It has been a few years since Rep. Sensenbrenner proposed draconian legislation known as HR 4437. His proposed legislation, which would have made being undocumented in the US a felony, was a major catalyst for mobilizing a new wave of immigrant justice activists in 2005-2006.
However, immigration rights and reform was a non-issue during the 2008 presidential election. Candidates steered clear of taking a position on what many saw as a “controversial” issue. Illegal People: How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants, is an excellent book that reminds us of the importance of immigration as a justice issue.
Veteran writer and photo journalist David Bacon has spent years observing and writing about the harsh realities that face people who are part of the migrant stream coming from Central America and Mexico into the United States. Bacon combines the best of analysis with how US immigration policy impacts individuals and their families.
Illegal People is not so much a methodical look at how globalization creates migrants, rather it is a collection of essays and stories about people who have come from countries like Guatemala and Mexico after economic hardship as a result of trade policies such as NAFTA and CAFTA.
Bacon weaves throughout the book examples from US history of migrants who have been victims of racist immigration policy to those who have organized against this repression. The author draws the links between how the US treated Chinese immigrants in the later part of the 19th century to how US policy treats Mexicans today. The book also provides excellent examples of how migrants have organized themselves in response to immigration policy. Bacon provides a window into the campaigns by Chicano and Filipino activists in the 1960 that led to the creation of the United Farm Workers and the organizing behind the current immigrant rights movement.
Illegal People: How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants is not only a great resource for understanding what drives much of the immigration to the US, it provides a framework for responding to the racist and xenophobic movements that want to build a wall along the US-Mexican border.
David Bacon, Illegal People: How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants, (Beacon Press, 2008).