Enrique’s story opens up the broader discussion of immigration and immigration reform in the United States and allows for a detailed understanding of the problems that immigrants face. In the prologue, Nazario recounts the conversation she had with her housekeeper Carmen when she first found out that Carmen had left behind children in Guatemala before coming the United States. This moment spurs Nazario’s interest in single immigrant mothers in comparable situations, forced to leave their families and to struggle alone for work in an unfamiliar country. In the book, Nazario details the changing landscape of immigration in recent years, describing the increase of both illegal immigrants and single mothers coming to the U.S. to find work in order to support their families at home. Enrique’s Journey delves into the complications of immigration and shows both the harm and the good that it can carry.
The debate about immigration is the backdrop of the book, and Nazario specifically brings it to the fore in the afterword, which outlines particular positions on immigration policy. Since Enrique’s journey, the trip has become even more dangerous for migrants, and even more people are trying to make it. For migrants, the financial and material benefits drive their decision to come. But the psychological trauma of family separation that often occurs should not be underestimated – it can create life-long problems for children and parents. For their home countries, the money sent from immigrants back to Central and Latin America brings a significant boost to their economic growth. From the perspective of Americans, immigration is a much-debated topic, but Nazario concludes that the immigration problem can be solved by helping bolster the economies of the countries from which immigrants come. Since the reasons for immigrating are economic, she argues, the solution to keep immigrants at home must be economic.
Immigration Quotes in Enrique’s Journey
"Although I often felt exhausted and miserable, I knew I was experiencing only an iota of what migrant children go through...The journey gave me a glimmer of how hard this is for them."
"In their absence, these mothers become larger than life. Although in the United States the women struggle to pay rent and eat, in the imaginations of their children back home they become deliverance itself, the answer to every problem. Finding them becomes the quest for the Holy Grail."
"When Enrique's mother left, he was a child. Six months ago, the first time he set out to find her, he was still a callow kid. Now he is a veteran of a perilous pilgrimage by children, many of whom come looking for their mothers and travel any way they can."
"In spite of everything, Enrique has failed again--he will not reach the United States this time, either. He tells himself over and over that he'll just have to try again."
"At the rate of nearly one every other day, the Red Cross estimates, U.S.-bound Central American migrants who ride freight trains lose arms, legs, hands, or feet."
"He was five years old when his mother left him. Now he is almost another person. In the window glass, he sees a battered young man, scrawny and disfigured. It angers him, and it steels his determination to push northward."
"'We are human. We should treat people in a humane way. It's okay to send people back. But they shouldn't shoot them, beat them this way.'"
"Outside the church after dinner, many migrants engage in a crude kind of street therapy: Who has endured the worst riding the trains?"
"Maria Isabel does not say goodbye to her daughter. She does not hug her. She gets out of the car and walks briskly into the bus terminal. She does not look back. She never tells her she is going to the United States."
"'What would it take to keep people from leaving? There would have to be jobs. Jobs that pay okay. That's all.'"