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Young Activists Wary of Delayed Deportation Policy
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Young Activists Wary of Delayed Deportation Policy

A policy shift announced by President Obama allows many undocumented youths to receive a temporary reprieve from deportation. But as Kate Brumback reported for the Associated Press, immigrants are conflicted about the policy.

Virdiana Martinez, 26, who came to the United States illegally from Mexico and grew up in North Carolina, said that she wouldn’t apply for the deferred action policy out of principle and wants more comprehensive immigration reform. However, her sister is one of hundreds who have applied for the program, tempted by the chance to get a work permit. Other immigrants may be deterred because of the $465 application fee and extensive documentation required.

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Kate’s Story Behind the Story

I have been closely covering young people who were brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents for several years now, and I knew that I wanted my IJJ project to focus on some aspect of their lives. I initially wanted to write about their participation in mobilizing people to vote, but had already begun to change my mind by the end of the week in Oklahoma, in part because of some conversations I had with people there.

I was mulling several ideas for my project when President Obama announced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy shift in June. The day it was announced, I anchored The Associated Press’ story on reaction from the young people who would be affected, pulling together contributions from my colleagues around the country. I found that initial reaction was mixed.

As the summer wore on, I kept in touch with a lot of my sources, many of them leaders in the DREAMers movement who have been actively fighting for immigration reform. I also monitored coverage of DACA and saw the enthusiasm of many young people who were excited to finally have a chance to work legally, even though DACA doesn’t provide for a path to legalization.

As I continued to talk to the young people who’ve been leaders in that fight, I realized that many of them still weren’t convinced. They were still wary of the policy, and some had even decided not to apply. I wanted to do a sort of follow-up on those leaders in particular, the folks who have devoted their lives for the past couple of years to traveling around the country organizing rallies, sit-ins and other actions.

The biggest challenge was making it clear that this story focused on a small subset of people who would presumably be eligible for DACA. I didn’t want to write another story about the excited throngs of young people who have shown up for advice on how to complete their DACA applications. I wanted to write specifically about the people who’ve been most involved in the fight for immigration reform and who, it turns out, didn’t consider DACA much of a victory. Another challenge was capturing the various reasons for their dissatisfaction and their differing and very personal reasons for choosing whether or not to apply.

The IJJ fellowship has helped me feel like I can write with more authority about immigration issues. It taught me about a lot of resources that I wasn’t very familiar with beforehand, and I think that has allowed me to write more richly about this very complex and emotionally charged topic.

My fellowship project included a print story accompanied by file photos of the young people that are mentioned in the story. I knew we had some great photos of these folks involved in the various protests, rallies and civil disobedience actions mentioned in the story. I went through AP’s photo archives and selected what I felt were the best of those shots. I think that having those contextual photos helped enrich the story because they showed the emotion and determination of these young people.

The feedback to my story online was mixed but leaned heavily toward the negative. As so often when writing about illegal immigration, and especially when writing about these young people who feel they have a real right to be here, there were a lot of comments from people who say they shouldn’t be here at all.

This story was based on contacts, sources and knowledge I’ve been building over several years, so I do believe that I would have been able to do it if I hadn’t received an IJJ fellowship. However, I’m not sure that I would have written it. I think that knowing that I had a commitment to write a story for the fellowship forced me to think about this topic more and to come up with a new angle on the DACA story when I might not have otherwise because of an increasingly jammed schedule.

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