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Resources for Teaching
Luis Alberto Urrea's
The Devil's Highway

Author and Interview Links

Interview with Luis Alberto Urrea by Dan Olivas
The Chattahoochee Review Interview
Conversations with Ilan Stavans:  Luis Alberto Urrea
Luis Alberto Urrea Website
San Francisco Public Library Audio Interview with Luis Alberto Urrea
Waterbridge Interview with Luis Alberto Urrea

Resources on Coyotes & Devil's Highway

1941 Time Magazine Article on Devil's Highway
Cops, Coyotes and the Politics of Stupidity by Luis Alberto Urrea
"Sed a Trail of Thirst" Essay by Orlando Lara
Border Studies: Texas and Mexico
National Geographic Border Crossing Photos
The Devil's Highway Map
Teacher Guide for The Devil's Highway
Bombs Away: Is the Military About to Blow Its Chance to Protect Southwestern Desert Land
National Geographic: "U.S.-Mexico Barrier Spurring Even More Foot Traffic, Enviro Demage"
Questions for The Devil's Highway
Life on the Line: The Arizona-Mexico Border" by Philip Caputo
"Border Town: A Photo Essay" by Reynaldo Leal

Resources on Border Region and Coyotes

Poor immigrants with no other alternatives eventually have to resort to the desperate measure of relying on Coyotes, who smuggle them into the United States. As you read material from the following resources, consider how Across a Hundred Mountains' portrayal of this desperation and the dangers associated with crossing the border is (or is not) consistent with what is portrayed by today's media.
Illegal Immigration and Enforcement Along the Southwest Border by Pia M. Orrenius
Illegal Immigration and Human Smuggling: by Melinda S. Oja
President Bush Discusses Border Security and Immigration Reform in Arizona
"People Smugglers, Inc.": Time Magazine
"More victims of US immigration policy: 14 Mexicans die in Arizona Desert"
US Immigration Battle Goes Below: BBC News
Library of Congress Site on Immigration--includes interviews and teacher resources
NPR: The Hidden Costs and Benefits of Illegal Immigration
NPR: Arrests at U.S.-Mexico Border Drop

Questions from New Pilot
Naturalization Test to Become U.S. Citizen

Not all naturalization applicants can take the pilot naturalization test. Only certain applicants interviewing at a few USCIS locations during the pilot period can take it.  USCIS will mail letters to applicants who can take the test pilot several weeks before their interview date. Applicants who do not receive such a letter should prepare to take the current naturalization test. Information on the current naturalization test can be found on pages 56-62 of A Guide to Naturalization. For additional materials you can use to prepare for the current naturalization test, please see the related links to the right. 

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) plans to pilot 142 U.S. history and government questions in connection with the naturalization test redesign project. USCIS will administer the pilot test to about 6,000 volunteer citizenship applicants in 10 cities beginning in early 2007.

USCIS included new questions that focus on the concepts of democracy and the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. In designing the new test, USCIS received assistance and worked with test development contractors, U.S. history and government scholars, and English as a Second Language experts. USCIS also sought input from a variety of stakeholders, including immigrant advocacy groups, citizenship instructors and District Adjudications Officers.

The pilot will allow USCIS to work out any problems and refine the test before it is fully implemented nationwide in the spring of 2008.

During the trial period, volunteer applicants who choose to take the pilot test can immediately take the current test if they incorrectly answer a pilot question. To pass, applicants will have to correctly answer six of 10 selected questions. The 10 pilot test sites are: Albany, NY; Boston, MA; Charleston, SC; Denver, CO; El Paso, TX; Kansas City, MO; Miami, FL; San Antonio, TX; Tucson, AZ; and Yakima, WA.

*If you are 65 years old or older and have been a legal permanent resident of the United States for 20 or more years, you may study just the questions that have been marked with an asterisk.

