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Amid the American Dirt controversy, we asked authors of our favorite books about migration for their recommendations

Not all writers think of migrants as a faceless brown mass. Indeed, if there is one thing that readers should take away from the ill-fated release of the over-hyped American Dirt, it is that the stories of migrants and refugees have been and are continuing to be told by writers around the world, richly, with nuance, and without relying on trite stereotypes.

We asked the authors of some of our favorite novels about immigrants and migration to recommend an alternative reading list to American Dirt. Here are their selections.

Viet Thanh Nguyen

Viet Thanh Nguyen is the author of The Sympathizer and The Refugees. Photograph: AP

Luis Alberto Urreas The House of Broken Angels is the Latinx novel that Oprah should have picked for her book club. The novel has it all humor, history, politics, emotions, all packaged into a highly readable account of a Mexican American family that straddles the border of the United States and Mexico. This is the Great American Novel, if by American we mean the greater America that is both north and south of the border. Urrea is an expert on the border and migration, having spent years and many books exploring these topics. He combines that intimate knowledge with a master novelists flair to pull us into a family whose struggles have historical roots but whose feelings are ones that we all know love, loss and longing.

Elaine Castillos America is Not the Heart has a special place in my heart because its set in the 408 the area code for the south bay of the Bay Area. The Bay is dominated by San Francisco, but the 408 is the less than glamorous land of bedroom communities including Castillos Milpitas and my San Jose. Castillo, of Filipina descent herself, focuses on the lives of documented and undocumented Filipina/os and traces their origins to the impact of American colonization in the Philippines and the US support for the martial law regime of Ferdinand Marcos. While politics and revolution form the background of the novel, the foreground is all about the power, pleasure and peril of kinship and romance, set in a beautifully, intimately drawn portrait of the Filipino American community. Plus lots of hot queer sex.

Luis Alberto Urrea

Luis Alberto Urrea. Photograph: Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images

The crisis of representation and appropriation ignited by American Dirt has made my mind turn to scores of worthy books in every genre about this issue. It would be nearly impossible for me to suggest *the book* on this subject. But one of the books that weighs on my mind is this moving work of witness by Tim Hernandez, All They Will Call You. He tells a forgotten story about the fate of a group of migrants, deported by the US government in 1948, who died in the worst airplane disaster in California history. The thing that haunts me is his care for the stories of the dead, his refusal to allow those human beings to be forgotten. It is a quintessential migrant story, which makes it a truly American story.

  • Urrea is the author of 17 books, including Nguyens top pick above, the short story collection The Water Museum, The Devils Highway, a Pulitzer finalist in non-fiction, and several volumes of poetry.

Angie Cruz

Author Angie Cruz. Photograph: Erika Morillo / The Shipman Agency

I highly recommend Bang by Daniel Pea, Butterfly Boy by Rigoberto Gonzlez, Mean by Myriam Gurba and The Moths and Other Stories by Helena Mara Viramontes, all of which are by Chicano writers who have dedicated themselves to researching, exploring and writing about and around the border and immigration. I read Viramontes as an undergrad. Her work was being taught in a sociology class. In my creative writing and lit classes I was taught writers like Simpson, Gaitskill and Atwood. All of whom were writers in the same generation as Viramontes but stocked on different shelves in the bookstores. And this is obviously a problem because Viramontes stories are innovative, acute and beautifully written and if published today, one hopes her collection wouldnt have had to include a long academic introduction to create context and validity for her work and instead would have been reviewed and celebrated in mainstream literary spaces for the explosive content, the nuanced characters and her singular literary style.

Another work Im excited about by a storyteller who works for the stage is Andrea Thomes Fandango for Butterflies (and Coyotes). If you are in NYC you dont want to miss the show that tells the story of undocumented immigrants coming together for a fandango on the evening of an Ice raid in New York City, as they wait for a loved one to arrive from Honduras. Inspired by interviews with undocumented immigrants from Latin America living in New York, the piece will be a community celebration where stories are brought to life through live performance, music and dance.

  • Cruz is the author of three novels, including Dominicana, about a child forced to marry in order to secure her familys future in America.

Mohsin Hamid

Author Mohsin Hamid on Anarkali Street in Lahore, Pakistan. Photograph: Ed Kashi/VII/Corbis

I would like to suggest two very different books.

Tayeb Salihs Season of Migration to the North is a novel about a young man going from Sudan to Europe. He studies, immerses himself in a different culture, and comes back changed, both angry and anger-inducing, but also perplexed and deeply unsettled. Its a seminal text, not of the migrant who assimilates and achieves the so-called dream, but of the migrant who goes and comes back. Theres a very strong awareness in this book about the sexualisation of the migrant and the self-exoticisation that occurs, but also about the impossibility of return. You can go back to where you come from but the person who goes back is no longer the person who left. That is a theme we see echoing again and again across migrant fiction. Its important to remember that we need antidotes to the idea that migrant fiction is simply people going north or going west. Very often, its people who willingly or unwillingly have to return, altered, to where they began.

Julie Otsukas The Buddha in the Attic is an incredible work on multiple levels. It tells the story of a generation of women, a shipload of Japanese wives who head to California, employing a first person plural, which is very unusual. We sometimes hear about the danger in fiction of a writer depicting a group as a faceless mass, or of presuming to speak for an entire group through underhanded means. Otsukas book is remarkable: it does speak for a group but uses form to subvert and interrogate that critique. The narrative voice that emerges is of a group of people with constantly individualized particulars. Thats a very difficult task to pull off but I think Otsuka succeeds magnificently. I would suggest this book as an antidote to the limited imaginings of what we think a narrative can be and as a reminder of the power of literary fiction to unlock some of those puzzles. Its truly a unique and awe-inspiring book.

