On the evening of July 4th, I flew back from Chicago to Sacramento after a wonderful visit. I had mentioned in my last post that I had finished my book en route to Chicago and was in need of something for the way back. It is rare for me to find anything worth reading at an airport bookstore, so I was trying to find the new Sedaris when Tell Me How It Ends by Valeria Luiselli caught my eye. I bought it after skimming the back– immigration is a passion of mine, and I was pleasantly surprised by what I found inside.
It also seemed appropriate to spend a 4.5 hour flight on Independence Day feeling completely outraged and utterly angry at the state of affairs we put children migrants through each and every day in the United States (thanks, quite honestly, to a terrible decision Obama made with regards to child migrants from South of the border).
This book is short and quick and will easily blow your mind. Having familiarity with the issues inside its cover, I felt validated in my understanding of how things are handled with regards to brown immigrants coming to the United States; however, what many will find disturbing if you are not yet aware is the harsh reality of how CHILDREN — sometimes even as young as one year old — are handled at the border.
This book is an account of the author’s experience interviewing children in New York who are undocumented and are in need of representation to try and garner status in the USA. She translates what they tell her to English– she asks a battery of 40 questions, the first of which is, “Why did you come to the United States?” Most children are fleeing violence, abandonment, gangs and other such horrors. Most children, in fact, are not sure why they are coming to the United States. The book is a compilation of the 40 questions from her survey and the difficulties she faces in trying to get usable data from these children in order to build a case for them to stay.
Thanks to GWB, when a Mexican child surrenders herself at the border, the border patrol officer is allowed to return the child to Mexico without so much as doing paperwork. Mexican children risk their lives to get to the border, and once there, are quite literally thrown back into Mexico. Good start, right?
If a child is from Honduras or El Salvador (or any other country besides Mexico) makes it to the border, and is an unaccompanied minor, they will be put into what is referred to as the ice box, which in theory should not be for more than 72 hours, but often is for weeks. The name ice box roots in the very low temperatures this dorm (jail) is kept at — you know, to prevent germs from traveling and contaminating others…………………..
After the ice box, children are asked (often rudely, being screamed at to speak English as they are in American now) who their sponsor is in the United States. Who are they being reunited with? Children must have contact information and hope to reach that person in a timely fashion. Thanks to Obama, children have 21 days from the time they surrender themselves at the border to find legal representation and go to court to determine whether or not they will gain status. If they fail to meet this requirement, they will be deported— 21 days– between the ice box, the interview, travel, and simply being a fucking child– sounds like a set up for failure, no?
The stories mount and weigh on your heart as you read this account. I encourage anyone who is interested in understanding the complex nature of the interactions at the border to read this. You will be well served.
Overall rating: 5/5