Beyond the Book: Background information when reading Enrique's Journey

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Enrique's Journey

by Sonia Nazario

Enrique's Journey by Sonia Nazario X
Enrique's Journey by Sonia Nazario
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  • First Published:
    Feb 2006, 320 pages
    Jan 2007, 336 pages

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Quick Facts (from Enrique's Journey)

  • About 700,000 immigrants enter the United States illegally each year. In recent years the demographics have changed with many more single mothers arriving.
  • Nearly three-quarters of the 48,000 children who migrate alone to "el Norte" through Central America and Mexico each year are in search of a single mother who has left them behind. According to the Department of Homeland Security, the median age of child migrants is 15; the majority are male; some are as young as 7 years.
  • In Los Angeles, 82% of live-in nannies and one in four housecleaners are mothers who have at least one child in their home country.
  • According to the Center for Immigration Studies, illegal workers donate $6.4 billion annually to Social Security, but, being illegal, they will never be eligible to claim benefits.
  • Money sent home by Mexican immigrants working in the USA totals around $17 billion per annum.

Unauthorized Migrants to the USA by Region
Migration Information Source (2004)
Mexico: 57%
Central/S America: 24%
Asia: 9%
Europe: 6%
Africa: 4%

The total foreign-born population of the USA is estimated to be 35.7 million (12% of total population), of which 10.3 million are estimated to be illegal immigrants (more than 1/4 of all foreign born in USA).

Migrant Workers in Other Countries
Southern and Central American countries are not the only ones to have vast percentages of their population working overseas. For example, an estimated 8.1 million Filipinos, nearly 10% of the Philippines' population were working and/or residing overseas in 2004 (according to the Migration Information Source).

Many of us moan about our daily commute, or our long working hours that leave us little time to spend with our families, but for many people in the world the options are much starker. Their choice is to live at or below subsistence level in their own country or leave their children behind while they find work overseas, legally or illegally, in the hope that the money they send home will give their children the chance to rise out of the poverty trap.

I knew one such woman - a lovely, caring Filipino woman with three children of her own that she had left in the care of her sister in the Philippines (her husband having long since disappeared) while she worked overseas in London, England, as a nanny/housekeeper.

She sent money home regularly and tried to save enough so that she could visit her children once every two years (something that, although expensive, was possible because she had a work permit - making her one of the luckier immigrant workers). This was the trade off she was making to give her children a better start in life than she had had. She worked in London for about 5 years until, one day, she got a message that her sister had been murdered (there is much jealously between those families who have money coming in from overseas and those that don't) and her children were homeless. The same day she left a note for her employers and returned to the Philippines to care for her children - knowing that in doing so she was giving up on her dream, but having no other option.

All of us living in developed parts of the world know about the problems of illegal immigration; but how often do we stop to think that the 'problem' is comprised of real people, each with hopes and dreams?

This article was originally published in March 2006, and has been updated for the January 2007 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

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