An effective jeremiad on a key moral controversy of the Trump era.



A chilling, timely overview of the American tendency to first exploit and then criminalize migrants.

Immigration lawyer García Hernández (Law/Univ. of Denver; Crimmigration Law, 2017) balances current controversies and historical perspective to heart-rending effect, capturing the militarized cruelty and ultimate futility at the core of anti-migrant policing, as embodied by Immigration and Customs Enforcement and what he terms today’s “Immigration Prison Archipelago.” Noting how political approaches have fluctuated wildly, he wonders, “how did we go from effectively abolishing immigration imprisonment during the 1950s and 1960s to today’s pattern of locking up half a million people annually?” The author concludes that with migrants easily demonized, policymaking has not kept pace with the pernicious nature of bigotry: “The rules that determine who gets locked up and who doesn’t are a legal labyrinth.” Yet, although arbitrary cruelty was enshrined in public attitudes as far back as anti-Chinese legislation in the 19th century, the economic and cultural centrality of migration to the national interest was also recognized. As the author notes, “for most of U.S. history, second chances were built into immigration law. Most of the time, crime was irrelevant to a person’s ability to make a life here.” This began to change in the 1980s, as state and federal lawmakers expanded the range of deportable offenses and limited judicial discretion. Often, such anti-migrant policies were hidden within politically popular “tough on crime” bills. Detention became more aggressively mandated due to the archaic legal principle known as the “entry fiction,” which made “the immigration detention center [into] an in-between space in law.” All this has fed the current simmering boondoggle, where even migrants with military service or clear community ties may be swept up in raids. The profit motive pursued by private prison corporations and the fearmongering of right-wing commentators make the issue seem intractable. García Hernández counters pessimism with in-depth research and measured, passionate argument.

An effective jeremiad on a key moral controversy of the Trump era.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: 978-1-62097-420-9

Page Count: 224

Publisher: The New Press

Review Posted Online: Dec. 2, 2019

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Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.


“Quality of life means more than just consumption”: Two MIT economists urge that a smarter, more politically aware economics be brought to bear on social issues.

It’s no secret, write Banerjee and Duflo (co-authors: Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way To Fight Global Poverty, 2011), that “we seem to have fallen on hard times.” Immigration, trade, inequality, and taxation problems present themselves daily, and they seem to be intractable. Economics can be put to use in figuring out these big-issue questions. Data can be adduced, for example, to answer the question of whether immigration tends to suppress wages. The answer: “There is no evidence low-skilled migration to rich countries drives wage and employment down for the natives.” In fact, it opens up opportunities for those natives by freeing them to look for better work. The problem becomes thornier when it comes to the matter of free trade; as the authors observe, “left-behind people live in left-behind places,” which explains why regional poverty descended on Appalachia when so many manufacturing jobs left for China in the age of globalism, leaving behind not just left-behind people but also people ripe for exploitation by nationalist politicians. The authors add, interestingly, that the same thing occurred in parts of Germany, Spain, and Norway that fell victim to the “China shock.” In what they call a “slightly technical aside,” they build a case for addressing trade issues not with trade wars but with consumption taxes: “It makes no sense to ask agricultural workers to lose their jobs just so steelworkers can keep theirs, which is what tariffs accomplish.” Policymakers might want to consider such counsel, especially when it is coupled with the observation that free trade benefits workers in poor countries but punishes workers in rich ones.

Occasionally wonky but overall a good case for how the dismal science can make the world less—well, dismal.

Pub Date: Nov. 12, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-61039-950-0

Page Count: 432

Publisher: PublicAffairs

Review Posted Online: Aug. 29, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

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The powerful story of a father’s past and a son’s future.

Atlantic senior writer Coates (The Beautiful Struggle: A Father, Two Sons, and an Unlikely Road to Manhood, 2008) offers this eloquent memoir as a letter to his teenage son, bearing witness to his own experiences and conveying passionate hopes for his son’s life. “I am wounded,” he writes. “I am marked by old codes, which shielded me in one world and then chained me in the next.” Coates grew up in the tough neighborhood of West Baltimore, beaten into obedience by his father. “I was a capable boy, intelligent and well-liked,” he remembers, “but powerfully afraid.” His life changed dramatically at Howard University, where his father taught and from which several siblings graduated. Howard, he writes, “had always been one of the most critical gathering posts for black people.” He calls it The Mecca, and its faculty and his fellow students expanded his horizons, helping him to understand “that the black world was its own thing, more than a photo-negative of the people who believe they are white.” Coates refers repeatedly to whites’ insistence on their exclusive racial identity; he realizes now “that nothing so essentialist as race” divides people, but rather “the actual injury done by people intent on naming us, intent on believing that what they have named matters more than anything we could ever actually do.” After he married, the author’s world widened again in New York, and later in Paris, where he finally felt extricated from white America’s exploitative, consumerist dreams. He came to understand that “race” does not fully explain “the breach between the world and me,” yet race exerts a crucial force, and young blacks like his son are vulnerable and endangered by “majoritarian bandits.” Coates desperately wants his son to be able to live “apart from fear—even apart from me.”

This moving, potent testament might have been titled “Black Lives Matter.” Or: “An American Tragedy.”

Pub Date: July 8, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9354-7

Page Count: 176

Publisher: Spiegel & Grau

Review Posted Online: May 6, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2015

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