By: Juan D. Coronado

In recent years, immigration has been a topic of great concern among policy makers, citizens and non-citizens in the United States. Despite the great need for comprehensive immigration reform, the subject matter is tossed about like a political football to sway and divide the American public. The U.S. immigration system is broken, and the reasons and solutions remain a mystery to most Americans. Given the complexities that surround immigration, including domestic and international concerns, this book by Marjorie S. Zatz and Nancy Rodriguez, Dreams and Nightmares: Immigration Policy, Youth, and Families is not only opportune, but welcomed.
Through sociological and legal lenses, Zatz and Rodriguez provide critical insights into the issues pertaining to immigration policy and practice, and how they persist within a system in great need of comprehensive reform. The main aim of the authors is to address the systemic issues at the core of the outdated immigration policy. In a concise study, divided into six chapters, in which the authors draw upon archival and government records along with a vast collection of interviews with persons involved with immigration at some level, Zatz and Rodriguez address real and important concerns regarding the U.S. immigration system.
It has been over thirty years since the last major comprehensive immigration policy, the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), was signed into law in 1986. Passed under President Ronald Reagan and his conservative administration, the act legalized approximately 3 million immigrants who were here without proper documentation or unclear statuses. A decade later in 1996, in response to the legalization component of IRCA, legislative critics passed two bills, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) and the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA).  These Acts greatly empowered state and local law enforcement with the ability to enforce immigration laws. Hence, from a progressive immigration perspective, we have the police state of today.  
Although the text provides a brief contemporary history of immigration in the U.S., it glosses over the history of U.S. intervention in Latin America and skims the surface of the forms of domination that prevail. To the authors’ credit, they briefly mention corrupt American-backed regimes in Central America and the intervention by the U.S. military that has historically brought instability to the region. American intervention has repeatedly shaken Latin American countries to the core, making some places inhabitable for many and forcing them to seek refuge, asylum, or a new beginning in the U.S. For example, there are the Central American unaccompanied minors that came into the country at crisis level numbers, which peaked at 57,496 in 2014. All in all, immigration and the cases of immigrants are neither simplistic nor clear as black and white, as many shades of gray lie within the complex intersections of each individual case.
Zatz and Rodriguez shed light on the powers of the executive branch and its ability to prioritize immigration policies and practices, including prosecutorial discretion. Under Barack Obama’s Presidency, prosecutorial discretion became significant as he responded aggressively to public safety concerns regarding immigration, while at the same time “easing the plight of the unauthorized living in the shadows” (p. 5).  Amid the criticisms by liberals, who believed the policy was not broad enough to address immigration issues, and those by conservatives, who felt the policy served as temporary amnesty, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) used prosecutorial discretion to prioritize deportations. The policy was based on “positive and negative factors” that targeted those with criminal records while granting a pass to those without criminal records and with strong family ties in the U.S. In response to a congressional inability to pass immigration reform, the Obama administration, through a series of executive orders, extended prosecutorial discretion in the form of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), allowing teenager and young adults meeting certain criteria to have legal presence and to work without fear of deportation.  
The authors also address the obstacles that 11 million undocumented people face, including Dreamers, undocumented students seeking higher education, in seeking to have normal lives. Contrary to popular belief, undocumented families live in constant fear of deportation. Even undocumented parents with children who are citizens often forego applying for benefits their children qualify for as they dread any attention that may jeopardize their living situation. Zatz and Rodriguez give attention to the trauma and stress children face as the emotional toll of living under constant threat affects them deeply. Many families are challenged as the immigration statuses among their members include citizen, non-citizen, and resident alien. This creates a complex vulnerability for these families, especially when they are broken-up, as members face detention and or deportation. The intense fear created by the increase of deportations under the Obama administration has convinced some families to self-deport regardless of each family member’s immigration status.
Still, without a real comprehensive immigration reform the problems remain. Despite President Obama’s efforts to establish compassionate practices through executive orders, these “best practices” are currently on the verge of being completely wiped out by the new administration. With the nationalist wave that swept the country in the aftermath of the great economic recession, an anti-immigrant fervor has dominated the nation and given rise to “pro-American” sentiments, which more often than not are equated to whiteness.
The election of Donald Trump to the U.S. Presidency is a reflection of this sentiment as his supporters were enthralled with his plans to build a wall to deter “illegal” immigration from south of the border. Using a nationalist platform that used fear as a driving force while rejecting the constructive changes and the economic contributions of the Latin American immigrants, he was able to mobilize a near-majority popular electorate to support him. Trump, the candidate, presented a very simplistic picture of immigration that cast those who are undocumented as criminals, drug dealers, rapists, and gang bangers. With this perspective, the nightmares of deportation that Zatz and Rodriguez write about are becoming more and more real, and the dreams for citizenship are quickly vanishing. Dreams and Nightmares: Immigration Policy, Youth, and Families is great addition to the body of knowledge on the complexities of the nation’s immigration problems, and it captures a brief moment in history that, given the recent changes in administrations, can serve as a guide in emphasizing humanitarian and compassionate values in the midst of the current aggressive yet misguided approach to immigration challenges created by the trade policies of the United States.