How Can I Learn More?
- NEW – Read any of the diverse and fascinating articles about unaccompanied minors at the U.S.-Mexico border in the collection Opinions in Print by the Green Valley-Sahuarita Samaritans.
- NEW – Listen to a Minnesota Public Radio story on the role of immigrants in our state’s economy, based on a report from the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce showing that residents born outside the U.S. spent more than $12.4 billion in Minnesota and paid $4.5 billion in taxes in 2019. Mexico, Somalia, India and Laos are the top four countries of birth for Minnesota immigrants.
- NEW – Check out a well-documented study on migrant deaths at the U.S.-Mexico border in southern Arizona over the past 30 years, published in April by the University of Arizona Binational Migration Institute.
- NEW – Read about the value of short-term mission trips in “Short-Term Trip, Long-Term Relationship,” which appeared in Presbyterian Today. It looks at Café Justo in Agua Prieta and Chiapas, with observations that are quite relevant to Plymouth’s 2020 trip.
- NEW – Check out a new report by the National Immigration Project showing egregious failure to redress complaints against ICE and CBP. The lack of oversight and accountability across the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its component agencies, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), has led to unchecked abuse and misconduct.
- Watch three segments from PBS NewsHour on migrants journeying through the Darien Gap, a vast jungle at the juncture of Colombia and Panama, and the only area the Trans American Highway does not cross. Combined, the segments take about 30 minutes to view and provide an important story about migration and government policy.
- Watch a video of the Migrant March to End the Wait. Asylum-seeking families marched in the streets of Nogales, Sonora, Mexico asking for an end to the harmful border policy that denies them entry into the United States, presented by the Ignatian Solidarity Network (ISN) and the Kino Border Initiative.
- Learn to build persuasive messaging for defunding ICE and Customs and Border Protection. The American Friends Service Committee shares tips for communicating with lawmakers, writing letters to the editor, and talking with friends and family about cutting the budgets of these harmful agencies.
- Read how faith leaders nationwide have responded to Biden’s immigration actions and proposals, presented by the Interfaith Immigration Coalition.
The Undocumented Americans (One World, 2020) by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio
Reviewed by Joan Thompson
In 2016 when Karla Cornejo Villavicencio decided to write a book about immigrants, she chose not to focus on DACA recipients, though that was her status at that time. Instead, she researches the lives of low-wage immigrants and the issues they face. The resulting book, The Undocumented Americans, explores the lives of the working undocumented immigrants she meets as well as the experience of her own family who came from Ecuador. Cornejo Villavicencio writes with a lively, engaging voice as she explores the challenges undocumented working people face in the United States.
Among the workers Cornejo Villavicencio profile are day laborers hired from Staten Island corners, who were also among the volunteers after Hurricane Sandy hit. She also meets Latinx workers at therapy sessions for undocumented workers who helped to clean up the World Trade Center site after 9/11 and have suffered health issues as a result. In Miami, she interviews undocumented domestic workers and visits pharmacies operating off the radar, botanicas, and a vodou ceremony while learning about healthcare issues facing those not eligible for insurance or government benefits. In Flint, she learns that lack of government-issued IDs get in the way of accessing purified water.
Cornejo Villavicencio also addresses the issue of family separation. She was left with her father’s family in Ecuador for years after her parents came to the United States and attributes her mental health issues to this experience. Late in the book, she visits a rural Ohio family whose father was deported and a man in sanctuary who loses his cases and leaves children behind when he is deported, focusing in both cases on the effects on the children.
Throughout the book, Cornejo Villavicencio draws parallels between the experiences she learns about through her interviews and those of her own family in terms of available employment, lack of IDs, lack of access to healthcare, and family separation. Through combining reportage with memoir, Cornejo Villavicencio provides an interesting read that covers many of the issues undocumented workers who often go unnoticed face in the United States.
Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions (Coffee House Press, 2017) and Lost Children Archive (Vintage Books, 2020), both by Valeria Luiselli
Reviewed by Joan Thompson
As headlines once again fill with news of unaccompanied minors at our southern border, Valeria Luiselli’s work reminds us of headlines from 2014-2015 when the Obama administration was dealing with a similar situation. Her two books, one non-fiction and the other a novel, give context to these surges and raise important questions for readers.
Tell Me How It Ends is Luiselli’s nonfiction exploration of the experience of unaccompanied minors who cross our border. Her family had taken a vacation in the Southwest while waiting for green cards and learned more about child migrants on the way. When Luiselli’s green card and work permit are delayed, she volunteers as an interpreter in New York City’s federal immigration court. This book results from her experience interviewing child migrants seeking asylum.
Luiselli offers readers a meditation on the questions asked of children and on our immigration policy, reminding us that these policies have been an issue under multiple presidents’ administrations. She offers important background on push factors, the dangers of the journey, challenges posed by gangs, treatment by ICE, and handling by the courts. Once Luiselli has her green card, she begins teaching a Hofstra University where her students start a group to assist migrant children and youth on Long Island with integration into society. The book presents well-researched facts on child migration enriched by Luiselli’s experiences, both in immigration court and the classroom.
In her powerful novel Lost Children Archive, Luiselli again returns to the world of migrant children, using what she has learned in immigration court and connecting migration to a family’s experience on a road trip. The mother in the novel focuses on her marriage possibly failing as she moves deeper into her research on migrant children and the dangers they face. Her stepson’s voice balances hers as he is the oldest child and realizes that his parents are growing apart and that he may lose his stepsister as a result.
The family’s car is full of books important to the parents’ interests, one focusing on seven migrating children. The stories of the migrant children and the sight of children being placed on a deportation flight near Roswell, New Mexico, become central to the boy’s worries, which lead him to make a dangerous decision, one that moves the book from realism to allegory.
The novel uses an innovative structure and shifting points of view to tell a double story that converges in a twenty-page chapter consisting of one magnificent sentence. It also uses bankers’ boxes full of books and Polaroid photos in a meditation on displacement and migration.
Both of Luiselli’s books offer meditations on child migration, both the reasons behind it and the problems the United States has had addressing the issue. They are rich in well-researched information and innovative writing.