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ON SECOND STREET
Obama on Israel
SNATCH & GRAB
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How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants
By David Bacon; Beacon Press, 2008, 261 pp.
In Illegal People, David Bacon draws on fresh research as well as his decades of experience covering labor and immigration issues as an independent journalist. He paints a portrait of a world economy organized as a race to the bottom that keeps wages low, grows the ranks of the impoverished, and creates extreme wealth for an elite few.
The story is familiar, but Bacon's portrayal of it—drawn with a trained photojournalist's eye and grounded in the stories of people living in the disaster zones of global capitalism—is fresh and compelling. Bacon examines labor and immigration questions worldwide, but zeros in on Mexico, the home country of more than half of the 12 to 15 million undocumented immigrants now living in the United States. His forceful criticism of U.S. immigration policy and what he considers to be dangerous flaws in the leading reform proposals is informed by his practical understanding of the economic entanglement between the U.S. and Mexico that drives accelerating migration.
Bacon argues that our current situation—in which millions of displaced Mexicans work in the underpaid shadows of the U.S. economy 15 years after NAFTA—is an intended consequence of that treaty which its business friendly architects embraced. They welcomed the creation a pool of vulnerable workers whose labor is underpriced and widely available.
The construction of fortification along the U.S.-Mexico border began in 1995, the year after NAFTA was ratified. These barriers, however, did not prevent a doubling in the flow of displaced farmers and workers from Mexico, who continued to take up undocumented residency and work in the U.S. every year. What they did do was increase the price and difficulty of the crossing and caused the death rate among those crossing the nearly 2,000 miles of the newly "hardened" common border to skyrocket. By August 2008, the number of dead exceeded 4,800.
Because he critiques core features of our political economy and the interdependent nature of U.S labor, immigration, and trade policies, Bacon's arguments gain force as the rotted economic orthodoxies that have held sway since the Thatcher-Reagan era give way. Indeed Bacon's description of the serial economic crises that have debilitated Mexico since 1982 are eerily familiar to an American reader in 2009. They are replete with tales of unsustainable debt, credit paralysis, and massive government bailouts of collapsing banks that did little to spur production, but did facilitate the consolidation of capital and the subsequent rise of a heretofore unknown class of the Mexican uber-wealthy.
Illegal People does not offer simple resolutions for pressing immigration, trade, and labor issues. The election of Obama and the defeat of virtually all the House candidates who ran explicitly anti-immigrant campaigns provide a hopeful signal that the tone of the immigration debate will improve. But even if workplace raids are curtailed and reform legislation is put back on the table, many substantive issues remain unsettled.
Bacon perceives danger in grand compromises like the failed 2007 "comprehensive" reform bill that traded "earned" legalization of undocumented immigrants already in the United States for diminishing the role of family ties in making immigrants eligible for residency and citizenship; increased border "defense" and detentions; as well as the dramatic expansion of "guest worker" or "normalization" programs that don't include provisions for the visa holders to seek citizenship. He depicts a legislative terrain in which conservative and corporate interests control the leadership of both parties and will cede no real ground without a struggle. In response, he advocates deepening coalitions and movements across racial lines and between immigrants, labor, and progressives as the only reliable road to lasting immigration reform.
Bacon's book decries those on the radical right like Wisconsin Representative James Sensenbrenner, who sponsored some of the most sordid and punitive anti-immigration legislation of recent decades. But during the last immigration debate Bacon was also a prominent critic of proposals to expand the use of guest worker visas. His fierce advocacy helped move much of the labor movement to oppose the bill.
The question of guest or "normalized" workers is sure to be a contentious issue in any future immigration debate and honest reformers will need to grapple with Bacon's conclusion that limited reform combined with increased militarization of our border, guest worker programs that put us on the road toward labor apartheid, and zero attention to the economic roots of migration is worse than no reform at all. Good folk may disagree about some of these issues, but a careful read of Illegal People will shine a helpful light on the difficult road ahead.
Z Magazine Archive
HUMAN RIGHTS - The U.S. Human Rights Network will celebrate its 10th anniversary with the Advancing Human Rights 2013 Conference, December 6-8, in Atlanta, GA.
Contact: 250 Georgia Avenue SE, Suite 330, Atlanta, GA 30312; firstname.lastname@example.org; http:// www.ushrnetwork.org/.
AFRICAN/SOCIALIST - The Sixth Congress of the African People’s Socialist Party USA will be held December 7-11, in St. Petersburg, FL.
Contact: 1245 18th Avenue South, St. Petersburg, FL 33705; 727- 821-6620; info@aps puhuru.org; http://asiuhuru.org/.
SCHOOLS - The Dignity in Schools Campaign (DSC) will host a workshop on the DSC “Model Code on Education and Dignity: Presenting A Human Rights Framework for Schools” at the Mid-Hudson Region NY State Leadership Summit on School Justice Partnerships, December 11 in White Plains, NY.
