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Illegal People: How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants Hardcover – September 1, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In this incisive investigation of the global political and economic forces creating migration, journalist and former labor organizer Bacon offers a detailed examination of the trends transforming, for example, Mexican farmers into California farm workers. Bacon condemns efforts to criminalize illegal immigrants, noting that Congress's immigration proposals and debates take place outside any discussion of its own trade policies that displace workers and create migration in the first place. The whole process that creates migrants is scarcely considered in the U.S. immigration debate, argues Bacon, who posits that displacement and migration are two perennially necessary ingredients of capitalist growth. According to the author, the same system... produces migration needs and uses that labor while the vulnerable undocumented or guest-worker status keeps that labor controllable and cheap. Readers disinclined to consider economic rights as human rights may balk at the general direction, but Bacon's timely analysis is as cool and competent as his labor advocacy is unapologetic. In mapping the political economy of migration, with an unwavering eye on the rights and dignity of working people, Bacon offers an invaluable corrective to America's hobbled discourse on immigration and a spur to genuine, creative action. (Sept.)
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From Booklist

The persistence in calling undocumented workers “illegal” signifies the political forces that mean to demonize workers who are not U.S. citizens. But it also aptly describes the gross lack of legal rights for these workers and their families. Bacon, an award-winning photojournalist, labor organizer, and immigrant-rights activist, follows the lives of undocumented workers at the Westin Suite Hotel in California and a Smithfield meatpacking plant in North Carolina, who travel back and forth from Mexico to the U.S. He examines the economic and social forces in both countries that lure workers to a market where they can earn higher wages but are vulnerable to exploitation. Bacon goes on to analyze guest-worker programs and other developments meant to balance the needs of U.S. employers and workers. He ties together interviews, personal histories, and political analysis to provide a vivid image of what life is like for workers with little rights or protections in an increasingly globalized economy. A fascinating look at trade and immigration policies and the people directly affected by them. --Vanessa Bush

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Beacon Press (September 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807042269
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807042267
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,094,737 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Award-winning photojournalist and author, David Bacon has spent twenty years as a labor organizer and immigrant rights activist. He has been a reporter and documentary photographer for eighteen years, shooting for many national publications, and has exhibited his work internationally. He is the author of "The Right to Stay Home: How US Policy Drives Mexican Migration" (Beacon Press, Sept. 2013). He works as an associate editor at Pacific News Service and hosts a weekly radio show on labor, immigration, and the global economy on KPFA-FM.

Photographer Copyright Credit Name: Katy Raddatz, 2013

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By EGD on May 8, 2009
Format: Hardcover
In Illegal People, labor movement veteran David Bacon asks the question of why Americans fail to appreciate the connections between issues like free trade, unionization, widening disparities between rich and poor--and immigration, a natural corollary of these and other topics. Bacon then proceeds to answer the question in a tough, thorough, and insightful work that combines straight-up political analysis with the stories of migrant workers and labor movements across the globe. Bacon's ultimate point--that western governments (especially the USA), in the service of capital, use exclusive immigration policies to undermine rights and depress wages for both native and immigrant laborers--is a sophisticated one, yet argued so brilliantly that the observation seems natural and obvious by the time he's finished.
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30 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Nathan D. Backlund on October 20, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
David Bacon has been fighting for the rights of working people for decades. This book is a monument to a life well spent. Bacon goes through the issues around immigration in a highly readable way. The impact of NAFTA and Neoliberalism. The dangers and hardships faced by economic refugees, documented or not. The exploitative conditions that employers force economic refugees to work under. Bacon is very good on the history of guest worker programs and how they oppress its participants. His book is a great mix of hard facts and analysis plus heart wrenching stories from the front lines. I fear that anti-immigrant sentiment may turn even uglier as the economy weakens. We desperately need the information that Bacon provides to counter the bigotry and ignorance in our work places and among our friends and family.
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Shelley A. Mccarty on October 5, 2008
Format: Hardcover
This is a must read for anyone feeling pinched by a job loss in the US or who is boiling mad about illegal immigration to the US. This book goes a long way toward developing a context and the reasons for the mass migrations of labor throughout societies. If you are not mad at the US government and the Corporations who own it- you soon will be!
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15 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on October 11, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I cannot agree more with the author about revealing the fact that illegals are needed by both the government and corporate America to minimized cost to any service/product in this country. Both slaves and illegals have been making possible the American dream for the original invaders of this land. And they will continue to...

Those who shout "illegals go home" profit the most. Lou Dobbs and others like him should read this book and shot their mouths once and for all. This book also, should be read by all those occupying a possition at any of the three branches of government in the US. And army and police personnel too. Maybe every American should...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Heywood on October 21, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
David Bacon, the author of Illegal People: How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants has written a monumental work detailing the root causes behind immigration to this country by people from Mexico and Latin America. Bacon, an award-winning journalist, union organizer, and historian makes an ironclad case why the United States and Canada must re-think their economic policies aimed at pillaging countries to the global south, specifically "free" trade agreements like NAFTA, CAFTA, and why we must stop bad trade deals and the instrument that rushes them through, Fast Track, currently being pushed by the Obama administration to push TPP, TTIP, and a host of other bad trade agreements currently being negotiated in secret.
Illegal People lays out in heartbreaking detail, the systematic destruction of the Mexican economy, its unions, and Constitution, for the benefit of Big AG, Big Mining, and Big corporate interests at the expense of indigenous farmers, workers, and teachers.
A must read for all people striving to understand the root causes of the current Immigrant/refugee crisis
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Miguel Delgadillo on November 10, 2012
Format: Paperback
An excellent book that highlights the fallacy of the modern American economy. based on the influx of cheap labor the American system can not be sustained in an equitable manner.

The only solution to the immigration problem is a massive AMNESTY for many illegal immigrants who can document their length of stay in the USA. along w/ a serious deportation program that will bring some sense (and teeth) tot he remaining immigration problem.

This book outlines the inherent contradictions that prevent kind hearted people who want to help illegal aliens by aligning them with organized labor. We see step-by-step how they attempt to weld a coalition w/ undocumented workers advocates and how they spectacularly fail. No amount of temporary worker quotas and family reunification quotas and H1 visas and guest workers exemptions can make sense out of a system that is simply at odds w/ the reality.
Mexico has a surplus of low wage workers; Mexico needs the jobs.
America has a demand for low wage services; America needs the workers.

The poor workers are here already and will continue to come. Let them stay and give them AMNESTY.
But America does not need to allow the workers families to come. A de facto guest worker program would develop if the workers were given legal protection and the Border Patrol actually deported people. There would be a carrot and stick approach that would improve the working life of the workers and keep their families safe back home.

David Bacon is a fine man. He has worked for years to publicize the plight of the poorest workers but I fear his fault is that he is still singing Le Internationale; he is still sympathetic to the Marxist ideas.
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