What: Download the free ebook for yourself or gift to a friend by clicking the “Give as a Gift” button on the Amazon page!
NOTE: We’d like to move thousands of copies of the book next week and need your help! The more books we move, the more the folks over at the Amazon book palace will notice our little work of nonfiction. This is the next phase in self-publishing. We are counting on our readers to rate, review and download our book so that the rest of the world has a chance of seeing it out there!
Please plan to download a free Kindle book of Amor and Exile from the Kindle store on Thursday and Friday, even if you already have a copy of the book! You can use it as a backup copy, gift to a friend or use it to beef up your digital library. If you support immigration reform or human rights, please share this special opportunity with everyone in your circles! And thanks for all of your great reviews of the book as well!
Last Thursdays Series:Exploring Amor and Exile
April 28, 7-8:30 pm
Cole/Marr Coffee House in the Lower Level of the 8th Street Marketplace (next to Café Olé – 404 S. 8th Street)
Exploring Amor and Exile #1
Question: What would you do if your fiancée was detained at LAX and deported?
Come meet Idahoan Benjamin Reed and his wife, Deyanira Escalona, one of the couples featured in the upcoming book Amor and Exile, by 8th Street Artist in Residence Nathaniel Hoffman. The book is co-authored by Nicole Salgado, an American citizen living in Mexico.
Participate in a live Skype video interview with Ben and Deyanira from their new home on the Yucatán Peninsula. Bring a mobile device so that you can help Hoffman crowdsource the interview and share your reactions live, providing valuable input as the book is drafted.
Hear all about American love exiles, experience participatory journalism, have a hot beverage and overcome the national immigration stalemate all in one evening.
Find Amor and Exile @amorandexile on Twitter or, soon, on Facebook.
A 24- or 25-year-old Mexican man shot himself in the head on Sunday at his family home in the city of San Juan del Rio in Querétaro, Mexico. According to two different newspaper accounts, he had been distraught at being separated from his American wife and two sons. The man, Cruz González Chávez, was deported from the United States about five months ago, according to a friend of his, who spoke with Diario Rotativo, a local paper. González had spoken of taking his own life, the friend said.
González had been talking to his family and apparently drinking on Sunday afternoon when he got up and left without a word. The next thing the family heard was a single gunshot, according to the news accounts.
I’m working on finding out more details about the case, but this is the first such deportation-related suicide I’ve read about, though I’m sure there are more instances. It’s another potent reminder that people’s lives are at stake in this immigration game. Real people’s lives.
Actually, I’m in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, where I enjoyed a fairly relaxing day. I have not checked the murder count for the day here yet, but I just learned of the shootings in Tucson via Twitter and read several accounts.
All week I’ve been getting messages along the lines of: You’re in Juarez? And my reply is often that any city can be dangerous and that our media-filtered perception of Juarez (and by false extension, all of Mexico) is a flawed perception. I really wanted that to be so, but after three days here, I do not think it’s a false perception.
Everyone I’ve spoken to is nervous here: I just dropped my fork against my plate in a fairly nice hotel in a decent part of town and five people jumped up to see what was going on. I went to see a movie with a Mexican man from Minneapolis who is here waiting for his visa to come through (hoping it comes through) so that he can rejoin his American wife in the States. Several times during the movie (Tron 3D, dubbed) there were strange noises in the theater and people started looking around uncomfortable, pulling down their 3D glasses.
My first night here I stayed in a rough neighborhood with two Americans who have lived there for 15 years. I wanted so badly to be comfortable there, to talk to neighbors, to walk around. But nearly every house had a story of murder. Recent murder. I can’t write about the details, but we walked quickly to and fro, taking different routes each time, walking down the middle of the street, a technique I learned years ago from a friend whose mother is a social worker (apparently no one will touch the crazy guero walking down the middle of the street)? I took the bus from this neighborhood in the hills above Juarez through many run-down colonias, swerving around burnt tires, wondering at every unplanned stop. People did not make eye contact on the bus. We all had our collars turned up, stared straight ahead. I worked up the nerve to ask a lady next to me if the US Consulate was getting close and she briefly explained it was close and then got off the bus.
All this death, all this nervousness, was making me nervous, so I decided to get a hotel room near the Consulate. I’m not going to say where, because I’m still here and still paranoid, but it’s pretty sweet and rather affordable. I had survived 24 hours in Juarez. But I still had to go back and get my stuff and inform my hosts that I really appreciated their hospitality and deeply respect their choice to live there and experience the fear and desperation, and, to be fair, small celebrations of life and familia, that the majority of Juarenzes experience day in and day out. And to tell them that I needed to move to a more secure location. It’s always going back that gets us in trouble. In 1999, after a day exploring in downtown Johannesburg, I was mugged taking the scenic route back. It’s a small example and proves nothing, but I did not want a repeat. Luckily, I had met a man who works for a local health clinic and who offered to take me in his van to get my stuff and bring it back to the hotel. I told him the neighborhood and he said it was not a problem, though in retrospect, he did not know where it was and had no idea what he was in for. This man is in his 50s and grew up in Juarez. He is trained as an attorney, has adult children and holds a decent job. But I had to navigate for him and as we climbed into the barrio, his agitation became very obvious. We were driving a pretty nice passenger van and I noticed him checking the mirror, his face turning red, every bump or turn getting serious.
