What Part of “Illegal” Don’t You Understand?
—Anti-Immigrant Protest Sign
Today’s polarized debates over immigration revolve around a set of one-dimensional characters and unchallenged stereotypes. Yet the resulting policy prescriptions, not least of them Arizona’s SB 1070 and other state and local laws that promote “self-deportation” of unauthorized immigrants, are dangerously real and profoundly counterproductive.
A major new antidote to this trend, Living “Illegal” challenges the myths and misconceptions that circulate about unauthorized immigrants, reminding readers that there is a great deal more to understand about “illegal” than we hear in popular rhetoric. Based on years of research into the lives of ordinary migrants, Living “Illegal” offers richly textured stories of real people—working, building families, and enriching their communities, even as the political climate grows more hostile.
Moving far beyond stock images and conventional explanations, Living “Illegal” challenges our assumptions about why immigrants come to the United States, where they settle, and how they have adapted to the often confusing patchwork of local immigration ordinances. This revealing narrative takes us into Southern churches (which have quietly emerged as the only organizations open to migrants), the fields of Florida, neighborhood day-labor centers, street protests, and back and forth across different national boundaries—from Brazil to Mexico and Guatemala.
Living “Illegal” is an ambitious account of the least understood and most relevant aspects of the American immigrant experience today.