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The Immigrant Community Needs Us to #StandUp4HumanRights: A Human Rights Day Reading List

At the US Mexico Border
At the US-Mexico border. Photo credit: BBC World Service

This year’s Human Rights Day marks the seventieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights—the perfect day to reflect on the US’s treatment of the immigrant community. And let me tell you: It’s going to be a stark reckoning. Just look at some of this year’s headlines. Many migrant families are still separated. Border patrol agents fired tear gas at migrant families at the US-Mexico border to disperse them. This is inhumane treatment. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaims the “inalienable rights which everyone is inherently entitled to as a human being—regardless of race, color, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.” That’s not what we’re seeing. Where are the inalienable rights for this community?

Outraged by the headlines, many took to Twitter and posted, “This is not America.” But if you check your history, you’ll find that, yes, this is and has been America. That’s why we’ve put together this reading list. To put a mirror up to our country’s history of anti-immigrant sentiment. And it’s our hope that these books from our catalog always remind us never to lose sight of anyone’s humanity, regardless of their national or social origin.


Considering Hate: Violence, Goodness, and Justice in American Culture and Politics
By Kay Whitlock and Michael Bronski

Our society’s reliance on the framework of hate to explain hate crimes and violence is wrongheaded, misleading, and harmful. It’s led to intensified government-based policing, increased surveillance, and harsher punishments that have never worked and don’t work now. Longtime activists and political theorists Kay Whitlock and Michael Bronski wrote Considering Hate so we can radically reimagine the meaning and structures of justice within a new framework of community wholeness, collective responsibility, and civic goodness.


Detained and Deported: Stories of Immigrant Families Under Fire
By Margaret Regan

The stories in Margaret Regan’s Detained and Deported are just as harrowing and heart-wrenching as the headlines we’ve been reading this year. Increasingly draconian detention centers and deportation policies have broadened police powers while enriching a private prison industry whose profits feed on human suffering. The worst of it is how families are separated, again and again. Regan also documents the rise of resistance, profiling activists and young immigrant Dreamers who are fighting for the rights of the undocumented.


How Does It Feel to Be Unwanted?: Stories of Resistance and Resilience from Mexicans Living in the United States
By Eileen Truax

Journalist Eileen Truax knew that the election of Donald Trump didn’t signify the beginning of hardship of Mexican immigrants, but the continuation of a decades-long assault. She also knew that resistance to this assault had been building, and it was time for the countless stories of strength, perseverance, and activism to be shared. Through the thirteen stories in How Does It Feel to Be Unwanted?, Truax connects us with the Mexican population already living and participating in their communities as well as those who still seek asylum.


How to Love a Country
By Richard Blanco

This new collection from renowned inaugural poet Richard Blanco explores immigration, gun violence, racism, LGBTQ issues, and more in these accessible and emotive verses. Unifying the wide variety of subject matter in these poems is one fundamental and overwhelming question: How to love this country? Blanco seeks the answers by digging deep into the marrow of our nation with poems that interrogate our past and present, grieve our injustices, and note our flaws yet remember to celebrate our ideals and cling to our hopes. Forthcoming in March 2019.


Hunting Season: Immigration and Murder in an All-American Town
By Mirta Ojito

Ten years ago, thirty-seven-year-old undocumented Ecuadorean immigrant Marcelo Lucero was attacked and murdered by a group of teenagers in the Long Island village of Patchogue. An unassuming worker at a dry cleaner’s, Lucero became yet another victim of anti-immigration fever and a symbol of everything that was wrong with our broken immigration system. Journalist Mirta Ojito crafted an unflinching portrait of this case in Hunting Season.


“They Take Our Jobs!”: And 20 Other Myths About Immigration
By Aviva Chomsky

“We need to protect our borders to prevent criminals and terrorists from entering the country.” Does this sound familiar? Three years into our current administration, we’re still hearing egregious myths and misinformed claims about immigrants and immigration that promote aggressive anti-immigrant policies. This calls for Aviva Chomsky’s revised and updated myth-busting book “They Take Our Jobs!” And 20 Other Myths About Immigration. Crucial for our politically fraught times, this expanded edition contains fresh material addressing what’s been happening in immigration policy for the last ten years. It also helps us understand the underlying assumptions behind the myths.


Water Tossing Boulders: How a Family of Chinese Immigrants Led the First Fight to Desegregate Schools in the Jim Crow South
By Adrienne Berard

We can look as far back as the 1920s to see how our country excluded immigrants from the right to an equal education. The Lums were a Chinese American family whose daughters were barred from attending middle school in Rosedale, Mississippi, because they were considered to be “colored.” The school was for whites. The Lum family fought for the right to educate Chinese Americans in the white schools of the Jim Crow South in what would become the first US Supreme Court case to challenge the constitutionality of racial segregation in Southern public schools.


When I Walk Through That Door, I Am
By Jimmy Santiago Baca

Poet-activist Jimmy Santiago Baca makes the immigration crisis painfully personal in this new interpretation of the Epic Poem. In these verses, he imagines the experiences of Sophia, an El Salvadorian mother searching for a better life. Her journey takes us through the obstacles and tragedies of immigration, family separation, ICE raids on the Southern border, and her husband’s murder. When I Walk Through That Door, I Am is a call for our attention, for our compassion, for our energy in pursuit of democracy and of justice. Forthcoming in February 2019.