The Distances Between Us—Turning the Story and System Upside Down

The Distances Between Us—Turning the Story and System Upside Down


Institution Affiliation

The Distances Between Us—Turning the Story and System Upside Down

Undocumented Immigration

I can trace my family’s journey to the United States back to the late 1960s. My grandparents had the idea of an American Dream before other immigrants caught wind of it. Just like the cliché immigration story, my grandparents came to America hiding in the back of a van that was ferrying some kind of groceries. As my aunt Lupe puts it…” you had to sit on a crate and place your legs against those adjacent so that they do not roll and crush your knees.” My grandparents had one child by then, of course my Aunt Lupe. My father was born in Texas early 1970, nobody is sure about the exact date, there was more to worry about at the time than to keep record of such an important event. Their bravery and sacrifice is the reason why I was born in the United States and a citizen by this right. My family came from San Antonino Castillo Velasco village in Oaxaca de Juárez, a city in the state of Oaxaca. It was here that my grandfather and grandmother got introduced by their parents and got married. This is as far as I can trace the origin of my family. In America and for my siblings and me our grandparents are the highest on the family tree. There is no one beyond that according to our knowledge although we have heard stories of great grandparents and so on but having not seen them to some extent makes them irrelevant.

The issue of undocumented immigration is something I think about on a daily basis, even if it was not because my people used the same route, the media won’t let me forget. I perceive the country’s reaction to this issue as hypocritical because it was built by immigrants and for the general majority I sense ignorance. I have interest in the issue of undocumented immigration and thus significantly well versed in it by my own standards. My stand remains that the approach to the irregular immigration issue is unwarranted and violates human rights and undermines the democracy the United States passionately boasts of.

The majoritarian story or perception silences (mutes) and considers irrelevant (moots) the voices that matter. In influencing platforms such as school and research, the lived experience of immigrants is minimized, the salience of race is denied. The creators of A Better Life tell the story of undocumented kitchen workers, marginal laborers, and Mexican rodeos and gangs that make the economy of Los Angeles. The story of Ramon the truck thief creates a better understanding of what creates the undocumented people joining gangs and stealing to make ends meet. Ramon is not a bad person but rather a desperate one. Immigrants have the burden of working for money to send back to people left back home.

Watching A Better Life brings to life the effect of anti-immigrants pundits, enforcement crackdowns and a discriminatory education system on undocumented immigrants. The effect has been to instill the fear of deportation among immigrants as indicated by Galindo’s reaction to purchasing Blasco’s truck. The fear of deportation subjects undocumented immigrants to vulnerability to exploitation. Galindo is willing to forego the American dream and continue working manual labor lest he gets deported. In addition, the integration of undocumented immigrants and their children into the American society is faced with obstacles with adult immigrants remaining on the margins of society. Their U.S. –born children are introduced to low education levels in addition to racial discrimination similar to what native-born minorities face.

After reading The Distances Between Us, the first thought is that of a family that escapes their home to find a better life. Most immigrants come to the United States with certainty that everything will work out in a short while. Reyna Grande illustrates this case clearly as he discusses papi’s belief that he would be able to earn enough money for a better life for his family in America in a short while (Grande, 2013). What follows is frustration as things do not turn out as he wishes. Reyna’s mother will have to accompany her father and pull forces to secure his dream. Reyna Grande illustrates the pain children of immigrants experience as their parents leave to find better lives for them. Through sacrifice and bravery, the children of immigrants get to be born Americans or get opportunities they would otherwise not have back in their homeland. If anti-immigrants considered this motivation and compare to what they do on a daily basis to provide for their families they would be more tolerant.

The Distances Between Us with its emotional tone disputes the popular notion that immigration is criminality. Illegal immigration is illegal but not criminal from the perspective of a person who cares for the struggles of a person with a family just like theirs. With the way Evila treats Reyna Grande and her siblings, the reader wishes that papi and mami succeed and pulls them out of there. When one reads the news or encounters headlines and debates against immigration and rage directed towards it you cannot help but fear for the people in those situations. You feel afraid for children in the same situation as Reyna and her siblings. The biggest mistake with the people that put a dark cloud on immigration is focusing on the endless arguments and unending news stories rather than looking at it as a human issue. In the distance between us, Reyna Grande gives an account of a human issue affecting actual people, an issue that is dismantling lives.

In the end, Reyna gets a piece of the American dream. She becomes the first in her family to attend and graduate college. He goes on to become a teacher having been inspired by her teacher- Diana. She hopes to become like her and inspire people as she did her. In her teaching experience with immigrant children, she realizes that they suffered the same fate as her, at one point in their lives they have had to spend time away from their parents. In the end as Papi, lies on his death bed, she is unable to deny the dying man a brief reprieve from her judgment. Her experiences combine to allow her to see the man as being imperfect, but a hero whose goal was to give his children a better life than he had.

After reading The Distances Between Us and watching A Better Life, one can help but admire the spirit and pluck of the immigrants to seek new lives in a place where there are more opportunities. Risking everything to change the narrative from a point where they have always had nothing to lose. People who work tough physically demanding jobs to send money back home to families left there. A group that brings new and fresh energy and vitality into host communities. As much as they use dubious and illegal ways they are everyday heroes as Sekuta Meta illustrates in his book This Land is Our Land (Meta, 2019). The story in The Distance Between Us, A Better Life and The Circuit rejuvenates the image of undocumented immigrants in a time when manipulators like President Donald Trump and Viktor Orban the Hungarian prime minister are politicizing their plight for personal gain. Having read The Distance Between US, The Circuit and watched A Better Life the images that have become common of children being separated from their parents sinks even deeper and is more heartbreaking. However, the egalitarian rhetoric of integration, inclusion, and opportunity has been unable to stand against the Republican idea of sovereignty and calls for a stronger border.

