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Author Puts Faces on the Immigration Debate

The new book "Antonio's Gun and Delfino's Dream" features true stories about Mexican immigration into the United States. Its author, Sam Quinones, discusses his work and the larger immigration debate.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    Now a different take on the immigration debate, and to Ray Suarez for a book conversation.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    The book is "Antonio's Gun and Delfino's Dream: True Tales of Mexican Migration." The author is "Los Angeles Times" reporter Sam Quinones. I recently spoke with him at a day labor market just outside Washington, D.C.

    Sam Quinones, welcome.

    SAM QUINONES, Author, "Antonio's Gun and Delfino's Dream: True Tales of Mexican Migration": Thank you for having me.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    "Antonio's Gun and Delfino's Dream" are separated by a long time. And I guess, right from the outset, you remind the reader that this relationship is an old one.

  • SAM QUINONES:

    Right, exactly.

    I mean, the Antonio's gun story is about a man in the '20s who comes to the United States. The reason he comes here is to buy a gun to avenge the murder of his — of his father back in the village in Mexico where he's from.

    Delfino Juarez came here a few years ago. But the reason he came and the reason Antonio Carrillo came I think were very similar. One, they both wanted to put an end to the humiliation, end to the submission that they were experiencing in their own village. One came for a gun.

    Delfino, however — Antonio comes for a gun, but Delfino comes really to make money to build a house. The house is kind of the symbol of his standing in the world. Before, he had a leaky shack. He comes to the United States, and, in two years, he's able to build a nice two-story concrete — concrete home, with all the amenities, and changes his village, becomes a rather — an important man in his village, and in so doing kind of ends the humiliation, the submission that he was he was subjected to as one of the poorest kids in his village.

  • RAY SUAREZ:

    You, throughout the book, illustrate for us Delfino's rise in the world and his sort of figuring out how to be a worker and support his family. But, even with his house rising in his village, you see a problem for Mexico in the very success of these men who cross the border.

  • SAM QUINONES:

    Correct, because, you know, the thing about Delfino is — the story that — what I really loved about his story was that he shows what — kind of what I think every immigrant brings, and what every immigrant takes away from Mexico, which is this kind of gumption, drive, energy, you know?

    But that's why I really believe immigration for Mexico is a complete, really a disaster, because there's no — it's not — these people who are leaving are — they're unsophisticated. They're uneducated. But they have that drive, that energy that is leaving Mexico and coming here.