“And I thought, ‘If they could only treat us and think of us the same way they do their animals … ‘ Instead, they treat us like terrorists and they think of us as bad people.”

Two brothers who spent 14 years apart sit at a kitchen table in a mobile home outside of Minneapolis. The elder one, David, looks around at the freshly painted blue walls with pride. He’s adding new window frames, flooring and appliances bit by bit to make a home for his family.

David left El Salvador on Sept. 1, 2005. He was 20 and the journey to Minnesota, where his father was living, took 22 days.

“You remember the whole trip, counting each day to get here,” he says. “We didn’t come on the plane.”

His younger brother, Josue, did take a flight. A special refugee program run by the US State Department gave him a chance to arrive legally in Minnesota. The program, which began in 2014, was intended to keep families like theirs, desperate to reunite and escape violence, from sending children on dangerous overland routes to the US border. The Central American Minors program was discontinued by the Trump administration in 2017.

Read more at PRI.org.

Can’t say it enough: Crossing the border to seek asylum is not illegal

After Vice President Mike Pence made remarks in meeting with leaders of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, I tried to clarify something on Twitter about what he said. It seems to have struck a chord — or a nerve — with many people.

There are many migrants who are not explicitly crossing the southern border without presenting themselves at checkpoints because they are fleeing violence. There are people who are trying to escape poverty to reunite with family in the US. But if Pence is talking about a “migration crisis” — a term that deserves analysis in its own right — it’s important to note that many of these migrants take the dangerous journey because they feel their lives are in danger. They are looking for safety and, often, requesting asylum.

The US is a signatory of he Refugee Convention in 1967 and asylum-seekers are protected under US law. It’s not that the US has to (or does) allow anyone who says they are afraid to stay in the country. But there is a process by which their claim is heard.

Here’s more about that process — the links in this this story can take you even deeper into the subject.

Covering immigration: What reporters get wrong and how to get it right

I’ve spent the last three years, in my position as a senior editor for Global Nation, PRI’s The World’s immigration desk, developing training material for our contributors (and amazing group of dedicated reporters — check out their work) and for reporters around the country to be able to better cover the United States’ large and complex immigration system.

As more media outlets devote time and resources to this important topic, I’m trying to help connect reporters and share what we’ve learned at Global Nation. For my part, over six years of editing the ambitious work of many journalists, I’ve found it to be a beat that is incredibly rewarding and, often, very difficult.

One resource I’ve created, which I began to formalize when Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) began asking me to host workshops, is a list of data resources. On the immigration beat, context and numbers isn’t always easy to get or understand. So this is a growing, public resource for reporters who are trying to understand the agencies involved in the US immigration system, the scope of their work, as well as demographics, trends and other issues that can help their reporting. There are now 75 places to find data listed in the spreadsheet.

Chloe Reichel at the Journalist’s Resource website asked me about the training material, as well as for some tips on immigration reporting. To do good reporting on immigration, developing a diverse staff or contributor base and being sure not to parachute into communities that are in crisis are two really important starting points. Here are some other tips I offered.

My hope is that these resources help those of you who are just getting started and those who have been on the beat longer than I have. Feel free to reach out if you have questions or ideas to improve them.

Lives on the Line: Caring for Displaced People

I was honored to help craft and lead this conversations with health care providers and a journalist about what matters most to people fleeing conflicts. I learned from the panelists, and hope you can too.

The event was hosted by Doctors Without Borders at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, and was streamed online to about 9,500 people.

Among the takeaways for me? Power. Empowering people in their own lives is very important, even — especially — in situations of conflict and war.

An immigration data workshop at Investigative Reporters and Editors

There are some 320 million people in the US. 43 million of them were born abroad. About 11 million people are undocumented and over 5.1 million children have one or more undocumented parent. 860,000 people have applied for temporary legal status because they were brought to the US without proper documentation as children. Over 500,000 people are waiting for their cases to be heard in immigration courts. Some 270,000 people in the US came as refugees. On any given day, about 40,000 people are in immigration detention.

The numbers surrounding immigration can often be daunting and, sometimes, hard to track down. In this session, we’ll go through some of the most useful data sets available — and talk about some of the data that’s a bit tougher to find. We’ll talk about how to use that data to get leads on local and national stories — and what to do when the government is not providing data about its immigration actions.

IRE logoI’ll be at this year’s IRE conference in Phoenix for a June 24 workshop. Come work through the numbers — each is a person, after all — and find stories with me.

