Luiselli speaks to Trinity students about the immigration crisis

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Luiselli speaks to Trinity students about the immigration crisis

Valeria Luiselli is the author of a number of books that address the immigration crisis, including

Valeria Luiselli is the author of a number of books that address the immigration crisis, including "The Story of My Teeth," "Faces in the Crowd" and "Sidewalks"

Andrew Lih (User:Fuzheado) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]

Valeria Luiselli is the author of a number of books that address the immigration crisis, including "The Story of My Teeth," "Faces in the Crowd" and "Sidewalks"

Andrew Lih (User:Fuzheado) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]

Andrew Lih (User:Fuzheado) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]

Valeria Luiselli is the author of a number of books that address the immigration crisis, including "The Story of My Teeth," "Faces in the Crowd" and "Sidewalks"

Under the Obama administration, 2,000 migrant children from countries such as Mexico, El Salvador and Honduras were incarcerated for crossing the United States border. Since the start of the Trump administration, that number has increased to 14,000. Though there is commonly a wide variety of opinions on this topic, most people appear to be divided across a very solid line: either “these people are criminals” or “these people are deserving of a second chance.” Yet, most tend to ignore the children, the most vulnerable demographic within the spectrum.

On Monday March 11, several Trinity sophomores, juniors and seniors were given the opportunity to travel to the Carnegie Lecture Hall in Pittsburgh  and listen to Valeria Luiselli, a Mexican-American author, speak. Having both Hispanic heritage and having previously worked within the immigration courts of the US justice system, Luiselli has had plenty of first-hand experiences with the dangerous journey of a migrant child.

Luiselli has written several books detailing such a journey, one of which is Tell Me How it Ends, published in 2017. In the novel she addresses the various kinds of life that the children may be seeking asylum from: gang violence, death threats, sexual assault and drug trading, just to name a few. While Luiselli worked within the court system, it was her job to translate and screen the children’s stories in order to present them to a lawyer, who would, hopefully, represent the adolescent in question.

Luiselli expressed the opinion that the questions she had to ask criminalized and dehumanized the children, already assuming that they have committed some kind of illegal act simply by trying to save their own lives.

Many people today, on both sides of the line, appear to only see the situation in black and white, not taking the time to see it through the eyes of a child. Ms. Shaw, English teacher and field trip organizer/chaperone, has noticed this and how it has caused a “someone else will fix it” attitude.

“Sadly, I do not believe many United States citizens truly stop to realize the challenges and risks of those seeking a better life. We think of it as someone else’s problem, but it is a crisis that impacts our nation as a whole,” remarked Shaw.

Luiselli also discussed the media portrayal of the crisis, which typically presents the children as purely victims of the terrible tribulations the journey allows. According to her, migration is the most difficult solution to an already unfathomable situation, and yet thousands of children have chosen it over the alternative.

“Victimizing a population strips them of their identity and their agency,” explained Luiselli in the lecture, urging people  to not only think of the children as being victimized but also as attempting to better their own lives.

Alongside her job in the court system, Luiselli also taught writing classes at a university in New York, and several of her students banded together to form the Teenage Immigration Integration Agency (TIIA). TIIA provides teenage immigrants with several activities, including learning English and playing soccer.

Aid does not have to come in such an organized fashion, but even the simple act of educating oneself and garnering empathy can go a long way.

“I think it is very important that we learn, and care, about the struggles that other people or races face. We will be the ones shaping the world, so it is crucial for us to understand the problems facing it,” shares Sophomore field trip attendee Emma Malinak.

Luiselli believes that this crisis will end when the next generation (teenagers today) possess, and use, the tools necessary to tell the stories of the children who are crossing the border.. And perhaps, this need not only be from the mouths of the immigrants themselves, but also from their agemates in other cultures. Learning about another culture and “walking in their shoes” is a simple way to build empathy for the struggles of another.