The United States of America is considered as one the most diverse countries in the whole world, in terms of racial diversity, culture diversity and sexuality diversity. Diversity is one of America’s best assets; diversity of intelligence, skills, talents, and identity of the residents that brings America qualified to any kind of work. The growing diversity includes the undocumented immigrants from the South America, mainly from Mexico, that are often called illegal immigrants, aliens, parasites, and so forth, but are hardly recognized as modern heroes for their self, families, and also to the United States of America’s economy.
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However, the government’s agenda includes the stricter border security and mass deportation of undocumented immigrants, overlooking the separation of American citizen children to their parent/s, and possible economic problems that could happen. America holds the obligation to investigate the continuously increasing population of undocumented immigrants correctly, and to conceive a functional solution without damaging either sides. The promise of American Dream for everyone in the United States of America has the chance to be successful and happy, and in order for the person and the country to prosper, America needs a preferable action from the leaders for the promise to be accessible to everyone seeking prosperity in the United States.
It is the purpose of this paper to analyze a protest theme in Luis Alberto Urrea’s Lake of Sleeping Children and discuss a number of lesser-known findings about the role of undocumented immigrants in the United States, and vise versa, in addition to sharing how reading and writing of this author’s paper has improved this semester. Specifically, this paper will attempt to answer the following questions:
The book titled By the Lake of Sleeping Children written by Luis Alberto Urrea, features about, as he said, “poor humans” on the Mexian side of the United States-Mexico border. The title discusses the main setting in the book, Tijuana, where there is a graveyard for children that didn't survive in life in the garbage dump, along the border with no proper health care, food, education, and clean shelters.
Then a flood went there that washed away the graves, including the dead bodies of the children, to a lake in Tijuana. According to Urrea, the lake had crosses and stones of the dead children, their coffins, cardboard boxes, and other things that are put inside a coffin were floating on the surface, and the children's bodies were also rising, while the gulls feast over them. This is why it is titled By the Lake of Sleeping Children because Urrea shows the life of the people in this place, if those conditions are even called life.
Similar to third world countries, Tijuana, specifically in the Dompe, the people are trying to survive while living in poorly sanitized water, houses built in cellophanes and cardboards, no proper education, no permanent food source, and so forth. All basic needs for a living is rare in Tijuana. Poverty literally killed the people, the animals, the kids and their dreams, and the place itself. Urrea also clears that poverty is the main reason for the increasing population of illegal immigrants in the United States, hoping for the chance to prosper, as stated in the American dream. He also highlights the role of the United States government to the population of Mexican people along the border.
The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is supposed to eliminate all tariff and nontariff barriers of trade and investment between the United States, Canada, and Mexico. However, the agreement disappointed the people who hoped for its opportunities, and left a lot of people in poverty, especially the million farmers. Accordingly, the people stayed along the border, scavenging in the mountains of garbage dump. As a man told Urrea, the Dompe is where they live, where they’ll die, and where they will be buried. The garbage dump transformed to a place of pilling trash, swirling fingers, and life in the poverty cycle.
In addition, Urrea displays the hopelessness in every corner of Tijuana. Due to poverty, children are abandoned by their parents, either by crossing the border or died, which explains the great number of orphans. However, Urrea asserts that even orphanages don't help the children to grow. Most of the orphanages in Tijuana are corrupted, directly and indirectly abuse the children, literally silenced children, and other surreal things that usually do not, and are not supposed to happen in orphanages. To the many things that Urrea wrote about the unknown life along the border, nothing is humane both towards the people and to the animals. In poverty, no one is exempted from the suffering, including the animals. Surviving alone is a challenge for them everyday, and they have nothing to spare for the animals.
The solution that the people see is on the other side of the border, where they are willing to risk their lives by crossing the border, and hold onto illegal smuggling without assurance to their safety. As Urrea states in his book, “they come to make their best efforts, to work-- to work hard-- to better themselves, to enjoy a better world, to get educated, and to prosper”. The danger to their journey crossing the border is as dangerous as to their journey in the United States with no one to help them when in trouble, for they are no one on the other side.
Although they are called aliens, they are heroes to their family and to themselves. By the Lake of the Sleeping Children by Urrea is a nonfiction protest book that serves as the speaker to the silent scream of the people, and the eye opener to a lot of eyes that are looking away; hoping to open more eyes, especially the government of both sides.
The book consists of multiple issues that the people around the world, especially in the United States, such as the story behind every illegal immigrant, do not know, nor seek to know. Most stories that the people only hear is the single story that illegal immigrants cross the border to steal from the government’s benefits and protections, not knowing that it’s the other way around.
The United States of America is known as the country of opportunities and prosperity, the American dream. The promise drove people from around the world to take chances of prosperity. However, the process to obtain a visa requires patience and money. Processing for a visa to enter the United States takes years or decades. Employment visa applications take four to nine years of waiting, or longer, without exceptions, even to highly skilled workers or advanced degree holders.
While family-based visas are exceptionally long that waits for decades to be approved, which could bring the carried children over the age limit, 21 years old, and the child will have to apply separately as an adult. This situation is very common to all family-based visa applications, and it is often thought that it seems to be done on purpose to prevent some qualified immigrants from entering the country. Moreover, the fees to pay is hundreds to thousands of U.S. dollars in total, which discriminates against the poor people who actually need the opportunities present in America. These hindrances explain the reason behind each illegal immigrant that seeks prosperity in America.