  • Hamid is the author of four novels, including The Reluctant Fundamentalist and Exit West.

Matt de la Pea

Author Matt de la Pea. Photograph: Heather Waraksa / Penguin

Ill never forget the visceral experience I had the first time I read Luis Alberto Urreas powerful The Devils Highway. I was living in Brooklyn, NY, and my wife and I were expecting our first child. Back then I was reading a lot of books set on the Mexican border. Having grown up in a border community myself, I think it was my way of staying connected to home. We used to make the short drive into Tijuana frequently when I was young, to visit family, and I remember staring outside the windows of our Volkswagen Vanagon, fascinated by how drastically everything changed the second we officially left San Diego and entered Mexico. But it was The Devils Highway that woke me up to the political travesties surrounding this barrier between the two countries. I was so shaken by Urreas brutal account of 26 men and their passage across the border, into the Arizona desert, that as soon as I finished, I started again. This time I listened to the audiobook, read by Urrea himself, as I pushed my sleeping newborn around Prospect Park in a stroller. It was on these walks, listening to The Devils Highway, staring at my baby girl, that I realized all writing is political writing. And my own work was forever changed.

  • De la Peas books for young adults include Mexican WhiteBoy and We Were Here. He has also written several books for younger readers, including the Newbery Medal-winning Last Stop on Market Street.

Dina Nayeri

Author Dina Nayeri. Photograph: Roberto Ricciuti/Getty Images

We lost our home, which means the familiarity of daily life. We lost our occupation, which means the confidence that we are of some use in this world. We lost our language, which means the naturalness of reactions, the simplicity of gestures, the unaffected expression of feelings. Hannah Arendt wrote these words in the 1943 essay We Refugees.

I think of these words when I read immigrant stories to remind myself of what an honest story owes to the reader. Has the author struggled over these private and subtle calculations? Does she understand these specific indignities? Or does she want to portray the drama for the entertainment of others? The books below impressed me because they understood deeper truths about displaced lives. They honored immigrants even in humiliating moments, instead of exploiting their stories.

Years ago, I read Dinaw Mengestus novels The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears, and All Our Namesin quick succession. Both are stories of Ethiopian men struggling to make a new life in DC and Chicago, to find companionship and love, despite poverty, the heartbreak of a ravaged home, and so much American hostility. Both novels show well-meaning American women who, as they try to help, trample on the mens dignity, safety and much else.

99 Nights in Logar by Jamil Jan Kochai is so well rooted in the Afghan narrators voice and experience, it goes beyond empathy, transporting the reader. It ignores the western gaze and tells the story the way its subjects need it to be told. The result is funny and sharp and devastating. One chapter, a private family story, is written in Pashto because it isnt meant for everyone.

Catherine Chungs Forgotten Country is gorgeously written and full of heart. And thats another way to honor the subject matter: write it well. Bother to learn the craft (as many have failed to do). Chungs book is about sisters, family loyalty and war. It is illuminating and sensory and the characters come alive in the care of a precise and compassionate author who has made a lifelong study of her craft.

  • Nayeri is the author of two novels, Refuge and A Teaspoon of Earth and Sea, as well as the memoir The Ungrateful Refugee.

Aida Salazar

Aida Salazar, the author of The Moon Within. Photograph: Photo by Lluvia Higuera

These recently published or upcoming books for children and young adults are part of a larger dialogue about immigrant realities and migrant justice that was taking place before the American Dirt fiasco. It must be acknowledged that there is no one definitive migrant story but many and must include not only Mexican voices but the many voices of migrants to the United States.

Picture books: My Shoes and I by Ren Colato Lanez; Where Are You From? by Yamile Saied Mndez; Dreamers by Yuyi Morales.

Middle grade: Gaby, Lost and Found by Angela Cervantes; Front Desk by Kelly Yang; Other Words For Home by Jasmine Warga; Efrn Divided by Ernesto Cisneros and my book, Land of the Cranes.

Young adult: All the Stars Denied by Guadalupe Garcia McCall; Diary of a Reluctant Dreamer by Alberto Ledesma; The Distance Between Us by Reyna Grande; American Street by Ibi Zoboi; Illegal by Francisco X Stork; The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante; We Are Not From Here by Jenny Torres Sanchez; Lobizona by Romina Russell; Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland; Indivisible by Daniel Aleman.

  • Salazar is the author of The Moon Within.

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President reacted to New York attack by targeting Chuck Schumer for sponsoring diversity immigrant visa program under which Sayfullo Saipov entered US

One prompted a sombre tone, quotation from scripture and prayer for unity. The other brought a barrage of tweets, peppered with capital letters and exclamation marks and bent on divisiveness and blame.

Donald Trump had sharply contrasting responses to the mass shooting in Las Vegas and the terrorist attack in New York that bookended the month of October.

The morning after Stephen Paddock fired hundreds of rifle rounds from his suite on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas, killing 58 people at a country music concert, Trump was at his most presidential, stating from the diplomatic room at the White House: In moments of tragedy and horror, America comes together as one and it always has.

But when it came to solutions, the president offered little more than looking at gun control laws as time goes by.

