Sueños y Pesadillas is a remarkable memoir by teenager Liliana Velásquez, who at fourteen years old fled horrific violence and poverty in Guatemala and headed out alone for the United States. On her trip through Mexico she was robbed by narcos, rode the boxcars of La Bestia, and organized thirty of her fellow Central American bus passengers to convince the Federales who had arrested them to allow them to continue on their way. Finally, she made it to the US border, and headed out across the Sonoran Desert, where she encountered death and was caught by US Immigration. After four months in a detention center, she was placed in foster care while the courts decided whether to deport her. She spent a year in a horrendous foster situation and eventually landed on her feet with a family that loves and protects her. After having to recount her story of abuse several times, the judge determined it was too dangerous for her to return home and finally granted her a green card. She just graduated from high school and received two scholarship to go to college, where she will study nursing. She is also working to support her family back home. Liliana is a remarkable storyteller, and her book is filled with detail, feeling, reflection and possibility.
Each year an average of 50,000 such unaccompanied children have been arrested at the U.S. Border, and their fate is decided by the immigration system. Liliana’s story is uniquely hers, but it is also the story of tens of thousands of children who have fled violence and poverty in their home country to make a safer life in the United States. Liliana challenges us to reconsider our assumptions about who immigrants are and their place in our communities.