You for Me for You: Discuss

Radio host Julia Nekessa Opoti and I will be in discussion with the cast and director of “You for Me for You” after the Feb. 27, 7pm performance at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. More information and a link to tickets here.








This one’s got some great hosts: The Guthrie, Mu Performing Arts and Gazillion Strong. We’ll talk about movement and migration and, of course, Mia Chung’s play, which OregonLive called “essential viewing” during its Portland run. Here’s the synopsis:

As they attempt to flee the Best Nation in the World, North Korean sisters Minhee (Sun Mee Chomet) and Junhee (Audrey Park) are torn apart at the border. Each must race across time and space to be together again – navigating the perilous Land of the Free and the treacherous terrain of personal belief. Under the direction of Randy Reyes, this fantastical, humor-filled play runs for just two weeks in the Dowling Studio – don’t miss it!


Personalities in the #IranDeal

The historic agreement with Iran announced Tuesday took 20 months of talks and involved many players. Sure, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif played a central role, but there were many others who really made the deal come together.

Iran agreed to reduce its nuclear capability for the next 10 years in exchange for lifting sanctions. The deal was struck between Iran and P5+1, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany. President Barack Obama and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani both celebrated the deal in separate statements. Direct contact between the two in September 2013 was a crucial step in getting the talks moving, but the deal came together at much lower levels.

Here are some of the players who helped make the deal happen, including the Silver Fox.

Find out who she is and read on at PRI.org.

Are volunteer programs empowering — or exploitative?

Giving time to a cause you believe in can be extremely rewarding. As Demba Kandeh, a volunteer worker in the Gambia, explained, “Volunteering is a beautiful thing.”

But when do volunteer programs empower and when do they exploit? Does building this kind of workforce benefit communities? Would essential services simply not be provided if it weren’t for volunteers, as several people told Amy Costello in her investigation of volunteer health workers in Senegal. With help in part from the Global Voices community of bloggers, we found perspectives from around the globe.

Laura Morris, 28, an editor in Paris, spent five months as a volunteer for a small NGO in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and seven months as a volunteer for an organization that provides care for the elderly in London. Morris says she understood why the Cambodian organization did not pay her — she was the only foreigner there, and they could not have afforded the salary — but she thinks that the London nonprofit simply took advantage of a tough job market and gave her work that should have been performed by a paid employee.

“I volunteered for it, so it was my decision to work with them, but I was also asked to do work that I absolutely should have been paid for, that was much higher than entry-level,” Morris says.

Read and hear more of the discussion, including seven more perspectives, at PRI.org.

What to Consider When You Are Considering Donating

As part of PRI’s The World’s investigative project Tracking Charity, we recently held an online chat with experts in the realm of giving. Our question: How do you know a good charity when you see it?

It’s not an easy question to answer, particularly when you are focusing on organizations that work in developing countries while securing donations from people in the United States. Here are some takeaways from the chat and a few additional perspectives that might help donors think through where they put their dollars.

Read the Q&A at The World.

24 companies sign on to major safety agreement for Bangladesh clothing factories

Twnety-four major clothing retailers have now committed to a safety accord for garment factories in Bangladesh.

More than 1,100 garment workers were killed when the Rana Plaza factory collapsed outside of Dhaka last month and hundreds of factories were closed Monday across Bangladesh amid workers’ unrest over safety concerns.

H&M, Inditex, C&A, Primark, and Tesco agreed to the accord on Monday. Seven other companies, including Benetton and Mango, joined on Tuesday, while more followed suit by Wednesday. The agreement includes measures such as independent safety inspections and public reports, an increased role for workers and unions, and funding for repairs and renovations, according to the IndustriALL and UNI Global Unions that initiated the accord.

US company PVH (which owns Tommy Hilfiger and Calvin Klein) and German retailer Tchibo agreed to sign the accord last year. Other US retailers such as Walmart and Gap, have not signed the agreement. Walmart is making a “solo effort” while Gap has maintained that it cannot be part of a legally-binding accord.

The deadline for companies to join the accord is the end of the day on May 15.

News of the agreement broke during a day-long chat about the garment industry hosted by The World on Facebook yesterday. The developments prompted questions during the chat about what moves large, international clothing companies to take action and how consumers can affect change in the industry.

Read more about the chat and the post I wrote yesterday.