In this memoir of his time in the Department of Immigration, Peter Mitchell takes us from his early stint chasing down visa overstayers through to his time as manager of the infamous Villawood detention centre, laying bare the sometimes bewildering, sometimes touching, sometimes farcical processes our public servants are duty-bound to implement. How do our officials reconcile their compassion for people in need with the imperatives of fair and proper processes? Mitchell tells frontline yarns of raiding businesses with illegal workers and capturing non-citizens who've tried to disappear into the community, up to his Villawood and East Hills days, administering the desperate flood of refugees from East Timor and Kosovo. He witnesses the changes as Australia's detention centres are privatised in the nineties. As with stories from police or military personnel, Mitchell reveals the camaraderie and sense of humour among his immigration colleagues, while never losing sight of their responsibilities when dealing with people in sometimes traumatic circumstances, acting in the nation's interest while trying to maintain their own sense of what is right.