How Can I Learn More?
- NEW – Read how faith leaders nationwide have responded to Biden’s immigration actions and proposals, presented by the Interfaith Immigration Coalition.
- NEW – Read an excellent three-art report by No More Deaths and La Coalicion de Derechos Humanos on how the Border Patrol is responsible for a significant number of deaths at our border.
- NEW – Check out a wealth of current information on what’s happening on the U.S.-Mexico border, presented by Alliance 4 Action.
- See the Connection Between Migration and Handcrafts in “Migrant Women Fleeing Violence Find Beauty and Healing in Embroidery,” in America: A Jesuit Review.
- Attend a Recorded Virtual Sunday Forum, “What Muslim Americans Would Like You to Know About Islam,” featuring Imam Dr. Abdul Mawgoud Dardery, who serves at Brooklyn Park Islamic Center and is a Professor of Global Studies at Minneapolis College, and Abdifaah Ali, a member of the Brooklyn Park Islamic Center and a student at St. Cloud State University. Details and a link to watch are posted on Plymouth’s Sunday Forum page; scroll down to the Dec. 6 Forum recording.
- Read an outstanding short article from Detention Watch Network on how the immigrant detention system functions in the United States – but should not be allowed to continue to do so.
- Visit the digital storytelling project “Humanizing Deportation,” which explores the effects of mass deportation by having deportees tell their own stories and control the visuals used to illustrate them. Started in 2017, the project involves the University of California, Davis, as well as four organizations in Mexico. If you have five or six minutes, stream an individual’s story. If you have more time and want to study aspects of mass deportation, the website includes a media section and a section for researchers with hyperlinks by topic.
- Take a free mini-course on U.S. immigrants offered by the Pew Research Center. A Pew team that studies immigrants and immigration trends worldwide crafted this course, which is made up of five short email “lessons” that will be delivered to your inbox over a span of two weeks. Pew Research Center is a non-partisan, neutral source of data and analysis. Sign up online.
- Read the article “Migrant Deaths in Arizona Deserts Reach Seven Year High” published in Arizona’s Tucson Sentinel.
- Read an article about migrants being “dumped” in the small town of Sasabe, AZ, published in The Intercept. Green Valley-Sahuarita Samaritans have joined other humanitarian groups in providing food and water until a better solution is found. The article references this interactive map of migrant deaths, which is worth exploring.
The Book of Unknown Americans by Christina Henríquez (Vintage, 2014)
Reviewed by Joan Thompson
Christina Henríquez’s novel The Book of Unknown Americans offers readers the opportunity to know a cast of characters from multiple Latin American countries and territories who come together in a run-down apartment building in Delaware. Central to the book is the relationship between two families, the Toros from Panamá and the Riveras from Mexico, and especially their children Mayor and Maribel.
The Toros left Panamá after three years of disarray that followed the 1989 U.S. invasion and are naturalized citizens. The Riveras give up their ownership of a thriving construction company for a work visa, menial labor, and a better school for their daughter who has suffered a traumatic brain injury. As the families become friends and the Toros help the Riveras negotiate the U.S., they often gossip about other residents of the building. The families’ friendship is the background for a growing relationship between Mayor and Maribel, one that adds tension and a Romeo and Juliet twist to the novel.
Henríquez primarily uses alternating first-person chapters in Alma Rivera’s and Mayor Toro’s voices. Alma’s chapters focus on the challenges of adjusting to the U.S., her concerns for her husband and daughter, and her fear of a neighborhood boy, Garrett Miller. Mayor’s chapters explore his challenges with fitting in at home and school as well as his growing sense of caring for and protecting Maribel.
A unique aspect of the novel is chapters in the voice of other apartment residents that appear between Alma’s and Mayor’s chapters. These residents give their own stories, both the push factors that led them to Delaware and the challenges in their lives. By giving these residents voice, Henríquez counters the gossip the Toros and Riveras exchange as well as broader stereotypes tied to immigration and to residents of U.S. territories.
The stories of the Toros and Riveras and their children as well as those of the residents who people their apartment building add to the richness of the novel. It has much to offer high school students and adults who want to learn more about push factors and immigration challenges explored through fiction.
Border Patrol Nation: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Homeland Security by Todd Miller (City Lights Publishers, 2014)
Reviewed by John Humphrey
For a terrifying look at where this nation has been headed for the last 40 years and where we’re blindly continuing to go, read this book. Miller has been reporting on border issues for the past 15 years, with articles in the New York Times, Mother Jones and many other publications. Luis Alberto Urrea, Mexican writer of fiction and non-fiction (we have two of his books in the Plymouth library), says Miller’s book “is a moral work that wrestles with a huge story.” To balance his story, Miller shares vignettes of accompanying Border Patrol agents on a border check flight, agents bragging about their tracking skills, and prison officials discussing their profitability. He is clearly opposed to the Border Security Industrial Complex, but through his connections on both sides of the issue, he does a solid job of making his case.
Miller states that in our government, “eradicating border violations is given high priority than eradicating malnutrition, poverty, homelessness, illiteracy and unemployment.” I hope that claim still has the power to shock you—it should. It means our government has essentially lost concern for caring for the poor, the homeless, and the hungry, and is chasing an illusory army of invaders. Miller surprises with details in every chapter, from the mammoth weapons conventions festively power-selling mostly military-level devices and equipment to corporations and governments to help them manage (meaning “put an end to”) immigration; to the absurd increase in agents (from 340 in 2001 to 2,300 in 2006) along the U.S.-Canada border in the state of New York alone—Miller calls it the “Arizona everywhere” syndrome. Another shocking (to me) statistic was that in 2012, the U.S. spent $18 billion on border security—more than on the FBI, ATF, Secret Service, DEA, and U.S. Marshals combined. And that amount has increased, to over $24 billion in 2019.
President Eisenhower warned us of the military-industrial complex; Miller warns of the Border Security Industrial Complex, and makes a frightening case. It has since been rescinded, but until quite recently there was a federal law requiring that corporate detention centers have 37,000 prisoners a night (and if not, the government guaranteed the prison corporations the difference). One could argue that it is similar to price supports for farmers, but in this case, the produce is human bodies. They are even required to clean their cells and cook their own meals, to reduce their expenses. They have to buy phone cards at exorbitant rates from the prison corporations to communicate with family. There is something inherently wrong in having prison corporations running our border security policy, with industrial and telecomm corporations lined up right behind them to get their share of governmental overspending.
The book opens with the story of Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont being stopped at a border checkpoint in Vermont. He asks the Border Patrol agent under what authority is he being stopped. The agent gestures to his holstered gun and says, “This is all the authority I need.” We think it can’t happen here—Miller makes the case that it already is. This is a powerful and unnerving book, but we should know about what’s really going on.
If you have children (or grandchildren), and you haven’t already read them some of these, here are some wonderful immigration-related books for kids in Plymouth’s library:
Stepping Stones: A Refugee Family’s Journey, Ruurs
Where Will I Live?, McCarney
My Name is Yoon, Keats
Tea With Milk, Say
A Different Pond, Phi (MN writer!)
Calling the Doves, Herrera
Dia’s Story Cloth, Cha
Across the Wide Dark Sea, Van Leeuwen
Calling the Water Drum, Redding
Inside Out and Back Again, Lai
Who Belongs Here?, Knight
All the Lights in the Night, Levine