We pulled up to the little house and he said sternly, “five minutes.” I rushed in and told my hostess that I was moving closer to the Consulate, because that’s where my story was unfolding and because it’s safer for me. She was very gracious, but wanted to show my friend her little garden and two beautiful chickens. I was scanning the block for approaching vehicles while he got a quick tour of the yard and the house. This was most likely all irrational fear, but we were ratcheting up one another’s irrational fears. I didn’t like that he was so nervous, assuming he knew the area. He maybe didn’t like that he was driving a gringo journalist around in a fancy car in the colonias. Then he decided to take the scenic route back. There is a beltway around Juarez that most people with cars try to take to avoid stop lights, to speed past the ghetto.
But the day before, my host had taken me out to a vantage point to look north to the border, to Texas and New Mexico and to point out that like in many American cities, the beltway skirts the ghetto and provides no access for the poor to new infrastructure. We were now experiencing that first hand as we could clearly see the highway on the horizon but were speeding along dirt roads, imagining gangsters chasing us, until we finally came out to the asphalt. We both breathed huge sighs of relief. I know that this was all in our heads. But it was also a symptom of living in a town where the daily paper features a murder count. (U.S. papers have these in bad years too, remember.) We dropped my bags at the hotel and went out for double shots of Don Julio and some deep fried intestines with guacamole. I’m not the kind of person who regularly NEEDS a drink. But I needed a drink last night. (I could have done without the intestines, but they grew on me.)
Today I spent the morning eating fruit and eggs and transcribing my notes and then I met a source and spent all afternoon at a gleaming, well lit and highly secured mall. I hit the ATM. Had coffee. Took in a movie. The mall is spitting distance from the hotel. I’m a Juarez wimp now and I’m okay with that. But then I got back to the hotel tonight (wi-fi) and read about Tucson, where an apparently crazed right wing thug opened fire on a Democratic politician in a supermarket parking lot, killing six, and I’m not sure what to think. The cliche that all politics is local applies as well, and just as poorly, to urban violence. Just as the lone, or possibly pair of killers in Arizona acted in what appears to be an isolated incident, they were wrapped up in a national sentiment that has pushed many Americans to the brink of rationality. And just as many of the killings in Juarez are targeted, drug-related and extortion related incidents, they are also part of a larger geo-political context of free trade, drug trade and political corruption that plagues the border region. But these two geopolitical facts: increasing xenophobia and militarization of the border in the north and the growing power of drug cartels in the south are intimately related and on a crash course. It’s not a complete solution, but perhaps in the wake of this assasination attempt in the U.S., we will reassess the wisdom of criminalizing migrants, putting troops along the border and continuing to declare wars on inanimate objects (drugs, terrorism).
Either way, I’m outta here tomorrow, moving south for a long overdue visit with dear friends who just had their first baby, friends living in a new type of exile brought on by the same strain in American politics which reared it’s ugly head in Arizona today.
Tonight I am “performing” the first public presentation of my research to the Ignite Boise crowd at the Egyptian Theater in Boise. It is a crowd heavy in tech, with a slightly palpable conservative bent … I’m thinking of making my next Ignite Boise pitch an analysis of the politics of Ignite Boise, but that’s a different story.
It’s also a free event, with beer, tailored to the short attention span set (AKA Twitter crowd). In other words, I have 5 minutes to convey 10 million years or so of immigration love stories. So I’m relying on some racy mental images in order to grab the crowd’s attention. But if anyone is interested in reading a bit deeper in this field, here are a few links I mention in my presentation.
I have already heard some concerns about my upcoming Ignite Boise presentation, entitled 12 Million Hardons, so I want to clarify two things in advance. (Maybe three things … should “hardon” be hyphenated?)
12 Million Hardons
I will provide a 5-minute Spanglish history of illegal immigration to the United States from the point of view of American citizens who are sleeping with the undocumented. The point of the talk is to open up a new front in the immigration debate: the impact of deportations on American citizen partners/spouses/families of the undocumented.
Yesterday, in an unrelated incident, a potential source told me I needed to, “look more deeply inside of yourself in areas around race, class and all kinds of privilege.” Over the weekend I was inadvertently rude to someone while explaining the topic of my research. Then another woman I respect told my wife that my preso title was sexist.
So here are my two clarifications:
(1) Hardon is a metaphor for “deep relationships” and they go at least three ways. I will be talking equally about foreign-born men and their U.S. citizen or permanent resident ladies, women from abroad who hook up with American dudes and same-sex couples, who get the short end of the short stick in immigration matters (just to confuse the metaphor even more).
(2) I think I actually covered both clarifications above, so just come to the event before you judge. The free advance tickets are gone, but if you show up at the Egyptian around 7 p.m. on Oct. 21, you will probably get in. It’s free. ($20 and some identification for you, Sheriff Joe.)
(3) The Ignite phenom forces a speaker to get an idea across in 5 minutes utilizing 20 slides, which auto-rotate every 15 seconds. All I’m saying is, I needed to find a metaphor that everyone could grasp, so that I can quickly get onto the meat of the presentation.
