Dying To Live
A Story of U.S. Immigration in an Age of Global Apartheid
Photographs by Mizue Aizeki
The Latin American Review of Books
". . . a powerful, multifaceted study of Mexican and Central American migration to the US that combines historical analysis with a graphic narrative account of the economic and social factors that perpetuate it. . . . [Nevins] reminds us why we must tear down these artificial and illegitimate boundaries and allow migrants to find the same dream of a better life that so many Americans have had the privilege to live."
— Gavin O'Toole
Progress in Human Geography
"Dying to Live is a powerful examination of the messy politics and human consequences of US immigration policies. Joseph Nevins skillfully weaves the personal story of Julio César Gallegos, a migrant who died attempting to cross the US-Mexico boundary, together with detailed historical research to explore the boundary's ideological construction, the USA's 'race-class-nation hierarchy’, and the role of law in shaping Americans’ geographical imagination."
— Nancy Hiemstra
North American Congress on Latin America
"Nevins's book, thanks to excellent research and a nuanced application of theory, demonstrates not only professional excellence but also an ongoing commitment to justice and human rights. By calling the entire notion of a 'right to be here' into question, Dying to Live serves as a powerful antidote to nationalistic amnesia on the part of the U.S. public, which has been too willing to embrace a shortsighted version of U.S.-Mexican history. By analyzing enforcement in the space of the border, he has provided an extension of the concept of structural violence. Those of us living in border states, especially Arizona, owe Nevins our appreciation. He shows how one can analyze policy information in a way that clearly communicates how common racial constructions support and extend the state’s use of violence."
Latin American Perspectives
"Joseph Nevins's Dying to Live weaves the struggle of one family into the history of U.S. racism, global economic inequality, and 'nationalization' to provide a forceful indictment of global apartheid. Dying to Live is a hard-hitting book that should be read as a call to action. It breaks the silence surrounding migrant deaths at the hands of the power elite. Interspersed throughout the book are equally powerful photographs by Mizue Aizeki." —Gilda L. Ochoa
Cooperation and Conflict
"Dying to Live is a journey into the historically evolved and still evolving meanings and effects of the US–Mexico boundary.Through his analysis, that moves from the early nineteenth century to the present (pp.75–121), Nevins shows the shift in the ideological and material weight of the boundary from a line on a map to a set of practices of inclusion and exclusion. . . Anyone interested especially in migration in the US–Mexican region, or more generally in the effects borders bear in people's lives, should take a look at Nevins’s story." —Eeva Puumala
"[Nevins'] careful and well-written documentation of the historical and social antecedents of immigrant deaths on the desert conveys how absurd United States's politics of immigration and exclusion play out. By focusing first on geography - specifically the U.S. Mexico boundary and all that it implies in political and sociological terms - Nevins produces an ongoing accumulation of the prejudice and abuse that culminated in Gallegos' - and hundreds of other immigrants' - deaths. . . In spite of its title, Dying To Live is no tearjerker. Although Nevins makes no attempt to conceal where his sympathies lie, and pointedly criticizes U.S. policies and aggression, he focuses on facts, quotes, descriptions. And although one feels an immense sympathy for Gallegos and his American-born wife and children, the book engenders outrage, not tears." —Robert Joe Stout
"Dying to Live combines prodigious research, passionate argument, and masterful storytelling to describe the complicated landscape of U.S. immigration policies. . . Photographs by Mizue Aizeki appear throughout the book and add an element of human empathy that Nevins tries to cultivate in geography through story and argument. Dying to Live expands minds, ideas of borders, and notions of geography. . . Add Nevins book to your essential reading list." —Jillian McLaughlin
International Socialist Review
"Joseph Nevins' Dying to Live packs a many-sided, moving, and uncompromising account of the development of U.S. immigration and its associated politics into a short and readable book. . . . Rather than simply rebutting the myths of the anti-immigrant Right on economics, crime, etc., his book offers those movements a powerful challenge to the principles of 'nation-statism' that frame mainstream discussion of immigration. . . . By counterposing the growth of transnational ties to the growth of global apartheid, enforced by border and related 'nation-statist' practices, Nevins makes an eloquent and fundamental case against immigration restrictions as such. . . . Moving photographs by Mizue Aizeki add immediacy and layers of meaning."
"Dying to Live is an invaluable book—one which is as contextual as it is analytical, as factual as it is moving. . . . In a compelling, accessible story, Joseph Nevins guides his readers through the complexities and intricacies of immigration, boundary-making, and their human affects and realities . . . with a Howard Zinn-like attention to historical detail, Nevins provides a comprehensive accounting of the actors, circumstances, and dynamics that culminated to create the current situation at the United States' southern border, specifically focusing on the Imperial Valley region of California."
