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Dianne Walta Hart Undocumented in L.A.: An Immigrant's Story. Scholarly Resources Inc. : Wilmington, 1997.

FromSubject
Amalia Monroe <almonro@ilstu.edu>undocumented in la
Amalia Monroe <almonro@ILSTU.EDU>THOUGHTS ON IMMIGRATION AND UNDOCUMENTED IN LA
Deidre Meyers <dlmeyer_98@YAHOO.COM>Review of Undocumented in L.A.
Amalia Monroereview: Undocumented in LA (Monroe)
Jacqlyn Larson <jalarso@ILSTU.EDU>Review of Undocumented in LA
Molly Sutter <mlsutte@ILSTU.EDU>Response to Jacqlyn's Undocumented in LA
Stephanie Budzina<snbudzi@ILSTU.EDU>Undocumented in LA: An Immigrant's Story
Adam Kinzinger <AKnznger@AOL.COM>Response to Review of Undocumented: Stephanie
Adam Kinzinger <AKnznger@AOL.COM>Follow up to thoughts on immigration.

Date: Wed, 26 Apr 2000 16:17:37 -0500
From: Amalia Monroe <almonro@ilstu.edu>
Subject: undocumented in la
Hart, Dianne Walta. Undocumented in L.A.: An Immigrant's Story. Scholarly Resources Inc. :Wilmington, 1997.

Reviewed by Amalia Monroe

Undocumented in L.A. tells the story of an illegal immigrant, and her family, struggling for survival in the early 1990's in Los Angeles. The book is basically an oral history, the majority of the passages are transcribed interviews with Yamileth, the book's main character. The author, Dianne Walta Hart initially befriended Yamileth in Nicaragua, before she had ever considered immigrating to the United States. The fact that Hart and Yamileth were friends sets a specific tone for the book, and in some ways, adds certain richness to the story because Yamileth is extremely candid. Yamileth does not hold anything back, which probably only occurred because of the personal closeness between the interviewer and the interviewee. However, with closeness can come bias, and at certain points in the book, when Hart adds her own insights in to what Yamileth is saying, it seems to loose objectivity, which can distract the audience from the heart of the story. Overall, Undocumented in L.A. is a quick read, it is certainly not overrun with an academic feel, which makes it accessible. The fact that the book is accessible is important because the audiences is not caught up in just attempting to understand they can delve deeper, and really consider all of the issues presented.

One of the major themes in the book is immigration, obviously. The Lopez family is only one family among the thousands that illegally enter the United States every year. Their trip was dangerous, long, emotionally draining, and physically draining. As soon as Yamileth left Nicaragua with her son and nieces they had two weeks of hell to endure, just to join the rest of their family in Los Angeles. Undocumented in L.A. does not condemn these people for breaking laws, for entering into a country where they do not "belong." Actually, the book shows the more sensitive side of illegal immigration, and allows the audience a different perspective on this rather hot topic that is not necessarily shown in the media. Yamileth did not really have a desire to leave Nicaragua, but she did it for her family, and because the conditions in Nicaragua were becoming abysmal. She was promised the American dream from her sister if she came, but when she arrived she found reality. The family had no money, a tiny apartment, and were struggling for survival themselves. However, Undocumented in L.A. shows the audience how even if people like Yamileth struggle in the United States, things must be much worse in their homeland. A common misconception of immigrants is that they want to leave their country, but often times it truly is just too bad for them to stay, either for economic or political reasons. One can gain sympathy and understanding for those who choose to illegally immigrate from reading Undocumented in L.A.; it can open eyes on the issue of immigration.

