MixtecsImmigrants and labor go hand in hand. Most immigrants come to the United States in search of work and better economic opportunities than the ones offered in their home countries. “How do you say Justice in Mixteco?” by David Bacon is a look at an emerging immigrant group and some of the challenges faced in the fight for their labor rights.

The author of Illegal People: How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants, Bacon looks at the growing number of indigenous people from the southern state of Oaxaca and their experiences as farm workers and immigrants in southern California. By “indigenous workers,” Bacon means people who come from locations, such as Oaxaca where they shared a common language and culture that existed in the Americas before the Spanish conquest. He cites a case of eight farm worker families driven off the ranch that they had worked on, forced to watch their trailer homes lifted and removed by forklifts with all their possessions inside. Their native tongue is neither English nor Spanish, but Mixteco.

This group of immigrants not only faces challenges with finding steady work, but also with asserting their rights because many are undocumented immigrants. According to Bacon, 75 percent arrive without immigrant visas. This presents problems for organizations such as California Rural Legal Assistance that are not allowed to service undocumented immigrants due to federal funding restrictions on non-profit groups. Non-profits, however, are acclimating to the rise in indigenous people. CRLA hired its first indigenous staff member in 1992 and other groups have followed suit.

Along with the legal challenges that the Mixtec face, there is also a larger issue with the fear and vulnerability that they feel. They are driven from their native country because of the pervasive poverty, but come to the U.S. to work in poor conditions and are often exploited because of their undocumented status.

Bacon’s articles, published both on his own site and for Truthout, a politically progressive alternative news site, highlight some of the issues that constantly come up in discussions concerning immigration such as the impact of trade agreements between the U.S. and other countries, the need for cheap labor and the inconsistencies of the visa process. Along with this, we gain insight into the struggle of a new group of immigrants, struggling to fight for their rights in a new land.