“Shadowed Lives” by Leo R. Chavez Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 24 July 2016

“Shadowed Lives” by Leo R. Chavez

One of the few case studies of undocumented immigrants available, this perceptive anthropological study improves a group of people too often abridged to statistics and typecast. The suffering of Hispanic relocation is expressed in the immigrants’ own accent while the author’s voice elevates questions about authority, typecast, settlement, and assimilation into American society.

Immigrants are torn by contradictory social and intellectual demands, while facing the confront of entry into a strange intimidating environment. The migratory progression, for whatever the reason, seems to improve the sense of harmony among those who migrate, who are often united by ties of affiliation, community and customs, as well as class. Symbols of ethnicity, such as language and religious behavior serve as reminders of their origin to the migrants themselves, while at the same time marking these people as outsiders in their new locale. Some migrants make a conscious decision to abandon an old unsatisfactory way of life for what they believe will be paradise on earth, land of the free, the place to find the American dream, never thinking about why or what the leave behind. For others, migration leads to a new existence, one that incorporates two or more ways of doing things, and a declining sense of national loyalty.

Many workers are reluctant to seek health care for fear of being deported, losing their jobs, losing money and many don’t even know where to seek help since they rarely leave campsites. Immigrants try not to draw attention to their presence and generally do not attend church services, school or go to the movies (Chavez 63-82). Many only stay immigrants, come to the United States and return to his/her origin either on their own or through deportation. Few actually have the chance of becoming settlers and staying in the US for years to come. For undocumented immigrants, crossing the border is a territorial passage that can be divided into three important phases: separation from the known social group or society, transition (the liminal phase), and incorporation into the new social group or society (Chavez, 4-5).

Immigrants only want enough money for survival and provide basic living needs¬†for their families. Another motive for separation, seeking “the Immigrant’s dream” relates to “the American dream” to gain upward mobility and more economic opportunities. Other motives involves females who want to continue relationship connections with men follow them to the US, or some even want to flee from existing relationships, family conflicts or simply out for adventure and satisfy curiosity (Chavez 21-39).

Chavez presents a clear fair look at the ruthless and often unsafe life of undocumented immigrants primarily in Southern California. Chavez holds the reader through precise description of people who stay on the borders of American society for fear of deportation. Their stories are moving; their persistence astonishing. North American readers will be reminiscent of just how confined and privileged they are by the good quality of living in America. An ought to read for anybody trying to comprehend the complication of illegal colonization or in the location to make strategy on the topic.


Chavez, Leo R., (1992) Shadowed Lives: Undocumented Immigrants in American Society New York: Harcourt Brace College Publishers.

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