This essay only strengthens my argument that Valeria Luiselli is one of the best and most important writers working today. This Essay in Forty Questions was written about the time Luiselli and her niece spent working as a translator in New York City’s federal immigration court. This voluntary role required her to ask these always bureaucratic, often confounding and generally racist questions of children seeking asylum often without knowing what would happen to the children. She recounts some of these conversations to her daughter who, quite naturally, is not satisfied. She insists: “Tell me how it ends.”
We’d all like to know. Luiselli is not in the solutions business here, but she does argue that any such efforts require us to look at immigration as a hemispheric issue, not one exclusively the responsibility of Latin American countries. I don’t know my history well enough to agree or disagree, but her argument does make sense.
Luiselli’s style here, as in the excellent and related Lost Children Archive, may seem to be detached and journalistic. But there is a fury boiling underneath, one that prompts some of her own students to take action. And as readers and citizens, we cannot look away.