Another interesting aspect of the book is that of culture. Through Yamileth's stories of life in Nicaragua, and her experiences in Los Angeles, one can gain an insight into the differences between the two cultures. Pride is extremely important for Yamileth and her family members. None want to seem lazy, that they do not work hard, because that is one of the worst things a person can be labeled in their country. Therefore, this is a major force behind many of the actions they take. One example of this is with food. Yamileth would not eat if she felt she had done nothing to earn the food placed in front of her, pride before food. This emphasis on pride does not seem quite as prominent in the culture of the United States. However, one could draw a connection between those in the lower class, such as the men in the book Slim's Table, and the emphasis on pride. In Slim's Table, the men thought pride was one of the most important traits in a person, and something one must strive to deserve. Therefore, Undocumented in L.A. shows this same emphasis, but from those in lower class from a different country. Maybe culture sometimes has a lot more to do with economics, rather than color or artificial boundaries. The book also shows how cultures meld, and becomes a separate culture. This sounds like the often-disregarded melting pot theory, but maybe it does have some validity after all. The author comments "through knowing each other, we are becoming more like each other . . . Our culture, our civilization, our lives are somewhere in between all the vaporous borders, changing all the time and not recognized by boundaries."(Hart 136) Everyone influences one another, even if we do not always recognize the changes that occur within ourselves from spending time around certain people. One example of this is how two people, who spend a lot of time together, begin speaking like one another. This happens from both sides, and then a whole new way of speaking, full of different slang terms and inflections, is created, unknowingly. This could be related to culture, and how the American culture is made-up of influences from many different types of people, and it is constantly evolving. Then, the question remains why are we all so focused on maintaining our own separate cultural identities? It seems that we are melting together, and it is really impossible to fight it, so maybe we should all just accept reality and move on.

Undocumented in L.A. is not a wonderful book, in the sense that it is not groundbreaking, nothing sensational about the form or content. However, in its simplicity much can be learned. The story of an average family, averages meaning that there are thousands more just like them, and their struggle for survival. The fact that it is average is the most important of all because nothing is sensationalized; the audience learns what real people are going through, how they handle situations. The book can connect with a broad audience because there is nothing remarkable about it, one of its greatest attributes. Also, in a very gentle way it comments on the plight of immigrants, but also those living in extreme poverty in the United States in general. It makes the audience remember that there are many people living in this country who struggle everyday just to eat, even if they are employed.

Overall, Undocumented in L.A. is a solid effort. The audience will at least enjoy the story. However, if one takes the time, they could learn a lot about culture, immigration, and poverty. Maybe this book will give people a little nudge to think about these issues, issues that do affect them everyday.

·

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Date: Tue, 02 May 2000 07:05:01 -0500
From: Amalia Monroe <almonro@ILSTU.EDU>
Subject: THOUGHTS ON IMMIGRATION AND UNDOCUMENTED IN LA
After reading Undocumented in LA, participating in a discussion on the book, and reading other's responses to the book, I am beginning to develop some strong opinions on the whole issue of illegal immigration. It seems that people do not have much sympathy for those who enter this country illegally, no matter the circumstances. I understand that these people are breaking laws, and that we have laws for a reason, but sometimes we have to go beyond laws. Kicking these people out of the country just because they want to live here seems wrong, especially in this time of economic prosperity. Flow of people into the country is necessary, but a rather harsh stance is being taken by a lot of people. After reading Undocumented in LA, I gained a deeper insight into those people who do live and work in this country illegally. They constantly live in fear, they are just trying to get by, trying to survive. It seems as if maybe hearts need to be opened. The laws deserve consideration, maybe it should be people to enter an live legally in this country. Actually, then more people will be paying taxes, just a little economic thought. The United States has the opportunity to help, but it does not many times. Of course when it is a political issue (Elian Gonzalez, for example) we jump to the rescue of political refugees. Helping those who choose to come to this country, for whatever reason, needs to be much more than a public relations blitz, it needs to be felt much deeper. Immigrants are not bad, this truth is sometimes lost in the discussion.
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Date: Tue, 25 Apr 2000 07:25:49 -0700
From: Deidre Meyers <dlmeyer_98@YAHOO.COM>
Subject: Review of Undocumented in L.A.
To: POS334-L@H-NET.MSU.EDU
Dianne Walta Hart, UNDOCUMENTED IN L.A., Wilmington:Scholarly Resources Inc.,1997 Reviewed by Deidre Meyers

From the civil war and poverty stricken streets in Esteli, Nicaragua to the violent and poverty infested streets of Los Angeles, California. UNDOCUMENTED IN L.A tells the story of a immigrant female and her family. UNDOCUMENTED IN L.A portrays the shocking revelation of the myth of the "American Dream." The book is based on a series of interviews conducted by Hart with Yamileth Lopez. The author met Yamileth while visiting Nicaragua, and conducted a follow up on how her life was. The book tells the story of Yamileth, her son Miguel, and Yamileth’s immediate/ extended family.

In Nicaragua, Yamileth was a devout member of the Sandinista party. After her mothers death, Yamileth struggled to provided for her son and herself. Her sister Leticia , who had already immigrated to the United States called and requested her children be sent to her. Because the journey from Nicaragua to the United States, by immigrants is extremely dangerous, Yamileth was asked to accompany the children, and protect them. The lure of the "American dream" and promises of prosperity persuaded Yamileth to come to America. Yamileth set out for America with the intent to obtain a job and save money, so that she could return to Nicaragua. The book describes the tiresome, unnerving and inhuman trip Yamileth and her family endure to reach the border between the U.S. and Mexico.

