The speaker was Alfonso Gonzalez. He is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Lehman College of the City University of New York.
He was launching at book tour for “Reform without Justice: Latino Migrant Politics and the Homeland Security State”, on December 4, 2013 at a small independent bookstore in Manhattan called Bluestockings. The purpose of the event was to sell books, to inform the audience about migrant issues, to persuade the audience that these issues are very important, and to advocate for constructive change with leaders and legislators. (Gonzalez)
Reform without Justice
Dr. Gonzalez framed his speech as covering the period between 2001 and 2012. During this deportations have increased greatly, as well as policing by Homeland Security and other forces, asylum efforts, detention of migrants, and deportation of families, all of which he characterized as state violence.
He also characterized this period as a time when the Latino migrant movement and its allies have successfully mobilized, demonstrated, and organized politically. He said that he hoped to help people understand why and how both these trends occurred in the same time period. (Gonzalez)
He began by reviewing the literature of the Latino migrant issue, and Latino politics literature. He asserted that there were missing pieces and perspectives. For example, he felt that there was not work don’t on how these fields and others do not address all the important relationships between the state, and civil society, and neo-liberalism, the appearance of Latino elected officials, and organizing. (Gonzalez)
In conclusion, Gonzalez called for Latino electoral power, but cautions that it is does not automatically equal social transformation or social justice. He called on leaders to talk with elected officials, but to stay independent of political parties. He expressed optimism for the future of Latino activism as an effort that will improve democracy for everyone. (Gonzalez)
He then explained how he tried to fill in the gaps. He mentioned critical ethnography as a tool that he used. He described how he interviewed 60 Latino leaders on both coasts and in Mexico. (Gonzalez)
He also described a phenomenon he called anti-migrant hegemony. He asserted that it was created through the criminalization of migrants and immigrants. This, he said, was bad for democracy as a whole. (Gonzalez)
He listed and described the intellectual forces that supported what he called the anti-migrant hegemony, as well as celebrities that support this as well. These, he suggests, form what he calls a nexus with the contradictory group of charitable foundations. These foundations, like the Heritage Foundation, and the Cato Foundation, fund groups that support anti-migrant, nativist, authoritarian, and free trade goals. (Gonzalez)
He made the point that trade agreements are a powerful factor in the whole problem of migrants. The militarization of the border security efforts, or border surge, represents a large amount of money. He makes the point that this huge amount of money spent on anti-migrant activities, what he calls the homeland security state, encourages an authoritarian state.
He says that things look as though they are democratic, and even neo-liberal, but are really restricting personal liberty. This, he says, reduces the difference between what are called conservatives and liberals. This also creates the appearance of racial integration, but conceals racial authoritarianism. (Gonzalez)
The speaker’s support for all these assertions was logical and academic. He drew on facts from the news. He also mentioned the ideas of other academics and social leaders. (Gonzalez)
He referenced a variety of scholars. He pronounced these names very fast. It was difficult to understand them. They were scholars in political science, ethnography, as well as activists, as he described their specialties. (Gonzalez)
Dr. Gonzalez dressed professionally but casually. He was confident at the podium. He gestured freely and smiled at the audience when appropriate.
His choice of words was very formal. It was also very academic. He used words like hegemony freely.
The audience was small because of the size of the venue, but it was enthusiastic and appreciative. They listened very carefully and followed his arguments. The speech was disturbing, enlightening, and inspiring to this listener.
Gonzalez, A. “Reform without Justice.” Bluestockings Bookstore. New York, NY. 2013. Live Speech.