Book Review & Interview: Love Undocumented by Sarah Quezada

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I grew up in a household in constant fear of deportation. My stepfather’s story is only one he can tell. What I can tell you is that I was a 6-year-old girl who didn’t have a father because he died when I was 2 while serving this country. G.A. was more than willing to marry an American Latina woman who already had a little girl. Me.

That was a time before passports were needed at the Texas/Mexico border. We entered Mexico to visit my (step)grandma and came back to Texas without any hassle. We’d make it across the border with only our rosaries and American accents as we proclaimed, “I’m an American citizen.” Except for my stepfather. He’d proclaim his proud Mexican nationality and show “his papers.”

I didn’t understand any of this as a child. I only understood that if my stepfather was caught, he would have to go back to Mexico. It was stressful on our family because he was our only provider. He worked so hard from sun up to sun down often 7 days a week. His reason was, “I didn’t come to the United States to be lazy.”

“What if Christians began to see relationships as central to repairing a broken social fabric and worked together for compassionate change” (Quezada, 20).

Sarah Quezada’s, Love Undocumented brought back all of these memories of what it must have been like for my mother as she married an immigrant willing to sacrifice it all to obtain the American Dream, for all that means at this juncture in life.

Quezada takes us on an educated biblical journey of meeting, falling in love with, and marrying Billy, an undocumented immigrant from Guatemala. Absent of the romance novel language, she defines different laws and political acts to help us understand the process of undergoing filing for citizenship.

I love that Quezada comes from a place of privilege (and recognizes that) and writes from having zero understanding about the process to walking through it entirely with new understanding. This book is a 180-page introduction to undocumented immigration and alegrando los papeles.

Quezada explains her and Billy’s experience with the lawyer. I respected her perspective as she noticed the language barrier that was separating her from comprehending what Mateo, the lawyer, and Billy were talking about. Language barriers are fierce. Sarah felt what so many non-English speaking immigrants face on a daily basis in that session.

“But they held my future in a language that I couldn’t unlock. I would have to wait to find out the truth until someone decided to include me” (Quezada, 102).

In Love Undocumented you will learn about the Bracero Program, DACA, among others, that my father in law assisted in. You will learn about what Jesus and the Bible say about welcoming the foreigner.

In my opinion, Love Undocumented is written for white folks who need a better grasp of knowledge on what it means for undocumented immigrants to come and live in this nation. Books written on the plight of the immigrant from the perspective of the actual immigrant or the child of an immigrant are available. Quezada references a couple.

I urge you to use this book as a launching off point to do more research. With the language of 45 in play and his unabashed prejudice toward humans of color, it would behoove the Christian audience to dig further into our laws and offer knowledgeable, biblical responses to our undocumented family.

What was the inspiration for your book?

I knew very little about the immigration system until I met my now-husband Billy. I had heard some political rhetoric and had the occasional interaction with immigrants, but the whole issue was very much a mystery I rarely thought about. Once I was dropped into the middle of it, however, I was shocked. I was inspired to write the book because I realize now how much personal experience impacted my own understanding and views on this incredibly important topic.

Why do you think your book is necessary?

Immigration seems to peak at certain times in history, and we are currently living at a time where anti-immigrant sentiment is high and widely publicized. My hope is that this book will be helpful to remind us that real people and families are behind all the shouting and political posturing, and it’s people the Bible has invited us to love and welcome. In addition, the book includes reliable research that I hope will help readers to have a deeper understanding of the historical context and current realities.

How did writing your book change or inform your perspective on your own faith journey?

I learned a lot writing this book. And I also had to ask myself some hard questions. In particular, a theme emerged for me personally about what I was willing to risk of my own comfort and privilege on behalf of others. It shows up in our story when I learned Billy’s immigration process might require us to move to Guatemala for up to ten years, and it also came up for me personally in wrestling with the response I might receive from this book. I spent a lot of time in Scripture and in prayer while writing this book, and I was challenged spiritually to follow God’s leading without worrying about my own provision and comfort.

What do you hope are the main takeaways for your readers?

For readers who are unsure what to think about immigration, particularly unauthorized immigration in the United States, I hope they take away a broader context for understanding what is happening today. I hope Christians are challenged to hold that state’s laws against God’s laws and to consider how we are called to love our neighbors regardless of their situations. But I also hope for all readers there is a deeper understanding of the power of relationship and standing in solidarity with those on the margins that fuels and sustains our justice work in the world.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Cover photo credit: Sarah Quezada’s website.

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