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

4.3 out of 5 stars 12 customer reviews

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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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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
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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: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,007,708 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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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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Format: Kindle Edition
David Bacon cares deeply about two things: working people, especially immigrants, and explaining all social phenomena using shopworn economic and political frameworks that often defy basic arithmetic. There is no denying his compassion for the people he writes about, photographs, and organizes. For three decades, Bacon has been a powerful social voice and a welcome one.

Unfortunately, he is drawn to writing not simply about people, where is eye is excellent, but about economics, which is not his strongest subject. Bacon's world is built on economic myth. Once embedded, they die hard. These include:

The decline of American manufacturing. Which hasn't happened. US manufacturing output has risen 50% in twenty years and has never been higher than it is right now. Employment has declined, but that's a good thing, just as it was with agricultural employment. 70% of America used to be farmers -- now 1-2% produce it all and we all like it that way, even if we don't like that some farmers and a lot of farmworkers got screwed along the way. You cannot raise incomes without higher productivity, which means producing more stuff with fewer people. Manufacturers have done that. Bacon is right to point out that this change is hard on displaced workers and right to argue for doing more for them, but claims of "deindustrialization" are flat silly.

Likewise, Bacon has never seen a trade deal he didn't hate. Again, he needs to distinguish costs (victims hurt by trade) from the benefits he ignores (higher wages, new jobs, and vastly lower costs at the checkout counter -- equal to an annual raise for working families). He needs to focus as much on jobs created by trade (a lot) and wages raised by trade (even more) as he does people hurt by it.
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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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