Pulitzer Prize-winning Journalist Speaks on Immigration

Wednesday, September 7, 2016, 8:30 am
By: 
Heather Paris

Sonia Nazario, the author of Enrique’s Journey visited East Lansing as part of this year’s One Book One Community (OBOC) program. The Pulitzer Prize-winner’s appearance took place on Sunday, Aug. 28, at Hannah Community Center.

This year’s OBOC theme is Faces of Migration: The Human Experience. The book focuses on the journey of Enrique, a 16-year-old from Honduras trying to get to the US to find his mother, who had been gone for 11 years. Nazario, a journalist with years of experience covering immigration issues, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for her series in the LA Times. The series focused on the journey children take from Central America to find their mothers in the U.S. was then published in book form.

In order to understand exactly what the children go through to get to the US, Nazario took the same trip they do, riding on top of freight trains. She rode on top of seven freight trains, traveled 1,600 miles and the journey took three months. During most of the trip, she had to be careful of corrupt police and gangsters, who would steal any money she had and possibly hurt her. However, there were also places like Veracruz, where no matter how little the people had, they would always give something to the children on the trains.

During her talk, she included statistics about the rise of immigration from the south. According to Nazario, one million immigrants come to the US every year and 200,000 of them are here illegally. One in four of them are children. In 2014, 69,000 children came to the US.

She went on to advocate for Americans to support people in Central America and offered some concrete action the audience members could take to help. Microloans, trade policies, buying fair trade products and educating girls were a few of her suggestions. She closed with, “If a child is in danger and knocks at your door, you should open your door.”

Nazario was introduced by MSU Provost June Youatt. Youatt told the audience that 20,000 copies of the book had been given to incoming MSU freshman at orientation before the summer and were given the task to read the book in preparation for the fall semester. There was a short Q&A session, including a question about the young person’s version of the book. Targeted for 10 to 14-year-old children, many schools have chosen it as part of their curriculum.

This kickoff event is available via an on-demand playback, courtesy of the MSU Alumni Association, at http://livestream.com/msualumni/2016OBOC. The event will also be replayed on East Lansing’s government Ch. 22 (WELG) on Sundays and Mondays at noon and 8 p.m. and will be made available to borrow at the East Lansing Public Library, 950 Abbot Road, beginning Sunday, Sept. 4. Ben Rawlence, author of City of Thorns will speak at the next OBOC event on Wednesday, Sept. 14; 7 p.m. at the East Lansing Public Library, 950 Abbot Road.

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