Eight people were killed and 11 wounded when motorist Sayfullo Saipov, 29, originally from Uzbekistan, allegedly ploughed a pickup truck down a crowded bike path along the Hudson river in Manhattan on Tuesday, before being shot by a police officer. It was the deadliest terrorist attack in New York since September 11 2001.

Trump rattled off several tweets in the immediate aftermath and, on Wednesday, went highly personal and political, raising the prospect of sending the suspect to Guantnamo Bay and taking aim at the Democratic Senate minority leader, Chuck Schumer, and an immigration lottery programme he helped design.

The terrorist came into our country through what is called the Diversity Visa Lottery Program, a Chuck Schumer beauty, the US president posted at 7.24am ET. I want merit based.

Trump was responding to the fact, confirmed by the Department of Homeland Security, that Saipov had entered the US from Uzbekistan under the diversity immigrant visa programme.

Also known as the green card lottery, the state department scheme grants 50,000 visas each year to people from parts of the world with relatively low immigration rates over the previous five years. Schumer was one of its architects in 1990, although he later backed moves to scrap it.

Senator Chuck Schumer at the US Capitol in Washington on Tuesday. Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Trump followed up with a reference to the Fox News show Fox and Friends, which he is known to watch regularly and has a reputation for amplifying his views: We are fighting hard for Merit Based immigration, no more Democrat Lottery Systems. We must get MUCH tougher (and smarter). @foxandfriends.

And in a third tweet he had another dig at Schumer: Senator Chuck Schumer helping to import Europes [sic] problems said Col.Tony Shaffer. We will stop this craziness! @foxandfriends.

A few hours later, making his first televised remarks on the atrocity, Trumps tone was at first somewhat reminiscent of his post-Las Vegas address. All of America is praying and grieving for the families who lost their precious loved ones, he said before a cabinet meeting. Horrible act. Our hearts break for them and we pledge to renew our resolve in their memory.

But soon he reverted to the blame game, saying that he would ask Congress to immediately begin work on terminating the immigration programme. Diversity lottery sounds nice. Its not nice, its not good, it hasnt been good, weve been against it, he said. We want a merit-based programme where people come into our country based on merit and we want to get rid of chain migration. He claimed he was being stopped from doing this by Democrats.

Trump added: We also have to come up with punishment thats far quicker and far greater than the punishment these animals are getting right now. Theyll go through the court for years, at the end theyll be who knows what happens. We need quick justice and we need strong justice. Much quicker and much stronger than we have right now, cos what we have now is a joke and its a laughingstock and no wonder so much of this stuff takes place, and I think I can speak for plenty of other countries too that are in the same situation.

The Republican senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham have advocated that Saipov be held as an enemy combatant and taken to the US military prison at Guantnamo Bay. Asked about this possibility, Trump replied: I would certainly consider that, yes. Send him to Gitmo. I would certainly consider that, yes.

Of the 775 detainees who have passed through Guantnamo, none of them have been arrested within the US for acts committed on US mainland soil.

Trump was condemned for seeking to score political points off the tragedy. Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York state, told reporters: The presidents tweets, I think, were not helpful …

It was referring back to an immigration policy that dealt with a lottery and blaming people who passed that immigration policy. His tweet wasnt even accurate as far as Im concerned: that was a bipartisan law that was passed that had basically no relevance to this situation.

Cuomo added: You play into the hands of the terrorist to the extent you disrupt and divide and frighten people in this society and the tone now should be the exact opposite by all officials on all levels.

His tone was echoed by New Yorks mayor, Bill de Blasio, who told the same press conference: I dont think anybody should be politicising this tragedy at this moment in time. This should be a unity moment where the focus is on solving the crime and figuring out how we can move forward together, not pointing fingers.

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Eight people killed after truck drives on to New York bike path video report

In 2013, Schumer was among the so-called Gang of Eight senators whose plan to overhaul immigration laws included the elimination of the diversity lottery. Another of the eight, the Republican senator Jeff Flake, tweeted on Wednesday: Actually, the Gang of 8, including @SenSchumer, did away with the Diversity Visa Program as part of broader reforms. I know, I was there. The bill passed in the Senate but not in the House.

Schumer, an old verbal sparring partner of Trump who has lately attempted to make policy deals with the president, issued a statement in response to the criticism. President Trump, instead of politicising and dividing America, which he always seems to do at times of national tragedy, should be focusing on the real solution anti-terrorism funding which he proposed cutting in his most recent budget, he said.

Trumps proposed budget recommended funding of $448m for the Urban Area Security Initiative, which helps cities including New York to prevent, mitigate, respond to and recover from acts of terrorism, a cut of more than 25% from its current $605m. The president is also seeking to eliminate anti-terrorism funding for the non-profit security grant programme, which typically provides anti-terrorism funds to schools, museums, stadiums, religious and community centres. A budget recently passed by the House and Senate is silent on the issue.

The Democratic senator Chris Murphy, an outspoken campaigner for tighter gun controls, noted the paradox of Trumps responses. Now I get it, he tweeted. If the killer is an immigrant you can talk about policy change, but if hes natural born, youre politicizing the tragedy.

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Parade participants and protesters against Trump, guns and other issues mingle in cities across US, while Minneapolis event is disrupted by die in

Anti-police protesters disrupted the Twin Cities Pride parade on Sunday, over the police shooting of Philando Castile.

