David Bacon

David Bacon is a California writer and photojournalist; his latest book is In the Fields of the North / En los Campos del Norte (University of California / El Colegio de la Frontera Norte, 2017).

Recent Articles

Fire and ICE: The Return of Workplace Immigration Raids

Undocumented workers face a new level of insecurity under the Trump administration.

Erik McGregor/Sipa via AP Images
Capital & Main is an award-winning publication that reports from California on economic, political, and social issues. The American Prospect is co-publishing this piece. At the end of February immigration agents descended on a handful of Japanese and Chinese restaurants in the suburbs of Jackson, Mississippi, and in nearby Meridian. Fifty-five immigrant cooks, dishwashers, servers and bussers were loaded into vans and taken to a detention center about 160 miles away in Jena, Louisiana. Their arrests and subsequent treatment did more than provoke outrage among Jackson's immigrant rights activists. Labor advocates in California also took note of the incident, fearing that it marked the beginning of a new wave of immigrant raids and enforcement actions in workplaces. In response, California legislators have written a bill providing legal protections for workers, to keep the Mississippi experience from being duplicated in the Golden State. Once the Mississippi restaurant workers had...

Immigrant Communities Brace for Trump

Donald Trump promised to deport two million “criminal illegal immigrants” in his first 100 days in office. Immigrants and their allies are already organizing, protesting, and defending “sanctuary cities.” 

(Photo: David Bacon)
The state of Nebraska went red on Election Day, voting for Donald Trump and the Republican ticket, but working-class Omaha, Nebraska's largest city, went blue , voting for Hillary Clinton and the Democrats. Clinton won urban Omaha—Douglas County—by 3,000 votes, but lost the city’s electoral vote. In 2010, redistricting had joined Omaha to the wealthier suburbs of Sarpy County, delivering Trump a 12,000-vote advantage this year. Incumbent Democratic House member Brad Ashford lost his seat to Republican Don Bacon on November 8 for the same reason. Nevertheless, all 18 precincts of Ward 4 voted against Trump by a two-to-one margin, thanks to years of patient organizing by the immigrant Mexican community of South Omaha. African American North Omaha voted solidly against Trump as well. The Omaha results highlight both the achievements of years of organizing in U.S. immigrant communities, as well as the vulnerability of those same communities under a Trump administration...

Latino Immigrants Are Changing the Politics of … Nebraska!

Organizing in Omaha and small towns with meatpacking plants is altering politics in this reddest of states.

(Photo: David Bacon)
If the winds of political change are starting to blow in Nebraska, the center of the storm is a third-floor office on 24th Street in South Omaha. There, huge maps of eight targeted precincts in Ward 4 line the walls of the Heartland Workers Center (HWC), covered in red dots for all the people organizers have spoken with over the past six months. Little stickers highlight the key issues in each neighborhood. Every afternoon on weekdays, and all day on weekends, a row of reconditioned iPhones sits on a table next to clipboards holding signup lists and Spanish-language voter-education brochures. Rain or shine, young Latino organizers climb the stairs to pick up their packets and then fan out into the streets. This is not an old-fashioned paper-based effort, though. Derek Ramirez, HWC’s data cruncher, has loaded voter information derived from the Voter Activation Network database onto the iPhones. This allows precinct walkers to know house by house whom they’re talking to, and...

When the River Turned Yellow

Sixty miles south of the Arizona border, the devastation from a toxic spill has led to an epochal battle between a transnational mining conglomerate and an alliance of miners and farmers.

(Photo: AP/El Imparcial, Julian Ortega)
In the afternoon of August 6, 2014, the water in the Bacanuchi River turned yellow. At Tahuichopa, where the Bacanuchi flows into the larger Sonora River, Martha Agupira was one of the first to see it. “We had no warning,” she remembers. “We just saw the river change color—yellow, with a really terrible smell, like copper or chemicals. All the fish died. A bull drinking in the river died right away. Other animals died, too.” Tahuichopa is a small Mexican town of about 200 people, situated where the foothills of La Elenita mountain begin to flatten out into the high plain of the Sonora Desert, about 60 miles south of the Arizona border. The town’s cornfields line the banks of both rivers. “So people had to go through the river to get to them. The people were contaminated too,” she says. From Tahuichopa, the Sonora River flows southwest through wide green valleys separated by narrow canyons. The yellow water arrived next at Banamichi, then...

Beyond Deportation: Fixing a Broken Immigration System

David Bacon
When President Obama appointed Dollie Gee to the U.S. District Court in 2010, he undoubtedly didn't expect her to mount a frontal challenge to his administration's detention and deportation policies. But five years after her elevation as the first Chinese American woman on the federal bench, Gee ruled last summer that holding Central American women and children in private detention lockups was illegal. Gee didn’t mince words. She called the detentions "deplorable." And she denounced as "fear-mongering" the claim by Homeland Security lawyers that the detentions would discourage more people from leaving Central America. Her angry tone shouldn't have come as a surprise. Gee's father was an immigrant engineer and her mother a garment worker in a Los Angeles sweatshop. After law school, as a young lawyer, Gee sued employers for discrimination and then worked for the Teamsters Union, helping workers and immigrants win representation elections. For Chinese Americans, today’s...

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