Karla Cornejo Villavicencio became one of the first undocumented students to be accepted into Harvard University who graduated in 2011 and is now a Ph.D. candidate in American Studies at Yale University. Her parents brought her to the United States from Ecuador when she was five. Cornejo Villavicencio has written The Undocumented Americans, a book channeling that ambivalence into a series of dispatches from what we might call undocumented America: a country within a country, one that overlaps and undergirds the other. In six tight chapters, Cornejo profiles Staten Island day laborers who cleaned up New York City after Hurricane Sandy; “second responders” and delivery workers who cleared the rubble at Ground Zero; healers and pharmacists offering black-market cures in Miami; families poisoned by lead pipes and negligent politicians in Flint, Michigan; and the intimate fallout of the deportation machine. Throughout, Cornejo Villavicencio weaves in her own story, reflecting on her parents’ sacrifices and her daily battles with trauma and mental illness.
Karla is best known for her writings on immigration, music, beauty, and mental illness for The New York Times, The Atlantic, The New Republic, Glamour, Elle, Vogue, n+1, and The New Inquiry, among others. She lives in New Haven with her partner and their dog. To learn more about Karla, take a listen to NPR interview and the Immigration & Democracy podcast episode where she was featured along with author Marcelo Hernández Castillo.