by Susan Kuklin
Candlewick Press, 2019
The reviewer received a copy of the book from the publisher.
We Are Here to Stay blends interview transcripts, first person narratives and black & white photographs to offer readers a glimpse into the lives of undocumented teens. The book was originally scheduled to be released in 2017, but publication was halted due to the uncertainty of DACA. Two years later, We Are Here to Stay is on the shelves. Color photographs of the young people featured in the book have been removed along with their names. Kuklin identifies the nine young people by their first initials to protect their identities from the authorities.
The first two chapters of the book feature a young woman, Y. Y is a college student and immigration activist. She came to New York from Columbia with her twin siblings and parents. Y and her siblings are part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, but their parents are not eligible. Kuklin also spent time with Reverend John Fife in Tucson, Arizona where he offers humanitarian aid to migrants crossing the border. The book features stories of young people from Mexico, Samoa and South Korea. Some families crossed the border illegally while others are in the U.S. on expired visas. The subjects recall violence and hardships in their homelands as well as difficulties they face in their daily lives in school and in their communities in the U.S.
The purpose of the nonfiction text isn't to politicize immigration. Instead, it offers a view of the human side and the complexities of illegal immigration. Readers will grapple with questions such as: What are basic human needs? Why do people leave their homelands? How can a government fairly and humanely deal with undocumented students and workers?
Visit the publisher's site to download a discussion guide.