Prior to going to America, Yamileth’s perception of America was that of a land were everyone’s dreams come true. As Yamileth once remarked, " I talked with Miguel [her son], who said he wanted to go because he believed from what Leticia and other people had told him, that it’d be like going to another world, to a paradise where everything would be within our reach" (10). However, once in south-central Los Angeles, Yamileth and her family realized all that they had heard about America was false. Yamileth often cursed the day she left her spacious home in Nicaragua, for a one room pest infested apartment in south-central California. Due to the recession in the late 1980’s Yamileth soon realized that jobs were scarce. The jobs available for illegal immigrants were low paying and had hazardous working conditions. Because the Yamileth and the author were friends, the author arranged for Yamileth to work as a maid for some friends in Oregon. The work arrangement did not last long, because Yamileth was lured back to L.A. by Leticia promising work. Upon return, Yamileth finds that the promise of work was only a hoax.

Yamileth and her family become prisoners of their own neighborhood in L.A. due to high gang activity and violence, the family becomes afraid to leave their home. The family lives in constant fear of being harmed by the gangs and being captured by "la migra" or immigration officials. I think it is rather ironic that America, the perceived land of "milk and honey," held more danger than their home land Nicaragua. At the time the events of the book occurred Nicaragua was undergoing a civil war. Yamileth decides to return to Nicaragua. After a brief stay in Nicaragua, Yamileth decides to return the U.S. This brings me to my discussion on the thematic scheme of the book.

In searching for a theme of the book, I have uncovered two major themes. The first theme is the myth of the "American Dream," and its faulty perceptions. Although the author does not expressly say it, I believe the second theme of the book is the personification of the immigrant, who has long been dehumanized.

To some people, the American dream conjures up images of having a steady- ample paying job, a beautiful home, and a safe place to raise your children. Others may take a firmer capitalist approach and envision having a prosperous business and vast amount of wealth. Given what I have just stated, it is obvious that there is no one set definition of the American dream. Instead of calling it THE American dream, I propose we refer to it as AN American dream; given the different definitions.

In the beginning Yamileth’s perception of America was that everyone could succeed and be prosperous. She was lured to America by the promise of steady work and a better lifestyle. Yamileth left Nicaragua with the intentions of providing a better life for her son and herself. Yamileth’s attempts at achieving the "American dream" were all thwarted. The beautiful home Yamileth expected to find in Los Angeles, was replaced by a rodent and insect infested one bedroom apartment; which she had to share with six other people. Instead of finding a steady and well-paying job, Yamileth found sweatshop, and maid service work. Instead of adequate health care, Yamileth found a public clinic consumed by red tape and bureaucracy, that provide more harm than care. She also found an educational system where bilingual education was practically nonexistent. Yamileth’s son Miguel did not speak English , but was forced to attend an all English speaking school. Was this the better life Yamileth left her home and loved ones for? I once heard it said that the American dream does not exist without hard work and sacrifice. I agree that what ever the so-called American dream is, it does not happen by itself, but requires hard work. But I must raise the question as to why the family in the book did not achieve a close facsimile of an American dream? At one point in the book Yamileth and her family attempt to run a bakery, but end up loosing it to the original owner. The family worked extremely hard to run the Bakery. Yamileth often worked sixteen hour days in the bakery, while she was nine months pregnant. A sixteen hour work day is often unheard of in our society. Most Americans work eight to twelve hour work days. What is even more outlandish, is the fact that a woman who was nine months pregnant, continued to work sixteen hours a day, until she gave birth. Most American women who are pregnant take a leave of absence around their sixth month of pregnancy. Yamileth and her family were hard working individuals, who sacrificed a great deal. So why wasn’t their American dream ever actualized? Hart successfully demonstrate the false reality of an American dream without being dogmatic in her approach. At the end of the novel, Hart is quoted as saying "The Lopezes simply wanted to work and eat their daily food without any attention being called to them. To stay quietly undocumented, they said, continued to their American dream" (122). This brings me to my last topic, the personification of the illegal immigrant.

