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Texas has more migrant detention centers and migrant prisons than any other state in the Union. This essay focuses on the construction and design of migrant detention facilities in Texas since the 1960s in relation to immigration policy and private prison practices. Using archival and ethnographic methods that include historical newspaper articles, ICE contracts and documents, satellite imagery, field observations and interviews, this genealogy of the construction of detention facilities reveals the government’s abdication of design responsibilities, as private prison corporations and construction companies assume authority and responsibility for making critical design decisions that affect migrants’ daily lives. I argue that the construction and design of facilities in Texas has formalized and institutionalized the “penal turn” and “criminalization of migration” reflected in immigration policy into an intractable material reality with long-term consequences. Not only has the evolving design of detention facilities contributed to today’s increasingly punitive experience of detention, but also the building of detention facilities and their related contracts shapes both a US civic “spatial imagination” and immigration policy itself.