5 Tips For Immigration Reporters

Reporter: How did you feel about the Obama Administration announcement to drop the cases of 300,000 people in deportation?
Me: How did I feel? I didn’t feel anything. I am ambivalent. It’s a momentous decision that doesn’t really do much.
Reporter: But you are to be deported, right?
Me: I’m in removal proceedings — whether I’d be ordered deported is another story.
Reporter: But the new announcement helps you right?
Me: It’s too soon to say.

I usually want to run as far away as possible during these ridiculous time-consuming conversations. In this case, it is evident that the reporter knew next to nothing about immigration law. It’s like interviewing a defendant in a criminal trial and automatically assuming that s/he would be found guilty. He automatically assumed my guilt, assumed that the government would win and assumed I would be deported. I shut down and had nothing to say to him because he was offensive and doing me a grave dis-service. And he never called me back for clarification. That’s his loss because he missed the chance to get some valuable education and wrote an erroneous piece. In fact, the vast majority of articles on immigration are full of errors, mostly because the reporter and editor do not understand immigration law.

Truth be told, immigration reporters are like babies who need to be spoon-fed with the correct things to write on a silver platter. They can’t really do anything right all by themselves. And I keep wondering if enabling their naive, ignorant and childish behavior is constructive for us and even their own growth as people. Often-times, I have to kick them along to the next person who is more than willing to spoon-feed them for their five minutes of fame because I don’t have the time to baby-sit, especially not for free.

Tips to people writing about immigration:

1. Being in removal proceedings does not equal being ordered deported. There are certain benefits available in immigration court that are unavailable to undocumented people living in limbo.
2. Here’s how you can stop being erroneous all the time: Calling people “illegal immigrants” or “illegal aliens” is equal to calling a defendant that has yet to be convicted, a “convicted felon” or “criminal defendant.” No, this isn’t a matter of debate and don’t hide behind the erroneous AP style. Only an immigration judge can determine “guilt” and you are not an immigration judge.
3. Take classes in immigration law. Sit in on several lectures at a law school. It may make a world of difference to how you think and write about the legal aspects of it.
4. Start talking and writing about why people came to the United States and how exactly it differs from those that came before. Don’t run away from race, gender, class, heterosexual privilege and neo-liberalism.
5. Call or email the person before writing about her/him. I’ve had reporters who write about me without ever talking to me. I’m not even sure if that is ethical as far as journalism goes but their pieces are always full of errors i.e. I’m not a “California college student.”

I’m not trying to be condescending. But this may help your growth more than hand-holding and spoon-feeding.

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