Part of the reason people choose to become print journalists is that they don’t like speaking in front of cameras and audiences. We would much rather be in the crowd, recording what’s said.
So it was with much trepidation that the newsroom put on our recent “Bridging the Border” forum at the Vancouver Community Library.
We knew it was the logical extension of a special project that Jessica Prokop and Amanda Cowan did late last year. Jessica had been following the plight of Ramon Flores and his family after Ramon’s personal data was given to federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents when he stayed at a Motel 6. Like thousands of others, Ramon never gave permission to disclose his information, and ICE didn’t have a lawful warrant to request it.
He ended up being deported from the United States, where he had lived for almost 20 years, and leaving behind his wife and seven children, all of whom are U.S. citizens. The close family was ripped apart, and their self-sufficiency was replaced by public assistance.
Thanks to a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, Jessica and Amanda traveled to the San Diego suburbs and across the border to Tijuana at Thanksgiving to chronicle the family’s story. Even before the story appeared, we knew there would be grounds for follow-up and a broader community discussion.