While reading the book, I often questioned why the author would base the entire book on a series of interviews she conducted. I concluded that this was done in such a way to provide a face and a story to the illegal immigrant. Many Americans perceive illegal immigrants as being free loaders, who have come to America to drain our already depleting resources. These same Americans fail to realize that these immigrants are people like themselves, who deserve to live in a safe and healthy environment. Because of this, illegal immigrants become dehumanized, and are perceived as leeches draining our valuable resources. By basing the book around interviews conducted with Yamileth, we as readers began to empathize with Yamileth and her struggle. Due to the vivid detail of the horrible journey from Nicaragua to the United States, I began to image what it would have been like. Through interviews about their intimate daily life, readers learn that they are like most Americans, and have the same dreams and aspirations. The faceless, and disenfranchised illegal aliens become flesh and blood human beings. Hart goes further in her passive defense of illegal aliens by citing information on their contribution and uses of the governmental programs in California. According the book, "Some economists saw immigration as a net benefit because immigrants pay taxes, use services in moderation, develop thousands of small business every year, work in industries that might otherwise move overseas in search of lower-cost labor, and undertake jobs the U.S. workers find undesirable" (121). The preceding quote cast doubt on the popular belief that illegal immigrants are leeches draining our governmental system. In critiquing the book, I found it to be easy reading. There are parts in the book that make you want to laugh as well as cry. The author does a good job of drawing you into the story line, of the main characters life. So much so, you begin to anticipate what will happen next. I recommend this book to anyone who has ever formed an opinion on immigration based solely on what they have heard statistically. This book proves illegal immigrants are more than just statistical numbers, they are humans with feelings, needs and dreams. One does not need to be an American to deserve to live a decent and fulfilling life.

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Date: Thu, 27 Apr 2000 20:48:53 -0500
From: Amalia Monroe <almonro@ilstu.edu>
Subject: review: Undocumented in LA (Monroe)
Hart, Dianne Walta. Undocumented in L.A.: An Immigrant's Story. Scholarly Resources Inc. : Wilmington, 1997.

Reviewed by Amalia Monroe

Undocumented in L.A. tells the story of an illegal immigrant, and her family, struggling for survival in the early 1990's in Los Angeles. The book is basically an oral history, the majority of the passages are transcribed interviews with Yamileth, the book's main character. The author, Dianne Walta Hart initially befriended Yamileth in Nicaragua, before she had ever considered immigrating to the United States. The fact that Hart and Yamileth were friends sets a specific tone for the book, and in some ways, adds certain richness to the story because Yamileth is extremely candid. Yamileth does not hold anything back, which probably only occurred because of the personal closeness between the interviewer and the interviewee. However, with closeness can come bias, and at certain points in the book, when Hart adds her own insights in to what Yamileth is saying, it seems to loose objectivity, which can distract the audience from the heart of the story. Overall, Undocumented in L.A. is a quick read, it is certainly not overrun with an academic feel, which makes it accessible. The fact that the book is accessible is important because the audiences is not caught up in just attempting to understand they can delve deeper, and really consider all of the issues presented.

One of the major themes in the book is immigration, obviously. The Lopez family is only one family among the thousands that illegally enter the United States every year. Their trip was dangerous, long, emotionally draining, and physically draining. As soon as Yamileth left Nicaragua with her son and nieces they had two weeks of hell to endure, just to join the rest of their family in Los Angeles. Undocumented in L.A. does not condemn these people for breaking laws, for entering into a country where they do not "belong." Actually, the book shows the more sensitive side of illegal immigration, and allows the audience a different perspective on this rather hot topic that is not necessarily shown in the media. Yamileth did not really have a desire to leave Nicaragua, but she did it for her family, and because the conditions in Nicaragua were becoming abysmal. She was promised the American dream from her sister if she came, but when she arrived she found reality. The family had no money, a tiny apartment, and were struggling for survival themselves. However, Undocumented in L.A. shows the audience how even if people like Yamileth struggle in the United States, things must be much worse in their homeland. A common misconception of immigrants is that they want to leave their country, but often times it truly is just too bad for them to stay, either for economic or political reasons. One can gain sympathy and understanding for those who choose to illegally immigrate from reading Undocumented in L.A.; it can open eyes on the issue of immigration.

