My Underground American Dream

/ posted in: Reading My Underground American DreamMy (Underground) American Dream: My True Story as an Undocumented Immigrant Who Became a Wall Street Executive by Julissa Arce
Published by Center Street on September 13th 2016
Genres: Nonfiction, Personal Memoirs
Pages: 304
Format: ARC
Source: From author/publisher
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Set in Mexico and Texas

For an undocumented immigrant, what is the true cost of the American Dream? Julissa Arce shares her story in a riveting memoir.
When she was 11 years old Julissa Arce left Mexico and came to the United States on a tourist visa to be reunited with her parents, who dreamed the journey would secure her a better life. When her visa expired at the age of 15, she became an undocumented immigrant. Thus began her underground existence, a decades long game of cat and mouse, tremendous family sacrifice, and fear of exposure. After the Texas Dream Act made a college degree possible, Julissa's top grades and leadership positions landed her an internship at Goldman Sachs, which led to a full time position--one of the most coveted jobs on Wall Street. Soon she was a Vice President, a rare Hispanic woman in a sea of suits and ties, yet still guarding her "underground" secret. In telling her personal story of separation, grief, and ultimate redemption, Arce shifts the immigrant conversation, and changes the perception of what it means to be an undocumented immigrant.


Julissa Arce’s parents were working legally in the United States while she and her older sisters lived with her extended family in Mexico.  Her younger brother was born in the United States.  When Julissa started acting out in school at age 11, her parents brought her to live with them.  She had no idea that it was illegal for her to go to school.  She didn’t know that she had outstayed her visa until her mother explained that she couldn’t go back to Mexico for her quinceanera because she wouldn’t be able to come back into the United States.

She was a star student but was not accepted to any colleges because she didn’t have a social security number.  At this point Texas passed a law that allowed undocumented students to go to college at Texas state schools.  This allowed her to be able to go to school.

I was conflicted when reading this book.  I think people should follow the rules of the country they live in.  I also think that it should be much, much easier for people to come to the United States from Latin America so people aren’t required to sneak into the country.  Julissa also buys fake documents as an adult to be able to get a job.  I can see that she was brought into the country by her parents and she had no intent to do anything wrong at that point, but now she was actively breaking the law because she felt she was entitled to stay here and get a very high paying job.  She talked a little bit about whether or not she should go back to Mexico because she would be able to get a very good job so it wasn’t like she didn’t have options.  She also marries specifically get to a green card.  The more unethical things she does, the less sympathy I retained for her.

This book made me understand the issues around children of undocumented immigrants.  They are stuck as they become adults.  I think there should be a way for these children to be able to be legally documented.

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