The Undocumented Americans

One World. May 2020. 208p. ISBN 9780399592683. $26. SOC SCI
In this debut, Cornejo Villavicencio writes of forgotten family traumas, through and around profiles of undocumented persons. She enters communities in Miami, Flint, Staten Island, and more, and examines structural challenges that people without papers experience, including access to health care. These well-rendered journalistic vignettes evoke her sources more like characters or friends. The account is straightforward about what it is like to exist as an immigrant in today’s political climate. Cornejo Villavicencio does not mince words, repeatedly calling policies and actions racist, violent, and exploitative. She also touches on the subject of child separation at the Southern border and what such early crises do to human minds. For Cornejo Villavicencio and many in her community, traditional relationships and caretaking arrangements are altered by necessity. She writes, “At some point, your parents become your children, and your own personal American dream becomes making sure they age and die with dignity in a country that has never wanted them.”
VERDICT Readers come to see that there is no time for hedging: the personal traumas discussed in the book are compounded by their commonality. A must-read indictment on what it means to be undocumented and what it means to be American.
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