Separated: Family and Community in the Aftermath of an Immigration Raid, took three years to write, three years from the day I defended the dissertation from which the book is drawn to the day I placed an advanced copy of the book on my dissertation chair’s (Barbara Israel #HumbleBrag) office door. And before the defense, it took a year of field work, which built on multiple years relationships I developed prior, all to take a deep dive into an event — an immigration raid — that happened about six years ago, in November of 2013.
So when the book was officially out, in a hard copy, made of trees, that you could hold in your hand and wave around, well, I was pretty excited.
I knew when I decided to write a book that I was making a conscious choice to write in a format that may not be ideal for my career. In our discipline, as in many, it’s largely academic articles that lead to promotion and job security, not books, and certainly not books written for a public audience. But the stories that were shared with me — often by mothers struggling to keep families together while dealing with intense trauma themselves — begged to be shared in a format that gave them room to breathe. That night in November was a night of significant violence and family separation, and a book would provide the space and time to allow a reader not only to learn about immigration enforcement, but to feel, however limitedly, what Guadalupe and Fernanda felt when their door was kicked in and the men in their lives taken from them.
But 230 or so pages later, something was still missing. The story was still incomplete. The social disaster that had occurred had been diagnosed and dissected. The data were collected and analyzed , the stories were shared, the path forward was outlined. I was proud of the way in which we collectively documented a moment of institutional violence that impacted our friends and families. But we are so much more than this moment of violence.
So, we did what any community would do. We held a book release party! With 120 or so of our closest family and friends, we celebrated who we are. We ate. We talked. We listened to some poetry. And we enjoyed our time with those we love. We celebrated full and happy lives full of vibrancy and creativity, of collaboration and innovation.
It was the best possible way to bring a book into the world that I could possibly have imagined.
My two “research assistants,” or as I call them, friends, were among those given flowers to acknowledge their enormous contribution to the work (to be clear, they were also co-authors on multiple papers, but this moment wasn’t about that) (also, my poor daughter got more experience on that mic than any ten-year-old should have 🤣).
So many lives are shaped by immigration and immigration enforcement. But at the same time, our lives are so much more than our stories of confrontation with this system. Seguimos adelante.