Immigration Stories: Crossing the Border

From the harrowing trip across the border to teens whose parents are undocumented, these stories explore what the border means to Latino families that have risked everything to achieve the American dream. Recommended for grades 7-12.



Books for children

To see related titles for younger readers, take a look at Immigrant Stories for Kids: Life Along the Border.

Across a Hundred Mountains: A Novel

Age Level: 16-18

Product Description: After a tragedy separates her from her mother, Juana García leaves her small town in Mexico to find her father, who left his family two years earlier to find work in America and rise above the oppressive poverty of his country. Out of money and in need of someone to help her across the border, Juana meets Adelina Vasquez, a young woman who left her family in California to follow her lover to Mexico.

Crossing

Age Level: 16-18
Product Description: Manuel Luis Martínez explores the American obsession with mobility, the irrepressible hope that there must be something better somewhere and the relentless desire to move on in search of this elusive goal. Inspired by a newspaper account of thirteen undocumented workers left to suffocate in a boxcar outside El Paso, Crossing tells the story of Luis, a boy who leaves his small town in Mexico to seek his fortune in the United States.

Crossing the Wire

Age Level: 12-14

Fifteen-year-old Victor decides to cross the U.S.-Mexican border to earn money for his family. The border patrol is only one of his worries, which also include drug dealers, extreme temperatures, and fellow migrants. This is an eye-opening look at what draws many immigrants to the U.S. and the risks they take.

Enrique's Journey: The Story of a Boy's Dangerous Odyssey to Reunite with His Mother (Adapted for Young Adults)

Age Level: 14-16

In 2007, Los Angeles Times reporter Sonia Nazario published Enrique's Journey, a book based on her Pulitzer-Prize winning reports about a teenage boy's harrowing trip north to the U.S. from Honduras to find his mother, who had immigrated to the U.S. eleven years earlier. Sonia has now published a Young Adult version of the compelling and gritty book adapted for readers 12 and older.

Illegal

Age Level: 14-16

Product Description: "A promise that we would be together on my fifteenth birthday…" Instead, Nora is on a desperate journey far away from home. When her father leaves their beloved Mexico in search of work, Nora stays behind. When his letters and money stop coming, Nora decides that she and her mother must look for him in Texas. After a frightening experience crossing the border, the two are all alone in a strange place. Now, Nora must find the strength to survive while aching for small comforts: friends, a new school, and her precious quinceañera.

Into the Beautiful North: A Novel

Age Level: 16-18

Product Description: Nineteen-year-old Nayeli works at a taco shop in her Mexican village and dreams about her father, who journeyed to the U.S. to find work. Recently, it has dawned on her that he isn't the only man who has left town. In fact, there are almost no men in the village — they've all gone north. While watching The Magnificent Seven, Nayeli decides to go north herself and recruit seven men — her own "Siete Magníficos" — to repopulate her hometown and protect it from the bandidos who plan on taking it over.

Journey of the Sparrows

Age Level: 9-12

Product Description: Nailed into a crate in the back of a truck, fifteen-year-old Maria, her older sister, Julia, their little brother, Oscar, and a boy named Tomas endure a terrifying and torturous journey across the U.S. border and then north to Chicago. There they struggle to find work — cleaning, sewing, washing dishes — always fearful of arrest and deportation back to the cruelties of El Salvador.

Just Like Us

Age Level: 16-18

Product Description: Just Like Us tells the story of four high school students whose parents entered this country illegally from Mexico. We meet the girls on the eve of their senior prom in Denver, Colorado. All four of the girls have grown up in the United States, and all four want to live the American dream, but only two have documents. Just Like Us is a coming-of-age story about girlhood, friendship, and identity — what it means to steal an identity, what it means to have a public identity, what it means to inherit an identity from parents.

La Línea

Age Level: 12-14

15-year old Miguel and his 13-year old sister have been in the care of their Mexican grandmother since their parents illegally immigrated to California. Now it's time for them to join their parents, but Elena has plans of her own. Though the story is fiction, it will bring to real life the plight of illegal immigrants and the risks they take to enter the U.S.

My Havana

Illustrated by: Amos Ferguson
Age Level: 9-12

Product Description: "You're always drawing in that notebook of yours," Dino's friend teases. To the small boy, 1950s Havana is alive with color, music, and glamour, and he itches to capture it on paper. When Fidel Castro and the Communist Party take over the Cuban government, Dino's family must move to New York, where the lonely boy pours his heart into making a model of Havana's archways and balconies, buildings and streets. Rosemary Wells composes a tender ode to an immigrant boy who grew up to be a U.S.

Red Glass

Age Level: 9-12

Product Description: One night Sophie and her parents are called to a hospital where Pedro, a six-year-old Mexican boy, is recovering from his trip across the border. Pedro comes to live with Sophie, her parents, and Sophie's Aunt Dika, a refugee of the war in Bosnia. Sophie loves Pedro — her Principito, or Little Prince. But after a year, Pedro's surviving family in Mexico makes contact, and Sophie must travel with Pedro to his hometown so that he can make a heartwrenching decision. An Américas Award Honor Book.

Star in the Forest

Age Level: 9-12

Product Description: Zitlally's family is undocumented, and her father has just been arrested for speeding and deported back to Mexico. As her family waits for him to return — they've paid a coyote to guide him back across the border — they receive news that he and the coyote's other charges have been kidnapped and are being held for ransom. Meanwhile, Zitlally and a new friend find a dog in the forest near their trailer park. They name it Star for the star-shaped patch over its eye.

The Devil's Highway

Age Level: 16-18

Thousands of undocumented immigrants yearly scramble across the U.S.-Mexican border and into an area of the Arizona desert known as the Devil's Highway. Many do not make it out alive. This is the human story of those border crossings told with facts, anger, and poetry.

The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind

Age Level: 14-16

Sixteen-year-old Sonia Ocampo was born on the night of the worst storm Tres Montes had ever seen. And when the winds mercifully stopped, an unshakable belief in the girl’s protective powers began. Sonia knows she has no special powers, but how can she disappoint those who look to her for solace? When she gets a chance to travel to the city and work in the home of a wealthy woman, she seizes it. But when news arrives that her beloved brother has disappeared while looking for work, she learns to her sorrow that she can never truly leave the past or her family behind.

The Maldonado Miracle

Age Level: 9-12

Product Description: After Jose's mother died, his father left to work in the United States, leaving Jose on his own in Mexico. Jose's attempt to cross the border is harrowing, and his stay at a migrant worker camp turns into a nightmare, forcing him to flee for his life. Hiding out in a church seems a wise thing to do — until the blood dripping from his wounded shoulder lands on a statue of Christ. Now everyone thinks the statue itself is bleeding. Jose's accidental "miracle" kick-starts a media frenzy — and threatens the future of an entire town.

We Were Here

Age Level: 14-16

Product Description: When it happened, Miguel was sent to Juvi. The judge gave him a year in a group home — said he had to write in a journal so some counselor could try to figure out how he thinks. But Miguel didn't bet on meeting Rondell or Mong or on any of what happened after they broke out. He only thought about Mexico and getting to the border to where he could start over. Life usually doesn't work out how you think it will, though. And most of the time, running away is the quickest path right back to what you're running from.