Valeria Luiselli, author of this year’s VCU common book “Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay In Forty Questions,” spoke about the struggles faced by migrant children who make the dangerous trek from Central America to the United States at a Nov. 14 event sponsored by the University College.
In Tell Me How It Ends, Luiselli touches on the challenges faced by children who make the arduous trek from Central American countries as they attempt immigrate to the U.S. Luiselli wrote the book after working as an interpreter for a law firm that helped migrant children in their cases for asylum here in the U.S.
“It is not easy to talk about immigration, especially in such a politically charged environment like the one we have today,” Luiselli said. “Immigration is one of the controversial subjects there is, and one of the most present in our everyday discussions, yet there is also a lot of misconceptions and misunderstandings.”
Luiselli then described that — because of fear-mongering tactics used by media personalities and politicians, most notably President Trump — people are fed the idea of immigration being a larger problem than it really is. She highlighted this by pointing to the 2018 midterm elections, during which there was constant sensationalism surrounding the Honduras-based Migrant caravan.
Immigrants to the U.S. only make up an estimated 13 percent of the total population.
“I was surprised by some of the facts of the immigration issue that [Luiselli] said,” Lynea Gregory, a freshman attending the event said. “My jaw hit the floor when I heard the figure of how many immigrants live here, because every time you hear something about immigration, you hear that there is an invasion and that does not seem to be true.”
Luiselli said, if she had to write her book in 2018 as opposed to 2014, her focus would still be on the children she helped. However, there would be one monumental addition to this already gut-wrenching story: the connection between immigration and mass incarceration.
“Immigration jails and immigration detention has not yet been conceived as another part of that huge industrial prison complex in the mind of the public,” Luiselli said. “There is one company in particular that has a pseudo-monopoly on the many private immigration detention centers and jail, and that corporation is CoreCivic.”
CoreCivic, formerly known as Corrections Corporation of America, has full ownership of 65 percent of the immigration detention facilities utilized by the U.S. government. For each immigrant that is detained in one of the facilities, CoreCivic receives up to 120 dollars a day of government funding.
“I think that there needs to something done to curb the influence of companies like CoreCivic and others that contribute to the prison industrial complex, and it was interesting how [Luiselli] drew parallels between the Gestapo and how ICE operates,” said Marjorie Ladas, a student attending the event.
After speaking, Luiselli answered questions, and then spent time signing autographs and talking one-on-one with interested students.