Contact: http://www.dignityin schools.org/.
ANARCHIST/BOOKFAIR - The Humboldt Anarchist Book Fair will be held December 14, in Eureka, CA.
Contact: humboldtgrassroots @riseup.net; http://humbold tanarchist bookfair.wordpress. com/.
CLIMATE - The World Symposium on Sustainable Development at Universities is hosting a follow-up event to the 2012 Rio de Janeiro symposium. The gathering will be held in Qatar on January 28-30, 2014.
Contact: http://environment.tufts. edu/.
LABOR - The United Association for Labor Education (UALE) will host Organizing for Power: A New Labor Movement for the New Working Class in Los Angeles, March 26-29. Proposals are due December 15.
Contact: LAWCHA, 226 Carr Building (East Campus), Box 90719, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708-0719;lawcha @duke. edu; http://lawcha.org/.
MEDIA FELLOWSHIP - The Media Mobilizing Project is seeking applicants for the first annual Movement Media Fellowship Program. The Fellow will work with MMP to produce the spring season of Media Mobilizing Project TV. MMPTV is a news and talk show that tells the stories of local communities organizing to win human rights and build a movement to end poverty.
Contact: 4233 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, PA 19104; 215-821- 9632; milena@media mobilizing.org; http://www.media mobilizing.org/.
RACE - The 7th Facing Race: A National Conference will be held in Dallas, TX November 13-15, 2014. Organizers, educators, artists, funders and everyone interested in racial equity is invited to exchange best practices and learn about innovative models and successful organizing initiatives. Proposals must be submitted by January 24, 2014.
Contact: Race Forward, 32 Broadway, Suite 1801, New York, NY 10004; 212-513-7925; media @raceforward.org; http://race forward.org/.
VETERANS - They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return from America’s Wars - The Untold Story, by Ann Jones, is about the journey of veterans from the moment of being wounded in rural Afghanistan to their return home.
Contact: Haymarket Books, PO Box 180165, Chicago, IL 60618; 773-583-7884; http://www.haymarketbooks.org/.
LIBYA - Destroying Libya and World Order: The Three-Decade U.S. Campaign to Terminate the Qaddafi Revolution, by Francis A. Boyle, is a history and critique of American foreign policy from Reagan to Obama.
Contact: Clarity Press, Inc., Ste. 469, 3277 Roswell Rd. NE, Atlanta, GE 30305; 404-647-6501; email@example.com; http://www. claritypress.com/.
CHILDREN - Fannie and Freddie by Becky Z. Dernbach is about two bumbling villains who gamble away the savings of the people of Homeville.
Contact: fannieandfreddiebook @gmail.com; http://fannieand freddie.org/.
PROTEST/COMIC - Fight the Power!: A Visual History of Protest Among English Speaking Peoples, by Sean Michael Wilson and Benjamin Dickson is a graphic narrative that explains how people have fought against oppression.
Contact: Seven Stories Press, 140 Watts Street, New York, NY 10013; 212-226-8760; info@ sevenstories.com; http://www. sevenstories.com.
CHILDREN - Brave Girl by Michelle Markel and illustrated by Melissa Sweet is the true story of Clara Lemlich, a young Ukrainian immigrant who led the largest strike of women workers in U.S. history.
Contact: http://www.harpercollins childrens.com/Kids/.
FESTIVAL - The 2014 Queer Women of Color Film Festival will be held June 13-15 in San Francisco. The festival is currently accepting submissions until December 31.
Contact: QWOCMAP, 59 Cook Street, San Francisco, CA 94118-3310; 415-752-0868; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.qwocmap.org/.
IRAQ/REFUGEES - Ten years after the U.S.-led war in Iraq, thousands of displaced Iraqi refugees are still facing a crisis in the United States. The Lost Dream follows Nazar and Salam who had to flee Iraq in order to avoid threats by Al- Qaeda-affiliated groups and Iraqi insurgents that consider them “traitors” for supporting U.S. forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Contact: Typecast Films, 888- 591-3456; info@type castfilms. com; http://type castfilms.com/.
HUMAN RIGHTS - Lyrical Revolt! III will be held December 4 in Syracuse, NY. The event will feature hip-hop musician Anhel whose album Young, Gifted, and Brown was just released. The event is sponsored by ANSWER Syracuse, Liberation News, and SyracuseHip Hop.com. Performers and artists are encouraged to send submissions.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.answercoalition.org/syracuse/.
FOLK - Musician Painless Parker has released his album Music for miscreants, malcontents and misanthropes featuring “Fuck Yeah, the Working Class.”
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://painlessparkermusic.com/.
COMEDY - Political comedian Lee Camp’s new album Pepper Spray the Tears Away has been released.