Sundays parade was interrupted just minutes after getting under way in downtown Minneapolis. Radio station WCCO-AM reported that about 200 protesters began marching down Hennepin Avenue and at one point staged a die-in.

On Friday, parade organizers invited police to participate in the annual parade after initially asking them to minimize their involvement due to tensions over a jurys acquittal this month of a Minnesota officer who fatally shot Castile during a traffic stop last year.

Janee Harteau, the first openly gay Minneapolis chief of police, called that decision divisive.

On Sunday, protesters chanted no justice, no peace, no pride in police and carried signs reading Justice for Philando and Black Lives Matter.

In other cities, pride parades sought to spotlight resistance to what participants see as new pressure on gay rights, while contending with the prospect of protests over the events own diversity and direction.

In a year when leaders are anxious about President Donald Trumps agenda, both the New York and the San Francisco parades were headed by groups more focused on protest than celebration. In New York, grand marshals including the American Civil Liberties Union were chosen to represent facets of a resistance movement.

LGBTQ activists have been galled by the Trump administrations rollback of federal guidance advising school districts to let transgender students use bathrooms and locker rooms of their choice. The Republican president also broke from Barack Obamas practice of issuing a proclamation in honor of Pride Month.

But the pride celebrations also face some resistance from within the LGBTQ world. Some activists feel the events are centered on gay white men and unconcerned with issues that matter particularly to minorities in the movement, such as economic inequality and policing.

The divide has disrupted other pride events this month. The No Justice No Pride group blocked the route of the Washington parade, and four protesters were arrested at the parade in Columbus, Ohio.

Some march organizers took steps to address the criticisms about diversity.

The pride celebration is a platform for that dialogue to happen, San Francisco Pride board president Michelle Meow said. The large resistance contingent leading San Franciscos parade includes groups that represent women, immigrants, African-Americans and others along with LGBTQ people.

A boy carries a rainbow flag near the Stonewall Inn in New York City. Photograph: Brendan Mcdermid/Reuters

New York City pride parade spokesman James Fallarino said if there were any disruptions or protests, organizers would do everything in our power to respect the people who are disrupting or protesting and to respect their message.

In the event, a New York group protesting changes to the federal healthcare law pulled a gurney and carried IV bags, while a group called Gays Against Guns chanted What do we want? Gun control!

Tens of thousands lined the streets of Manhattan, and many marchers said the political climate was prompting them to turn out. Lee Sorge, 20, a transgender man from New York, said he came for the first time in part to show support for the gay community in light of the political climate.

San Francisco welcomed thousands of revelers wrapped in rainbow flags and wearing rainbow tutus. Some held signs that read No Ban, No Wall, Welcome Sisters and Brothers while they danced to electronic music at a stage near city hall.

Two marchers, Frank Reyes and his husband Paul Brady, said they decided to march for the first time in many years because they felt a need to stand up for their rights.
Brady said things were changing quickly and we need to be as visible as possible.

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Undocumented immigrants with any type of criminal charges, such as Juan Carlos Fomperosa Garca, are now a priority for deportation under Trumps order

Juan Carlos Fomperosa Garca planned to celebrate his sons 17th birthday on Thursday. But first, he had to go in for a meeting around 9am with immigration officials in Phoenix for what he believed was to discuss his request for asylum.

He walked in. An hour later, they brought me a bag with his stuff and that was it, said Yennifer Sanchez, Fomperosa Garcas 23-year-old daughter.

The single father of three US citizens, who entered the country 20 years ago, was detained after meeting with Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials, but never came out, his daughter said, adding that she thought he was safe because he had a work permit.

By Friday morning, Fomperosa Garca had called his children to let them know he had been deported to Mexico.

Now, Sanchez has become the sole guardian of her 17-year-old brother and 14-year-old sister. She said she plans to continue working as a caregiver and, with the moral support of her father, care for her siblings.

They are going to keep going to school, Sanchez said of her siblings. Im going to work. Were going to try to get through this.

To help the family financially, a local organization started fundraising money online. They raised more than $1,300 in less than three hours.

Ayensa Millan, a Phoenix-based immigration attorney who was contacted by Fomperosa Garcas family on Thursday, said she wasnt sure why Fomperosa Garca had the check-in with Ice officials. She said his asylum request had already been denied so there was no reason for them to interview him for an asylum claim.

It sounds to me like they literally just called him to remove him because of his prior removal order, Millan said.

In a statement, Ice confirmed Fomperosa Garca had been deported and that he had been previously repatriated to Mexico three times, including a formal deportation in 2014. Last year, he was again ordered removed by an immigration judge and in 2015 was convicted of a federal misdemeanor charge, according to Ice.

Ice will continue to focus on identifying and removing individuals with criminal convictions who have final orders of removal issued by the nations immigration courts, the statement said.

Fomperosa Garcas deportation comes a few weeks after the deportation of Guadalupe Garca de Rayos, a mother of two US citizens who lived in Arizona for more than two decades. She was also deported after she went in for a check-in with Ice.

But under a new executive order that Donald Trump signed on 25 January, Garca de Rayos became a priority for deportation. The order states that undocumented immigrants should be deported if they have been charged with any criminal offense. The president said the order was needed to ensure the public safety of the American people.

Millan said her advice to undocumented immigrants, especially those with no serious criminal records, is to not be fearful and to pay close attention to whats going on. She noted that most undocumented immigrants whove been deported recently had prior orders of removal or had already been found by an immigration judge to not have strong enough merits to be granted a stay in the US.

