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About the Artist

David Bacon documents labor, migration, and the impact of globalization on working people. His photos of transnational communities are included in Communities Without Borders (Cornell/ILR Press, 2006).

His newest book is Illegal People — How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants (Beacon Press, 2008).

Artist's Statement

On May 12, 2008, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents swooped down on workers at the Agriprocessors meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa.

Twenty minutes after the shift started, Maria Rosala Mejia Marroquin saw people running past the line where she stood cutting up chicken breasts, shouting that the migra was in the plant.  She ran too, and in a dark warehouse tried to squeeze between huge boxes.  “Men came in with flashlights.  One pointed a gun in my face, shouting ‘No one will escape!’” she remembered.  When she was interrogated, she told agents she had a daughter in childcare, but lied to keep them from knowing where the babysitter lived, fearing she’d be picked up as well.  Agents finally strapped an electronic monitoring device onto her ankle, telling her she had to wait for a hearing.

Anacleta Tajtaj was also braceleted, while her husband was deported and three brothers went to prison.  “Our family in Guatemala was eating because of us.  Now they’ll go hungry,” she lamented.  It cost them each 33,000 quetazales (about $4000) to get to the U.S., a huge sum in San Miguel Dueñas.  “Now we just want to go back.  Everything here is a crime — all the normal things like working.”  Tajtaj and the other women can’t go home yet, however.  Three months after the raid they didn’t even have dates for their first hearing. “They can’t work, they have no way to pay rent or buy food, their husbands or brothers are in prison or deported, and they’re being held up to ostracism in this tiny town,”  says Luz Maria Hernandez, who heads the support network for 48 braceleted women at Postville’s St. Bridget’s Catholic Church. “This is a form of psychological punishment.”

All images © David Bacon

See more of David's articles and photographs at his website.