Another interesting aspect of the book is that of culture. Through Yamileth's stories of life in Nicaragua, and her experiences in Los Angeles, one can gain an insight into the differences between the two cultures. Pride is extremely important for Yamileth and her family members. None want to seem lazy, that they do not work hard, because that is one of the worst things a person can be labeled in their country. Therefore, this is a major force behind many of the actions they take. One example of this is with food. Yamileth would not eat if she felt she had done nothing to earn the food placed in front of her, pride before food. This emphasis on pride does not seem quite as prominent in the culture of the United States. However, one could draw a connection between those in the lower class, such as the men in the book Slim's Table, and the emphasis on pride. In Slim's Table, the men thought pride was one of the most important traits in a person, and something one must strive to deserve. Therefore, Undocumented in L.A. shows this same emphasis, but from those in lower class from a different country. Maybe culture sometimes has a lot more to do with economics, rather than color or artificial boundaries. The book also shows how cultures meld, and becomes a separate culture. This sounds like the often-disregarded melting pot theory, but maybe it does have some validity after all. The author comments "through knowing each other, we are becoming more like each other . . . Our culture, our civilization, our lives are somewhere in between all the vaporous borders, changing all the time and not recognized by boundaries."(Hart 136) Everyone influences one another, even if we do not always recognize the changes that occur within ourselves from spending time around certain people. One example of this is how two people, who spend a lot of time together, begin speaking like one another. This happens from both sides, and then a whole new way of speaking, full of different slang terms and inflections, is created, unknowingly. This could be related to culture, and how the American culture is made-up of influences from many different types of people, and it is constantly evolving. Then, the question remains why are we all so focused on maintaining our own separate cultural identities? It seems that we are melting together, and it is really impossible to fight it, so maybe we should all just accept reality and move on.

Undocumented in L.A. is not a wonderful book, in the sense that it is not groundbreaking, nothing sensational about the form or content. However, in its simplicity much can be learned. The story of an average family, averages meaning that there are thousands more just like them, and their struggle for survival. The fact that it is average is the most important of all because nothing is sensationalized; the audience learns what real people are going through, how they handle situations. The book can connect with a broad audience because there is nothing remarkable about it, one of its greatest attributes. Also, in a very gentle way it comments on the plight of immigrants, but also those living in extreme poverty in the United States in general. It makes the audience remember that there are many people living in this country who struggle everyday just to eat, even if they are employed.

Overall, Undocumented in L.A. is a solid effort. The audience will at least enjoy the story. However, if one takes the time, they could learn a lot about culture, immigration, and poverty. Maybe this book will give people a little nudge to think about these issues, issues that do affect them everyday. ·

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Date: Thu, 27 Apr 2000 10:00:49 -0500
From: Jacqlyn Larson <jalarso@ILSTU.EDU>
Subject: Review of Undocumented in LA
Hart, Undocumented in LA, 1997 Review by Jacqlyn Larson

Imagine walking over twenty miles, waiting for more then fifteen hours for a bus, running across dead people who have been shot trying to do what you were trying to accomplish; achieving the American dream. Hart tracks a Latina woman, Yamileth, struggles of making it in the United States as an illegal immigrant. Yamileth's life is followed for more than a ten-year period of life in conflict-torn Nicaragua to contention in Los Angeles. During the time that Yamileth resided in the United States the immigrant level was at an all-time high.

Yamileth was proposed with the question of going to Los Angeles from her sister, Leticia, who was already there. In 1988, her sister informed her children, who were living with Yamileth that they were to come to Los Angeles. Yamileth decided to join them, to keep the girls company and to make money in the United States. Her sister informed her that she would have a job when she came to the states, which gave her even more of an incentive to take the journey. Her vision was getting a job, earn money to live on, and return to Nicaragua. She states that there was food in Nicaragua but only if you had money, since there was little work there was no money.

The process of getting to the United States was a struggle. Three of Leticia's children went ahead to Guatemala on an excursion while Leticia sent money for the entire trip. A few days later Yamileth, Miguel and Leticia's other daughter left for Guatemala. They got a ride with a man since the bus they were to take never came. The man took them the wrong way so they got off the van and waited fifteen hours for a tour bus. They stayed in a hotel after arriving in Guatemala City where they found Uncle Mundo. Uncle Mundo, a coyote, guided them the rest of the way. He told them when to run, walk, eat, drink and even when they could go to the bathroom. They were not allowed to talk in fear that the immigration officials would know that they were from another country. They finally approached the river they were to use to cross the border. At the river, there was a body lying at the side of the river, where a man trying to cross the border had been killed. The people all ignored the site concentrating on the patrol van. At the border they waited and waited for the opportunity to cross, to hear Uncle Mundo shout the words run. Finally it came three hours later and they ran for their lives. They had reached the United States.

Yamileth was told that life in the United States was not as easy as she thought. Also that her belief that she would work for a little bit and then return to Nicaragua quickly was not right either. Her brother informed her that it was going to be difficult in the United States, not as easy as she was thinking. She disregarded these statements stating that she would be back soon. When Yamileth arrived in Los Angeles it was when jobs were scarce. The job that Leticia said that Yamileth would be able to get had vanished. She arrived expecting Los Angeles to be full of opportunities, but instead found the opposite.

Yamileth could not escape the fighting around her. It was either the Revolution occurring in Nicaragua or the gang activity in Los Angeles. When they left the Los Angeles apartment they left in fear, having to confront the gangs. The schools had the parents talk to the children about gangs and showed them the different colors of the gangs when they shopped for clothing for their children. The street their apartment was on had been blocked off because the gangs were so bad. That was one of the main reasons that Yamileth had for wanting to return to Nicaragua. Also for the fact the food that was scarce in Nicaragua was extinct to them in the United States. And the money that was earned by Leticia was spent right away and not saved. Therefore they were buying food everyday and everyday the prices of that food were rising.

Yamileth spent some time looking for work in Los Angeles but was unsuccessful. Hart sent Yamileth and Miguel two train tickets to Oregon. They were excited about the opportunity to get out of Los Angeles and find work. She was provided with room, board and pay in exchange for housekeeping and childcare. She came to love the job. Her employers treated her well and the work was not hard. She stayed with the family for quite some time. Leticia had told Yamileth that there was a job waiting for her that paid much more money then she was making. Yamileth decided that she was going to leave Oregon and return to Los Angeles. When she returned, there was no job waiting for her, Leticia had lied so Yamileth would take care of her children. Yamileth again had no job and no money. She regretted leaving Oregon and wanted to return, but was ashamed that the family that was so gracious to take them in would look down on her since her own sister had lied to her.

The schools, where the children were enrolled, were all different, spread amongst the city. The children, especially Miguel, had problems since the lessons were conducted in Spanish. Yamileth critiqued Los Angeles schools comparing them to the schools in Nicaragua. She acknowledges that the schools in Nicaragua are not necessarily better since they do not have chalk and there consists a problem with teachers. She does state that Mathematics is behind and taught differently in Los Angeles. The reading does not demand much since the children are not required to explain what they read. Miguel was learning things in the fifth grade that he had learned in the third grade in Nicaragua. She was upset that the education did not demand much out of the children. The homework that Miguel turned in, he did not understand nor did the teacher, was given a passing grade regardless. The problem that I have with this is that the schools took the child disregarding the fact that he was an illegal immigrant. They school gave the children food, because they understood that the family had no money. Yamileth did understand that and acknowledges the issue, but still makes the statement that the schools are bad. I do not think by any means that our schools are perfect, but she made the choice to come to the United States. I understand the desire to make more money and for political freedom, but at the beginning she loved Nicaragua and did not want to be gone for a long period of time.

Yamileth ended up leaving Los Angeles and returned to Nicaragua. She came back for a six-month stay as a legal immigrant, but when that ran out she stayed illegally. I think that the United States should give immigrants more of a chance to make it. The United States health care benefits are not given to any immigrants, legal or illegal. The jobs that are provided for them are in treacherous conditions. Granted they do not have to take these jobs, but if they do not there family will starve. I am not condoning the argument that people were not forced to come to this country and if they do not like it they can leave, but that is easy to say when the people with these statements live in a free country. I do not think that illegal immigrants have a right to be in the country. I think steps should be taken to make the process of making immigrants legal become easier and faster. I think that legal immigrants should not be allowed to stay for the fact that it is breaking the law for them to be in the United States. There is a reason that we have these laws. 

