Academic journal article Journal of Intercultural Disciplines

Criminalization of Undocumented Workers and Labor: Increasing Fear and Exploit Ability within the Latino Community1

Academic journal article Journal of Intercultural Disciplines

Criminalization of Undocumented Workers and Labor: Increasing Fear and Exploit Ability within the Latino Community1

Article excerpt

I think, the way we treat immigrants is a national disgrace and I'm ashamed of what we do. I think anybody who's here in the United States, legal or illegal, is entitled to the full protection of the law and they're not getting that.

Robert Morgenthau, former New York District Attorney2

""Illegal" is all about social and political status. "Illegal" says society is divided into those who have rights and those who don't, those whose status and presence in the United States is legitimate and those whose status is illegitimate, those who are part of the community and those who are not. Yet those branded as illegal are part of the economic engine of this country."

David Bacon p. V

Instilling Fear

In June 2007, at 6:45 am, in Morris County, NJ, ICE agents took out their guns, banged on a door, and in the moment the tenant had cracked opened the door, forced their way in. ICE agents illegally entered and searched the home. An ICE agent shouted using abusive language yelling "F*** you" and "You are a piece of s***" at one of the residents who tried to call her lawyer- Argueta v. Myers, No. 08-cv-01652 (D. NJ) (complaint filed Apr. 3, 2008). (Chiu, Egyes, Markowitz, Vasandani, 2009 p. 19)

In March 2007, in California, "[ICE Agents] arrived at [the Reyes' home] in the early morning hours.. .Armed and wearing clothes bearing the word "police," [ICE Agents] entered the residence and demanded the immigration papers and passports of [7 year old] Kevin and his father...[ICE Agents] did not have lawful authorization or a valid warrant for entering the home....Despite being placed on notice that Kebin is a United States citizen, [Agents] instructed his father to waken Kebin because they were going to seize him as well...[Agents] took Kebin and his father to an ICE office in San Francisco and held them there against their will." Reyes v. Alcantar, No. 07-02271 (N.D. Cal., filed Apr. 26, 2007); (Chiu, Egyes, Markowitz, Vasandani, 2009 p. 20).

These accounts are just a sample of the hundreds of grievances that have been reported; perhaps thousands have been unreported and left to oblivion due to a deep fear the victims feel of being deported or incarcerated. These accounts describe a level of repression and intolerance that can only come from state apparatuses and their agents whose main goal is to instill fear in those who are clearly not considered by them as worthy individuals. It is a treatment that throughout history has been reserved for those who are considered a threat to the core values and ideal racial representations by those who manufacture and control cultural, political, and economic hegemony-a hegemony justified by a state and its dominant classes as to maintain their power by winning the active consent of those over whom they rule (Gramsci, A. in Hoare, Smith, 1971. P- 12).

I will attempt to show that such a perverse dynamic, which is a product of false consciousness, exacerbates a political economy in which, in Gramscian terms, those who control the state institutions and the historic bloc are reaping material benefits (Gramsci, 2000). 3 Undocumented workers receive lower wages than any other minority (Kazis & Miller, 2001). Yet, a large number of non-Latinos from the working and middle classes now see their jobs and wages decline at the same time they see the American dream evaporate (Peterson, 1995). At the same time, those in control of capital have thrived from the increasingly unequal political economy; but their survival depends, at least in the short term, on the creation of a scapegoat that they know is needed by all those who still want to believe in the American dream (Cullen, 2003).

The paradox of U.S. migration laws and policies is that as they become more restrictive and punitive at both the federal and state levels, they seem to ensure, perhaps not intentionally, that workers and families who do not have the proper immigration documents and working permits remain in the "shadows" and work harder for less, even under extreme duress. …

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