In a Nutshell: The political controversy in the U.S. over illegal immigration continues and this cogent book helps to clarify matters. John Tirman takes us on a rollercoaster ride covering this nettlesome issue that has bedeviled the nation.

About the Author: John Tirman is Executive Director of MIT's Center for International Studies, where he is also Principal Research Scientist. He is the author of The Deaths of Others: The Fate of Civilians in America's Wars and of 100 Ways America Is Screwing Up the World.

Sum and Substance: Polls show that most Americans support some kind of route to citizenship for immigrants already in the country, but others still support a "raid mentality" which pursues violent solutions to a complicated problem. Many right-wingers believe that the latest wave of immigrants pose a threat to "real American" values with their job-stealing, welfare dependency, and bilingualism. These avid opponents of immigration have passed more than 300 laws that restrict immigrant access to needed services such as hospitals and schools.

Tirman muses on the Second Great Migration and the culture of resistance. He looks at schools in Arizona, the raid in New Bedford, the dreams of the next generation, the bloody messes in Guatemala and Mexico which are part of the problem, and the very complicated road to reform.

Quotes To Go:

  • "The attempt to reform immigration laws…was colliding with a powerful right-wing backlash against any attempt to reshape the laws. The alternative to reform, or possibly a complement to it, is the raid, whether of the workplace (the most dramatic and visible) or of homes. Raid, arrests, detention, imprisonment, deportation--these constitute the raid mentality. In nearly every major raid, human-rights abuses were reported and many lives ruined for what is in effect no greater an offense than a traffic ticket. The raid sets in motion a process of criminalization that sticks with the immigrant forever, stigmatizes children and disrupts local economies."
    — John Tirman
  • "Indeed, there is a sizable culture of forgiveness in Arizona, significantly church-based and ethnically mixed. It is epitomized by the Samaritans, an informal group of people in the Tucson area who have organized against 'death in the desert' — in effect, serving as a rescue squad for those crossing the border illegally and finding themselves in distress. They leave jugs of water and ready-to-eat food in the Sonoran hills and the scrub-pines landscape for the immigrants, report on immigrants that who need medical attention, and, doubtlessly, though quietly, give other kinds of assistance, such as temporary shelter."
    — John Tirman
  • "Cultural disrespect -- declaring a subculture as not being American — is a means to delegitimize a group. And so on. As we regard the growth of the Latino presence in the United States — more broadly than some border towns, more permanently than seasonal workers -- we increasingly see the same dynamics of the reactions to black migration now attending the brown migration. And, those two words, 'black' and 'brown,' demote much in and of themselves.
    "The way the reaction to illegal immigration has manifested indicates most clearly that the resistance is mainly one of cultural difference and exclusion (a broader scope than racism alone) rather than economics or politics."
    — John Tirman

If You Like This Book, You'll Also Want to Read: Border Patrol Nation by Todd Miller