Becoming Legal Ruth Gomberg-Munoz

The book is divided into a series of key sections that reflect some of the (diverse) journeys of mixed-status families. The author begins a series of chapters of the book with the stories of her research participants – through these often beautifully written vignettes, we understand the exclusions, denials, and negations of an immigration process with an ethic carved out of colonialism and contemporary American foreign policy. In seven chapters, we learn about the complexity of the immigration process, the system`s historical roots in colonialism, the petitions process, imprisonment, hardship and poverty, deportation and precariousness, and the lives of those who manage to become legal. In an eloquently written book, readers are allowed to give insight into the lives of a number of mixed-status families as they navigate a very complex immigration system to become “legal.” The book thus documents the fears of mixed families – their fears and barriers in everyday life, the guilt, guilt and shame they feel when they are undocumented, the long periods of separation they go through during the trial, and even the joy of being reunited and living together once legality is assured. It`s all there, all captured in a poignant but ethically attentive way, while Gomberg-Munoz engages both its interlocutors and readers with the grim reality of the American immigration process. The key to the Gomberg-Munoz thesis is the threat that a cumbersome and unfair immigration process poses to the family unit, and how destructive the legalization process can be to family relationships. Separation, isolation, poverty and deprivation, as well as family breakdown, often result from attempts at legalization. In this unique academic approach to the functioning of immigration processes, Ruth Gomberg-Muñoz questions, defines and articulates the close relationships that emerge between immigration policies and practices and families of Mexican origin who have decided to settle in the United States. On the cover of the book, a young man holds an emblem with the inscription “We want our mother here!” The phrase is ubiquitous in the book, emphasizing the reunification of families whose mixed migration status in the United States has become complex and dangerous. The signal also highlights the lack of humanity embedded in immigration laws specifically targeting people of Mexican descent. Gomberg-Muñoz deals head-on and without excuse with the cynicism and hypocrisy of civil society when it deals with general issues about illegal immigration.

Questions such as “Why don`t undocumented people wait for them to enter the United States legally?” and “Why don`t they legalize their status once they have relatives with U.S. citizens?” show “convenient naivety.” But Gomberg-Muñoz nevertheless answers these questions, bringing two main arguments about immigration and transnational studies. The only ethnography that examines family legalization from the perspective of the families who perform it Becoming legal is an important educational book, especially in light of Trump`s immigration ban. It is important to shed light on the challenges of the rule of law process in the American context, and also to highlight how paternalistic and inconsistent U.S. immigration policies and law can be. U.S. immigration law is a bedfellow of U.S. foreign policy, a growing concern for all of us. In particular, the Gomberg-Munoz argument that US humanitarian visas are closely linked to US foreign policy is essential at a time when we are witnessing widespread uprooting of people due to conflicts in the Middle East. At times in our recent history, countries like El Salvador and Mexico have seen the drastic need for individuals and families to seek refuge elsewhere, but U.S.

humanitarian visas have not been easily granted to people from these countries. In addition, links to U.S.-sponsored violence in a number of nation-states complicate the process of U.S. humanitarian assistance and visa support. This is the power of analysis in Gomberg-Munoz`s book in its ability to advance understanding of a very complicated but inconsistent immigration process in the United States. It is also a book of stories – of comings and goings, of separation and loss, of reunion and joy. It is therefore a contemporary book that captures the process of legalization in all its humanity and in all its odious complexity. Gomberg-Muñoz points out in Chapter 3 how the labyrinth of exploitation of expensive forms and the demand to collect many official documents – some in the United States, but others in Mexico – are reinforced by the dehumanizing procedural labyrinths that immigrants go through, with many Mexican families undergoing the process of “legalization/justification” of their existence in the United States, fragmenting and draining emotionally. The financial impact on families in the process of legalization is striking and problematic, but to add another insult to the violation, many people must undermine themselves and their ethnic/racial origin, as well as devalue and condemn their country of origin and communities of origin. One of the vignettes, which recounts the agony of a couple as they try to appeal their immigration status, illustrates how the documents, including visual images, are influenced by court proceedings: “To improve their case, Jane`s lawyer asked for photographic evidence of the difficulty of life in Mexico” (104).