Review: Undocumented: How Immigration Became Illegal

Undocumented: How Immigration Became Illegal Undocumented: How Immigration Became Illegal by Aviva Chomsky
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Though published in 2014, Chomsky's book feels all the more necessary to be put in everyone's hands during the era of the Trump administration. Her book has several clear and well-researched points. One point is to highlight the historical events that lead to the current frame of how the US has created "illegal immigrants" and how that frame is largely informed by a racialized view that devalues immigrants of color, particularly Mexicans and other people from Latin America (that's not to say that she doesn't acknowledge how the current US culture does not devalue other immigrants of color, but that her argument is that in the 20th century, much of the creation of "illegal immigration" had Latin and Central America at its heart). She also argues that if the US is the country that it claims to be, valuing the individual and not discriminating on group identity but rather individual ability, then there is a giant hole of hypocrisy on discriminating against where people are born and restricting them to the rights offered within the US. That is, nation states are social constructs and if the US has created a construct that says all people are equal but then doesn't allow for people to come here and partake of that equality, then it's really not equal. With these two arguments in mind, Chomsky delves into the research of the different laws (nationally and state-wise) along with particular events that lead to the current moment. This narrative is broken up into chapters that focus on different aspects of the immigrant experience from the choice to come to the US (and the overwhelming legal and illegal encouragement by US businesses to entice immigrants to the US), the gray areas in the law and day-to-day life immigrants struggle with as a subclass of people denied rights, opportunities, and protections in the US, the often-grueling and debilitative work they are willing to do (that most US folks are not able to do or able to do as efficiently), and the impact of various legislation and action that undermines the family structure and stability for immigrants. Within these chapters, she brings together the history coupled with interviews and reports that flesh of an ever-increasing view of how brutal life is for immigrants who come to the US. At its core, Undocumented shows a more genuine and legitimate view of what it means to be an undocumented immigrant in a country that economically needs such an exploitable class and culturally, rejects and undermines the value of that life (made all the more ironic in a culture with so many self-reported Christians). If one wants a true understanding of the problems of the discussion of immigration today with all the talks of them as supposedly criminals and the need for a wall, this book is a gamechanger.

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