For two decades veteran photojournalist David Bacon has documented
the connections between labor, migration, and the global economy.
In Illegal People Bacon explores the human side of globalization,
exposing the many ways it uproots people in Latin America and Asia,
driving them to migrate. At the same time, U.S. immigration policy
makes the labor of those displaced people a crime in the United
States. Illegal People explains why our national policy produces
even more displacement, more migration, more immigration raids, and
a more divided, polarized society.
Through interviews and on-the-spot reporting from both impoverished
communities abroad and American immigrant workplaces and
neighborhoods, Bacon shows how the United States' trade and
economic policy abroad, in seeking to create a favorable investment
climate for large corporations, creates conditions to displace
communities and set migration into motion. Trade policy and
immigration are intimately linked, Bacon argues, and are, in fact,
elements of a single economic system.
In particular, he analyzes NAFTA's corporate tilt as a cause of
displacement and migration from Mexico and shows how criminalizing
immigrant labor benefits employers. For example, Bacon explains
that, pre-NAFTA, Oaxacan corn farmers received subsidies for their
crops. State-owned CONASUPO markets turned the corn into tortillas
and sold them, along with milk and other basic foodstuffs, at low,
subsidized prices in cities. Post-NAFTA, several things happened:
the Mexican government was forced to end its subsidies for corn,
which meant that farmers couldn't afford to produce it; the
CONASUPO system was dissolved; and cheap U.S. corn flooded the
Mexicanmarket, driving the price of corn sharply down. Because
Oaxacan farming families can't sell enough corn to buy food and
supplies, many thousands migrate every year, making the perilous
journey over the border into the United States only to be labeled
"illegal" and to find that working itself has become, for them, a
Bacon powerfully traces the development of illegal status back to
slavery and shows the human cost of treating the indispensable
labor of millions of migrants--and the migrants themselves--as
illegal. Illegal People argues for a sea change in the way we
think, debate, and legislate around issues of migration and
globalization, making a compelling case for why we need to consider
immigration and migration from a globalized human rights
"David Bacon is the conscience of American journalism; an
extraordinary social documentarist in the rugged humanist tradition
of Dorothea Lange, Carey McWilliams, and Ernesto Galarza."
--Mike Davis, author of No One Is Illegal
"Illegal People documents how undocumented workers have become the
world's most exploited workforce--subject to raids and arrests,
forced to work at low pay and under miserable conditions, and
prevented from organizing on their own behalf. In this richly
reported book, David Bacon makes a powerful case for the centrality
of 'illegals'--of all nationalities--in the global struggle for
--Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting
By in America
"David Bacon's book brings us the reality of the deplorable
conditions under which immigrants live when they get here. David
also demonstrates that there is hope, and we can win something
better, today, not just for immigrants, but for all working people.
We just have to commit ourselves to make the policy changes that
create these unacceptable conditions. Si Se Puede!"
--Dolores Huerta, co-founder of United Farm Workers and president
of the Dolores Huerta Foundation
"Read this book to understand why we must stop uprooting people
abroad and how we can ensure rights and jobs for all people in this
country. Bacon's book highlights the real value of a comprehensive
approach to immigration reform, which America supports!"
--Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee
"In clear and compelling language, Bacon connects the dots between
trade, migration and the maldistribution of wealth. A must-read for
anyone who wants to understand the cynical politics and human costs
of the corporate protection racket we call globalization."
--Jeff Faux, distinguished fellow at the Economic Policy Institute
and author of The Global Class War
"This new and urgently needed rethinking of the global economy and
migration is a unique roadmap, showing not only how we arrived at
our current immigration debate impasse but outlining the
possibilities for what lies ahead."
--Raj Jayadev, journalist, organizer, and executive director of
Silicon Valley De-Bug
"As he has before with both pen and camera, Bacon reminds us that
we're all in this together--and that organizing to reject divisive
racism and nativism both celebrates our common humanity and
promotes a twenty-first-century vision of global
--John W. Wilhelm, president/Hospitality Industry, UNITE HERE
"Illegal People is like a fine Oaxacan tapestry woven ever so
carefully with the human face of the main protagonist of
theimmigration dynamic--the mighty migrant laborer."
--Nativo V. Lopez, national president of Hermandad Mexicana
Latinoamericana and the Mexican American Political Association
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