As part of an exhibit that explores stories across the U.S.-Mexico border, author Lauren Markham will speak at the Glendale Central Library about her book "The Far Away Brothers: Two Young Migrants and the Making of an American Life," which delves into the real lives of identical twin brothers who are fleeing violence in El Salvador.
Her book not only examines why so many people are fleeing Central America and what the United States can do to help but also covers the often obscured struggles of navigating the complicated U.S. immigration system.
In the book, Ernesto and Raúl Flores, both 17, are fleeing danger in El Salvador, do not have temporary protected status and cannot qualify for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA. They rely on their older brother — already living in California — for help.
"Neither of them are [temporary-protected-status] holders or [are eligible for] DACA, but the current immigration conversation that's happening right now is really affecting them," Markham said. "For any immigration-related news, I'll get a message from someone from their family in El Salvador wondering what is happening. This sort of climate of fear and insecurity in this moment of American politics is pretty profound."
Markham, who is a journalist, has reported on unaccompanied minors — children who cross their borders without papers or parents — from Central America since 2012. However, she did not meet the twins initially as a journalist but while working as a program coordinator at their high school, Oakland International.
She said the undocumented student population had suddenly exploded at the school and each student needed help scheduling court dates, finding lawyers and addressing their mental health.
Ernesto and Raúl Flores walked into her office one day in 2014.
"Their story is not the most harrowing I've heard, not the most sensational," she said. "But their story didn't fit into the paradigm of asylum seekers. They were caught in a tricky legal situation and afraid for their lives."
The book exposes the tedious trials of maneuvering in a bureaucratic system, she said, and then to bump against the often exaggerated fears of the American public.
Markham said her book tries to illuminate the interior worlds of undocumented young men and women without placing the entire sociopolitical dynamic of immigration issues on any individual's shoulders.
"People know the basic stuff about fleeing gang violence and the historically unprecedented amount of unaccompanied minors, less so what is day-to-day life like dealing with very adolescent concerns and adult concerns," Markham said.
"[The twins] are straddling multiple worlds at once — El Salvador and the U.S. but also adolescence and adulthood," she added.
Markham will give her talk at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Glendale Central Library, 222 E. Harvard St.