Citizenship Pilot Test Questions
Click Here for Answers


A: Principles of American Democracy

1. Name one important idea found in the Declaration of Independence.

2. What is the supreme law of the land? *

3. What does the Constitution do?

4. What does “We the People” mean in the Constitution?

5. What do we call changes to the Constitution?

6. What is an amendment?

7. What do we call the first ten amendments to the Constitution?

8. Name one right or freedom from the First Amendment. *

9. How many amendments does the Constitution have?

10. What did the Declaration of Independence do?

11. What does freedom of religion mean?

12. What type of economic system does the U.S. have?

B: System of Government

13. What are the three branches or parts of the government?

14. Name one branch or part of the government.

15. Who is in charge of the executive branch?

16. Who makes federal laws?

17. What are the two parts of the United States Congress?

18. How many United States Senators are there?

19. We elect a U.S. Senator for how many years? *

20. Name your state’s two U.S. Senators. *
21. How many U.S. Senators does each state have?
22. The House of Representatives has how many voting members? *

23. We elect a U.S. Representative for how many years?

24. Name your U.S. Representative.

25. Who does a U.S. Senator represent?

26. Who does a U.S. Representative represent?
27. What decides each state’s number of U.S. Representatives?
28. How is each state’s number of Representatives decided?
29. Why do we have three branches of government? *

30. Name one example of checks and balances.
31. We elect a President for how many years?
32. How old must a President be?
33. To become President of the United States, what must the person be at birth?
34. Who is the President now?
35. What is the name of the President of the United States?
36. Who is the Vice President now?
37. What is the name of the Vice President of the United States?
38. If the President can no longer serve, who becomes President?
39. Who becomes President if both the President and the Vice President can no longer serve?
40. Who is the Commander-in-Chief of the military?
41. How many full terms can a President serve?
42. Who signs bills to become laws?
43. Who vetoes bills?
44. What is a veto?

45. What does the President’s Cabinet do? *
46. Name two Cabinet-level positions.
47. What Cabinet-level agency advises the President on foreign policy?
48. What does the judicial branch do? *
49. Who confirms Supreme Court justices?
50. Who is the Chief Justice of the United States?
51. How many justices are on the Supreme Court?
52. Who nominates justices to the Supreme Court?
53. Name one thing only the federal government can do.
54. What is one thing a state government can do?
55. What does it mean that the U.S. Constitution is a constitution of limited powers?
56. Who is the Governor of your state?
57. What is the capital (or capital city) of your state?
58. What are the two major political parties in the U.S. today?
59. What is the highest court in the U.S.?
60. What is the majority political party in the House of Representatives now? *
61. What is the political party of the majority in the Senate now?
62. What is the political party of the President now?
63. Who is the Speaker of the House of Representatives now?
64. Who is the Senate Majority Leader now? *
65. In what month are general presidential elections held in the United States?

66. When must all males register for the Selective Service?
67. Who is the Secretary of State now?

68. Who is the Attorney General now?

69. Is the current President in his first or second term? *
C: Rule of Law

70. What is self-government?
71. Who governs the people in a self-governed country?
72. What is the “rule of law”?
73. What are “inalienable rights”?
D: Rights and Responsibilities

74. There are four amendments to the Constitution about who can vote. Describe one of them.
75. Name one responsibility that is only for United States citizens.
76. Name two rights that are only for United States citizens.
77. Name two rights of everyone living in the U.S.
78. What is the Pledge of Allegiance?
79. Name one promise you make when you say the Oath of Allegiance.
80. Who can vote in the U.S. presidential elections?
81. Name two ways that Americans can participate in their democracy.
82. When is the last day you can send in federal income tax forms?
83. Name two of the natural, or inalienable, rights in the Declaration of Independence.

84. Who wrote the Declaration of Independence?
85. When was the Declaration of Independence adopted?
86. Name one reason why the colonists came to America?
87. What happened at the Constitutional Convention? *
88. Why did the colonists fight the British?
89. When was the Constitution drafted?
90. There are 13 original states. Name three.
91. What group of people was taken to America and sold as slaves?
92. Who lived in America before the Europeans arrived?
93. Where did most of America’s colonists come from before the Revolution? *
94. Why were the colonists upset with the British government?
95. Name one thing Benjamin Franklin is famous for.
96. Who is called the “Father of Our Country”?
97. Who was the first President?
98. Name one of the writers of the Federalist Papers? *
99. What group of essays supported passage of the U.S. Constitution?
B: 1800s

100. Name one war fought by the United States in the 1800s. *
101. What territory did the United States buy from France in 1803?
102. What country sold the Louisiana Territory to the United States?
103. In 1803, the United States bought a large amount of land from France. Where was that land?
104. Name one of the things that Abraham Lincoln did.
105. Name the U.S. war between the North and the South. *
106. Name one problem that led to the Civil War.
107. What did the Emancipation Proclamation do?
108. What did the abolitionists try to end before the Civil War?
109. What did Susan B. Anthony do?
C: Recent American History and Other Important Historical Information

110. Name one war fought by the United States in the 1900s.
111. Who was President during World War I?
112. The United States fought Japan, Germany, and Italy during which war?
113. What was the main concern of the United States during the Cold War?
114. What major event happened on September 11, 2001, in the United States?
115. What international organization was established after World War II (WWII) to keep the world at peace?