As shown by Urrea’s nonfiction book, life in Tijuana, Mexico is a cycle of suffering in poverty, which marginalizes them from the opportunities on the other side. The poverty in Mexico is also associated with NAFTA that did not last, and left many farmers with nothing. In addition, “because of their geographic proximity to the United States, people in Mexico and the other countries of Central America are particularly likely to attempt to escape poverty by crossing the U.S. border in the Southwest to find work”. This statement supports Urrea’s defense that “they come to make their best efforts, to work-- to work hard-- to better themselves, to enjoy a better world, to get educated, and to prosper”. The immigrants, both legal and illegal, seek the chance to raise themselves and possibly their families.
Furthermore, another possible truth that people never considered is that they are not aliens to deport, but are humans that seek help from another country. According to “the Refugee Act of 1980, [they] made a distinction between refugees and asylees. A refugee is someone who applies for protection while outside the United States; an asylee is someone who is already in the United States when he or she applies for protection”, and asylees are supposed to be given protection while they are under government custody for interview if they qualifies as an asylee.
However, today’s border patrol and other officials took a found illegal immigrant straight to interrogation, on its way to deportation. Moreover, the undocumented immigrants are also unaware of their rights, mainly because they are not informed about it. But, again, even though they are informed about it, there is a very slim chance that they will be accepted as asylees.
In addition, tight security and difficult process for legal migration also affect the crime rates in Mexico and in the United States, putting the lives of the individuals in danger. “The vast majority of undocumented Mexican immigrants entering the United States are smuggled but some are trafficked”. It has been a common stereotype that undocumented immigrants are mostly kidnapped, and Urrea presented an example in his book where two young ladies were attempting to cross the border, illegally, but they were actually being kidnapped and were victimed of fraud. Morover, “in smuggling, all parties commit a crime; but in human trafficking, those who are threatened by force or who are deceived are actually victims”.
These statements show the extreme danger in illegal crossing of the border, which should call for protection rights towards human trafficking and kidnapping victimed immigrants. Moreover, due to the expensive and long wait for legal immigration requirements, “immigrants from the Central and South Americans who failed to the United States are exploited in Mexico”. Accordingly, “the vast majority of foreign victims trafficked into [Mexico] for commercial sexual exploitation are from Central America, particularly Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador”.
There are a lot of women that are sexually abused, and in some circumstances are killed when they refuse. In addition, the “increased border controls have a more tragic — and uncountable — cost that comes in the form of an increase in migration-related deaths”. The American dream that is luring people to enter the country is leading most of them to poverty, exploitation, and death that many people do not know about.
The U.S. President Donald Trump has increased funds for the border wall enhancement, and border patrol security to prevent Mexican people from crossing; however, they are not giving attention in preventing smuggling of illicit drugs, and stopping other illegal actions that are taking place in the border. For instance, “the problem with illegal drugs and firearms appears to be a vicious cycle in which U.S. firearms trafficked into Mexico fuel drug violence there, while drug operations in Mexico facilitate illegal firearm acquisitions from the United States”. This vicious cycle also applies to the population of undcoumented immigrants in America, starting from the NAFTA, which led to poverty for the majority of Mexico. Therefore, people tried to escape from poverty by risking their lives by crossing the border.
Despite the belief that they cross the border to take advantage of the government programs and benefits, scholars have made it clear that it is untrue. Assuming that the United States really wants the undocumented immigrants out of the country, and that no one will enter the borders illegally, it would have been done long time ago. However, the government have not done so because undocumented immigrants contribute a lot to the economy of the United States. “Undocumented immigrants alone currently contribute around $800 billion to the U.S. economy every year in goods and services consumed combined with what they produce for their employers”.
The undocumented immigrants often pay sales tax, federal and state taxes, Social Security, Medicare, and unemployment insurance funds, that will never collect, including the “roughly $7 billion Social Security payments each year” from the paychecks of working undocumented immigrants. Due to their alien identity in the United States, the jobs available to them are limited, and the widespread belief that they came to steal jobs from American citizens is another false statement. In fact, a “recent study that undocumented workers help expand the U.S. economy, allow-ing low-skilled native-born workers to move up the occupational ladder”.
Some people think that closing the borders is the solution to stop undocumented immigrants from entering the country, not knowing the possible great impact to the nation’s economy. “According to the conducted study by a group of economists, analyzing the economic effects of closing the borders of the United States for a year, the United States of America would have a $2.359 trillion total loss”. In addition, according to the study by CATO, “a permanent loss of $8 billion would happen each year if border control is enhanced”.
These losses will affect the employment rate of the country, the success of business establishments, and other more. On the other hand, according to the same study, it was concluded that “legalizing the more than eight million undocumented workers in the U.S. would eventually lead to roughly $180 billion in annual benefits”. If these studies are taken into consideration before deporting undocumented immigrants and sealing borders, the United States’ GDP would grow even higher, while helping to lift the poverty in Tijuana, Mexico.
The entire book seemed like Urrea wanted to show the small details about life along the border; small details with broad meanings. The little things that the volunteers do for the people was inspiring, and it made me feel happy because I’m so glad that there are people willing to help them, and even risk their safety to reach the people in need. Although there were so many “why” questions that no one could answer because no one knows or they refuse to say it, I just planted in my mind, and am hoping, that there must be a good reason for hiding it.
“None of them talk about their dreams.” This quote either means that the kids did not develop any dreams because the kids did not have any hope that they could go any further from Tijuana, or the kids have dreams but are not able to live them because they are too preoccupied surviving in the harsh life in Tijuana, which is very disturbing for me. This matters because this could represent other orphanages in the whole world, calling out for support from the government or organizations, not only a time to time provision of resources, but a secure investment to support the orphanages such as investing in the children’s education and success in their careers. Lastly, I realized the cruelty of the misconception towards undocumetned immigrants. The risks that they are willing to take just to achieve their dreams, or at least live a little. However, in the midst of the unfortunate situations in Tijuana, the love and care in their community is irreplaceable. Works Cited