Want to Be Famous? Be Illegal.

Karla Cornejo Villavicencio is the latest illegal alien to gain fame and fortune by whining about how gravely she and similarly situated illegals have been mistreated by the United States. Her new book, Undocumented America, purports to be, “the story of the devotion immigrants have for a country that wants to expel them.”

And literary critics have fallen head over heels for her writing, regularly spouting fatuous nonsense like, “Particularly in her depictions of immigrant women, Villavicencio reveals a fullness of character that feels subversive, simply because of how rare it is.” The thing is, the kind of self-aggrandizing, “look at me” schlock that Ms. Villavicencio is peddling isn’t new at all.

In fact, the modern American literary canon is littered with books written by illegal aliens. They range from Jose Antonio Vargas Notes of an Undocumented Citizen to Alberto Ledesma’s Diary of a Reluctant Dreamer to Julissa Arce’s  My (Underground) American Dream and Someone Like Me.

They all follow a familiar pattern: Alien enters the U.S. unlawfully. Alien becomes a trespasser. Alien complains that he/she isn’t unquestioningly accepted as an American simply because he/she showed up here.  They all fail to accept any responsibility for their predicament. And none of them provide a satisfactory explanation for why they believe the United States owes them an apology for access to education, aid and economic opportunity they would never have had in their native countries.

That kind of ungrateful griping is a little tough to swallow from any illegal. After all, America’s millions of uninvited guests are free to go home if they aren’t happy here. But in the case of these authors it is profoundly dishonest. 

Jose Antonio Vargas is a Pulitzer-Prize-winning journalist.  Alberto Ledesma earned a PhD in ethnic studies from the University of California at Berkeley and now serves as that institution’s graduate diversity director for arts and humanities. Julissa Arce earned a college degree then landed highly compensated jobs at Goldman Sachs and Merrill-Lynch. And Ms. Villavicencio went to Harvard and is now a PhD candidate in American studies at Yale.

Their status as immigration violators doesn’t seem to have kept any of these individuals from achieving the type of success that eludes many working class Americans. In fact, in most cases it is the very basis for their fame and fortune.

In fact, American’s willingness to spend money to read their stories demonstrates that this is not a country that treats illegal aliens harshly or unfairly. And their achievements indicate that, far from being discriminated against, in many instances, they were actually treated better than similarly situated Americans.

And that brings us to the most disturbing aspect of all these accounts. We have reached a point where our cultural elites have taken up the cause of foreign interlopers, who they see as more deserving of the American dream than down-home, native-born locals. When is the last time you heard about an American kid from the rough-and-tumble streets of Detroit or Pittsburgh getting a free ride to an Ivy League school?

Those stories do still happen. But one suspects that, should a book telling that tale arrive in the near future, it won’t generate the type of fawning prose the critics have lavished on the immigration law breakers.

About Author


Matthew J. O’Brien joined the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) in 2016. Matt is responsible for managing FAIR’s research activities. He also writes content for FAIR’s website and publications. Over the past twenty years he has held a wide variety of positions focusing on immigration issues, both in government and in the private sector. Immediately prior to joining FAIR Matt served as the Chief of the National Security Division (NSD) within the Fraud Detection and National Security Directorate (FDNS) at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), where he was responsible for formulating and implementing procedures to protect the legal immigration system from terrorists, foreign intelligence operatives, and other national security threats. He has also held positions as the Chief of the FDNS Policy and Program Development Unit, as the Chief of the FDNS EB-5 Division, as Assistant Chief Counsel with U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement, as a Senior Advisor to the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman, and as a District Adjudications Officer with the legacy Immigration & Naturalization Service. In addition, Matt has extensive experience as a private bar attorney. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in French from the Johns Hopkins University and a Juris Doctor from the University of Maine School of Law.

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