School Library Journal
"Ten years ago Julio César Gallegos, one of countless immigrants, attempted to reunite with his family in Los Angeles and died of dehydration while crossing the U.S.-Mexico border in California's Imperial Valley. In Dying to Live, Nevins not only tells Gallegos's story, but also presents the geographic, historical, and political context of the U.S-Mexico border. Gallegos's motivations, struggles, and sacrifices serve as examples throughout the book of both past and present social stratification, political hypocrisy, and 'global apartheid.' Including photographs and maps, the book details the history, policies, and economics that have driven and prevented Mexican migration to the United States. The social and economic links between the two countries are described, primarily in relation to the agricultural industry in the border states. The strength of this book lies in the wealth of research and information presented on the history and politics of the border regions of Mexico and California. Teens will not only find the author's information valuable, but will also revel in the sources presented in the bibliography. However, researchers looking for insight into migration through Mexico from other Latin American countries will not find much information in this title. The scholarly tone and depth of the material make this book best suited for advanced readers and researchers."
"Dying to Live interweaves meticulously documented history of Mexican immigration to the U.S. with the story of the Gallegos family's struggles. . .Nevins lays bare the overheated demonization of foreigners that has dominated U.S. politics since the September 11, 2001 Al Qaeda attacks. . .Nevins’s text is complemented by Mizue Aizeki’s powerful photos, which emphasize the basic humanity of poor people targeted by xenophobic U.S. border militarization policies. This book is the perfect antidote to the mantras of hate heard round the clock on right wing AM radio. It artfully shows the importance of solidarity with poor populations who are paying the price for corporate profiteering in the age of NAFTA and other such misleadingly-labeled 'free trade' agreements."
Midwest Book Review
"A definitive criticism by author Joseph Nevins of the U.S.'s practices on immigration today. . . an eye opening account of immigration that is judicially defined as illegal -- and the cruelty that sometimes lies within. . . Dying to Live is a deftly written treatise on immigration, a must to those who want to further understand the subject."
Book News, Inc.
"Julio César Gallegos became a subject of international news in 1998 by dying while trying to join his family in Los Angeles. Nevins . . . begins with his story as a case study, then widens his view to discuss the people, the border, the desert, and the bodies. Documentary photographer Mizue Aizeki provides black and white illustrations."
"[Author Joseph Nevins] attempts to answer difficult questions—like how do issues of identity play out in those unable to call a country a home and should people be allowed to move between the border without consequence or should there be stricter regulations? Nevins also writes about places along the border that seem to blend the Mexican and American cultures and identities, becoming a transnational space that, while united, still maintains ideological differences between the two nations. Dying to Live is well researched and well cited. The author allows the reader to come to his or her own conclusions about the issue. The conclusion I came to is that the issue is far more complicated than I could have imagined."
The Socialist Worker
"Nevins places the U.S.-Mexico border in the context of global apartheid, a world system in which the privileges of an elite few and the poverty of the many are both increasing, aided by mechanisms of racial exclusion and 'nation-statism' . . . Informed by the layers of history that Nevins uncovers, we can place the blame for the thousands of deaths on the border where it belongs: on a system of global capitalism that needs workers to cross borders but also needs to keep them oppressed and controlled. . . Powerful photographs by Mizue Aizeki keep the humanity and agency of immigrants and their families at the forefront of this important book."
"Nevins writes a compelling indictment of this nation's immigration policy directed toward Mexico, centering on one Mexican immigrant, Julio Cesar Gallegos, 23, who died in 1998 along with six others in the California desert in Imperial Valley. Gallegos had been visiting family in Juchipila, in the state of Zacatecas, and was trying to return to his wife, a U.S. citizen, and 2-year-old son, with whom he lived in East L.A. Nevins condemns this tragedy not with emotional rhetoric but rather via an extensive, thoroughly documented explication of the political and economic history of both Imperial Valley and Juchipila, Mexico. Contributing factors to the conundrum of our current immigration policies include irrigation of the valley in the early twentieth century, the Mexican Revolution and the resulting Immigration Act of 1917, World War II and the Bracero program, the rise and fall of the UFW (and the resulting decline of farm workers' unions), and California's 1994 ballot measure (Proposition 187) denying public services to undocumented migrants. Nevins' is a thoughtful and elucidating exploration of this multifaceted problem."