Immigration panel discusses complex issues at SPJGA event

By Meghan de St. Aubin, commentary

SPJ Georgia invited members of the journalism community to a panel 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 panel 1
From the left, Luis Estrada, Telemundo; State Representative Pedro Marin; Charles Kuck, Kuck Immigration Partners LLC, Dr. S. Rashid Naim, Georgia State University; Mario Guevara, Mundo Hispanico  Photo by Sharon Dunten

Immigration is a subject that quite often comes up in articles I have written 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 is 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 says he came to America due to danger in his home country of El Salvador and from his experience as a reporter, as many others do. We were shown a video of a raid in Chamblee, Georgia, by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The participants at the event watched children in tears while their

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Mario Guevara, Mundo Hispanico reporter ran a video of undocumented immigrants arrested in Chamblee, Georgia. Photo by Sharon Dunten

father was being arrested because he popped up in the database from committing a crime over a decade ago. Guevara says this is a typical case for ICE because the government does not want anyone here who is undocumented and might be considered a “criminal.” Also in the video, an 18-year -old girl was also taken into custody. The panelist says this girl never committed any sort of crime other than living on American soil because her parents wanted a better life for her.

In addition, 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 says he employs a young woman who was in the headlines in recent years. Her name is Jessica Colotl. Her undocumented status ignited a debate about immigration after she was arrested in 2010 on the Kennesaw State University’s campus for driving without a license, a crime that many undocumented people end in a conviction. Colotl arrived in America at age eleven from Mexico with her family and now as a young adult she was facing felony charges for 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, recently 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. Presently, the Georgia university system states that students with temporary permission to stay under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) are not eligible to receive in-state 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 because they were brought here for a justifiable cause by their families. Not every immigration case DACA Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals logois 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 by adding humanity into a story. At face value many of these stories might be judged based on political beliefs. As Guevara said, no human in this world is “illegal.” Actions might be illegal, but before criminalizing anyone the circumstance of the situation must be checked so ignorance can stop being perpetuated in our country.

SPJ GA Immigration Panel April 2016 (2)


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Meghan de St. Aubin

Meghan de St. Aubin is a young professional currently working at Safe Banking Systems in Canton, Georgia. She is a graduate of Kennesaw State University where she received her bachelors degree in Journalism and Communications. Meghan interned at the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, the Covington News and the Cherokee-Ledger. In college, she was editor-in-chief of Kennesaw State’s campus magazine and was instrumental in the publication’s redesign while boosting readership through social media campaigns.