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Arriving Without an Invitation: New Book Offers Unique Perspective on the Life of an Illegal Immigrant

A FI2W Essay

By John Rudolph, FI2W Executive Producer
A Mexican migrant in the Arizona desert - Photo: Valeria Fernández.

(Photo: Valeria Fernández)

“The route is full of dangers. In summer there are usually soldiers guarding the footpaths who arrest anyone trying to get through illegally. There are just as many armed bandits lurking too, waiting to pounce and rob the illegal migrant of what little he owns. Whoever refuses to empty his pockets gets the thrashing of his life. In winter there are fewer soldiers, fewer bandits. Instead it’s a toss-up between dying in the snow or being eaten by wolves.”

Change a few details, and this could easily be a description of the perils facing undocumented immigrants as they cross from Mexico into the U.S. But the writer is Albanian, and the route he describes is his own passage from his native country to neighboring Greece, which he entered illegally in 1991.

Gazmend Kapllani

Gazmend Kapllani

In the current debate over immigration reform it is easy for Americans to loose sight of the universality of human migration. Around the world, national borders are constantly being crossed, both with and without governmental approval, as people facing difficult –sometimes desperate– circumstances search for safety, economic security and opportunities they can’t find at home.

“A Short Border Handbook” (published in the U.K. by Portobello Books), a new book by journalist Gazmend Kapllani, reminds us that the experiences often associated with undocumented immigrants in the U.S. are endemic to all who leave their homeland and show up in a new country “uninvited.” Using a blunt style and, at times, dark humor, Kapllani’s short book tells the story of walking to Greece in 1991 after the government of Albania opened its borders following the fall of the country’s totalitarian Communist regime.

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