For undocumented immigrants whove become a priority for deportation under Trumps new executive order and have pending check-ins with Ice, Millan said she advises them to be prepared and get an immigration attorney. Another option is to seek sanctuary at a church.

I always leave it up my clients discretion and tell them these are the immigration consequences, Millan said. I tell them, If you are going to stay there and go for the long haul, by all means, do it. But its up to them because, when people go into sanctuary places, you never know how long theyre going to be there.

With tears in her eyes, Sanchez said on Friday that her father was nothing like the type of people Trump alludes to when he talks about deporting undocumented immigrants with criminal records.

When you image people breaking the law, you imagine a scary person, she said. You imagine someone who doesnt care for anyone else. When I hear those words being said about my dad and seeing what type of person he is, it hurts. Criminal would never be a way that I would describe my father.

Instead, Sanchez said she would use words like goofball and caring to describe her father, adding that he liked to watch movies, listen to zumba music, dance and make people laugh.

I know that if he was sitting right here right now, he would be making everyone crack up, she said.

  • This article was amended on 4 March 2017 to show Yennifer Sanchez is caring for her two siblings, not daughter and son as previously stated.

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Order has immediate chilling effect on Iranian community, as some worry about family and friends who have green cards and visas who are marooned in Iran

The sun still shined on Westwood Boulevard, the thrumming commercial heart of the biggest Iranian community outside Iran.

Families lunched on chicken kabob at Flame, Shaherzad and other restaurants. Students browsed titles in Farsi bookstores. Music lovers flicked through CDs of Ebrahim Ebi Hamedi, the king of Persian pop.

Just another Saturday in Tehrangeles, a portmanteau of Tehran and Los Angeles coined by exiles and their descendants also known as Little Persia, a term so well established Google Maps recognises it.

The apparent normality deceived. In hushed and bewildered tones, people wondered whether they still recognised the United States, the adopted homeland that had welcomed and sheltered them but now labelled them potential terrorists.

It is totally unjust. This will affect thousands and thousands of families that are completely innocent, said Siamak, a 56-year-old physician who fled Iran after the ayatollahs took over in 1979. We ourselves are victims of terrorism. Now we are branded terrorists?

The news was still sinking in: Donald Trump had signed an executive order halting arrivals from Iran and six other Muslim-majority countries as part of his extreme vetting to keep out terrorists.

The order, named the Protection of the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States, imposes a a 90-day block on entry from citizens from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Somalia.

Irans foreign affairs ministry said it will take legal, political and reciprocal measures.

Overnight, many of the up to 500,000 Iranians and Iranian Americans who live in southern California felt as though the US border had clanged shut. If they leave, they may not be able to return. Those who are currently outside the US even those with green cards and visas are marooned.

My friend is visiting relatives in Tehran and now hes stuck, said a young bookseller, who like most interviewees did not want her name published. Hes got a job here, a mortgage, car payments. What will happen to him?

The question hung over every family with noncitizen relatives abroad. Its ridiculous, said Sam, a restaurant manager. Weve felt good here. California is very open-minded. But now this. His voice trailed off.

The director Ashgar Farhadi, who won an Oscar in 2012 for his film A Separation, and is nominated again for The Salesman, may not be able to attend next months ceremony, an absence which would fuel Hollywoods animus towards the Trump administration. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences called the prospect extremely troubling.

One middle-aged woman, loading groceries into a Porsche, quivered with indignation. Iranians are not murderers. Iranians are not terrorists. Americans should know that. She said sanity would return. Trump is not going to last so long. Theyll impeach him.

Trump had promised a crackdown during the campaign but the executive order still came as a shock. Californias Iranians, who often prefer the term Persian to distance themselves from Irans current leadership, form a thriving community with roots stretching back decades. Some arrived as students in the 1960s, followed by waves of exiles after the 1979 revolution.

Muslims tended to settle in Orange Country and the San Fernando valley, Jews in Westwood and Beverly Hills.

Anecdotal evidence suggests many Jewish Iranians voted for Trump because he strongly backed Israel and bashed Tehrans rulers. Some are unrepentant.

Yes, Trump! said one 70-year-old man who gave his name only as Kevin. He will stop the terrorists. You know when you leave your house, you lock the door, right? Hes doing right.

Asked whether a blanket ban on Iranian citizens was a good idea, Kevin hesitated. All, maybe not. But you have to lock your house.

Hassan Ali, a 29-year-old engineer from Pakistan who was buying pepper in Tehran Market, said targeting Muslims or any other religion was un-American. This country is supposed to be a melting pot.

The executive order seemed to have a chilling, immediate effect. Of 16 people of Iranian heritage interviewed at random in west LA, not one was willing to have their full name published.

Holly Dagres, a Middle East commentator, discovered the same reluctance among her contacts. Iranians are scared to share.

The community in Tehrangles learned to keep its head down during the hostile atmosphere engendered by the 1979 hostage crisis. Embracing the term Persian evoking carpets, cats and antiquity was a way to avoid connotations of terrorism and fanaticism.

But that linguistic sidestep did not deflect Trump, said Siamak, the physician. He has branded us. The stereotype is back. I fear things will get worse and worse.

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A historian travels to the divided cities of Ambos Nogales for a concrete example of a complicated relationship

But for the tall, copper-coloured fence, it would not be obvious to the casual visitor that there are two Nogales. The Arizona version, population about 20,000, sits next to its Mexican namesake in Sonora, which is 10 times larger. Many of the shops on the main street blast banda music, and the shoppers converse in Spanish. Although the cities are divided, they are still referred to together as Ambos Nogales (both Nogales).

