Dreams and Nightmare

Rafaela Evans, Amalie Velázquez-Brown, and Zachary Barlow

Rafaela Evans, Amalie Velázquez-Brown, and Zachary Barlow

May 30, 2017

Writing and Rhetoric Majors Help Edit Story of Undocumented Guatamalan Girl’s Journey to United States

Writing and Rhetoric Majors Amalie Velázquez-BrownRafaela Evans, and Zachary Barlow have spent the past semester helping to edit, design, and publish a new bi-lingual publication by Parlor Press entitled Dreams and Nightmares: I fled to the United States when I was fourteen. As part of their work, they have also developed a plan to integrate the book into campaigns being conducted by non-profit immigration advocacy organizations as well as into the curriculum of high schools.

Dreams and Nightmares tells the story of Liliana Velásquez, who at fourteen years old fled violence and poverty in Guatemala and headed out alone for the United States. On her trip through Mexico she was robbed by narcos, rode the boxcars of La Bestia, and organized thirty of her fellow Central American bus passengers to convince the Federaleswho had arrested them to allow them to continue on their way. Finally, she made it to the US border and headed out across the Sonoran Desert, where she encountered dead bodies and was caught by US Immigration. After four months in a detention center, she was placed in foster care while the courts decided whether to deport her. She spent a year in a horrendous foster situation and eventually landed on her feet with a family that loves and protects her. After having to recount her story of abuse several times, the judge determined it was too dangerous for her to return home and finally granted her a green card. She is now in high school, while she works to support her family back home and plans to go on to nursing school. To learn more about the book, go to dreamsandnightmares.org

In helping to shepherd this book to publication, Amalie, Rafy, and Zach were hoping to interrupt a cultural narrative which demonizes such children. Indeed, each year since 2013, an average of 50,000 such unaccompanied children have been arrested at the U.S. Border, and their fate is decided by the immigration system. In this sense, Liliana’s story is uniquely hers, but it is also the story of tens of thousands of children who have fled violence and poverty in their home country to make a safer life in the United States. In this time when the issue of undocumented immigrants is causing great divisions within our country, much is written about them, but little is told by them in their own voice. It is for this reason that each of them worked so hard to make sure Liliana’s story needs to be part of our national conversation. A recent visit to Beaver Country Day School underscored the value of Lilliana Velasquez’s  story in educating students about the reality of immigration versus the popular myth of "immigrants."

The book has already received positive reviews and has been adopted in Philadelphia grade school classrooms. 

—Steve Parks