Written by an undocumented writer about fellow undocumented workers, The Undocumented Americans exposes the lives of workers without a legal status and how easily they are exploited by their bosses and left without resources when they are ill or old. Immigration reform is badly needed!
Tag Archives: immigrants
Amnesty stars an undocumented immigrant in Sydney, Australia, who is working as a housekeeper and learns that one of his clients has been murdered–and he’s pretty sure he knows who did it. Should he report what he knows and risk deportation, or just keep mum? The story follows him over the course of a long day during which he cleans a few apartments, agonizes over his choice, and recalls his struggles as an undocumented resident.
An interesting dilemma, an unusual setting, but I felt that the story went on too long without enough details to sustain it.
Written as a letter to the narrator’s illiterate immigrant mother, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous talks about his childhood and young adulthood, reaching back to his mother’s and grandmother’s lives during the Vietnam War. I loved the descriptions of the tough life of his mother, who works in a nail salon, the complicated relationship with his American grandfather, and his difficult connection with his single mom. I did not like as much the coming-of-age stories and its dreamlike writing.
Do we need yet another family saga of Italian immigrants to the US? With The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna, the answer is, surprisingly, yes! The heroine, Stella Fortuna, journeys from dirt-poor in Calabria to considerably less poor in the factories of Connecticut, but always in strong conflict with her brutal father, and various other brutal men around her. It’s a wonderful story of a woman who makes the best of what life gave her.
A Good Provider Is One Who Leaves: One Family and Migration in the 21st Century follows a large Filipino family who started in a Manila slum and in which most of the adults, and many children, have worked overseas or in some cases moved overseas. The author is able to tell the very personal story of a nurse and her husband who moves to Abu Dhabi and eventually Gavelston, TX, leaving their children to be raised by her mother and sister for years before wenching them away and having to learn to be a full-time mother–and also comment on immigration trends, from the importance of remittances to the economy of the Philippines to the changes in immigration policy in the US. The personal story, reported over 30 years, is stunning.
The Body Papers recounts the author’s move from the Philippines to the US as a young child, her experience of racism, and abuse at the hands of her grandfather. It’s a complicated immigrant’s story, and also a complex family story.
There is much to admire in This Land Is Our Land: An Immigrant’s Manifesto, especially a longer-term view of how immigration shaped not only the United States, but indeed the entire earth. The author also reminds us that many of the reasons why migrants decide to leave their countries were manufactured by the many countries that now wish to keep them away, through colonialist and other exploitative actions–and that much anti-immigrant sentiment is manufactured by plain racism.
That said, the book is written as a pamphlet that fails to present rational, let alone balanced views. For instance, the author takes great pains to show that immigrants into the US come with much more education than native-borns, so more immigrants would ensure a better-educated populace. Really? Isn’t the difference at least partly caused by but the (overly tight, to be sure) immigration policy? And he proposes utterly impractical solutions, such as requiring incoming immigrants to settle into depressed areas of the country, where housing is abundant (but, presumably, jobs are not!) So it’s a rant more than a constructive discussion.
The Making of a Dream: How a group of young undocumented immigrants helped change what it means to be American follows five undocumented teenagers and your adults that fought for legal protection, sometimes clumsily, but eventually successfully as embodied in the DACA policy (until the Trump presidency ended it). The book does a good job of showing the pitfalls and compromises of DACA, in particular the many categories of people who were left out (anyone who was not in high school or college, for instance) and the rifts it created amongst the many so-called “mixed-status” families, where parents or older siblings would not be eligible but younger siblings could be. It also shows how President Obama, who did approve the policy, saw its limits very clearly: why focus on in-country immigrants when so many others may want to come, too? And why use a policy when it’s really the entire immigration process that needs reforming — and is still no reformed. An interesting, albeit limited history.
The author of The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border served several years in the Border Patrol, finding undocumented immigrants and processing them for repatriation — and all too often finding bodies. He shows how desperate the migrants are and how determined they are to cross the border. After he leaves the Border Patrol because he cannot embrace the mission any longer–but continues to be involved in the immigration legal system to help a friend.
The best parts of the book are when he describes his experience, whether in the field, at headquarters, or in a courtroom. I could have done without the socio-political dissertations.
Are you interested in the lives of foreign Humanities doctorate students slaving as teaching assistants? Think lots of big ideas, lots of sex and especially thoughts about sex, culture shock, infatuation with various professors — and not much action towards theses of anything else that could be construed as constructive. (I’m not commenting on humanities doctorate students per se, but rather on the book). My eyes glazed over as I read Immigrant, Montana.