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Labor and legality: an ethnography of a Mexican immigrant network. Gomberg- Muñoz, Ruth Illegal aliens — Illinois — Chicago — Social conditions. Mexicans. Gomberg-Muñoz, Ruth. Labor And Legality: an Ethnography of a Mexican Immigrant Network. New York:Oxford University Press, Print. Get this from a library! Labor and legality: an ethnography of a Mexican immigrant network. [Ruth Gomberg-Muñoz].

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Her book, Labor and Legalityexplores the work and social lives of undocumented busboys in Chicago. For decades many of the debates about immigration in the US focus on legality. What do you mean by this?

“Labor and Legality: An Ethnography of a Mexican Immigrant Network” by Ruth Gomberg-Muñoz

For example, Mexican migrant workers were imported to the United States by the millions in the midth century to help fill labor shortages brought bomberg-munoz by World War II and an expanding U. Laws were created, negotiated, and adjusted to allow U. In the s, the laws changed. An explicitly race-based U.

Over the next four decades, widespread demand for Mexican migrant labor persisted, while free trade policies undermined the ability of millions of Mexican farmers and workers to make a living in Mexico. Not surprisingly, numerical restrictions did not ultimately curb the migration of Mexicans to the U. What does this tell us about the realities of immigration here in the US? The undocumented busboys who I profile in Labor and Legality are not particularly low-paid relative to other working-class men in the neighborhood, a fact that intrigued me when I did the research.


They are also not unique in this respect: A study by the Center for Urban Economic Development at the University of Illinois at Chicago UIC found that, while undocumented workers in Chicago earn less than their documented counterparts, most earn above the minimum wage and some even earn middle-class incomes.

This appears to contradict the truism that employers favor undocumented workers for certain jobs because they can pay them less than lawful residents or U. The short answer is that the price of labor is not determined by wages alone.

Lack of documents truncates their occupational mobility, while ineligibility for programs like FAFSA, unemployment benefits, welfare assistance, Medicare, and social security makes them especially dependent upon work.

Together, these constraints combine to funnel and keep undocumented people in jobs that U. Of course, most U. Not coincidentally, wages and workplace protections increase for undocumented workers who are members of labor unions. This portrayal is belied by the participation of undocumented workers in labor struggles in Chicago, L. Encountered a similar issue while training to work on a telephone crisis line in Japan in the s. There the immigrants were from Africa or South Asia.


Loyola University Chicago

One of our trainers pointed out the error of assuming that they were helpless victims. Not only were they frequently well-educated, they had to be, she pointed out, extraordinary people to have friends and family at home willing to support their travel to Japan in search of economic opportunities. I mention this experience not only to support the importance of disempowerment as opposed to powerlessness, but also to add that the problems of how to treat immigrants in search of economic opportunity is now a global one and not confined to Europe or North America alone.

Part II of the interview is here. Introduction to Anthropology Course