Unit 1 Destination Discussion Arizona/Mexico

Advance Reading: Members of the group should read the Preface, Introduction, and Chapters One and Two of Undocumented by Aviva Chomsky.


Please have someone from your group read aloud this quotation from Chapter Two:

“Among the undocumented Mayans of Providence, Rhode Island, [anthropologist] Patricia Foxen found a very different conception than what most citizens understand about illegality. Rather than imagining themselves as autonomous individuals making a decision to break the law, they […] understood their migration as a requirement imposed upon them by outsiders, which they have no right or opportunity to question. […] The coyotes that offer to take them across the border may be considered smugglers under US law, but to the Mayans Foxen studied, they were no different from the labor contractors who had been forcibly recruiting them—legally—for generations. Instead of going to the Pacific coast to work on plantations, now they were being sent to la costa del Norte to work in jewelry factories.”

In what ways did this passage and others challenge, alter, or reaffirm your previous understanding of the reasons people migrate to the United States?

Much of our national discussion about immigration assumes that people coming into the U.S. are doing so from “outside,” and have no prior relationship to the United States. In what ways does Chomsky’s argument upset this narrative? (It might be useful to think back to Pamela Brubaker’s essay as well.)

  • What are the preexisting relationships that people emigrating from Mexico or Central America might have to the United States? In what ways has U.S. policy already affected these people’s lives, long before they migrate here?
  • What are some of the many meanings we could attach to the line: “we didn’t cross the border; the border crossed us”?
  • Within the sphere of your own life and community, do you know personally (or have knowledge of) people whose stories might be similar to those of the Mayans in Providence?
  • What questions did this week’s reading elevate for you, when you think about the current impasse on immigration reform in our country?


Print Friendly, PDF & Email