When you meet someone in a bar or on the bus or selling fruit on the side of the road, you may ask where they are from and how the are faring. But unless you work for the border patrol, it is not normal to ask their method of entry into the country. Even if you are writing a book on the subject, if you’ve just met someone, it’s an off-putting and loaded question.
Yesterday I met a man named Augustin who told me he was from Puebla, Mexico. He was selling flats of strawberries kitty-corner to my house in Boise and I went out to chat and buy a flat ($11). I gathered that he most likely came here illegally, though I did not ask him about it. When I told him I was going down to Mexico in a few months he complained that Americans can visit Mexico whenever they like but that it is very difficult for Mexicans to visit the United States. He also told me that another of the strawberry sellers had been arrested and reported to immigration the night before.
So a man who most likely entered the country illegally is selling fruit (probably illegally) on your neighbor’s lawn. What do you do? I brought him over dinner, which, in a complete coincidence (I swear), happened to be tacos from Los Betos.
The question of what we call people who are here illegally has not been answered to my satisfaction. A renewed campaign to end the use of the term “illegal immigrant,” or even worse term, “illegal,” has cropped up on the internet. I’ve wrestled with this phrasing for years as a reporter and my general rule of thumb is that crossing the border without proper documentation is illegal, but the people who do it cannot be referred to as “illegal.”
The media, particularly in the past few years, has grown lazy on this point of grammar and style. It is commonplace to hear “illegal immigrant” on the radio, television and to see it in the newspapers. But it is inaccurate and offensive.
While chatting with Augustin, I never once thought of his personhood as “illegal.” In fact, I was quite impressed with his scheme to buy a truckload of strawberries in Salinas, California and drive across the Northwest with a few buddies selling the berries on residential street corners. It was something that J.R. Simplot would have done. And it was quite convenient for me: I made six jars of jam last night.
In some ways, I viewed Augustin in the same way I view any foreigner I meet: as a fellow traveler. I considered offering him a place to stay, as so many people in foreign countries have offered me over the years.
I also saw him as a refugee who fled north in search of work and was engaged in a business model that was both extremely entrepreneurial and at the same time, somewhat desperate. While I admired his courage and drive to make it here, I also saw that he could use a leg up—even if it was just a taco and a brief chat. I found myself looking out for him, ready to intervene if the cops came to harass him again.
While the U.S. government draws great distinctions between political refugees, who are granted a path to citizenship and assistance adjusting to life in the United States, and people like Augustin, who are here illegally, and constantly under threat of deportation, there are many similarities between the groups. Refugio “Reg,” a blogger in L.A., is on a one-man crusade to re-frame our view of undocumented immigrants under the concept of economic refugees.
I like the term, but it requires a wholesale reshaping of immigration policy as well and seems a bit premature.
I’ve been toying with using some form of unauthorized, as in “The love stories of unauthorized migrants and their U.S. citizen partners,” but a friend who read an early synopsis of the book proposal argued that nobody would understand the term.
I used the term “undocumented” above, but I use it only as a fallback term. I think it is pretty meaningless, but a bit nicer sounding—perhaps because it’s passive—than “illegal.”
Another good solution is to just write about people as individuals and not attempt to place them in broad, and often damaging, categories. Perhaps we should do that with the terms “Democrat” and “Republican” as well.
In 2010, the spectre of unnamed “illegals,” blurilly huddled, complete with cheap backpacks, behind Idaho’s first Latino congressional candidate is supposed to sway Idaho voters to Minnick…
At least Bush Uno played a side of policy with his race cards. Rep. Minnick offers nothing but smear, cliche and innuendo in his deck.
The question the ad raises is which voters is Minnick courting? This deliberate campaign strategy, planned even before the ink dried on the Primary Election ballots in May, seeks to peel off anyone to the right of Minnick and to the west and north of Boise who harbor racist and/or xenophobic feelings toward Latinos. It also, as pointed out at the MountainGoat Report, burns key bridges among an equally courtable Canyon County Hispanic base.
There are two problems for Minnick though: (1) He and Labrador, according to my personal impressions of both men, harbor the exact same warm feelings toward Idaho’s growing Hispanic population and are both pretending to be “tough on immigration” in the exact same cliched, imprecise language. (2) Neither of them—though for different reasons—have the guts to lead on this issue anyway, so it’s all just racist hot air and a waste of Idaho’s voice—and still tarnished image—anyway.
I’m retired from writing or caring about electoral politics, but this issue touches on human politics. On the eve of a test vote on the DREAM Act, which has the potential to change the lot in life of nearly 1 million young, intelligent, dedicated Americans who through no fault of their own find themselves without papers, in limbo between nations, I wish that candidates and elected representatives would think about something other than their public personas for once and lead us to the mountaintop, even if they don’t get there with us.
If predictions for a broad Democratic defeat in the midterm elections prove accurate, immigration advocates could start out in January with as few as 30 senators on their side. A total of 73 senators backed a key test vote on immigration reform in 2006, but that coalition shrank to 46 when a similar bill came up in 2007.