Immigrant and Refugee Stories: Enrique's JourneyJennifer Epping
There’s something to be said about putting yourself in another person’s shoes. Even if those shoes will never fit perfectly, and you struggle to stay upright because you could never fully understand the perspective, journey, or fortitude that led them through it. Enrique’s Journey: The Story of a Boy’s Dangerous Odyssey to Reunite with His Mother by Sonia Nazario provides one of those people and stories.
When I say this story is eye-opening, I mean you won’t be able to ever shut your eyes again. It allows readers to educate themselves on what immigrants and refugees endure coming to America from far away countries—in this case Honduras. Enrique’s mother left for America in hopes of a more prosperous life, intending to send money back home so that her family could eventually join her. But the plan goes awry, leaving young Enrique lonely, confused, and missing his mom for years.
Now a teenager, Enrique will make the journey many attempt, succeed, or fail to come to America in search of his mother. Enrique faces bandits, thugs, and corrupt police among other things on his journey north.
In Enrique’s Journey: The Story of a Boy’s Dangerous Odyssey to Reunite with His Mother, author Sonia Nazario includes slices of information throughout the narrative to educate readers on immigration. Researching and learning about this topic helps create worldly perspectives and serves as an essential tool as an adult.
“His mother never returns, and that decides Engrique’s fate. As a teenager—indeed, still a child—he will set out for the United States on his own to search for her. Virtually unnoticed, he will become one of an estimated 48,000 children who enter the United States from Central America and Mexico each year, illegally and without either of their parents. Roughly two thirds of them will make it past the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service.
Many go north seeking work. Others flee abusive families. Most of the Central Americans go to reunite with a parent, say counselors at the detention center in Texas where the INS houses the largest number of the unaccompanied children it catches. Of those, the counselors say, 75 percent are looking for their mothers. Some children say they need to find out whether their mothers still love them. A priest at a Texas shelter says they often bring pictures of themselves in their mother’s arms.” (5)
There is more information throughout the entire book—in some ways it reads like a textbook as much as a narrative, which creates a perfect source for this lesson on understanding an immigration journey.
- Read the excerpt above aloud or, if you have copies of the book, read the Prologue. This provides a solid background on not only Enrique’s story, but also on immigration in general. While you read, have students write down interesting or shocking facts that stick out, or anything that is impactful in their opinion. They can also write down any questions.
- From these notes, have students create a research question. Examples could be:
- What are the risks of immigrating to another country?
- What are the advantages of immigrating to a new country?
- Why would someone want to leave their family and immigrate to another country?
- How does someone successfully immigrate to America, or to another country
- How does someone become a legal citizen of America or another country after immigrating?
- Have students spend time online researching credible sources (at least two to three) to answer their research question. Have them take word-for-word notes and cite their sources properly.
- Once they have their research question answered thoroughly, have students decide how they want to present their information—a written paper, a presentation such as a PowerPoint or Prezi, a poster, or a speech.
- Requirements for this project could include:
- Identifying the research question.
- A thesis statement or claim that outlines their findings.
- An answer to the research question with two to three sources, providing facts, examples, etc.
- A conclusion that wraps up the answer to the question.
Jennifer Epping is a high school English and journalism teacher in Des Moines, Iowa. She has a passion for reading, writing, and making lame jokes to her students just to see them laugh or roll their eyes. She just concluded her ninth year teaching. Epping graduated from Iowa State University with a BS in journalism and mass communication (2010) and BA in English Education (2013). She attended New York University’s Summer Publishing Institute (2010), and spent some time in children’s book publishing in New York.