’s saga of seeking asylum, the separation from his daughter by US Border Patrol agents, and his ongoing struggles to find security after being repeatedly deported back to a gang-ruled rural community in El Salvador. The Dispossessed also delivers a host of other haunting and heartrending asylum stories. The book is a gripping and critical account of the US practices of welcome and refusal.

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