Explores what it means to be undocumented in a legal, social, economic and historical context
In this illuminating work, immigrant rights activist Aviva Chomsky shows how “illegality” and “undocumentedness” are concepts that were created to exclude and exploit. With a focus on US policy, she probes how people, especially Mexican and Central Americans, have been assigned this status—and to what ends. Blending history with human drama, Chomsky explores what it means to be undocumented in a legal, social, economic, and historical context. The result is a powerful testament of the complex, contradictory, and ever-shifting nature of status in America.
Activist and Salem State University historian Chomsky (They Take Our Jobs! And 20 Other Myths About Immigration) addresses the history and practice of U.S. immigration law in this part polemical, part historical account. The fact that "there was no national immigration system or agency in the United States" until 1890 may surprise many readers; and that "t's illegal to cross the border without inspection and/or without approval from U.S. immigration authorities" sounds straightforward, but Chomsky reveals how "dizzying" and "irrational" it is in practice. She reviews the myriad legislations, such as the Immigration Acts of 1924, 1965, and 1990, as well as immigrants' consequent entanglements and diverse experiences, ranging from the risks in getting into the U.S. to the perils of being there (including detentions, deportations, family separation, poor work conditions). Committed to the cause of the undocumented, and focused particularly on Mexican and Guatemalan immigrants, Chomsky reminds readers that, contrary to the freedom with which American citizens travel, for many, "freedom to travel is a distant dream." Professional in her scholarship, Chomsky has written a book that will be relevant to those who do not share her position as well as to those who do. Disappointingly, the final chapter, "Solutions," offers more of a review of how immigration became illegal than suggested solutions.