FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Immigration in an Age of Global Apartheid

In his 2001 book, Operation Gatekeeper: The Rise of the ‘Illegal Alien’ and the Remaking of the U.S.-Mexico Boundary (Routledge), Joseph Nevins focused on the Clinton Administration’s initiatives to heighten security at the U.S.-Mexico border.

That book showed how the alleged goal of reducing immigration to the U.S. by pushing potential migrants from “urban corridors” to remote regions only made the crossing more dangerous, and thus contributed to more needless deaths of poor Mexicans and Central Americans. It also made clear that previous to the 1970s, travel between Mexico and the U.S. was not a national issue.

Nevins’s new book, Dying to Live: A Story of U.S. Immigration In An Age of Global Apartheid (City Lights Publishers, 2008), continues his earlier examination of border policies, but personalizes its analysis by looking at the tragic story of one hard-working family man, Julio Cesar Gallegos, who died with five other men and one young woman in 1998 in Southern California’s Imperial Valley Desert.

Julio, although technically “illegal,” had been living and working in East Los Angeles since 1993.  A family emergency drew Julio back to his hometown in central Mexico; he was attempting to return from there to his L.A.-based wife, a U.S. citizen, and their young son, when he and his traveling companions expired.  When his body was found it was so mummified it appeared to be charred.

Dying to Live interweaves meticulously documented history of Mexican immigration to the U.S. with the story of the Gallegos family’s struggles.  Nevins presents a record of racist legal and extra-legal harassment of Mexicans in the U.S., and stresses that territory which became part of ten states (Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Utah, Nevada, and California) was incorporated into the U.S. only after Washington attacked and occupied Mexico City.

Nevins lays bare the overheated demonization of foreigners that has dominated U.S. politics since the September 11, 2001 Al Qaeda attacks. Among the more disturbing quotes cited is a 2006 statement from Congressman Tom Tancredo of Colorado (who ran for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination): “Many who come across the border are workers.  But among them are people coming to kill you and me and your children.”

The reality is that the people being killed are poor Latino travelers.  Since the mid-1990s, more than 5,000 migrant corpses have been recovered from the U.S.-Mexico borderlands.

Contrary to the impression fostered by Fox News, these people were not coming to the U.S. out of spite.  They were fleeing an economic arrangement that had betrayed them.  While the Clinton-backed North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was marketed in the 1990s as a pro-growth treaty that would “lift all boats,” time has shown that profits NAFTA generated for big business did not trickle down to poor and middle-class people on either side of the border.

In <a href=” http://www.democracynow.org/2008/6/20/joseph_nevins_on_dying_to_live “> a recent interview,</a> Nevins cited a Carnegie Endowment for International Peace study which found that “between the years 1994 and 2002, about 1.3 million Mexican farmers or farm laborers had been displaced by a trade deficit that had been brought about most significantly by NAFTA.”

Nevins asked, “Where do these people go? Well, they might try to go to Mexican cities, but the promise of NAFTA to greatly increase industrialization in Mexico never materialized. To the extent it materialized anywhere, it was in the border regions, but it didn’t materialize sufficiently. And at the same time, of course, many of these maquiladoras, the factories, are moving to China, so they end up coming to places like New York City, Oakland, California or rural areas of Wisconsin.”

Nevins’s text is complemented by Mizue Aizeki’s powerful photos, which emphasize the basic humanity of poor people targeted by xenophobic U.S. border militarization policies. This book is the perfect antidote to the mantras of hate heard round the clock on right wing AM radio. It artfully shows the importance of solidarity with poor populations who are paying the price for corporate profiteering in the age of NAFTA and other such misleadingly-labeled “free trade” agreements.

BEN TERRALL is a freelance writer living in San Francisco. He can be reached at: bterrall@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

More articles by:

Ben Terrall is a writer living in the Bay Area. He can be reached at: bterrall@gmail.com

September 26, 2018
Jonathan Cook
Time to Wake Up: the Neoliberal Order is Dying 
David J. Detmer
History Distorted: Sam Wineburg’s Critique of Howard Zinn
Robert Hunziker
An Unforeseen Climate Beast Awakens!
Barbara Nimri Aziz
How Many More Women Are There?
Jörg Wiegratz
The Age of Fraud: the Link Between Capitalism and Profiteering by Deception
John Kendall Hawkins
Now There’s a Wall Between Us, Something There’s Been Lost…
William Kaufman
Brett Kavanaugh’s Wayward Penis: A New Twist
Michael Welton
A Wake-Up Call to the Canadian Left
Patrick Irelan
Brett Goes to School 
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
All Wars Are Illegal, Let’s Act!
Dean Baker
Robots, China and the Failure of Economics Reporters
Matthew Johnson
Cancel Kavanaugh
Rohullah Naderi – Rustam Ali Seerat
The Option of Self-Defense for Hazaras
September 25, 2018
Kenneth Surin
Fact-Finding Labour’s “Anti-Semitism” Crisis
Charles Pierson
Destroying Yemen as Humanely as Possible
James Rothenberg
Why Not Socialism?
Patrick Cockburn
How Putin Came Out on Top in Syria
John Grant
“Awesome Uncontrollable Male Passion” Meets Its Match
Guy Horton
Burma: Complicity With Evil?
Steve Stallone
Jujitsu Comms
William Blum
Bombing Libya: the Origins of Europe’s Immigration Crisis
John Feffer
There’s a New Crash Coming
Martha Pskowski
“The Emergency Isn’t Over”: the Homeless Commemorate a Year Since the Mexico City Earthquake
Fred Baumgarten
Ten Ways of Looking at Civility
Dean Baker
The Great Financial Crisis: Bernanke and the Bubble
Binoy Kampmark
Parasitic and Irrelevant: The University Vice Chancellor
September 24, 2018
Jonathan Cook
Hiding in Plain Sight: Why We Cannot See the System Destroying Us
Gary Leupp
All the Good News (Ignored by the Trump-Obsessed Media)
Robert Fisk
I Don’t See How a Palestinian State Can Ever Happen
Barry Brown
Pot as Political Speech
Lara Merling
Puerto Rico’s Colonial Legacy and Its Continuing Economic Troubles
Patrick Cockburn
Iraq’s Prime Ministers Come and Go, But the Stalemate Remains
William Blum
The New Iraq WMD: Russian Interference in US Elections
Julian Vigo
The UK’s Snoopers’ Charter Has Been Dealt a Serious Blow
Joseph Matten
Why Did Global Economic Performance Deteriorate in the 1970s?
Zhivko Illeieff
The Millennial Label: Distinguishing Facts from Fiction
Thomas Hon Wing Polin – Gerry Brown
Xinjiang : The New Great Game
Binoy Kampmark
Casting Kavanaugh: The Trump Supreme Court Drama
Max Wilbert
Blue Angels: the Naked Face of Empire
Weekend Edition
September 21, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Hurricane Florence and 9.7 Million Pigs
Andrew Levine
Israel’s Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign
Paul Street
Laquan McDonald is Being Tried for His Own Racist Murder
Brad Evans
What Does It Mean to Celebrate International Peace Day?
Nick Pemberton
With or Without Kavanaugh, The United States Is Anti-Choice
Jim Kavanagh
“Taxpayer Money” Threatens Medicare-for-All (And Every Other Social Program)
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail