Thursday, July 17, 2014
As dramas along our borders are once again spotlighted by our media and social networks, books like Amor and Exile: True Stories of Love Across America’s Borders by Nathaniel Hoffman and Nicole Salgado offer critical insights into the lives of those who are impacted daily by our very complex immigration system.
Described as a mash-up of a work written by a journalist (Hoffman, who writes extensively on immigration and politics) and one of his sources (Salgado, an ecologist, teacher, and artist), Amor and Exile presents an impressive collection of narratives that shed light on how thousands of Americans and their undocumented immigrant loved ones struggle to keep their relationships—and often their families—intact. The fact that many such relationships endure despite what often turns out to be seemingly insurmountable obstacles reveals not only the determination of the people involved, but the depth of the love they have for one another.
In Hoffman’s first chapter, “Love in the Time of Deportation,” Nicole and her husband, Margo, are introduced along with a number of other couples whose relationships cross borders that include (but often aren’t limited to) nationality. Nicole then begins to describe what she and Margo endured through the years that ultimately led to her current exile in Mexico with her husband and daughter, despite the fact that she is an American citizen.
All the stories in this book reveal the stress and struggles faced by loved ones of undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. Fear of never seeing a spouse or parent seems to be woven into the fabric of many of these families’ lives. As Hoffman puts it, there is a “world within America” that most of us do not know exists, an America with its own system of courts and laws that gives Americans with very personal ties to undocumented immigrants little, if any, guidance. In this world the spouses and children of undocumented immigrants “wait quietly in the shadows, unsure how their country expects them to proceed, stuck in that limbo between love of family and respect for the nation’s laws, torn between doing what’s right and doing what’s right.”
An experienced international traveler and activist who was no stranger to sleeping “on dirt floors, in hammocks and in sleeping bags out in the open,” Nicole admits that after a short time the novelty of life in Mexico quickly began to wear off for her. “But I didn’t want to go home,” she writes, “especially after all we’d done to get here. Especially in light of the fact that Margo couldn’t come back with me.”
Amor and Exile effectively contributes to the ongoing discussion of U.S. immigration issues while it also reveals how related—and often very personal and painful—dramas play out across the country, usually far from any border. It’s an important read for anyone interested in fully understanding the impact of our country’s immigration policies on everyone involved.