Tens and thousands of unaccompanied children every year have crossed our borders, fleeing the violence occurring in civil war-torn Central America. Carol Naples, CSL Immigration Law Society president realizes that the plight of these children is a humanitarian crisis, which we can help alleviate. As a result, on April 10, during Law Week, through Naples’ unrelenting efforts, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and author of national bestseller, Enrique’s Journey, Sonia Nazario addressed CSL students on how they can help alleviate this humanitarian crisis.
Nazario is an award winning journalist who spent over 20 years reporting and writing about social issues for various U.S. newspapers. Nazario originally wrote about Enrique’s Journey as a series in the L.A. Times, which won her the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing in 2003. Random House turned Enrique’ Journey into a book that became a national bestseller. In 2014, when there was an influx on unaccompanied minors at the border, Nazario went to Honduras to report on the crisis and her article was published in the N.Y. Times. Nazario consequently addressed the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. Nazario has received various awards such as the George Polk Award for International Reporting, National Association of Hispanic Journalists Guillermo Martinez-Marquez Award, and Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award. Nazario has been featured on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, NBC’s Meet the Press, and Anderson Cooper 360. Most recently, Nazario was named a 2015 Champion for Children by First Focus, and the 2015 Golden Door winner by HIAS Pennsylvania.
There were about forty students including Professor Nunez and Professor Judge Holmes-Simmons in attendance. Nazario spoke about what inspired her to write about Enrique’s journey and other broader immigration issues. Enrique’s Journey tells the story of a boy from Honduras and his quest to find his mother in the U.S. During the podcast event, Nazario talked about the personal risks she took by traveling with these young immigrants, retracing Enrique’s multiple attempts to find his mother. “I discovered that children were getting killed, maimed, abused en route by drug traffickers or gangs,” said Nazario. These children were then treated as criminals in the U.S. if they survived the trip.
After this experience, “situations like Enrique’s was a refugee crisis and not an immigration crisis,” said Nazario.
Kelvin Smith, a 2L attending the event shared his gratitude towards Naples for her efforts in providing Charlotte Law students an opportunity to ask Nazario questions about her book. Smith was enrolled in Professor Judge Holmes-Simmons, Undocumented Children and the Law course during fall of 2014 and was very excited about the opportunity. Nazario’s book is “a great insight to the dangerous journey thousands of children take each year from their home country to the United States seeking to reunite with family,” said Smith.
Graciela Mateo, a 2L and officer of the Immigration Law Society, was first introduced to Nazario’s book in her Latin American Studies class at UNC-Charlotte. Getting to meet Nazario and hearing her point of view was an eye opening experience for Mateo. She was amazed as to how open Nazario was about her journey and writing this story. “I think I was shocked to hear that she now suffers from PTSD,” she said. “It was admiring to hear how Nazario wanted to tell the truth and wanted to take this journey to keep the story authentic.” Mateo further shared.
Professor Nuñez, supervising attorney of the Immigration Law Clinic and attendee, was very impressed by Naples’ resilience to bring Nazario, a nation-wide known author and lecture to present to CSL students and inform them about immigrants and their plights. Professor Nuñez expressed his sincerest gratitude towards Naples work. “Thanks to the perseverance and relentless of [Carol] Naples, who never saw any of the ‘unsurmountable’ obstacles but instead, the benefits to use all by having such a high caliber speaker before the CSL community.” “We are extremely grateful to Naples for exemplifying GRIT,” said Nuñez.
Pulitzer Prize winning author Sonia Nazario’s appearance at the Charlotte School of Law enhanced the schools understanding of the plight of the undocumented child. It was clear that Nazario truly experienced the difficulties and trials these children endure as they make their journey to the United States. “My class ‘Undocumented Children and the Law’ was given new meaning by her presence,” said Professor Judge Holmes-Simmons. To access the podcast event, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
~ Maritza T. Adonis ~