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Human Beings Can’t Be ‘Illegal’, Book Argues

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12 May 09 | IPS

The term “illegal,” Bacon argues, is part of the United States’ history of white male property owners’ efforts to dehumanise and demonise the people they rely upon for the hardest labour, dating back to slavery.

Julio Guerrero came from Mexico to the U.S. state of North Carolina on a legal, H2-A temporary visa to work on a tobacco farm in 2002. After only a few weeks on the job, his fingers began to hurt and before long his fingernails had fallen off.

Smith farm tried to prevent him from seeing a doctor, but when he did, he discovered the damage was caused from working in fields doused in dangerous pesticides with no gloves.

Guerrero called Legal Aid, a programme providing free legal services to low-income people. As a result, he was sent back to Mexico and blacklisted, his name put on an official “record of ineligibility” for work visas in 2003. Legal Aid responded anyway, issuing a pink “know your rights” booklet to guest workers in North Carolina farms.

The following year, Juan Villareal, also on a guest visa from Mexico, was one of 200 workers taken to a barn outside the North Carolina Growers Association office, where the workers were told to throw their “know your rights” booklets in a trash can. They were then made to sign contracts, written in a language they could not understand, under threats of arrest and uncompensated tickets back to Mexico if they did not comply.

Theirs and other stories are part of David Bacon’s new investigative book Illegal People: How Globalisation Creates Migration and Criminalises Immigrants, which details the history of immigrant labour and the latest round of attacks by anti-immigration forces. >>>

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Written by Editors

12 May 2009 at 11:40 am

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