“The law is the law, and they’re breaking it. If I break the law, I have to pay the consequences—whatever that is. They should have to, too.”
I have to admit. I agreed.
Seated opposite us, the woman spoke with passion. “And what about loving our neighbor? What about the people who are damaged by those laws? Why are even Christians more concerned with getting rid of an inconvenience than by showing love to one another?”
Being the hypocrite I am, I also agreed with her.
Then I remembered my friend’s mother. They’d come over from Mexico when my friend was a baby. Thirty years later, both of my friend’s parents were granted citizenship, and the media was there, ready to pounce. They shoved microphones at the dear couple I love so much and asked for a statement on immigration and “the number of illegals in America.”
In her heavy Spanish accent, my friend’s mother said, “They need to do it right. They need to come here the right way.” (Psst… that woman was the inspiration for Mrs. Montoya’s Mexican food in Argosy Junction and she’s the woman who helped me when I got a crochet needle in my foot.)
Before I could tell that story and see how it affected things, the debate continued—the financial drain on our resources. A rebuttal came that I’d never heard before. “If we cut back immigration hunts to only criminals, and if we deported every criminal instead of incarcerating them, perhaps we’d have the resources we need.”
Look, I have no idea if that’s even possible, but I hadn’t thought of it before. A counter-rebuttal followed—one I expected. “The fact remains that even if they commit no other crime once they arrive, their presence here without having come through legally is evidence that they are criminals.”
And technically, he was right.
Look, I get the immigration issue.
I’ve watched it in my family, and it’s horrible. My brother was murdered by a Romanian who entered the United States illegally. He was deported and was back in the US in no time flat.
I also have a Romanian nephew by marriage. He tried to come legally and ended up in an immigration mess anyway. He was deported. To keep their family together, my niece had to pack up their children and move to Romania, far from family, to learn an unfamiliar language—to change her entire lifestyle. And she did it legally, if that matters to anyone.
Then there are the children. Whether their parents brought them here and they arrived undocumented or whether they were born here to undocumented parents, one thing is certain. They got a raw deal, and it’s not their fault.
That’s where the conversation had turned when she turned to me. “I can’t believe you haven’t said anything.”
Translation: You have an opinion on everything. Why aren’t you talking?
Until that moment, I couldn’t have articulated anything. I understood both sides of the argument. I agreed with both sides of the argument. In fact, I still do.
I told you I’m a hypocrite.
But in that moment, I figured out what to say. Because in that moment I realized how I really thought about things.
I said, “There are two separate issues here, but we’re talking about them as if there is only one. That’s the problem.”
Turning to her, I said, “As a Christian, I completely agree with you. These people are my ‘neighbors’ Jesus talks about. I am to love them, feed them, shelter them, help them. Period.”
To him, I said, “As a citizen of the United States, I agree with you. When you break the law, it is the responsibility of the government to apply whatever consequence the government has decided fits that crime.”
I believe these things. Furthermore, I don’t think these beliefs are contradictory. If I don’t like the law, I can work to help have it changed. But I cannot condemn those who want the law upheld. It is the law. And while as a Christian my responsibility is to live out Matthew 25:34-40. I feed, clothe, and take care of people as unto the Lord. Period. But as a citizen, I am to recognize that governing authorities are put there by the Lord and I must submit to that where I can.
This is one reason I am so grateful to live in the United States of America. If I don’t like where my governing authorities are taking my country, I can fight for change—legally and while not disobeying the Lord to do it. It’s part of the laws that protect me here.
To the curious: none of us changed our minds that day.
I didn’t think we would. Let’s face it, though. We rarely do. People don’t know how to debate anymore without getting offended, so I avoid controversial topics. Still, I am willing to be proven wrong, and it’s why I joined a conversation I’d usually avoid.
Not long after that, though, I heard about a book. Vivir el Dream. The cover didn’t interest me, so I didn’t read the synopsis at first. Then a discussion came up in a group I ended up in, and I went to read that synopsis. Frankly, I was on the fence.
So, with a million other books calling my name, I just left it there on the “someday” list. Then the opportunity to request a review copy came, and well, I decided maybe it was time to just read it. I filled out the form and waited. Last night, I read the book.
Note: links may be affiliate links that provide me with a small commission at no extra expense to you.
What If Living The Dream Became Your Worst Nightmare?
From the opening line to the last word, Allison Garcia writes a tale that I’ve seen over and over in my lifetime. Families torn apart—either by necessity of one parent coming to the USA to work and send home money or by deportation when someone can’t show proper documentation to be able to live and work in the US.
While a decided bias does show through the pages of Vivir el Dream, I have to applaud Ms. Garcia for showing an accurate portrayal of people on all sides. From criminals on both sides of the issue to people of character as well, she weaves lives together and creates beauty and tragedy until you can’t help but want to fight for a solution that addresses everyone’s concerns.
As much as I loved the characters and their stories, there are a few things I have to address before I can offer my recommendation.
The book contains more than just a smattering of Spanish.
Additionally, it isn’t woven in such a way that you can figure it out from context or another person’s response (although that does happen sometimes). I understand a lot more Spanish than I speak, and I found it difficult to follow most of the time.
To aid in this, Ms. Garcia has given footnotes. You’d read along, stop. Find the footnote, get the translation, search back for your place, and read some more until the next one. It wasn’t unusual to have four to six on a page.
That pulled me out of the story so much that I have to confess. If I’d not agreed to read and review—if I hadn’t requested a review copy, I would have stopped. Yes, in the end, it was worth it, but I think partly because about halfway through, I learned to read all the footnotes at the end of a page before reading a page. That made it easier to put the words in context right away.
Vivir el Dream contains more than one detailed reference to rape.
I almost didn’t move past the first. Again. I requested a review copy. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have. We all have those topics that we just can’t handle, and while I shouldn’t be surprised that this would be included, I wasn’t prepared. Ms. Garcia does not go into hyper-descriptive detail, but for some of us, it was too much. That’s my problem, not hers. But it could be someone else’s problem, too. So I mention it.
So, with all that, who do I recommend Vivir el Dream for?
People who want to understand immigration from the perspective of those who are caught in a no-win situation will enjoy this well-written, thought-provoking story of the search for that elusive “American Dream” and will see that it does sometimes become a living nightmare. My hope for this book is that, regardless of political opinion, the church will see it as a call for where to step up and be the difference.
I hear the complaint all the time. “The church should be dealing with that” in regard to things like welfare. However, the government has taken it over, and that’s when things tend to stay where they are. Well, here’s a spot we can make a difference. We can love. We can serve. For goodness’ sake, we can be that Samaritan. We can serve anyone, regardless of immigration status.
And if we don’t like the laws regarding immigration, we can work to change them. All of those are Biblical responses to a divisive issue. There’s no reason, then, that we should remain divided about those points.
It’s my opinion that it doesn’t matter if we agree with the author’s personal stance on immigration, The Dream Act, or anything else. What matters are people. And what she did best with Vivir el Dream was show us the humanity behind the statistics, the rhetoric, the politics.