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In The Illegals, published in 1978, Halsell writes about her time spent along the U.S.-Mexico border.  She talked with border residents and rode along with U.S. Border Patrol officers. She also crossed the border on three separate occasions with Mexican immigrants entering the United States without authorization. Undocumented immigration was a popular political and social issue by the late 1970s.  On the topic, Halsell wrote, “In its war effort against the illegals, the United States has flung men, weapons, and dollars into fruitless tactics to staunch the flow.  The war has demanded the attention of Presidents, cabinet members, legislators, other high officials, and the TV and print media.” 

Halsell was determined to experience an unsanctioned border crossing so she could more fully understand the experiences of undocumented immigrants and the law enforcement that sought them out.  In her book,  she recollects her decision to cross the border: “I know one day I will cross because it is what I want most to do.  For me this is what living means: a chance to listen to my inner voice, to do what I want to do, to increase knowledge, to strive for understanding.  And it is for my understanding that I want to “pass” as a wetback.  I know that no person born with white skin can know the discrimination that a person born with color suffers in white America.  But I can try to know.  And I can know, to some extent.  Already, I have begun to question: Why am I legal and millions of others illegal?  It is human to have a dream and try to fulfill it.”

Letters of endorsement for The Illegals

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