116. What alliance of North America and European countries was created during the Cold War?
117. Who was President during the Great Depression and World War II? *
118. Which U.S. World War II general later became President?
119. What did Martin Luther King, Jr. do?
120. Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream for America. What was his dream?
121. What movement tried to end racial discrimination?
122. Name one of the major American Indian tribes in the United States.

A: Geography

123. Name one of the two longest rivers in the United States.
124. What ocean is on the west coast of the United States?
125. What country is on the northern border of the United States?
126. Where is the Grand Canyon?
127. Where is the Statue of Liberty?
128. What country is on the southern border of the United States?
129. Name one large mountain range in the United States.
130. What is the tallest mountain in the United States?
131. Name one U.S. territory.
132. Name the state that is in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
133. Name one state that borders Canada. *
134. Name one state that borders on Mexico.

135. What is the capital of the U.S.?
B: Symbols

136. Why does the flag have 13 stripes?
137. Why do we have 13 stripes on the flag? *
138. Why does the flag have 50 stars?
139. What is the name of the National Anthem?
C: Holidays

140. On the Fourth of July we celebrate independence from what country?
141. When do we celebrate Independence Day?
142. Name two national U.S. holidays.




Select Books by Luis Alberto Urrea

From Booklist: So many illegal immigrants die in the desert Southwest of the U.S. that only notorious catastrophes make headlines. Urrea reconstructs one such incident in the Sonoran Desert, the ordeal of sun and thirst of two dozen men in May 2001, half of whom suffered excruciating deaths. They came from Vera Cruz; their so-called guide came from Guadalajara. Jesus Lopez Ramos was no master of orienteering, however, just an expendable bottom-feeder in the border's human-smuggling racket. Tracing their lives and the routes to the border, Urrea adopts a slangy, surreal style in which the desert landscape shimmers and distorts, while in desiccated border settlements criminals, officials, and vigilantes patrol for human cargo such as the men from Vera Cruz. The imaginative license Urrea takes, paralleling the laconic facts of the case that he incorporates into his narrative, produces a powerful, almost diabolical impression of the disaster and the exploitative conditions at the border. Urrea shows immigration policy on the human level. Gilbert Taylor Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
  It should be everywhere, and it should make Urrea a major voice in contemporary Latino Literature.  John S. Christie.  LatinoStories.Com Review.
  From Publishers Weekly
Urrea, a Mexican-born American, worked from 1978 to 1982 for a Protestant aid group in Tijuana, and he wrote these fragmentary, evocative tales of heartbreak and hope for the San Diego Reader after he returned to the region in 1990. "Poverty is personal: it smells and it shocks and it invades your space," Urrea declares, and he admits to being thrilled by both the goodness and the squalor he knew intimately. He visits the dumps where people live, their possessions a bed and a car-battery-powered television. He travels with a Tijuana cop, working "a city of famed vice," and learns how the cop extracts sexual favors from American women. In one arresting chapter he records his father's death in a car accident, the tragedy compounded by police and funeral costs and a battle with the father's insurance company. Urrea ends with a manic, magic "Christmas story," about a gift giveaway organized by a San Diego rock radio station and attended by a band called the Trash Can Sinatras. There Urrea reunites with Negra--who as a little girl made a shrine out of the doll he gave her, and who says, "I never forgot you, Luis." Photos not seen by PW . Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.
  From Publishers Weekly
Urrea has an almost evangelical zeal to communicate the sad lot of Mexico's "untouchable class," a border population abandoned by their country, at times by their own kin. This collection of repportage, like his Across the Wire, originates in Urrea's years helping California missionaries deliver food and medicine to orphanages and inhabitants of a moldering garbage dump near Tijuana. Here, people's lives are wholly delimited by this universe of decomposing waste. They mine their livelihood in hidden treasures?a can of food, cast-off clothing, scrap wood for a house. Passions fester and erupt; nobility and sacrifice coexist with greed, cruelty and rage.... In 10 stark, intimate, riveting essays, Urrea passes no judgment, but attempts to show why his subjects risk all for the chance of something better across the border. Their privation provokes incomprehensible acts, incomprehensible unless one has been in their situation. Urrea has shared their lives and he emerges with strong opinions on those responsible for such misery, and fears of what it forebodes for the course of America's future. Well worth reading in our age of escalating xenophobia.  Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
  From Library Journal "Words are the only bread we can really share," is the peaceful conclusion reached by the author of these energetic and darkly humorous memoirs about a childhood divided between Mexico and the United States. The third part of the trilogy begun with Across the Wire (LJ 1/93), this book establishes Urrea's prominence among Chicano writers. Whether he is describing the politics of his bicultural family or the polarities of a place like Tijuana, he deftly dissects the bilingual jokes and clich?s of Chicano culture. The pace of the storiesAoften based on dialog and vivid anecdoteAis brisk. The content can be tender (e.g., when dealing with older female faith healers) or brutal (when describing the realities of borderland machismo). The essential tone, however, is of self-deprecating humor about the challenge of explaining a dual identity, a task he accomplishes with passion and understanding. Recommended for Latino literature collections. ARebecca Martin, Northern Illinois Univ., DeKalb
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.