However, these stories and the image they create about immigrants do not sufficiently shorten the distances between us in an era where print has been overshadowed by the internet and electronic information transfer. People also tend to believe and are easily rallied by what is said on social media, what can be found on search engines and what popular people say. For this reason, the use of empirical data and deep-seated historical analysis is more effective. For instance, the economic impact of the immigrant population is quite significant. According to the CAP immigration team (2017), immigrants contributed $2 trillion to the United States growth domestic product in the year 2016. Although this number was mostly from immigrants flooding the labor force particularly blue-collar jobs, they also boosted the country’s productivity through innovation and entrepreneurship contrary to popular belief. By the year 2010, immigrants and immigrant children born in the country founded about 50 percent of fortune 500 companies (CAP Immigration Team, 2017). Looking at this fiscal data, immigration is positive to the country’s economy rather than negative and this is the kind of voice that is muted and rendered irrelevant.

Another issue is the common complaint that immigrants steal jobs from the natives. Empirical data to the contrary exist which suggests that immigrants do not compete with but instead complement the Native American workers, especially those that are lesser-skilled. Immigrant and U.S.-born workers have different skill sets regardless of similarity in educational backgrounds and for this reason tend to work in different industries (Carnegie, n.d.). Immigrants complement the skill sets of native resulting in their enhanced productivity. Another thing contrary to the propaganda of anti-immigrants, immigration impacted positively on the wages of individuals born in the U. S. increasing it by 0.4 percent each week. According to Heidi Shierholz, immigrants created this effect through the consumption of goods and services consequently creating jobs for both groups (CAP Immigration Team, 2017).

Talking of the United States activities in Latin America creates a better genesis to the whole immigration issue. At the precincts of the conventional expansive stalemate over this issue lies over a hundred years of historical U.S. interventions, that those against immigration and the government are not open to discussing. The U.S. has cut deep wounds through Latin America since Theodore Roosevelt’s declaration of the United States’ right to exercise an “international law and order” leaving scars that will define the region for generations. This history of intervention cannot be separated from the existing Central American crisis of internal and external displacement and migration. For over a century, the United States has orchestrated military coups, neoliberal draining of resources, and commercial predatory that has left Latin America lost in poverty, violence, and instability that drive people from their homes.

Pundits are not willing to discuss how America has undermined democracy and stability in Latin America through military and economic interventions resulting in vacuums that create operating grounds for drug cartels and guerilla alliances. In less than two decades, CAFTA-DR – an agreement between the United States, the Dominican Republic and five other Central American Countries for free trade – has restructured the region’s economy to rely on the United States through unimaginable trade imbalances and the invasion by American agricultural and industrial products undermining local industries (Tseng-Putterman, 2018). Nonetheless, there is no significant connection drawn between the flagging of Central American rural agricultural markets by CAFTA and increased relocation from this region in the years since. In simple terms, the United States does not take any responsibility for the conditions that result in Central Americans migrating into the country.

There definitely are ways to fix the immigration problem beyond building walls, separating families and barely getting by. One way is enhancing legal migration. Giving people the hope of gaining entry into America pursuant to law is an effective way of reducing irregular immigration. In areas that the United States experience labor shortages, they can issue work visas. These are the areas that by far Americans are not signing creating gaps. Regular migration will help control organized crime that is being bolstered by people sneaking into the country. Lawful migration creates a win-win situation in the sense that it allows for proper security assessment.

The other solution is to assimilate immigrants. Assimilation should come in the form of training in basics such as the English language and civics. Helping immigrants learn the primary language of the country betters their chances for success. Acting against reverse assimilation is another way of reducing the tension between U.S. born individuals and immigrants due to fear of cultural diffusion. The American system for some time has been teaching anti-Americanism, which has allowed other cultures to come in and displace the native culture. The creation of institutions that help immigrants assimilate is for their own good because anti-Americanism harms immigrants by keeping them from embracing the host culture.

In conclusion, the system is biased, uncaring and does not guarantee the rights of individuals as it should. The main problem lies in the exclusion of the people that are directly affected by the immigration debate during the creation of policies and regulations. The country needs to take responsibility for its contribution to this problem and take on the weight as appropriate. It is time to give voice to people like Reyna Grande who experience the problem first hand. It is time to be aware of the problems of the people whose intricate stories have been reduced to headlines.


CAP Immigration Team. (2017, April 20). The Facts on Immigration Today: 2017 Edition. Retrieved from

Carnegie. (n.d.). America’s Story: An Immigrant Story. Retrieved from!/

Meta, S. (2019). This Land Is Our Land: An Immigrant’s Manifesto (1st ed.). New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Grande, R. (2013). The Distance Between Us: A Memoir (1st ed.). Washington, WA: Washington Square Press.

Tseng-Putterman, M. (2018, June 28). A Century of U.S. Intervention Created the Immigration Crisis. Retrieved from