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Karla Cornejo Villavicencio’s Book Captures The Anguish Of Living Undocumented And Makes Her The First Undocumented Immigrant Named A Finalist For The National Book Award

Ecuadorian-born Karla Cornejo Villavicencio immigrated to the United States when she was about four years old. She was one of the first known undocumented immigrants to graduate from Harvard and is also a Yale Ph.D candidate. While at Harvard, she wrote the Daily Beast anonymous essay “Dream Act: I’m An Illegal Immigrant at Harvard,” which expresses the war Villavicencio faced as the Dream Act failed to pass. She wrote “It would hurt to be forced to leave, but it hurts to stay the way I’m staying now. I belong to this place but I also want it to belong to me.”

About a decade later, Villavicencio is the first undocumented finalist in history named for the National Book Award on her book The Undocumented Americans.

Villavicencio always had a knack for writing. As a teenager living in the Bronx, she started out writing by reviewing jazz albums for a monthly magazine in New York City.

For years, she would read different cliche caricatures of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. and the chasing of the “American Dream.”

She always felt that she could do much better to tell these raw stories but didn’t really know how. It wasn’t until Trump was elected to the presidency, that Villavicencio knew it was time to tell the story in her own words. “I just never felt like I had a fire in my belly until the night of the election.

As a DACA student herself, Villavicencio set out across the country to interview and tell the stories of undocumented immigrants like never before. To give names to the nameless laborers and tokenized pawns and rather report on the provocative heartbreak, love, insanity, and at times-vulgarity infused into the everyday plight of undocumented immigrants. She describes these accounts as complex, unscripted, and “don’t inspire hashtags or T-shirts.” She goes on to say in the introduction of the book that “This book is for everybody who wants to step away from the buzzwords in immigration, the talking heads, the kids in graduation caps and gowns, and read about the people underground,” she writes. “Not heroes. Randoms. People. Characters.”

Mixed in with accounts that reflect her own biography and memoir also include Latino literature styles of writing such as magical realism, streams-of-consciousness, and testimonio.

The book is dedicated to Claudia Gomez Gonzalez, an undocumented immigrant and nurse-hopeful killed by a border patrol agent in 2018. The Undocumented Americans takes the reader throughout the nation. To the undocumented workers recruited to clean up New York City after 9/11 and some of the undocumented people’s deaths from this community shortly after. To the curanderas and healers in Miami who create medicinal herbs since their citizenship status blocks them from healthcare. To the immigrants denied clean water in Flint, Michigan because they do not have a state ID. To the childless teenagers in Connecticut who’s parents are in sanctuary. To the Staten Island where undocumented day laborer Ubaldo Cruz Martinez drowned during Hurricane Sandy. To the startling amount of undocumented Black and Brown people dying from COVID-19 more than any other groups.

Throughout these interviews and stories, Villavicencio interweaves her own personal stories of the battles she faced mentally and externally in the face of her undocumented status and intergenerational trauma.

Villavicencio paints an incredibly raw and vulnerable picture of her mental anguish and Borderline Personality Disorder in complexities and nuances of her life as an undocumented immigrant chasing what society has deemed the “American Dream.” She grappled with this dream narrative for children of immigrants which she says is like “kid, you graduated, now you can pay your parents back—actually, you’re 21, and your parents are going to keep aging out of manual labor, and you might lose DACA, and you might not be able to pay them back.” After she graduated Harvard as a “good immigrant,” she said that instead, “I was on so many antipsychotics that I forgot how to go down stairs.”

Villavicencio now has a green card. Described as “captivating and evocative” by New York Times and the “book we’ve been waiting for,” by author Robert G. Gonzalez, Villavicencio hopes this book will give undocumented immigrants a voice they’ve never had before. She even said “I’ve had my DMs flooded with children of immigrants, DACA kids, kids who are not on DACA, older immigrants whose parents came here as adults, all these people saying, “I didn’t know I was allowed to feel this way.” Her book is available for purchase anywhere.

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President Biden Introduces Legislation To Create Pathway To Citizenship For 11 Million Undocumented People

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President Biden Introduces Legislation To Create Pathway To Citizenship For 11 Million Undocumented People

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President Joe Biden promised that he would introduce legislation to create a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented people. The president has followed through with the promise and all eyes are on the government as millions wait to see what happens next.

President Joe Biden has been busy the first couple of weeks of his presidency.

President Biden is proposing a pathway to citizenship that millions of people in the U.S. have been asking for. There are around 11 million people who are undocumented in the U.S. The pathway to citizenship will take time, according to the legislation, but some people will have time shaved off of their pathway, including Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) beneficiaries, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders, and farm workers who have worked throughout the pandemic.

