Book Review: “No One Is Illegal”

I recently finished reading Justin Akers Chacón’s book No One is Illegal: Fighting Racism and State Violence on the U.S. – Mexico Border. Although the book was published in 2006, I felt like it would be an appropriate read, particularly in today’s culture with the government attempting immigrant bans (which are really just thinly-veiled Muslim bans) and the whole discussion of “the wall.” The book also discussed undocumented immigrants and some of the problems they face, both while traveling here and while here.

Well, I was right. This book had A LOT of information to unpack, and so much of it was painfully relevant to today’s society. Rather than give a whole recap of the book – which I think y’all should seek out and read, even if you have to go through interlibrary loan like I did – I’m going to share a few key quotes I plucked out, all from the book and credited to the author.

“This is the demand now emanating from the streets that is sending chills through corporate America. But this time around, the new movement must resist any compromising logic that legitimizes criminalization of the undocumented, or border militarization. And the movement has to reject the logic of border enforcement. Borders serve only to divide people and reinforce the power of capital over all workers.”

“The main goal is not to “protect” the physical borders of the United States: their primary political objectives have more to do with protecting the borders of white privilege and the notions of citizenship that are being transcended by a global society. Their tactics also serve the interests of elites like George W. Bush and military industrialists as they wrap themselves with, and rally much poorer people around, the flag of extreme nationalism.” (Hispanic Vista Magazine, Robert Lovato)

“To counter allegations of structural inequality, he, like many capitalists of his day, embraced Social Darwinism, the creed that poverty was a consequence of maladjusted ‘inferior breeds’ unable or unwilling to emulate the ‘enterprising spirit’ deemed genetic in ‘good Americans.’ This philosophy continues to this day in the axiom that poor people are poor because they lack ambitiion or intelligence, or come from a culture that does not promote success. It is also embedded in the commonly expressed view that immigrants ‘live off the welfare system,’ since this (incorrect) assumption associates poverty with immigrant status, rather than low wages, poor working conditions, and racism.”

As I said, there’s a lot to unpack in this book, but I felt it was an important read. I can only imagine what an updated version, perhaps published in the next year or so, would include, considering the current political climate of the United States. I had this book on my to-read list for just a few weeks – I had to wait to get my hands on it, as my library didn’t have it but got it through an interlibrary loan with the University at Buffalo, a local collegiate library. I’m glad I read it, and if nothing else, it fuels me and makes me want to fight for immigrant rights, both documented and undocumented, now more than ever.


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