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Forbidden Workers: Illegal Chinese Immigrants and American Labor Paperback – May 1, 1999

ISBN-13: 978-1565845176 ISBN-10: 156584517X
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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

During the Golden Adventure fiasco in 1993, a ship carrying illegal Chinese immigrants was intercepted in New York harbor, generating a fever of public attention on Chinese illegal immigration. Kwong (Asian American studies, Hunter Coll.) explores a dark side of American realities that create the conditions that encourage human smuggling and modern slavery. At the heart of the issue lies the ever-strong demand of American business for vulnerable, docile, and unprotected labor. As Kwong notes, the illegal immigrant problem must be viewed and understood in the context of the underlying supply-and-demand principle enshrined in traditional U.S. economics. Kwong carefully traces the origin of Chinese illegal immigration, the external causes, and the internal problems related to American labor laws and union issues. The result is a provocative and alarming book that should appeal to a wide audience. Recommended for all libraries.?Mark Meng, St. John's Univ. Lib., New York
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Kirkus Reviews

An honest look at an appalling situation, exemplified by the tragedy of the illegal-alien-bearing ship the Golden Venture. At first Kwong's (Asian American Studies/Hunter Coll.; The New Chinatown, 1987) dates seem wrong: Surely he is describing the 19th-century slave trade, not present-day smuggling of illegal Chinese immigrants. But the setting is the present, and transporting people from the Chinese province of Fuzhou to America is as profitable for Chinese ``snakeheads'' today as was the earlier commerce in human beings conducted by Europeans. The voyagers get to pay off the debt incurred by family members to finance their horrific trip by laboring for years under inhumane conditions for less than minimum wage. How could this be happening? Kwong's central thesis is that illegal immigration must be understood as a labor issue. Aliens have always filled the demand for cheap labor in this country, and powerful economic forces exploiting this supply of labor are no less present today than in the past. From the produce fields of California to New York's sweatshops, employers depend on illegals not only to keep their labor costs down, but also as a key weapon in the fight against a strong labor movement. The established unions have been worse than useless in response to this tactic, with their institutionalized and isolated leadership able to think of nothing beyond ``Buy American'' campaigns. Legislation to curb immigration is popular but expensive and relatively ineffective, and employers have wielded political clout to insure that laws prohibiting the hiring of illegals are easy to violate and rarely enforced. Kwong leaves no doubt that the fundamental cause of the trade in illegal immigrants is not the greediness of the foreign snakeheads, but rather that of American capitalists who demand labor so cheap, only illegals can provide it. Ultimately, the only hope Kwong sees for improving this situation is a renewed and committed labor movement--a very dim hope indeed. -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: New Press, The (May 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 156584517X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565845176
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,893,763 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Malvin VINE VOICE on April 26, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Peter Kwong's "Forbidden Workers" is a powerful analysis of working class struggle in the United States. Mr. Kwong effectively connects his study of labor struggles within the illegal Chinese immigrant community to outside macroeconomic forces. It is the author's contention that the exploitation of illegal workers is key to understanding the restructuring of capital/labor relations within the U.S. in the postindustrial era.
Mr. Kwong is a resident of New York and has close ties to the Chinese community. His solid academic scholarship combines with real-world activism to present a contemporary assessment of illegal Chinese labor. Much of the book is dedicated to then current events (early to mid 1990s), such as the well-known Golden Adventure incident and lesser-known strikes against Chinese-owned businesses, among many others. The author convincingly supplants the mainstream's stereotypical image of docile and complacent Chinese labor with a more complex and disturbing picture of a frightened, indebted and exploited workforce that is barely able to subsist on the fringes of society.
Mr. Kwong's mastery of Chinese-American history is evident throughout the book. He provides the reader with useful background material on a number of relevant events, from the Chinese Labor Exclusion Act of 1882 to the enlistment of Chinese seamen in World War II. The author helps us understand the cultural and economic factors that have prompted many Chinese-Americans to develop thriving but insular and crime-ridden Chinatowns in major cities across the U.S.
The failures of government policy and organized labor are critiqued at length. Mr. Kwong shows how capitalism has effectively co-opted the democratic institutions in this country that are supposed to help the working class.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Esther Armoza on March 27, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This amazing book looks at the lives of Illegal Chinese workers in America and how actors from gangs to the INS have conspired to keep them underground and exploited. Fast read and totally amazing eye opener. It will make you think twice when you read "Made in the USA."
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Guangy on March 4, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
it's a issue of tug-o-war between politics and morale. there's never a winner. if one loses, the other one also loses.
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