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Topic: comprehensive immigration reform

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December 4, 2014 at 11:15 AM

An unexpected activist for children in the immigration reform debate

Sonia Nazario never expected anyone to call her an immigration activist. Journalists often avoid taking sides in the issues they cover.

She won a Pulitzer Prize covering immigration and social issues for the Los Angeles Times and published Enrique’s Journey, a book about a young boy who travels on top of trains from Honduras to reach his mother in the United States.

Nazario thought she’d be done talking about child migrants by now — the first edition of her book came out in 2006.

Sonia Nazario. (Courtesy of Sonia Nazario)

Sonia Nazario. (Courtesy of Sonia Nazario)

In the past year, however, Nazario testified before Congress, delivered more than 60 speeches, wrote opinion pieces for the New York Times, and even appeared on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart to advocate for the rights of children coming to the United States from Central America. She also serves on the board of Kids in Need of Defense, a nonprofit founded by Microsoft and Angelina Jolie to recruit pro bono attorneys to represent unaccompanied children.

“I’ve covered unaccompanied minors for 15 years. I felt like I had to be a voice for these kids,” she told me while visiting Seattle Wednesday to speak at the Global Washington conference, a daylong event focused on international development and policy.

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Comments | Topics: comprehensive immigration reform, Sonia Nazario, unaccompanied minors

May 9, 2014 at 6:10 AM

After public outcry, feds stay deportation of Benjamin Nuñez-Marquez

Updated 10:50 a.m.: U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., issued the following statement on Friday: “As I told Homeland Security Secretary [Jeh] Johnson, Ben Nunez is exactly the type of person we should not be kicking out of this country. He’s a cherished friend and member of his community, he’s a hard worker who keeps the doors open at a small business, and he’s someone Americans should be proud to call their own.”

Original story: Attorneys for Benjamin Nuñez-Marquez say they received an important notice Thursday from the Seattle office of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) granting their client a year-long stay of removal.

Benjamin Nunez-Marquez is an undocumented immigrant facing deportation but his work ethic and special skills have led his bosses, two senators, and several representatives to ask he be allowed to stay. The sawyer sharpens each of the 40 teeth on the 56-inch blade he runs at the small West Sound mill on Orcas Island. Pete Helsell, the lumber company manager, says he's "absolutely critical to the operation." (Alan Berner/The Seattle Times)

Sawyer Benjamin Nunez-Marquez sharpens each of the 40 teeth on the 56-inch blade he runs at the small West Sound mill on Orcas Island. Pete Helsell, the lumber company manager, says he’s “absolutely critical to the operation.” (Alan Berner/The Seattle Times)

Consider this a positive development. The federal government should be more focused on rooting out serious criminals, not individuals who stay out of trouble and contribute in meaningful ways to their community.

Nuñez, the sole operator of an Orcas Island sawmill, previously faced deportation for living illegally in the United States. Seattle Times reporter Lornet Turnbull explained his unique circumstances in an April 10 news story. In that report, the owners of West Sound Lumber said they have long struggled to find someone who could match Nuñez’s ability to use an antique saw to craft artisan products and furniture from wood.

On April 14, The Seattle Times published an editorial calling on Congress to come up with a better system for dealing with skilled immigrants:

His situation should remind Congress of the urgent need for sensible action on immigration reform. Increase work-visa limits and provide a path to citizenship for some of the nearly 11 million people living in the country illegally. The U.S. Senate passed a comprehensive reform package last year with bipartisan support. Leaders in the Republican-led U.S. House have refused to consider it.

“The important point here is that all of the public support for Mr. Nuñez — not only from Orcas Island residents, but also our senators, congressional members and The Seattle Times — led to this happy result,” Robert Gibbs, Nuñez’s attorney in Seattle, said over the phone. “It’s unfortunate that there’s still lots of people in the community who don’t have the good fortune of knowing the right people or having the attention of the public.”

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Comments | Topics: benjamin nunez marquez, comprehensive immigration reform, immigration