The fence, which stretches along 650 miles of the nearly 2,000-mile long border between the US and Mexico, has become far more than a physical barrier. To some it is a symbol of unjust division; to others an ineffectual barrier to stop unwanted immigration.

President-elect Donald Trumps pledge to build a big, beautiful wall and make Mexico pay for it struck a nerve. He has continued to reiterate the promise, telling a press conference last week, I dont feel like waiting a year Im going to start building.

For three years, I have been working on a history of Hispanics in the US, and I wanted to return to the border, the centre of this debate. Cities such as Nogales remind us that it will take more than a wall to cut through the tangled history of these two countries.

Around 6 million of the 11 million undocumented people in the US are from Mexico, and Mexican is often used as shorthand for all Spanish-speaking migrants. While the idea of the wall may represent a halt to all immigration, at the heart of this discussion is the complex relationship between the US and Mexico.

One family straddling both worlds is that of 18-year-old Angelica, who asked that her surname not be used. She and her three siblings were born in the US to undocumented Mexican parents.

When she was 12, her family had a serious deportation scare in Arizona. They were on their way to a nearby lake when they were pulled over by police. Arizona had recently passed the controversial SB 1070 legislation, which allows law enforcement officers to ask people for immigration papers on routine stops, such as a traffic violation.

Isabelle Rodrigues speaks with a relative through the US-Mexico border fence in Nogales, Mexico Photograph: Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

Angelicas family was allowed to proceed after her fathers licence was checked, but the incident left them shaken. Fear was running through our veins every single day, she said. So, we decided to exit voluntarily.

They returned to Jalisco, Mexico. It was really difficult, she recalled. The children were mean just because I didnt know the language very well.

She decided to return to the US for high school, and is finishing her final year. At first, Angelica lived with relatives, but her immediate family soon followed her back. Her parents were granted temporary US visas but at the moment they are in a legal limbo. When I was in Mexico I didnt feel like I fit in, Angelica said. This is where I belong and where I want to be.

Although the border, and the immigration laws that underpin it, profoundly affects the lives of people like Angelica, it is a relatively recent development. Much of todays south-west United States was Native American land that was claimed by the Spanish in the early 16th century, until Mexico started its fight for independence in 1810. Indeed, the first immigration problems between America and Mexico concerned US settlers in the Mexican state of Coahuila y Tejas. They staged a rebellion that led, in 1836, to the independence of Texas, which later joined the US as a state.

The Mexican-American war followed, after which 51% of Mexicos land was ceded to the United States. This territory now makes up Arizona, New Mexico, California, Nevada, Utah, and parts of Wyoming and Colorado.

Then, in 1853, the US negotiated the Gadsden Purchase, paying $10m ($270m today) for a strip of land in southern Arizona and New Mexico that was ideal for railways. Mexicans living in the region either had to move south to Mexico or become US citizens. As the saying goes, they did not cross the border, the border crossed them.

Lydia Otero, associate professor in the department of Mexican American studies at the University of Arizona, lives this history. There are Mexican-Americans, like her, who dont have a migration story. Her familys roots are in Tubac, Arizona, about 25 miles from the border. The Oteros were granted land there by the Spanish in the late 18th century, and she also has Native American Apache ancestry. But such longevity is losing its social currency.

Two years ago I was walking downtown [in Tucson] and somebody rolled down their window and said go back to where you came from, she said. So, those kinds of assumptions based on the way I look are very real here.

Mexicans first began to cross the border in significant numbers during the upheaval of the Mexican revolution (1910-20). However, the initial concern of the US Border Patrol, which was established in 1924, was Chinese people trying to find a way around the Chinese Exclusion Act 1882.

When the Great Depression hit, Mexicans in the US bore the brunt. Hundreds of thousands were deported or frightened into leaving. Yet when the second world war began there was, once again, a need for more workers. The result was the bracero programme named for the Spanish term meaning labourer which started in 1942 and allowed the issue of guest-worker visas to Mexicans. It brought some 4.5 million people to the US.

By the 1950s there was public concern that too many braceros, as well as undocumented people, had entered. So, in 1954, Operation Wetback deported around 1 million supposedly undocumented Mexicans. Trump alluded to the success of this programme during the presidential campaign, but it has been dismissed by others as inhumane and ineffectual. While it was happening, the bracero programme was still in place it would not end until 1964.

Mexican immigrants were joined in the 1970s and 80s by central Americans fleeing instability and violence. The 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act allowed amnesty for some 3 million people. Thirty years on, the backlog for immigration cases stretches for years.

US Border Patrol agent Nicole Ballistrea watches over the US-Mexico border fence. Photograph: John Moore/Getty Images

Margo Cowan, an immigration attorney in Tucson, says Trumps plan for deporting even 1 or 2 million people is impossible because of this. There is nothing about immigration that is simple, she said. So, when you talk about Im going to deport everybody, you have no idea what youre saying. As for the wall, Cowan thinks it is equally unlikely: There wont be a wall. We all know there wont be a wall.

A couple of hours drive east of Nogales is John Ladds ranch, which runs up to the border fence. His family has raised cattle for 120 years, and he has seen big changes, not least the building of the current fence after the Secure Fence Act 2006 and the installation of cameras. But, he says, it is no deterrent to the drug cartels. Since 2012, weve had 54 pickups full of marijuana cut the wire down, go through the ranch, get to the highway, he said. Thats how well the wall works.