Books on Latino Immigration
  From Publishers Weekly: Soon to be turned into an HBO dramatic series, Nazario's account of a 17-year-old boy's harrowing attempt to find his mother in America won two Pulitzer Prizes when it first came out in the Los Angeles Times. Greatly expanded with fresh research, the story also makes a gripping book, one that viscerally conveys the experience of illegal immigration from Central America. Enrique's mother, Lourdes, left him in Honduras when he was five years old because she could barely afford to feed him and his sister, much less send them to school. Her plan was to sneak into the United States for a few years, work hard, send and save money, then move back to Honduras to be with her children. But 12 years later, she was still living in the U.S. and wiring money home. That's when Enrique became one of the thousands of children and teens who try to enter the U.S. illegally each year. Riding on the tops of freight trains through Mexico, these young migrants are preyed upon by gangsters and corrupt government officials. The breadth and depth of Nazario's research into this phenomenon is astounding, and she has crafted her findings into a story that is at once moving and polemical. Photos not seen by PW. (Feb. 28) Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
  From School Library Journal: Grade 6-9-Ryan uses the experiences of her own Mexican grandmother as the basis for this compelling story of immigration and assimilation, not only to a new country but also into a different social class. Esperanza's expectation that her 13th birthday will be celebrated with all the material pleasures and folk elements of her previous years is shattered when her father is murdered by bandits. His powerful stepbrothers then hold her mother as a social and economic hostage, wanting to force her remarriage to one of them, and go so far as to burn down the family home. Esperanza's mother then decides to join the cook and gardener and their son as they move to the United States and work in California's agricultural industry. They embark on a new way of life, away from the uncles, and Esperanza unwillingly enters a world where she is no longer a princess but a worker. Set against the multiethnic, labor-organizing era of the Depression, the story of Esperanza remaking herself is satisfyingly complete, including dire illness and a difficult romance.  Easy to booktalk, useful in classroom discussions, and accessible as pleasure reading, this well-written novel belongs in all collections.Francisca Goldsmith, Berkeley Public Library, CA Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
  From Kirkus Reviews
Anzaldúa (Friends from the Other Side, 1993, etc.) offers a feminist interpretation of the familiar Mexican legend of la Llorona, the sobbing ghost woman who steals children at night. Night has already fallen when Prietita, lost in the Texas woods while seeking the plant that will cure her mother, hears a woman crying. In spite of her grandmother's frightening stories about the ghost woman, Prietita forces herself to go to her, and in the process discovers that ghosts--and probably people, too--aren't always what others think. The ghost woman benevolently guides Prietita to the right plant and then out of the woods. The text appears in both Spanish and English; dramatic illustrations with the bold forms of mural art completely fill each spread, laden with southwestern flora and Mexican motifs. (Picture book. 4-9) -- Copyright ©1996, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

Other Resources

Films About Latino Immigration
Try the FREE surname search at the Origins Network and trace your origins online
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Copyright 2006 design and content by John S. Christie and Jose B. Gonzalez
Copyright 2006 Latino Boom: An Anthology of U.S. Latino Literature, Pearson Education, Inc.
Copyright 2006 Latino Fiction and the Modernist Imagination, John S. Christie
Last Updated:
August 03, 2015

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