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Political Economy of Immigration: Potential for Deep Divisions and Inclusive Alliances

Paper Session

Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020 2:30 PM - 4:30 PM (PDT)

Manchester Grand Hyatt, Old Town A
Hosted By: Union for Radical Political Economics
  • Chair: Ann Davis, Marist College

No One Is Illegal: Treatment of Migrants at the Southern Border

Mike Davis
University of California-Riverside


Drawing upon his recent book, No One is Illegal: Fighting Racism and State Violence at the US
Mexican Border, 2006, Prof. Davis will analyze the policies which target migrants, and the
impact on the polity and labor force of the host country. The civil rights and working conditions
of migrants at the US/Mexico border set the standards for human rights and labor rights in this
highly contested, strategic region. Sub-human treatment historically and at present tends to
allow similar treatment of citizens, and reduces their vigilance to maintain labor standards
within the US, as well as global standards of human rights. Essentially inhumane treatment of
immigrants undercuts efforts to maintain a living wage in the US by its demonstration effect,
rather than barriers to immigration maintaining wages by preventing excess supply.
Professor Emeritus of UC Riverside Department of Creative Writing and MacArthur Fellow

Organizing for Immigrant Integration and Racial Justice: Scaling From Local to State to National

Manuel Pastor
University of Southern California


Drawing on his recent book, State of Resistance: What California's Dizzying Descent and Remarkable Resurgence Means for America's Future, Pastor will chart the path of organizing that helped transform California from a state that passed Proposition 187 in 1994 – a ballot measure that sought to strip social and educational services from undocumented immigrants – to a state that passed legislation in 2018 called the California Values Act that forbade most forms of cooperation between local police and Immigrations and Customs Enforcement. What caused such dramatic political and policy change? Pastor will discuss the demographic, economic, and structural political factors that facilitated that shift but will highlight the role of social movement organizing of immigrants, immigrant rights advocates, and their allies. He will draw lessons for this current national moment of anti-immigrant sentiment. Pastor holds a Ph.D. in economics and is currently a Distinguished Professor of Sociology and American Studies & Ethnicity at the University of Southern California where he also directs the USC Program for Environmental and Regional Equity (PERE) and the USC Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration (CSII).

What Counts: Skill Level or Country of Origin? The (In) Coherence of U.S. Immigration Policy

Gaurav Khanna
University of California-San Diego


Prof. Khanna builds on his research analyzing the impact of high-skilled immigration on the US economy. Such migration additionally affects the source countries, as skilled migrants leave and/or return with acquired skills, with such phenomena as “brain drain” and “Argonauts” (Saxenian). The relevance of skill will be considered, in the context of labor market segmentation, by education and race, along with the requisite policies to raise the skill level of residents and immigrants. Investment in education is an alternative policy for US citizens, but requiring substantial investments and public expenditures.

Assymetries of Political Power and the Mexican Immigration Crisis

Ann E. Davis
Marist College
Nicole Cerpa Vielma
University of Leeds


The level and flow of migrant labor to the US, which President Trump has characterized as a crisis, is a direct result of the historical development of US-Mexican economic relations, and represents just one component of the unbalanced financial, labor, and employment flows that now characterize global capitalism. The spread of the global factory plus heightened export competition, especially from China, have undercut this spatial employment fix: Mexico’s current-account balance has been decisively negative since the mid-1990s (the passage of NAFTA). Asymmetric financial flows, represented in an increasingly out-of-balance international investment position, have grown explosively and now underpin Mexico’s declining reserve holdings and net investment position.
JEL Classifications
  • J6 - Mobility, Unemployment, Vacancies, and Immigrant Workers
  • F2 - International Factor Movements and International Business