Much has been written about the experiences and treatment of immigrants from south of the Rio Grande once they have entered the United States. But this account, by the itinerant, effervescent and highly original journalist Belén Fernández, offers a quite different take.
In this concise, vivid account Fernández shows us what life is like for would-be migrants, not just from the Mexican side of the border but inside Siglo XXI, the notorious migrant detention center in the south of the country.
Journalists are prohibited from entering Siglo XXI; Fernández only gained access because she herself was detained as a result of faulty travel documents. Once inside the facility, Fernández was able to speak with detained women from Honduras, Cuba, Haiti, Bangladesh, and beyond. Their stories, detailing the hardships that prompted them to leave their homes, and the dangers they have experienced on an often-tortuous journey north, form the core of this unique book. The companionship and support they offer to Fernández, whose antipathy to returning to the United States, the country they are desperate to enter, is a source of bemusement and perplexity, displays a generosity that is deeply moving.
In the end, the Siglo XXI center emerges as a strikingly precise metaphor for a 21st century in which poor people, effectively imprisoned by punitive US immigration policies, nevertheless display astonishing resilience and camaraderie.