Recommended readings on immigration and organizing


The following is a list of books that I highly recommend for folks interested on immigration and grassroots organizing. Some of these are ones that I found on my own and I am reading over the winter break. The rest are books that I read for my classes this past Fall 2014 semester at Harvard.

On immigration:

1) Undocumented: How Immigration Became Illegal by Aviva Chomsky

Aviva Chomsky traces how the concept of illegality was constructed, how it has been sustained, and which purposes it serves. Chomsky provides an important discussion about key U.S. immigration policies that have made immigration illegal. She also discusses how illegality affects the everyday life experiences of undocumented immigrants, current grassroots organizing efforts, and offers concluding thoughts on organizing moving forward.

Selected quote:

  • “Most citizens who rail against the undocumented insist that their opposition is based solely on technical, legal grounds: they oppose people who broke the law. But becoming undocumented is a highly racialized crime” (page 15).

 2) The Deportation Regime: Sovereignty, Space, and the Freedom of Movement edited by Nicholas De Genova and Nathalie Peutz

The authors of this book provide a highly informative and critical look at deportation in various countries (include the U.S. and Europe)- both as a disciplinary practice and as a way to control state sovereignty. The authors also shed light on the experiences with deportability of immigrants themselves.

Selected quote:

  • “The constant, long-standing fear and anxiety attributed to the continuous presence of law enforcement and the possibility of deportation and its consequences scar the psyches of undocumented immigrants long after they have legalized their status” (page 184)

3) Beyond Smoke and Mirrors: Mexican Immigration in an Era of Economic Integration by Douglas S. Massey

In this book, Massey traces the history and roles of the U.S. immigration system, and how they have changed the social and economic conditions in the U.S. and Mexico. Massey notes that while many immigration policies intended to reduce and restrict the number of undocumented immigrants in the United States, instead, they resulted in “unintended consequences”. For example, militarizing the border did not reduce the number of individuals who attempted to cross into the U.S., but rather it has resulted in the wasting of billions of dollars and the deaths of many immigrants.

Selected quote:

  • “Taken together, motivation problems, structural inflation, and economic dualism create a demand for a particular kind of worker: one who is willing to labor under unpleasant conditions, at low wages, in jobs with great instability and little chance for advancement” (page 17).

4) Enrique’s Journey by Sonia Nazario 

In this book, Nazario captures the story of Enrique, a Honduran boy who attempted to cross (several times) the Mexico and U.S. borders in search of his mother. Enrique’s mother was forced to make the difficult decision of moving to the United States when Enrique was a kid. Throughout the book, Nazario details the decisions and experiences of both Enrique and his mother when they lived in Honduras, in their journeys to the U.S., and after.

Selected quote:

  • “The officers, in navy blue uniforms, walk straight up to him. He does not move, even flinch. Cops can sense fear. They can tell if someone is [undocumented]. You have to be calm, he says to himself. You can’t look afraid or hide. You have to look right at them” (page 120).

5) They Take Our Jobs!: And 20 Other Myths about Immigration by Aviva Chomsky (currently reading this book)

On organizing:

 1) Why David Sometimes Wins: Leadership, Organization, and Strategy in the California Farm Worker Movement by Marshall Ganz (currently reading this book)

2)  Undoing Border Imperialism (Anarchist Interventions) by Harsha Walia

Harsha Walia offers a critique of social forces which have shaped undocumented migration. As a leading organizer within Canada’s “No One Is Illegal” movement, she provides critical information about the history of the NOII movement, including its strategies, successes, and challenges.

Selected quote:

  • “Border imperialism is characterized by the entrenchment of controls against migrants, who are displaced as a result of the violences of capitalism and empire, and subsequently forced into precarious labor as a result of state illegalization and systemic social hierarchies” (page 38)

 3) Organizing Immigrants: The Challenge for Unions in Contemporary California (ILR Press Books) edited by Ruth Milkman (starting this book next week)

***** Giveaway (closed) *****

Prize: A book from this list of your choice!

To enter, simply:

1) Subscribe to my blog by scrolling up to the “Follow my blog via e-mail” box (it is on the right hand side of this screen) and clicking on the “Follow” button to enter your e-mail and subscribe! (If you are already subscribed, that’s great, you only have to do step #2!).

2) Choose a book from this list that you are most excited to read next. Comment below with the title of the book you have chosen, along with a short description (1-3 sentences is ok!) about why you are most excited to read that book.

Process of selecting a winner: I will randomly select 1 person (using a random name picker tool online) and gift her/him the book that she/he picked! Giveaway ends Friday January 16, 2015 at 8pm PST. Winner will be announced on Saturday January 17, 2015 by 5pm PST.

Winner announcement: Thank you Jennifer, Patricia, Sydney, and Elizabeth for entering the giveaway, and to all who shared it as well! Congratulations to Patricia for winning!!! I will be in touch today to mail you your very own copy of “Organizing Immigrants” by Ruth Milkman.

Stay tuned for future giveaways! More blog posts coming soon on immigration-related readings, news, as well as on pursing higher education. Happy reading to all!

Tell us, what book are you most excited to read from this list and why?

Be sure to subscribe to this blog to get daily updates on new scholarship opportunities, DACA, DAPA, & much more. To subscribe, click on the subscription box located at the top right corner of this page!

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4 replies

  1. Hi Caro,
    I am interested in reading “Undocumented: How Immigration Became Illegal” by Aviva Chomsky.

    I am excited to read the book because I want to continue informing myself and learning about the U.S. immigration policies that have made immigration illegal. It’s important to inform ourselves to be able to inform others.

    Thank you for making this list of books! Happy reading everyone!

    Much love,

  2. Thank you for this wonderful list. It is always nice to have reading suggestions. I would like to read Enrique’s Journey. I feel like I am able to connect and gather a deeper understanding of such issues as immigration when I can read them as a personal account. I will be bookmarking this page to come back to for reading suggestions in the future!

  3. Organizing Immigrants, Hi Caro I am interested in this book because we (in our own community) can’t find the formula to get more people involved. It can better myself as a leader, which can then help me guide others on their journey to find the courage to mobilize.

  4. Hello lovely. I am entering this contest. I am going to read Undoing Border Imperialism by Harsha Walla. I am choosing this book because I am very entrenched in reading how Spain and America have colonized the Philippines. I am trying to understand my own migration story..answering the “why” and seeing how the constitution obviously didn’t apply to those outside of our borders of ruling those that didn’t want to be ruled by imperialistic forces. Reading this will help me understand that imperialism within our borders..and why the constitution is obviously NOT applying to those that want to be ruled by it…the injustice of it…What a great post!

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