Undocumented Americans have been on the increase over the years and even though it is seen as a threat to the united states, to some extent it is not a threat as people only try to find the most favorable conditions for them to live in. however this search is not always the point of interest to the policymakers as they strictly state that immigrants should not be allowed which the public a time takes with good faith and other times it takes it with no interest since some of the politicians just state these issues for personal gain and popularity. An example is that of former President Trump. He was so much against immigration especially from Mexico that he began building a wall to separate the two countries and allow no immigration. Undocumented Americans is a work by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio which talks of the very same issue of immigration into the United States. Villavicencio talks of how heartbreaking it is to be an immigrant in the United States of America. She tells of her story and how she became an immigrant alongside her fellow immigrants, the difficulties they faced, and how uneasy it was for them to fully gain freedom.
It is therefore kind of a memoir explaining her experience during the years when she was an immigrant. Her stories reflect the true nature immigrants experience and how they later become citizens. She also acknowledges that immigrants do nothing wrong but it is the system that does not allow them to be who they wish to be and be successful in their pursuit of peace. As she states “I attempt to write from a place of shared trauma, shared memories, shared pain. This is a snapshot in time, a high energy imaging of a trauma brain”, she has gone through a lot (Villavicencio, 03). This is the same even for the other immigrants. She also states that she “wanted to tell the stories of people who work as day laborers, housekeepers, construction workers, dog walkers, deliverymen, people who don’t inspire hashtags or T-shirts”, this she hoped to help her suffering fellows to regain sight of their hope and be better(Villavicencio, 04). Therefore this book is an inspiration to many and it is great to work when one needs to understand what it means to be an immigrant. This paper, therefore, focuses on this book and how Villavicencio brings out the information in the book. This paper looks at pathos, logos, and ethos as rhetorical strategies used by the author in the presentation of her work.
Karla Cornejo Villavicencio writes the book from a personal experience therefore it is more of a memoir or a retelling of her experience. She firmly believes to be the first undocumented immigrant to graduate from Harvard University. She tells of how her parents, who were also undocumented, lived in fear of eviction every moment. She mainly uses pathos in her writing to convince the audience of her journey. It is mainly seen as she talks of how her use of fake names worked among her group of immigrants, how they worked on the rich avenues to get something to eat and how some even died as they worked. However, she strongly states how difficult it was for her group of immigrants to endure if one of them was caught and had to be deported. The first chapter is the most moving in where she talks of how Joaquin crosses the desert 4 times and other stories which draw very much on the emotions to bring out a persuasive concept. This book is therefore a very realistic and at the same time a very persuasive one as she also employs logos and ethos which will be discussed below.
The novel employs a lot of logos in so many different instances as she tells her story. For example, when she talks of her experience with her parents on page 53, it is clear that she is using logos to convince the world of what the parents believed. for example, she did not give out her results to her parents because she knew even though they wanted to appreciate her it was not possible to do this. After all, they were not financially capable. However on the other hand her dad loved her so much and when he saw the results slip he had to take her for a ride. During the ride, his father tells him how much he tries to make ends meet and he even tells her how much she earns. This means that his father is trying to impart cognitive knowledge that a person does not always get what they want but even with that they have to keep trying and becoming better because they have to work.
On the other hand, her mum asks her who the first person on the moon was. Her mother knew that she knew that it was Neil Armstrong. However upon asking her the second person on the moon she froze and told her that she did not know (Villavicencio, 53). On hearing this her mother told her that she must be number one because no one notices number 2. Therefore it is a cognitive-based novel as well whereby she is given hard choices and she is convinced that it is only because of doing her best that she wins and becomes a better person.
She also uses ethos in her persuasion to make people feel the importance of valuing immigrants. The fact that she is the author and that she has gone through the experience she talks about makes it very difficult for anyone to be unable to appreciate and value her work. The many years of being treated in the wrong way are brought out so clearly that it is very evident that her story is a true one. However, her experience even though filled with pain and many negative issues at some points was worth living and she had fun with her friends. This means that her story is real and the fact that she went through real dangers of immigration she had to write every little piece of pain and hurt and laughter and love. For example, her friend had received the news “that his request for a stay was denied by local immigration authorities”. This meant that her experiences even though difficult together with her friends are told from first hand and they can be believed as she says at the beginning of the book that she was not writing for people to be happy.
Pathos is the majorly used persuasive technique in her novel. First of all, she talks of how they used to overwork and some died as they worked. This is an example of emotion since overworking individuals who do not even know if they have a future and a tomorrow makes it a difficult part of their lives to look after one another since they are never sure of when or how they will finish up their lives look like. For Villavicencio, there was no surety that she was to study in Havard and she only kept doing her best. He knew he was not leaving this basement tonight. He couldn’t get himself anywhere. “No one would want him. They’d given up on him long ago. He had kids in Mexico. They’d be orphans. His heart raced. His hands became moist. Stroking the squirrel kept him calm as the basement filled with water” (Villavicencio, 60). This explains pathos as the passage is full of emotions and it is difficult to manage as the environment as explained is dangerous.
Therefore this novel is one whose main idea is to create a kind of faith in the future of the immigrants, however, at the same time the immigrants do not get what they need instantly and therefore their suffering continues and it is difficult for them to understand the reasons to their suffering except for a few. The immigrants keep on working and supporting each other through all they can.
In conclusion, this novel is very persuasive as it tells the truth about the experiences of Villavicencio and how her experiences shaped her later in life until she was able to graduate from Harvard University. It also tells the story of other people related to her and how their impact on her life was important as well as how she also impacted them. It is a story of the journey of being immigrants with no documentation and the positive and negative issues which came up as a result of the struggle to live without documents.
Villavicencio, Karla Cornejo. The Undocumented Americans. One World/Ballantine, 2021.
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