by Paul Garver
Some 200 million workers across the globe migrate across national borders searching for work.
At least 40 million migrants do not have documents allowing them to live or work in their host countries, while millions of others are “guest workers” bound to their employers and subject to expulsion if they are fired.
In the neoliberal global economic order, capital flows freely across the borders that constrain workers. Whether “guest workers” or undocumented, migrants are among the most vulnerable and exploited people who do the indispensable tasks of feeding and caring for other people.
Like refugees, migrants are often blamed for a host of economic and social ills in the countries that depend on their agricultural, construction or domestic labor. Politicians looking to score political points from their own xenophobic domestic constituencies find migrants and refugees tempting prey for vicious slanders. Donald Trump is a notorious perpetrator but is far from being the first chauvinist demagogue in the world.
Mexican native Diego Reyes, Sr. works the tobacco and vegetable fields in Sanford, NC. He is a member of a relatively successful migrant worker organization, the Farm Labor Organizing Committee [FLOC]. As translated by his son Diego Reyes, Jr., a seminarian working for FLOC, he describes a reality all too often experienced by migrant workers in the USA and around the world.
It’s not only in Sanford [N.C.} but everywhere, all this propaganda against immigrants. People feel they’re stealing their jobs, that immigrants are bad people, drug mules, and criminals. It dehumanizes people. It’s not the stealing of jobs. The people came here because of the policies the U.S. implemented in the world.”
The Strangers Among Us: Tales from a Global Migrant Worker Movement documents the harsh conditions faced by migrant workers in Asia, Europe and North America. Editor Joseph Atkins, a professor at the University of Mississippi, traveled with his wife to such far-flung locales as Singapore, Taipei, Hong Kong, Beijing, and Buenos Aires, where he interviewed key activists supporting migrant worker organizing. He also solicited contributing chapters from activists and scholars in the UK, Israel, China, Japan and India. The result is a moving and kaleidoscopic survey of the social justice movements that are helping migrant workers organize throughout the world.
Here are a few examples of the innovative approaches taken by migrant workers and their supporters in various world regions illustrated in this compact and compelling book.