Immigration is a hot topic right now, specifically Mexican immigration. I live in Texas, so it should be a topic in which I’ve taken an interest or about which I have a strong opinion, but I really don’t.
I know Mexican Americans. Some work for me, some are my friends, some are neighbors, and some are my children’s classmates. Are they documented? “Legal”? I assume so, but I don’t really know or care.
I’ve always enjoyed a good immigrant story — the idea of pursuing a dream or bravely escaping tyranny or starting over — like those told in novel from by Nadia Hashimi or Khaled Hosseini or Jhumpa Lahiri. These are about families or adults who begin again in a new country. I haven’t really given the children much thought, as far as it possibility being a hardship for them.
But Julissa Arce shared her perspective, and it made me think. She was brought to live with her parents who had been working in the U.S. (legally), and stayed. Her Visa expired, and all of sudden she was illegal. In reading her story, I began to understand and think differently about the situation.
Julissa was a good student. She helped her family in their sales business on weekends, and juggled school work, and friends and stayed on top. When the opportunity came for her to attend college, she could not make it happen. She couldn’t afford to pay the tuition, and without a social security number, she couldn’t apply for aid, and many of the colleges did not even consider her application.
I’ve heard of the DREAM act, which offers the opportunity of college to children who have been attending school here in the U.S., regardless of legal status. I’ve also heard the debate or criticism of the policy of allowing “illegals” to enroll in our public schools.
This was a highly readable memoir, covering much more than her struggles with her legal status. She shares about many interesting facets of her life including the ups and downs of dating in one’s 20s, the high pressure environment of Wall Street brokerage firms, succeeding as a woman and a minority, dealing with unexplained health programs, alcohol abuse and exploring the role of faith in all of it.
Most importantly, I learned how difficult it was for her to the things we all take for granted — live, work, attend college, have authentic relationships. I enjoyed this book a lot and am so glad I read it.