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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 422

In Part I, Sonya recalls the three rules that her parents, Latino immigrants, have taught her and her brother.

Rule one: never talk to strangers, not even the neighbor who paced up and down the hallways talking to himself. Rule two: the police . . . should always be avoided....

(The entire section contains 422 words.)

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In Part I, Sonya recalls the three rules that her parents, Latino immigrants, have taught her and her brother.

Rule one: never talk to strangers, not even the neighbor who paced up and down the hallways talking to himself. Rule two: the police . . . should always be avoided. Rule three: keep your key with you at all times—the four walls of the apartment were the only protection against the streets until Popi returned home.

These rules show just how difficult life can be for immigrants, especially children. The family arrives in "the secrecy of night, as displaced people often do," with both mother and father planning to work so that they can save enough for a "finer future" where "the toilet was one's own and the children needn't be frightened." Sonya, just a child herself, must remember these very important rules in order to keep herself and her little brother, Macky, safe. We can also infer just how terrifying it must be for these parents to have to entrust their children's safety to one of those very children in order to begin to build a life for their family. Then, as a child, to understand that the "four walls of the apartment" offer the only possible protection you can find, as you have to be afraid of the very people who are tasked with protecting the innocent, must also be heartbreaking. This family's only crime is entering the country illegally in order to secure a better life, a life where one doesn't have to feel afraid.

In Part II, we see how insidious racism can be, especially among people who fail to realize their own prejudice. The owner of the Cariboo Cafe says,

While I'm stirring the chili con carne, I see all these illegals running out of the factory to hide, like roaches when the lightswitch goes on.

The owner thinks he's a "nice guy," though he "pointed to the bathroom" when the cops came in looking for any illegal immigrants. First, he calls people "illegals"—as though they are objects rather than individuals. He turns an adjective into a noun, stripping humans of their personhood. Second, he compares them to roaches, insects synonymous with filth, reducing them to something worse than worthless: to something disgusting and foul. He thinks he's an "honest" guy who runs an "honest business," and he may tell the truth, but he is also heartless and cruel, failing to recognize the humanity of the factory workers (also his customers) simply because they are different from him.

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