Friday, July 19, 2024

Echoes from the Wall: Real Stories of Mexican Migrants

BLC EDITOR’S NOTE: Even though I am personally acquainted with the author of this book, as a longtime US daily newspaper editor and reporter, I fully expected to read Echoes from the Wall with typical casual objectivity, detachment and scrutiny of the book’s supporting research. As expected, I did discover impeccable documentation, paired with the stories of real people. What I hadn’t expected was the emotional depths to which I was moved by this unforgettable book, being alternately inspired and infuriated. I offer my highest recommendation of Echoes from the Wall as an eye-opening must-read, deserving of the full review below, written by prominent Guadalajara historian Dr. Michael Hogan.

Echoes from the Wall, Real Stories of Mexican Migrants, a book by Judy King, with co-author/contributors Tony Burton, Arturo Garcia, and Richard Rhoda. Available in various formats through Amazon (US and Mexico), rated 5.0 out of 5 stars.

Reviewed by: Dr. Michael Hogan

For those on both sides of the growing divide regarding immigration, border walls, and US-Mexican policies, this book by Judy King is a refreshing and valuable addition.

While it recounts many poignant interviews of migrants’ trials and sufferings, as well of stories US Army veterans deported and students deprived of deserved opportunities, it is never argumentative and never one-sided. It is a balanced and clear-headed look at the problems confronting us today which for decades have been obfuscated by the self-interest of certain agencies and corporations and manipulated by politicians willing to distort the facts to win elections.

King provides the reader with an in-depth study of Mexican migration from 1840s when the US took half of Mexico’s territory though military force, through WW I when the US invited Mexican workers to the US to replace soldiers going off to war, through the mass deportations of the Depression era, then the Bracero Movement when again they were invited to work during WWII, then the return to seasonal crossings in the Eisenhower and Kennedy days, and from there to the evolution of the Draconian system in place today.

King’s consummate skill as an interviewer give the reader a bird’s eye view of the very real danger of border crossings in recent times with a chilling assessment of the deaths incurred by those seeking a better life. Even more troubling, she recounts the stories of US citizens arrested for merely providing water in the desert to those who were in danger of death by exposure and dehydration.

But this is not simply a collection of stories about undocumented migrants, or an overview of the border wall, or the historical changes, or even the loss of life (which is so underreported in the press), or even the abuse of children in detention centers. It is also the story of corporate greed and the ostensibly legal but clearly immoral collusion between lawmakers and prison-for-profit corporations to create crimes where none existed before and build hundreds of detention centers throughout the United States.

For most of the 20th century, the US Border Patrol processed and then deported undocumented migrants within hours. However, within the past two decades the American Legislative Council, a conservative action group began writing draft legislation criminalizing these migrants (changing the terminology from “undocumented” to “illegal”) and submitting their proposals to ambitious conservative legislators.

In cooperation with the Corrections Corporation of America (now Core Civic Inc.) and the GEO Group, the two major prison management corporations, these legislators garnered enough votes to not only criminalize the migrants but to build a myriad of new prisons (euphemistically called “detention centers”) to incarcerate them. Now there are a dozen of such corporations throughout the US working with budget of over $4 billion and incarcerating over 40,000 immigrants at any given time.

The US now holds the dubious distinction of being the country with the largest number of people incarcerated in its prison system per capita with over 2,500,000 in prison, jails and detention centers, and at least 700,000 yet to be convicted of any real crime. More than 14,000 of these are children living under deplorable conditions due to overcrowding, reduced staff, and marginal medical facilities, due to cost-saving cutbacks by these profit-oriented management groups. Over 170 of those being held have since died in custody.

A bonus addition to this insightful book are three chapters by experts in their field. Arturo Garcia, a well-known Mexican-American artist and activist discusses what happens to US-naturalized children when one of their parents are deported. Meanwhile, Tony Burton, a Mexican specialist shows not only the pointlessness of a border wall but also the negative impact it would have on migrating wildlife and on indigenous Tohono O’odham people who live in the region. Finally, Richard Rhoda, an academic, provides the reader with a wealth of useful statistics including the fact that Mexican immigration to the US between 2009 and 2014 was a negative 130,000 when a million returned to Mexico compared to 870,000 moving to the US.

In this artfully portrayed collection of stories, statistics, investigative reports, history and anecdotes, the reader is introduced to the complexities and nuances of this broken system. King challenges old assumptions and provides a fresh take on the immigration debate. In addition, she provides a Frequently Asked Questions section at the end along with a glossary of terms, and a list of books for further reading.

Judy King’s Echoes from the Wall should grace the bookshelf of every concerned citizen on both sides of the border.

About Judy King:

In 1990, Judy King moved to Mexico, a country that sparked her passion for life and adventure.

Over the decades, as her familiarity with the practical details of life grew, so did her desire to help expats moving to Mexico to shorten their learning curve. To this end, Judy has written hundreds of go-to, tell-it-like-it-is articles that have appeared in newspapers, magazines, books or blogs. Among these were 12 years of her e-zine, Mexico Insights, and her first book, Living at Lake Chapala.

Judy King lives in Ajijic with two rescue dogs where she continues to study, research and write. Her latest obsessions are quilting and playing the ukulele

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About the Reviewer: Dr. Michael Hogan

MICHAEL HOGAN is the author of twenty-six books including the Irish Soldiers of Mexico which was the basis for an MGM film starring Tom Berenger and three documentaries. His work has appeared in numerous journals including the Harvard Review, the Ohio Review, American Poetry Review, New Letters, and others. He lives in Guadalajara, Mexico with the textile artist Lucinda May and their Dutch Shepherd, Lola.