The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 is designed to change the immigration system that has created a backlog of immigration cases. There are multiple steps in the proposed legislation starting with creating a pathway to citizenship. Those who would benefit from the bill are people who are physically in the U.S. by January 2, 2021.

First, the bill allows for people to apply for temporary legal status. After five years, and if the person passes a criminal and national security background check, they can apply for a green card. Three years after that, people who pass further background checks and demonstrate a knowledge of English and civics can apply for citizenship.

A line in the bill aims to help people deported during the previous administration.

“The Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) may waive the presence requirement for those deported on or after January 20, 2017, who were physically present for at least three years prior to removal for family unity and other humanitarian purposes,” reads the proposed legislation.

The bill also wants to change the word “alien” to “noncitizen” in immigration laws to embrace the country’s stance as a country of immigrants.

The legislation has been introduced and now immigration activists are waiting to see it happen.

The legislation tackles several issues that have plagued the immigration system in the U.S. The bill proposes increasing visa limits for certain countries, keeping families together, removing discrimination against LGBTQ+ families, and so many other initiatives to start reforming the immigration system.

President Biden has been offering executive orders that are in the same vein as the bill. Many have aimed as fixing issues that were created by the previous administration and the president is not hiding from it.

“There’s a lot of talk, with good reason, about the number of executive orders I’ve signed. I’m not making new law. I’m eliminating bad policy,” Biden told reporters in the Oval Office while signing executive orders. “What I’m doing is taking on the issues that, 99 percent of them, that the last president of the United States issued executive orders I thought were counterproductive to our national security, counterproductive to who we are as a country. Particularly in the area of immigration.”

The undocumented population peaked in 2007 at 12.2 million and has declined since then. There are at least 4.4 million people in the U.S. with at least one undocumented parent, according to the Migration Policy Institute.

READ: President Joe Biden Signs Executive Order To Preserve DACA

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Democratic Senators Introduce Legislation to Grant Venezuelan Migrants Temporary Protected Status, Prevent Deportation

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Democratic Senators Introduce Legislation to Grant Venezuelan Migrants Temporary Protected Status, Prevent Deportation

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After years of living in a state of uncertainty about their future, Venezuelan refugees in the U.S. might finally be granted long-term protection by the U.S. government.

On Monday, Democratic senators took the official steps towards granting Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Venezuelan migrants in the U.S.

A similar resolution passed in the House in 2019, but was blocked by Republicans in the senate.

This time if passed, TPS could protect 200,000 Venezuelan citizens currently in the U.S, according to estimates from the Congressional Budget Office.

Although former President Trump issued a Deferred Enforced Departure decree (DED) on his final day in office, critics and immigration experts alike argue that this action didn’t go far enough.

“After four years of empty promises and deceit, nobody believes Donald Trump had an epiphany on his last day in office and decided to protect the hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans he was forcing into the shadows,” said New Jersey Democratic Senator Bob Menendez in a statement.

Indeed, Trump DED order only delayed deportation of undocumented Venezuelans for up to 18 months. But TPS would grant Venezuelan refugees protected status.

“TPS is an immigration status that can lead to a green card under President Joe Biden’s immigration proposal,” Miami-based immigration lawyer Laura Jimenez told NBC News.

“TPS is based in statute and is a legal immigration status, as opposed to Deferred Enforced Departure,” Menendez, who was born in New York City to Cuban immigrants, said. “That is why we are relaunching our campaign to actually stand with those fleeing the misery caused by the Maduro regime.”

Throughout his campaign, President Biden promised he would extend Temporary Protected Status to Venezuelan refugees, so now the refugee community wants to see him act on that promise.

Venezuela’s economy collapsed under the repressive regime of Nicolás Maduro, shrinking by approximately 64%.

Not only are there widespread food shortages and massive inflation, but Maduro’s critics are being jailed and silenced by other nefarious means.

Because of all this, the South American country facing what Bloomberg calls “a refugee crisis of unprecedented proportions.” As of now, some 5.4 million Venezuelans are in exile, with 600 more leaving the country every day.

But with the news of a likely extension of Temporary Protected Status to Venezuelans in the U.S., many Venezuelans are starting to feel optimistic about the future.

“Now, I feel like I’m really a part of this society and we keep supporting this country,” said Tampa resident Jennifer Infante to Bay News 9 about the recent Congressional news. “I think we deserve this opportunity because we came to make this country a better place and to keep moving forward.”

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