Reading to Learn: Tell Me How it Ends

Two weeks or so I noticed a post on the Subway Book Reviews Instagram account that featured Valeria Luiselli's Tell Me How it Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions, a short book (not even 100 pages) that discusses how undocumented children are treated in our country. Beforehand I really wasn't all that familiar with the situation, figuring that most undocumented kids are just separated their families during immigration processing once they arrive. While this is in part true, there are also a lot of kids who area here completely alone. This book helped shed some light on the situation.

Luiselli, a Mexican writer who was waiting for her own green card, worked as interpreter in New York City's federal immigration court, translating for kids who were filling out paperwork to hopefully acquire a pro-bono immigration lawyer to fight for citizenship. She approaches her essay by question, while interweaving her own experiences in between points. 

I think the quote that resonated with me the most from this slim volume was, "If something goes wrong, and something happens to a child, the coyote is not held accountable. In fact, no one is held accountable" (Luiselli 51). While every kid's case is different, most families arrange for a coyote, an expensive "chaperone" of sorts, to take their child to the Mexico-US border, whether from Central America or Mexico itself. The journey involves crossing miles and miles of desert landscape and often illegally boarding a dangerous freight train that runs through Mexico the the US. There are countless obstacles: the heat, the landscape, gang members, and US vigilantes. I can hear people now, wondering how a parent could possibly endanger their child, but that's just the thing: they accept this risk because staying at home is worse. Many of the kids fear violence, unsafe living conditions, or incredible poverty. 

Once the kids arrive they do their best to be detained, so that they then have help finding whomever it is in the US they are trying to find (sometimes a parent, or an aunt, a cousin, someone the family knows, etc...). They are then entered into "the system" and wait for court dates to plead for leniency. Humanitarian organizations do their best to match the kids with lawyers, many of which volunteer their time. One exception is when Mexican children are immediately deported, which happens sometimes, too. 

It's heartbreaking, and a problem. Violence is a huge issue in Latin America, and the American connection is interesting. During the 1980s the US deported a huge number of Latin American gang members, which led to increased violence in their countries of origin. Then, there were destructive civil wars, which the US often had a hand in encouraging for economic means. I'm not going to sit here and pretend to be an expert of have a solution, but there's no denying that when kids are involved the issue becomes a real humanitarian crisis.  

This lengthy essay was fascinating, heartbreaking, and helpful in understanding what's happening with undocumented children in our country. 

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