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The Longest Road: Overland in Search of America from Key West to the Arctic Ocean

Caputo, Philip | Henry Holt, 2013


p. 136

The author tells the story of Filemon Sanchez, a Mexican immigrant, who overcame numerous obstacles, including bigotry, to establish a flourishing bakery and restaurant in Grand Island, Nebraska.  His odyssey stirs the author to ponder America’s southern border: “I’d seen the walls and barriers rising on the Mexican line, the glass eyes of the surveillance cameras peering into the desert at night.  Three thousand Border Patrol agents are stationed in Arizona alone, ten for every mile of its border with Mexico.  Keep out, you huddled masses yearning to make our motel beds, butcher our hogs, build our houses, harvest our crops, landscape our yards.  This is nothing new. The Chinese Exclusion Act in the 1880s aimed to block Chinese from landing on our shores.; as late as the early twentieth Century, certain East Coast ports prohibited Irish immigrants from disembarking.  (New York was an exception.  That’s why so many Irish had bought steerage tickets on the Titanic.)  How many Filemon Sanchezes have been cuffed, jailed, and sent home, and are we really the better for it?”