• CV

  • Galemba CV 2021

  • Contraband Corridor

  • My first book, Contraband Corridor: Making a Living at the Mexico-Guatemala Borderwas published by Stanford University Press in Denver 2017. The book explores how people who live along the Mexico-Guatemala border experience regional trade integration and security policies as they justify smuggling basic goods across the border in order to earn a living. The Spanish translation, a Cadena: Vida y negocio en el límite entre México y Guatemala, is forthcoming with UNAM-CIMSUR, to be released in 2021.

    As the Mexico-Guatemala border has emerged in recent years as a geopolitical hotspot to contain illicit flows, the book seeks to understand the border from the perspective of its long-term inhabitants. It challenges simplistic assumptions regarding security, trade, and illegality by ethnographically detailing how residents along the Mexico-Guatemala border engage in, and justify, extra-legal practices in the context of heightened border security, restricted economic opportunities, and official regional trade integration policies that exclude regional inhabitants. Rather than assuming that extra-legal activities necessarily threaten the state and formal economy, I illustrate the complex ways that the formal, informal, legal, and illegal economies intertwine. Smuggling basic commodities across the border provides a means for borderland peasants to make a living in the context of neoliberal economic policies that decimated agricultural livelihoods and dismantled previous farmer supports and price guarantees. Yet smuggling also exacerbates prevailing inequalities, obstructs the possibility of more substantive political and economic change, and provides low-risk economic benefits to formal businesses, select state agents, and other illicit actors, often at the expense of border residents. Moreover, the threat of the extra-legal economy, and the idea that this threat is increasingly menacing, bolsters a border security agenda that conflates different illicit and informal activities and fosters a politics of criminalization that makes locals less secure and reproduces economic inequality.

    The research was funded by fieldwork grant from the Wenner Gren Foundation and a Craig M. Cogut Disseration writing fellowship from Brown University's Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies. The dissertation, upon which the book is based, won the New English Council of Latin American Studies (NECLAS) best disseration prize in 2010. The book has been reviewed in New York Journal of Books, Border Criminologies, Rutgers Criminal Law & Criminal Justice Books, American Anthropologist, Political and Legal Anthropology Review (PoLAR), Revista Europea de Estudios Latinoamericanos y del Caribe

    The book's cover (author photo) was chosen for the cover of Stanford University Press' Anthropology 2018 book catalogue.


    Contraband Corridor was translated and published in Spanish by UNAM-CIMSUR in May 2021 as La Cadena: Vida y negocio en el límite entre México y Guatemala. 

    Free to download or order at:


  • DU Just Wages Project

  • My current project is a collaboration with El Centro Humanitario, the Colorado Wage Theft Task Force, the Wage Theft Direct Action Team, and Towards Justice. In collaboration with Raja Raghunath's Workplace Rights Project, run through the Sturm College of Law, I supervised a team of graduate students to conduct outreach and interviews at street corner hiring sites where Latino day laborers wait for work. 

    Over 70 graduate students from the Korbel School have worked on the project, in addition to 12 law students at the Sturm College of Law. The project has also coordinated with El Centro Humanitario to conduct Know Your Rights outreach on wage theft for workers.

    Throughout the study, we interviewed 170 day laborers across Denver and Aurora, as well as over 50 non-profit staff, attorneys, legal agency staff, legislators, and employers to understand the larger climate affecting wage theft in Colorado. Following a year of qualitative research, and with the assistance of Randall Kuhn (UCLA), we surveyed over 400 workers at the same sites to assess patterns in experiences from October 2016-August 2017.

    Day laborers, most of whom are from Mexico and Central America, wait at various street corners, and at Denver’s day labor center, El Centro, with the hope of obtaining daily work. Sometimes these jobs can lead to longer-term work arrangements, but often they are just for that day. Day laborers work in construction, landscaping, cleaning, masonry, painting, and moving. Most find work in Denver’s booming residential construction industry, which is struggling to keep pace with population increases and housing demand. Over 60% of workers surveyed had suffered wage theft at some point, meaning they have been underpaid for work, or more frequently, not paid at all. 19% had suffered wage theft in just the 6 months prior to being surveyed. Only about half of workers who had experienced wage theft did anything to recoup unpaid wages, including even asking their employer for their money. Fewer, about a third, took the additional step of requesting any type of assistance from others. Many workers stated, "nothing could be done", or "I don't want to go around fighting" referring to the low probability of recovering wages in the face of threats of employer retaliation and the opportunity cost of pursuing the next job.

    We are collaborating with community partners to use the data to inform local city policies to help deter wage theft.

    The study has been funded at DU by IRISE, a Public Good Grant, and The Korbel Research Fund. Externally it has received funds from the Labor Research and Action Network and the Michael and Alice Kuhn Foundation.

    See DU Just Wages Project for more information and updates. Wordpress site: https://dujustwagesproject.wordpress.com/

    In addition to academic articles, policy pieces, and op-eds, I am currently writing a book based on this project called: Unjust Wages: Day Laborers and Advocates Fighting Wage Theft from a Mile High.

    Results were also shared with the community at El Centro at a public event, including performance of some qualitative results by the Romero Troupe. Students have also shared results with workers at street corners to gather feedback and inform outreach.  


    TedxMile High talk now featured on Ted.com

    Interviewed for TedXMileHigh in “What is Wage Theft?: Rebecca Galemba on the Impacts for Day Laborers” by Anushka Bose. Tedxmilehigh. April 19, 2021.

    Fox31Denver KDVR, quoted and appeared in segment on Denver’s new wage theft unit. July 21, 2021.

    Research on wage theft featured in DU Newsroom. May 29, 2019

    The Denver Channel, quoted in segment on wage theft in nail salons. May 17, 2018.

    Featured and mentioned in DU Newsroom story on wage theft. April 5, 2018. 

    Research featured and quoted in In These Times: “How to Catch a Wage Thief” by Gigi Sukin, December 2017.

    Featured work on wage theft in the DU Newsroom. September 18, 2017.

    Research study featured by Rocky Mountain PBS. March 4, 2015.

    Research on wage theft featured through Telemundo. February 28, 2015.

    Op-eds/Policy pieces:

    Feb. 2021. Biden's Immigration Plan Should Do More to Protect Workers. Law360.

    May 2020. Anthropology of Wage Theft in Colorado. Anthropology News, Society for Economic Anthropology.

    April 2019. Opinion: Criminalizing wage theft is only one step in the right direction. The Colorado Sun.

    March 2019. Galemba, Rebecca and Randall Kuhn. White paper: Wage Theft and its Victims in Colorado.

    March 2018. David Seligman (Towards Justice), Rebecca Galemba, and the Southwest Regional Council of

    Carpenters. White Paper: Combating Wage Theft in Denver: How the City of Denver Can Protect the Safety & Dignity of Workers. 

    Feb 2017. Wage Theft in Denver—Realities and Solutions. Scholars Strategy Network.

    Academic Articles:

    Galemba, Rebecca and Randall Kuhn. 2021. “No Place for Old Men: Wage Theft and Immigrant Duration, among Day Laborers in Denver, Colorado.”  International Migration Review. Online first: DOI: 10.1177/01979183211001370 

    Galemba, Rebecca B.  2021. "'They Steal our Work’: Wage Theft and the Criminalization of Immigrant Day Laborers in Colorado, USA.” European Journal of Criminal Policy and Research. 27(1): 91-112. 


    Galemba, Rebecca Berke. Unjust Wages: Day Laborers and Advocates Fighting Wage Theft from a Mile High. Under advance contract with Stanford University Press.


This portfolio last updated: 04-Oct-2021 9:17 AM