By Meghan de St. Aubin
SPJ invited several members of the community to a panel on April 23 to speak on the topic of immigration and how it currently affects those in the area. Members of the panel included State Representative Pedro Marin, reporter Mario Guevara of Mundo Hispanico, Luis Estrada of Telemundo, Charles Kuck of Kuck Immigration Partners LLC and Georgia State Professor Dr. S. Rashid Naim.
Immigration is a subject that quite often comes up in articles I have written around for several publications in my career. However, I’ve never been able to completely focus on the background because as many people at the panel would probably agree, the topic can be quite complex.
We already know immigration is a hot topic for political candidates and voters, but, from what I have seen, many organizations do not focus on the real story.
Such as questioning why are these people running from their country? Are they living in utter poverty and fear of their government and their families being hurt? For most of us, we will never experience that arrest of freedom and may find it difficult to understand.
Mario Guevara of Mundo Hispanico told us he came to America due to danger in his home country of El Salvador and from his experience as a reporter, many others do. We were shown a video of a raid in Chamblee by ICE. All of us were overcome with emotion watching children in tears while their father was being arrested because he popped up in the database from committing a crime over a decade before. Guevara told us this is a typical case for ICE because the government does not want anyone here who is undocumented who could be considered a “criminal”. In the video, a young girl who was only eighteen years old was also taken into custody. This was a child who had never committed any sort of crime other than living on American soil because her parents wanted a better life for her.
It was an eye opening experience, especially as Charles Kuck and Rep. Pedro Marin went into details about current immigration laws, misinterpretations of those laws and their experiences with those who are/were undocumented. Kuck employs a young woman who was in the headlines in recent years. Jessica Colotl ignited a debate about immigration after she was arrested in 2010 on Kennesaw State University’s campus for driving without a license, a crime many undocumented people are convicted of. Colotl came to America when she was only eleven from Mexico with her family and now as a young adult she was facing felony charges of making a false statement about her address to police. This issue, Kuck said, brought to light the conundrum undocumented immigrants face when attempting to pursue higher education.
In fact, last Tuesday, Kuck’s office filed a motion for 10 young undocumented immigrants stating they are eligible for in-state tuition. As of now, the university system in Georgia requires students to provide proof that they have “lawful presence” in the country. The university system as of now says students with temporary permission to stay under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) are not eligible to receive instate tuition.
While hearing the update on this case which is expected to go to the United State’s Supreme Court,
I was floored by the hoops young immigrants must jump through all because they were brought here for a justifiable cause by their families.
Not every immigration case is alike, and to judge and simply say, “put up a wall” or “keep out those who do not belong” is a civil rights travesty. Journalists can do their part by looking into the context of cases like Guevara did and adding humanity into a story that at face value could be judged based on political beliefs. As Guevara said, no human in this world is “illegal.” Actions may be illegal, but before criminalizing anyone the circumstance of the situation must be checked so that ignorance can stop being perpetuated in our country.