Center on Immigration Book Talk Series – “Dreams and Nightmares”  

November 17, 2020 | 7:00 PM EST

Zoom registration here: 

Liliana Velásquez | Dreams and Nightmares 

After planning her escape from her village in northern Guatemala at fourteen, she traveled through Mexico alone, was robbed by narcos in the mountains of Chiapas, 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, where she was caught by US Immigration in the Arizona Desert. After four months in a detention center, she was shipped to Philadelphia and placed in foster care while the courts decided whether to deport her. After having to recount her story several times, the judge determined it was too dangerous for her to return home and finally granted her a green card. She spent a year in a horrendous foster situation with a family that took her in for the money, and eventually landed on her feet with a family that loves and protects her. She is now in high school, while she works to support her family back home and makes plans to go on to nursing school.

About the Author:

When she was seventeen, Liliana wrote a remarkable memoir, Dreams and Nightmares / Sueños y Pesadillas, which tells of escaping unrelenting violence and poverty in her village in Guatemala at fourteen and heading out alone to seek safety in the United States. On her trip through Mexico she was robbed by narcos and rode the boxcars of La Bestia. 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. She thought her journey was over, but it had just begun. She spent months in detention and ultimately gained asylum status in the U.S. She currently is in college and supports her family back home. Liliana shares her story in schools, universities and communities and gives workshops for teachers on using oral histories in the classroom to talk about the place of immigrants in our communities.

As Liliana says in her memoir, this is her personal story, but it is also the story of over 300,000 other minors who in the last six years have fled horrific violence and poverty in their countries in Central America and Mexico, and traveled north without their families in search of safety in the United States.

Currently, more than 14,500 undocumented youth are housed in detention centers—basically prisons—while awaiting the decision of the immigration courts about whether to deport them and return them to the poverty and violence they fled, or whether to grant them safety here in the United States.




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