Veterans on the Beat Counsel Caution as Reporters Dig into Immigration Changes

By Chris Adams

Three veterans of the immigration beat explained their coverage to Paul Miller fellows, and one of their common themes was: “It’s complicated.”

“An onion within an onion within an onion within an orange,” is how Alicia Caldwell of The Associated Press put it.

Caldwell now covers the Department of Homeland Security and immigration issues, and she previously worked in AP’s El Paso, Texas, bureau; she knows the border between the U.S. and Mexico well. She told fellows the border – whether fence or river – was different along its 2,000 miles.

reporterpanelweb“All three borders are so different: Texas, Arizona, Southern California,” she said. “The only thing similar is that Mexico is on the other side.”

She also explained the January 2017 executive order on immigration by President Donald Trump and assessed how it might be treated by the courts.

Caldwell was joined by María Peña, Washington senior political correspondent for the Spanish-language La Opinión, and by Franco Ordoñez, a White House correspondent for the McClatchy Washington Bureau who has also long covered immigration (Ordoñez was also a Paul Miller fellow, in 2012-13).

Peña described how she covered the beat for her audience that is heavy with immigrants. Many of them are undocumented and afraid of being disclosed to immigration officials, so Peña described methods she and her paper use to build trust with that community. Peña is herself an immigrant, having come from Nicaragua as a child.

Ordoñez described the next round of stories likely to come, including the H-1B visa program that issues work permits to workers with “highly specialized knowledge” to fill jobs when qualified Americans can’t be found. As Ordoñez recently wrote, critics say the program is being abused by U.S. companies that send jobs to outsourcing companies employing workers who had come into the U.S. on H-1B visas for their training but then returned to their home countries.

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