Nathaniel Hoffman and Nicole Salgado tell true stories of American citizens affected by immigration laws.
By Liza Long
Photography by Copper Chadwick
In June 2013, Boise journalist Nathaniel Hoffman and writer Nicole Salgado, who now lives in Mexico, entered the United States Capitol building in Washington D.C. with two suitcases and started going door to door. Their mission: to deliver a copy of their book Amor and Exile: True Stories of Love across America’s Borders to all 535 members of the United States Congress. The book weaves Hoffman’s traditional reporting with Salgado’s personal narrative of her life as an American citizen who was forced to leave her country in order to preserve her family.
“We spent two days delivering the books,” said Hoffman, who edits Boise State University’s online journal of popular scholarship, The Blue Review. “When the representatives realized we were the actual authors, they came out of their offices and engaged with us. We had an opportunity to tell them our ideas about immigration. Once we know someone in this situation, it is easier for us to understand the real issue – it’s the same for members of Congress and their staff. They need to meet people like Nicole who are affected and disenfranchised by their laws.”
Hoffman and Salgado first met at Cornell University where Hoffman majored in African Studies. Their friendship continued when they were both living in California, where Hoffman covered immigration issues for the Contra Costa Times and Salgado met her future husband Margo, an undocumented Mexican immigrant. “I got interested in this issue because immigration is all sound bite journalism,” Hoffman said. “Nicole was actually living this. I wanted to get beyond the sound bites – to tell the stories of American citizens who were impacted by immigration laws.”
What Hoffman learned surprised him. Like most Americans, he assumed that an American citizen could bring a foreign-born spouse into the country. But since the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, that has not been the case for many couples.
While researching the book, Hoffman traveled to Mexico to get both sides of these poignant and painful stories. He was particularly moved by the story of Veronica, a woman who lives in Canyon County, and her husband Juan, who has a 20-year ban from entering the United States and, as a result, now lives apart from his wife and children in Michoacan, Mexico. “Her husband was deported, and she was a single mother overnight,” Hoffman says. “They had no time to plan. They had a normal life in Nampa together (he was supporting her and the family) and now she is on welfare, struggling to raise her daughters alone.”
Hoffman and Salgado decided to write a book together in 2010. Three years later, just as immigration reform sound bites started to dominate the news again, they completed Amor and Exile and decided to crowd-fund its publication. They raised more than $12,000 with an IndieGoGo campaign, enabling them to print 1000 copies of the book and make their trip to
Hoffman and Salgado plan to take their message to corporate America next, providing a copy of the book to CEOs. “The stories are hard for people to tell, because the stakes are so high,” Hoffman says. “Your family could be split apart.” Still, he hopes that their book will provide a meaningful context for the immigration conversation. “These are real couples, real stories,” he says.
Amor and Exile is available locally at Hyde Park Books and Rediscovered Books in Boise. For more information, visit http://www.amorandexile.com.