I started writing The Weaver’s Daughter several years ago. At that time, the number of immigrants arriving at the U.S. southern border, while high, was less than it is today. Ixchel, the young Maya heroine of my story, began her journey for some of the same reasons which drive many other migrants. She wanted the opportunity for an education and a better life. And she wanted to reunite with her father.
When my ancestors came to the United States, there weren’t any laws governing immigration. People just came. And for many of the reasons they come today: work opportunities, joining family members, draughts, famines, and natural disasters, fear of violence and repression.
In 1882 the first law regulating immigration was the Chinese Exclusion Act which barred Chinese from coming to the U.S. for ten years and made them ineligible to become naturalized citizens. Since that time, many and complicated laws have been passed to regulate who can come here and under what circumstances.
A recent article in the N.Y. Times states, “Migrants have arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border in higher numbers over the past few months, including over 170,000 people in March alone. . .” A large percentage of these people are coming from Central America, especially Honduras and Guatemala. One of the big drivers of this wave of immigrants to the U.S., as well as to Europe and other parts of the world, is climate change. Recent deadly hurricanes destroyed crops and homes, especially in Honduras. Drought has made it impossible for farmers in many places to continue to grow crops. Fears of gang related violence and corrupt governments also drive people to leave their home countries.
Immigration is and always has been important for the U.S. economy. In recent years our population growth has slowed down. Fewer babies are being born, and the population is getting older. A FWD U.S. article states, “Future immigration is needed to increase the U.S. population size overall, but also to maintain a senior to working-age ratio for growing the U.S. economy.” Immigrants pay billions in local, state and federal taxes and spend trillions more to buy goods and services, all helping keep our economy viable. Many are entrepreneurs, starting businesses and creating jobs, like Chel’s father in The Weaver’s Daughter.
The book I’m currently working on is also about immigration. The Double Crossing, historical fiction for middle grade readers, is the story of 937 Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany aboard the ship M.S. St. Louis in 1939. They weren’t allowed to enter the U.S. because of strict quotas on immigration. After they had to sail back to Europe, an estimated 250 of them are believed to have died in concentration camps.