- Reform without Justice: Latino Migrant Politics and the Homeland Security State by Alfonso Gonzales
In Reform without Justice, political scientist Alfonso Gonzales investigates why and how, between 2001 and 2012, the U.S. federal government was able to further entrench itself as a homeland security state in the face of proliferating, pro-migrant activism nationwide. Through a neo-Gramscian synthesis of political theory, critical discourse analysis, and critical ethnography, Gonzales posits that a decentralized antimigrant bloc has strengthened the development of homeland security politics in the United States, functioning across multiple, contradictory sites of political influence. He argues that this heterogeneous, antimigrant bloc has supported the increased militarization of the southern national border, bolstered the project of U.S. American neoliberal expansion, and, in effect, reconstituted migrant Latin Americans as a right-less class of dispensable laborers.
In chapters 1, 3, and 4 of Reform, Gonzales advances several articulations of how hegemony is wielded by dominant groups such as Congress, the Riverside County Board of Supervisors, and U.S. foreign policy institutions. Chapter 1, for example, is an analysis of nativist contributions made by intellectuals associated with Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), and Numbers USA to the passage of HR 4437, as well as a compelling account of FAIR’s eugenicist history. The chapter also brings forth a critique of what Gonzales calls the good immigrant-bad immigrant binary, an ideological framework employed [End Page 227] in post–9/11 bipartisan homeland security rhetoric as a “commonsense” approach to understanding immigrant civil rights. “Good immigrants” have been understood (within such a paradigm) to be the proper recipients of hospitality, while those with criminal records have suffered punishment and persecution under the intensification of homeland security measures.
Chapters 2 and 5 investigate the political effects of Latin@immigrant counterhegemonic activism, such as the Los Angeles megamarches, the March for America held in Washington, D.C., and mobilizations in New York City (May 1st Coalition and Reform Immigration FOR America). Here Gonzales also traces the widespread intensification of xenophobic state policies that soon followed these public demonstrations. Though effective in deterring some forms of antimigrant legislation, Gonzales argues that these efforts have “failed to win the war of position—that is, long-lasting struggle in the trenches—against the anti-migrant bloc operating at the level of the state and civil society” (51–52). In his final chapter, Gonzales reviews the “Latin Americanization” of today’s antimigrant bloc, referring to the leadership that Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, for example, have aspired to establish as elitist spokespeople of the Latin@working class. This chapter is also the most prescriptive in Reform, with Gonzales exhorting Latin@youth (his intended audience) on the advantages and limitations of recent large-scale promigrant mobilizations.
Gonzales’s attempt in Reform without Justice to theorize post–9/11 U.S. state migration control across multiple, heterogeneous spaces is a welcome and immense contribution to political theory and Latin@studies. He writes not only as a political scientist but from his own immigrant experience as a Latino reared in Mira Loma, Riverside County—a social location he proudly mentions throughout the text. Furthermore, the interwoven methodologies of Reform’s chapters—that is to say, the consistency with which the book’s tactfully incorporated source materials oscillate between institutional discourses and immigrant interviews—is itself a celebration of the undocumented immigrant agency that Gonzales works so diligently to articulate. Reform without Justice is a scathing, incisive, and constructive critique of immigration reform that sets out to empower Latin@immigrant youth with the tools necessary to forge a more efficacious, democratic, and autonomous activism, inviting them to reconsider critically the complex power relations constitutive of the antimigrant conglomerate and its multiple forms. [End Page 228]