"The Tortilla Curtain" is a story about a Mexican immigrant family and an upper class American family, which shows how despite living in the same place their lives are very different simply because of how they are seen. The two main characters meet by chance, and the actions at the meeting set in place a long string of events that showcase the anger and violence shown towards immigrant families.
Candido is hit by Delaney's car, and since he is an immigrant Delaney offers him 20 bucks to go on his way and not report it. This leads to the man being too hurt to work and his wife having to go to work, which led to her crossing paths with some very bad people. His wife, named America, is at one point raped and attacked. Before that, the couple's camp is attacked and destroyed, forcing them to move their home.
While all of these tragedies are occurring, the Americans that live in the town are trying to have a wall put up to keep people like Candido and his wife out. The people in the town are worried about property values and mistakenly accuse the Mexican people in town of crimes or issues that are not their fault. They don't realize how hard life is on people like Candido and his wife or the hardships they have to go through themselves.