Migration and the Border

The US/Mexico border itself is a region that has its own social movements. It has its own history and its own logic. We need to see it as a place in and of itself and not just as a way station from one place to another. In the US media that's kind of the way it's presented to us, as the thing that people cross. Or don't cross… I got educated by the people of the border, especially in the social movements there… I’ve spent almost 30 years documenting communities along the border and I’m trying to show what needs to be changed. What needs to be changed in the eyes of those people who are trying to change it. And then the reality of it.

David Bacon

The United States depends on Mexican labor. Mexicans come to the border region and enter the United States to serve as agricultural workers and produce food for the United States market. Many enter the United States under the H2-A guest worker visa program or cross without documentation. Crossing illegally was not treated as a serious crime until the 2000s, when people began to be arrested and held for long periods of time for being in the country without legal immigration status.

David Bacon’s photography captures the displacement of people from their native Mexican communities, mostly rural indigenous people who entered the migratory corridor from Mexico to the United States. Rural Mexican communities have attempted to sustain farm life, but are unable to compete with multinational corporations dumping agricultural products like corn. Migrants come to the border or the United States to find work in the “Fields of the North,” only to find low wages and exploitive conditions. Unable to secure affordable housing, many farm workers resort to living in tents “under the trees” and forming communities of protest that attempt to occupy land.


On May Day immigrants and their supporters filled the streets of Los Angeles twice in one day -- a huge march downtown, and another through the Wilshire district's Miracle Mile
On May Day immigrants and their supporters filled the streets of Los Angeles twice in one day -- a huge march downtown, and another through the Wilshire district's Miracle Mile
On May Day immigrants and their supporters marched through the streets of Kennett Square a small town where thousands of immigrant workers labor in sheds growing mushrooms
On May Day immigrants and their supporters marched through the streets of Kennett Square a small town where thousands of immigrant workers labor in sheds growing mushrooms
Indigenous Triqui women wait outside the room in the hotel where strike leaders are negotiating with the government
Indigenous Triqui women wait outside the room in the hotel where strike leaders are negotiating with the government
A worker is deported back into Mexico at the border gate
A worker is deported back into Mexico at the border gate
A young girl outside the Richmond Immigrant Detention Center where her father had been detained for three months
A young girl outside the Richmond Immigrant Detention Center where her father had been detained for three months
People of faith and immigrants called on ICE to release their loved ones after it was announced the West County Detention Center would close
People of faith and immigrants called on ICE to release their loved ones after it was announced the West County Detention Center would close
People of faith and immigrants call for family members to be released from the West County Detention Center, where immigrants have been incarcerated before being deported
People of faith and immigrants call for family members to be released from the West County Detention Center, where immigrants have been incarcerated before being deported
On the Mexican side of the border wall between Mexico and the U.S. families greet other family members on the U.S. side
On the Mexican side of the border wall between Mexico and the U.S. families greet other family members on the U.S. side
A worker looks over the fence between Mexico and the U.S., trying to find a moment when the Border Patrol may not be looking
A worker looks over the fence between Mexico and the U.S., trying to find a moment when the Border Patrol may not be looking
Honorina Ruiz, 6 years old, ties bunches of green onions together in a field just south of the U.S. border
Honorina Ruiz, 6 years old, ties bunches of green onions together in a field just south of the U.S. border
Esther Murillo was one of a group of twenty families who first occupied 78 hectares in the hills surrounding Canon Buenavista
Esther Murillo was one of a group of twenty families who first occupied 78 hectares in the hills surrounding Canon Buenavista
Mari, her mother and sister in their house, which unlike many others in their barrio, has a concrete floor
Mari, her mother and sister in their house, which unlike many others in their barrio, has a concrete floor
On the outskirts of Tecate, an old section of the U.S. Mexico border wall suddenly stops, and a well-worn path crosses the border through the brush
On the outskirts of Tecate, an old section of the U.S. Mexico border wall suddenly stops, and a well-worn path crosses the border through the brush
Juan Hernandez and other strike leaders, including Fermin Salazar, Fidel Sanchez and Bonifacio Martinez, at a press conference
Juan Hernandez and other strike leaders, including Fermin Salazar, Fidel Sanchez and Bonifacio Martinez, at a press conference
Bert Corona, father of the modern immigrant rights movement, and his son, Ernesto
Bert Corona, father of the modern immigrant rights movement, and his son, Ernesto