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Date: Wed, 03 May 2000 20:58:24 -0500
From: Molly Sutter <mlsutte@ILSTU.EDU>
Subject: Response to Jacqlyn's Undocumented in LA
Jacqlyn makes a good point when she says she does not think illegal immigrants should be allowed to stay in the US because they are breaking the law. Considering the scale on which immigration officials and naturalization officers work to help immigrants become citizens, the are doing an impressive job. I wish I better understood the naturalization process so I would know more about why they would not become citizens once they were here. A fact that must be considered in this issue is that we are all lucky to have been born in this country. Ending up in North America had nothing to do with our smarts, but is the result of toe-up luck. Because of this, I feel that the educated population (this including all of us of course) should indeed give these illegal immigrants more of a chance to make a better life for themselves as Jacqlyn suggested. Perhaps the six-month stay is not long enough to adjust to American culture, their new crappy jobs, and the educational system. On the flip side however, America does have reasons for making laws. Although some people may think that we can do much more to help these illegals out, America has a limited amount of space and resources to supply to people that break the laws. I think one part of a solution could be to encourage these immigrants to become naturalized, so they have a better understanding of freedom and democracy. With citizenship they will have the opportunity to get better jobs. From there, they need to get out of the ghettos of LA, and go anywhere else to actually make themselves a better life. Good book review. I really got a sense of what the author tried to convey and it sounds interesting. ·
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Date: Fri, 28 Apr 2000 07:27:30 -0500
From: Stephanie Budzina <snbudzi@ILSTU.EDU>
Subject: Undocumented in LA: An Immigrant's Story
Undocumented in LA: An Immigrant's Story. By Dianne Walta Hart. Wilmington, Delaware.1997, 136pp.

Reviewed by: Stephanie Budzina (snbudzi@ilstu.edu)

The American Dream. Those two words conjure up many things: escaping a war-torn country, escaping poverty and escaping unemployment. In UNDOCUMENTED IN LA: AN IMMIGRANT'S STORY, by Dianne Walta Hart, this type of dream is an illusion for one Nicaraguan family. The author met the family in 1983 while visiting Nicaragua. Hart meets up with the family again when they flee to California as undocumented immigrants.

Yamileth Lopez is a committed Sandinista, yet with no jobs in Nicaragua, she feels forced to make the long and arduous journey to the United States. Her sister persuades her with stories of the good life in America. However, when Yamileth arrives in South-central Los Angeles she finds only long hours of underpaid work and gang-filled streets. She shortly lives in Oregon as a housekeeper for a family, but her sister lures her back to LA with more lies of the good life.

Throughout the book, Yamileth claims to be an economic refugee, not a political one. This is hard to decipher because it seems that Yamileth lives in fear of breaking her Sandinista principles. For Sandinistas to abandon the cause and move to the US, they must be educating people on their cause, so Yamileth speaks to a few classes in Oregon. Yamileth always claims she has every intention of returning to Nicaragua, but after two visits to Nicaragua she claims economic hardship each time and returns to the US... quite a committed Sandinista. She is such a committed Sandinista that her first goal in the US was to buy a VCR, not give back to the cause or save money to go home.

But to save for a VCR and to send money back home to her brother, Yamileth works in sweatshops. With poor health and safety conditions Yamileth barely makes ends meet. Until, suddenly in the book she manages to borrow enough money to open a bakery. This is one problem with the book. The author gives no explanation of how Yamileth was dirt poor one moment and then decided to gamble with a loan on a bakery. The bakery ultimately fails, however the Lopez family treasures its experience. Just when the reader starts to feel empathetic towards the characters for working conditions and wages, someone opens a business out of the blue. For all the minor details in the interviews about where everyone in the family slept, the author could have included information on the immigrant lending system that seems so effortless.

However, while the reader sometimes can not decipher the family*s true economic situation, one thing is for sure: street gangs. While the Lopez family has just arrived from a country under siege for many years, they find the gang gunfire unpredictable and scarier. This speaks volumes for how bad gang crime is in South-central LA.

Another struggle for the Lopez family is education and health care for the children. The author relays the days Yamileth runs around town to get the kids in school, but fails to go further. For instance, why was one child bussed two hours away from where they lived while the other two were not? Yamileth also seems disappointed with the quality of the education her son is receiving and compares it to Nicaraguan education. She claims that while Nicaragua has fewer teachers and resources they still push the children to work hard. In the US, she claims the work is not challenging and the teachers don*t really know if her son is learning. While in Oregon, Yamileth is able to send her son to a safe school where he plays baseball. He is also doing well in school. But then, with promises of more money from her sister, she yanks her son out of school in Oregon and takes him back to the schools in South-central LA. For a Sandinista who fought for opening up education to all Nicaraguans through successful rural literacy campaigns, this action seems contradictory to her deeply-held principles.