For Ladd, a legal work-visa scheme would go a long way to help, although he also thinks anyone caught crossing illegally should be jailed. Im not cold-blooded enough to say I dont care about those people, he said, but that isnt our problem, and we have laws. And if you break the law you go to jail.

Standing on Ladds land, peering though the steel mesh fence, a white pillar is visible. These were placed on the border by US and Mexican authorities in the late 1800s to give permanence to what were only lines on a map. Looking at the brown earth stretching to the mountains in the horizon, it is hard to see which side is which.

Carrie Gibson is the author of Empires Crossroads. Her history of Hispanics in the US will be published by Grove Atlantic in 2018, and she presents La Frontera on Radio 4 at 8pm on Monday 16 January

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While waiting in Tapachula for US exit permits, African and Asian migrants recount the treacherous journeys they took to get one step closer to a new home

Global development is supported by

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

The sun has barely risen and already hundreds of migrants are gathered outside the vast white and green immigration detention centre, hoping to get through its gates.

Most have travelled thousands of miles on foot, by boat and bus from South America, but few here speak Spanish. In front of the locked gates near Mexicos southern border, its an eclectic mix of French, English, Creole, Urdu, Lingala and Somali.

This eclectic crowd is part of a huge surge in African and Asian migrants traversing the Americas in hope of a better life in the US. The circuitous passage means paying thousands of dollars to coyotes or people smugglers to cross 10 countries, where overcrowded fishing boats, mosquito-infested jungles, armed bandits and immigration agents await.

A child waits in front of the immigration center in Tapachula for an exit permit to the US. Photograph: Encarni Pindado for the Guardian

Despite the dangers, about 7,882 Africans and Asians presented themselves at Mexican immigration in the first seven months of this year 86% higher than in the whole of 2015 and more than four times the number registered in 2014. At the end of August, Tapachulas immigration registered 424 Africans in just two days.

Over the past decade, Latin America has become an increasingly popular route of entry to the US for Asian and African migrants, but the current surge in numbers is unprecedented.

The numbers are still tiny compared to the hundreds of thousands of Central Americans fleeing violence and poverty, but the treacherous route crossing Latin America is becoming increasingly popular as people from across the world seek new ways to reach the US.

The vast majority arrive in the city of Tapachula near the Guatemalan border, without a visa or even a passport. But unlike Central Americans, these migrants can obtain a temporary travel document which allows them to continue unimpeded to the US border since Mexico has no deportation agreements with their countries.

We saw a dead man without head or hands

By 8am, its already fiercely hot outside the immigration center and there are too few shady trees for the growing crowd. To kill time, people listen to music on their phones or discuss the best ways to travel north. Those with money will fly to the Mexican cities of Tijuana, Matamoros or Mexicali, others will risk several days on buses through states plagued by organised crime, where Central American migrants are routinely targeted by traffickers and kidnappers.

Habte Michael, 28, from Asmara, Eritrea, just arrived three months after setting off from So Paulo, Brazil. After a punishing journey hes exhausted, but optimistic hell soon be in America where he will seek refuge.

Michael left Uganda for Rio Branco in northern Brazil in September 2015. He spent a few months learning Portuguese and planning his route, before crossing into Peru in May 2016. Next, he travelled overland on buses with the help of connectors an organised network of individuals who help migrants buy bus tickets and find cheap hotels through Ecuador and Colombia. In Turbo on Colombias west coast, he took a boat to Panama where he walked with Africans, Bangladeshis and Haitians for five exhausting days through acres of mountainous jungle with a coyote.

African and Haitian migrants cross the Suchiate river at the border between Guatemala and Mexico. Local rafters charge them eight times the normal rate. Photograph: Encarni Pindado for the Guardian

In June, after walking for three days, his group found the washed-up body of a west African man. The river took him as he was walking in a group without a coyote, so he didnt know where it was safe to cross. In Panama we saw another dead man, also black, without head or hands.

Entering Costa Rica is fine, but leaving ithas been much tougher since Nicaragua decided to close its border last year to stop the flow of Cubans migrating to the US. There are about 2,000 migrants from across the world currently trapped in dire conditions on the border with Nicaragua, at a camp in Peas Blancas. In August, 10 migrants mostly Haitians drowned crossing Lake Nicaragua.

Michael was caught three times by Nicaraguan immigration agents and sent back to the camp. Like at least two dozen other migrants interviewed by the Guardian, he was robbed at gunpoint while walking through the Nicaraguan jungle. Desperate, he paid $1,000 to a truck driver to take him to Honduras, but the driver never showed up.

Each time a coyote takes your money or you get robbed, you must wait for family to send you something to carry on, Michael said. Its the only way I cant go back.

Michael eventually made it to Honduras six weeks after arriving at the Costa Rica-Nicaragua border. Many migrants described Honduras as the easiest country to cross, as irregular migrants those not from Central America are given travel permits.

In contrast, Panama and Nicaragua are the most dangerous.

Abdua Kareema, 38, from Ghana, was robbed by four gunmen in the jungle near Managua.

They stripped the women and searched them intimately to see if they were hiding anything, Kareema said. One woman had her time of the month, but the robber thought the feminine pad was something hidden, so he slapped her face.

Similar reports of sexual violence against women are common.

