What Do Napoleon and U.S. Immigration Policies Have in Common?
|Book: Dying to Live: A Story of U.S. Immigration In an Age of Apartheid|
ZNet Book Page
Publisher: City Lights
Geography. Gee-Og-Graph-Phee. Four syllables to describe the study of 194 countries, seven continents, and four oceans. Endlessly boring in seventh-grade, geography becomes increasingly interesting when European history rolls around in the course of one’s study (oh Napoleon). Memorization of capitals and rivers transforms into the study of the human impact on geography. You learn that borders are subject to the unstable dictates of people. Marriage, war, money, and the poor self-esteem of a diminutive
Nevins frames his exploration with the story of Julio César Gallegos, an undocumented immigrant from
The key factor, however, is geography. Nevins writes, “While shaped to a significant degree by physical forces, geographic space is largely a social creation in terms of what is contained within it, how it is divided up and bounded, and how it is perceived and lived. It is...a product of power relations and all the conflict—as well as cooperation—that they entail” (25).
Dying to Live traverses the economic and political history of the
He writes, “...a boundary such as that which now exists between the United States and Mexico makes a lot of sense in that it reflects and reproduces the logic of a world of nation-states, which require physical lines that delimit and define national space and, thus, ‘us’ and ‘them’ and ‘our’ territory and ‘theirs’” (77). He concludes by calling for the recognition of borders as socially constructed entities and asks for a redefinition of boundaries.
The violent drug war along the U.S.-Mexico border discredits aspects of Nevins' argument. Operating in the face of inadequate, ill-equipped and corrupt Mexican law enforcement, marijuana and cocaine drug cartels smash their way across borders leaving political credibility, immigration reform, and mutual trust dying in the heat. Nevins is right to highlight the political and historical circumstances that converged to create an unequal and separate society, but past crimes do not justify overlooking present contingencies.
Dying to Live combines prodigious research, passionate argument, and masterful storytelling to describe the complicated landscape of
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