Hart is obviously biased. She supports illegal immigrants. There are many ethical paradoxes she must deal with. For example, as much as Hart despises sweatshops, she is sad when the one Yamileth works at is closed down because it left her friend without a job. As an advocate for illegal immigrants myself, I felt Hart did not provide a strong defense for illegal immigrants. Her analysis was incomplete, perhaps preparing the reader for a third book about the family (the first being THANKS TO GOD AND THE REVOLUTION: THE ORAL HISTORY OF A NICARAGUAN FAMILY). Its as if Hart really wants to believe that Yamileth is here for political reasons and wants to return to Nicaragua. Towards the end of the book, the children start to assimilate so going back to Nicaragua would not even be appealing to them anymore. They are too used to the material comforts of the US, no matter that they had to work 16-hour days to purchase them.

A final point of interest in the book revolved around the Rodney King riots. The Lopez family was holed up in their house for days during the rioting, in fear of their lives. Looking white in South-central LA was a dangerous thing after the verdict came in and some members of the Lopez family looked quite white. More interesting, though, was that all the major media outlets focused solely on the MAJORITY African American population of South-central LA, when the real majority had become Latinos. Most reports were absent of Latinos. Latinos rioted, also and Yamileth was very ashamed. She felt tied to them through her ethnicity and wondered why they had to steal in the US.

This book attempted to serve as a human interest story and to put a face on illegal immigrants. Unfortunately, in its incompleteness it did not serve its purpose and reinforced some stereotypes of illegal immigrants. This book is recommended for light reading, but must be supplemented with more in-depth material on the plight of illegal immigrants. ·

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Date: Tue, 02 May 2000 12:24:05 -0400 (EDT)
From: Adam Kinzinger <AKnznger@AOL.COM>
Subject: Response to Review of Undocumented: Stephanie
Stephanie provided an great review of UNDOCUMENTED IN LA, pointing out inconsistencies in the authors reasoning, and the emotion involved in the writing. It appears as if the book is centered on the fact that this poor lady was forced (forced?) to come to the United States to make her life respectable, yet complains that it is not what she expected.

Perhaps the author is trying to garner our sympathy for the plight of this illegal immigrant, but folks; it did not work in my case. Do I take this stand on the sole basis that she is illegal? Nope. I think it is important to realize that her first purchase was a VCR, A WHAT? I did not realize that to achieve the American dream, one must obtain a VCR. If her first desire included a purchase of milk, or clothing for her children, then I would have had a different view. But if it takes working in a sweatshop to buy a VCR, so be it. My family is fairly well off, and we just got a VCR eight years ago.

I believe in the free market principle, people are going to choose what is best for them: this lady chose to return to the U.S. after going back home. When forced to compare the two the choice was clear, so she needs to quit complaining because she made her decision. Do I have sympathy for illegals? Absolutely, and I have much respect for those that accept their plight and work hard to get out of it. It may take a few generations to work out of the ghetto (I am sure it took my forefathers a long and difficult time), but the benefits can then be passed on from generation to generation. One cannot expect to live in Inverness after a year or two-unless of course you work in computers!

The inconsistencies show the author's blinded arguments based largely on emotion. If emotion dictated public policy, we would all have candy and happy time, while the evil dictators of the world took advantage of our kindness.

Great Review Stephanie.

Adam D. Kinzinger ·

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Date: Tue, 02 May 2000 12:24:42 -0400 (EDT)
From: Adam Kinzinger <AKnznger@AOL.COM>
Subject: Follow up to thoughts on immigration.
Mollie,

Of course you expected to hear from me, didn't you?

You made a number of well taken points in your comment on immigration. I appreciate your arguments. I want you to consider a few responses to your points, however.

First of all, you mentioned that we should be more tolerant, especially during this period of economic prosperity. This would be a tolerable suggestion, if their citizenship came with a clause that stated "In case of economic downturn, ship back." Of course that is ridiculous, but remember, economic downturns are inevitable, so where does that leave us?

You also mentioned that there would be a larger tax base if they could stay. First of all, I would argue that they do not generate as much in tax as they consume. If they do however, a larger tax base does not mean more tax benefits, because the government takes on that much more responsibility. If we annexed Mexico, our budget could double, but we would not get double the benefits.

It was also mentioned that the US does not help on many occasions. First of all, I would argue that the United States helps other nations and people repeatedly, think Kosovo. However, is it really our obligation to save the world, and should we do it at the expense of our own people?

Remember, resources are limited, so is space. The more immigrants that come here, the less of both we have. Does the US over-consume? Yep. Am I (or the rest of the nation) willing to give that up? No. What does strain on American's personal lives equal? Civil violence.

We are not the world's savior, I think we better leave that one to Jesus.

Otherwise, good analysis Mollie.

Adam Kinzinger ·

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