We just looked up a route on Google

By mid-morning, immigration officers have let through about 200 people who will spend a few days or weeks locked in, while their travel permits which give them 21 days to leave Mexico are processed. Most are economic migrants and will be given safe passage by Mexico. Meanwhile, busloads of detained Central Americans enter the gates; with most deported home the next day, to face the violence and threats they fled.

The rest, including Michael, are given dates to return later in the week. Disappointed, they sit around eating lychees and cheap biscuits, deciding what to do next.

But still, more people arrive. About 15 young men from the Punjab region of India arrive with their rucksacks, straight from the Guatemalan border which they had crossed by raft.

Some flew from Delhi to Ecuador via Istanbul, others came via Indonesia and Dubai.

Indian migrants travelled for several months through Latin America before arriving at the immigration offices in Tapachula. Photograph: Encarni Pindado for the Guardian

We didnt pay guides, we just looked up the route on Google, said Herdeep Ghotra, 26, a truck engineer. Also my cousin came the same way two years before.

Ghotra walked six days through the Panama jungle where he saw seven dead migrants six men and one woman, all black. Its not clearly how or when they died, or if their bodies have since been recovered. Ghotra was also robbed at gunpoint in Nicaragua: They took $200 and my love, my HTC phone.

The Indians talk mostly about wanting to make a better a life for themselves. Some are trying to reunite with family members in the US, while Ghotra says a violent family conflict forced him to leave.

An immigration officer emerges to tell them to come back in two days and prepare to be inside the center for a week. After that, theyll wait for money to be wired by relatives to fly to Tijuana where thousands of Africans, Asians and Haitians have descended this year.

No one here seems to be aware that US border control agents are now working here amid growing American concerns about security risks following recent terrorist attacks in the west.

I welcome them with love

Tapachulas main square is jam-packed with people enjoying noisy fair rides and junk food stalls.

On an avenue just off the main square, lie the cheap hotels where most African and Asian migrants choose to stay; where a new curry house run by a Mexican cook who was taught to make dhal and fish curry by a Bangladeshi migrant is the most popular food joint.

Just off the main drag is Mama Africas what everyone calls Concepcin Gonzlez, 56, who runs the $3a-night, no-frills Imperial Hotel. Here, there are people from across Africa: Burundi, South Africa, Nigeria, Somalia, Mozambique, Ghana, Congo and many Haitians pretending to be Congolese in order to avoid deportation.

Migrants gather in a hotel known as Mama Africa in downtown Tapachula, which is almost exclusively African. Photograph: Encarni Pindado for the Guardian

They tell me how they want to make a better life for their families, I can understand and welcome them with love, Gonzlez told the Guardian.

There are 70 beds squeezed into 15 rooms, but tonight its packed, so there are couples and mothers with infants resting on wafer-thin mattresses in the internal patio.

Fedolina, 39, from Angola, has a ghostly look of pain and fatigue marked across her face. She fell while running from armed robbers in Nicaragua two weeks ago. Her right arm hangs limp, her shoulder looks dislocated, and theres a nasty gash on her forehead. She has yet to see a doctor.

Gonzlez moves her into a quiet room and promises to take her to hospital in the morning.

As the plight of Syrians fleeing war continues to yield untold horrors in Europe, in this region, emerging crises also provoke new routes and new dangers.

Last year, Mama Africa was Mama Cuba as almost 10,000 Cubans entered Mexico amid rumours that the US visa waiver programme could end with the thawing of diplomatic ties. The numbers have plunged amid tighter travel restrictions in Latin America, but those determined to leave Cuba have found new routes.

Pig farmers Ernesto Prez, 46 and Onel Martn, 44, left their hometown Manzanillo on the Caribbean coast last July on a handmade boat. Powered by a car engine, they sailed with 25 others, including nurses, a mechanic, and an economist. It took seven days and 1,000km to reach the Honduran Bay Island of Guanaja Bay, a risky but increasingly common route used by Cubans.

Our reason for leaving is purely economic, increased tourism has made no difference to our lives. I sold my few valuable things, my pigs, television and fan, to make this journey. But now what? said Martin, contemplating his next move outside the Beln migrant hostel.

After a temporary reprieve, immigration raids in Mexico are once again targeting Cubans.

Ernesto Prez, left, and Onel Martn sailed seven days on a handcrafted boat in Mexico. Junior Bordon flew to Guyana and travelled on foot, bus and boat to Mexico. Photograph: Encarni Pindado for the Guardian

In a surprise visit to Mexico earlier this week, Republican candidate Donald Trump reiterated his intent to build a wall along the US-Mexican border in order to end all migration from the Americas.

But wall or no wall, desperate people do desperate things.

In Tapachula airport Lejma, 21 and husband Ahmed, 22, from Mogadishu, Somalia, comfort their hysterical little girl, who thinks the immigration officers in white uniforms are doctors.

She was very sick in the boats and got bitten by many mosquitoes when we walked seven days in the jungle, said Ahmed. She was then in hospital in Costa Rica for nearly one week and had many injections.

Somaya, just 22 months, is covered in bite scars.

The family left Somalia to escape a police officer who was harassing Lejma, a waitress, demanding she be his wife. When she refused, the family was threatened by the officers colleagues and clan.

Their plan is to fly to Matamoros, Tamaulipas, and then claim asylum at the Brownsville border crossing in Texas.

There is no justice in my country, we had to leave, Ahmed said. I hope we can work and one day bring our families to America.

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