Wednesday, January 25, 2017


By David Bacon
Dollars and Sense | January/February 2017

People make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.
—Karl Marx, “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte,” 1852

While the government officials developing and enforcing U.S. immigration policy will change on January 20, the economic system in which they make that policy will not. As fear sweeps through immigrant communities in the United States, understanding that system helps us anticipate what a Trump administration can and can’t do in regard to immigrants, and what immigrants themselves can do about it.

Over the terms of the last three presidents, the most visible and threatening aspect of immigration policy has been the drastic increase in enforcement. President Bill Clinton presented anti-immigrant bills as compromises, and presided over the first big increase in border enforcement. George W. Bush used soft rhetoric, but sent immigration agents in military-style uniforms, carrying AK-47s, into workplaces to arrest workers, while threatening to fire millions for not having papers. Under President Barack Obama, a new requirement mandated filling 34,000 beds in detention centers every night. The detention system mushroomed, and over 2 million people were deported.


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DAVID BACON is a journalist and photographer covering labor, immigration, and the impact of the global economy on workers. He is author of several books, including Illegal People: How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press, 2009).   His new book, coming in February, is In the Fields of the North / En los Campos del Norte (University of California Press / El Colegio de la Frontera Norte, 2017).

SOURCES: “Donald Trump’s Contract with the American Voter” (; Chico Harlan, “The private prison industry was crashing—until Donald Trump’s victory,” Wonkblog, Washington Post, Nov. 10, 2016 (; U.S. Immigration and Customs Envorcement, “Delegation of Immigration Authority Section 287(g) Immigration and Nationality Act” (; Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity (; Community Initiatives for Visiting Immigrants in Confinement, “End the Quota” (; Jens Manuel Krogstad, Jeffrey S. Passel, and D’Vera Cohn, “Five facts about illegal immigration in the U.S.,” Pew Research Center, Nov. 3, 2016 (; Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Foreign-Born Workers: Labor Force Characteristics, 2016,” May 19, 2016 (; Jie Zong and Jeanne Batalova, “Frequently Requested Statistics on Immigrants and Immigration in the United States,” Migration Information Service, April 14, 2016 (; “Selected Statistics on Farmworkers,” Farmworker Justice, 2014 (; “Indigenous Mexicans in California Agriculture,” Indigenous Farmworker Study (; “U.S. Immigration Policy Task Force Report,” Council on Foreign Relations, August 2009 (; “Visas, Inc.: Corporate Control and Policy Incoherence in the U.S. Temporary Foreign Labor System,” Global Workers Justice Alliance, May 31, 2012 (; “H-2A Temporary Agricultural Workers,” U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (; Buzz Malone, “Stop Blaming Immigrants and Start Punishing the Employers Who Exploit Them,” Working In These Times (blog), Nov. 15, 2016 (; David Bacon, Illegal People (Beacon Press, 2008); David Bacon, The Right to Stay Home (Beacon Press, 2013); David Bacon, author interviews with Alex Galarza, Maru Mora Villapando, Deborah Lee, and Sergio Sosa (2016); Mae M. Ngai, Impossible Subjects: Illegal Aliens and the Making of Modern America (Princeton University Press, 2004); Ronald L. Mize and Alicia C. Swords, Consuming Mexican Labor: From the Bracero Program to NAFTA (University of Toronto Press, 2010).


In den Straßen von Guadalajara

Kinder – in Berliner Straßen

"Wir sind obdachlos, und wir wählen"

THE REALITY CHECK - David Bacon blog

EN LOS CAMPOS DEL NORTE:  Farm worker photographs on the U.S./Mexico border wall
Youtube interview about the show with Alfonso Caraveo (Spanish)

Interviews with David Bacon about his book, The Right to Stay Home:

Book TV: A presentation of the ideas in The Right to Stay Home at the CUNY Graduate Center

KPFA - Upfront with Brian Edwards Tiekert

Books by David Bacon

The Right to Stay Home:  How US Policy Drives Mexican Migration  (Beacon Press, 2013)

Illegal People -- How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants  (Beacon Press, 2008)
Recipient: C.L.R. James Award, best book of 2007-2008

Communities Without Borders (Cornell University/ILR Press, 2006)

The Children of NAFTA, Labor Wars on the U.S./Mexico Border (University of California, 2004)

En Español:

EL DERECHO A QUEDARSE EN CASA  (Critica - Planeta de Libros)


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