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La Meta Es Seguir Adelante (The Goal Is To Keep Going)

 June 1, 2021 at 11:39 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 Today we continue our spotlight on the social justice reporting project, a multi-part series by the San Diego union Tribune. One of the reports features interviews with people who traveled through Mexico as part of what came to be known as the caravan back in 2018, that group of migrants from central America became a political issue in Washington and throughout American media. But the people who made the journey in search of a better life just needed to keep moving. Johnnie Mae, his photographer and immigrant rights activist, Jeff felon, Suela author of the report. [inaudible] the goal is to keep going and Jeff, welcome to the program. Speaker 2: 00:44 Hi, thanks for having me. There are so Speaker 1: 00:45 Many ways to talk about immigration. There are so many issues with the border and migrants. What made you choose to focus on the stories of people from the caravan? Speaker 2: 00:55 Primarily because it's work that I've done outside of photography as a volunteer and doing work to support immigrant rights movement to support the migrant communities here in Tijuana and also in San Diego. So it really was something that I had been doing already. And as a matter of fact, a lot of the photography work that I have came out of that. Um, and I didn't start it with a plan other than to be able to try to challenge the existing narratives, which was something that I saw a lot of. And a lot of times, um, a few years ago, especially were mostly focused around the victimization and people being victims more so than everything else that they, that they are Speaker 1: 01:37 Now, your focus is on four people in this report, two from Honduras, two from El Salvador to who are in this country and two who are still in Mexico. Did you choose to tell their stories because they were representative of many who traveled north. Speaker 2: 01:53 I specifically chose these, these four individuals. One of the, one of the reasons actually is that they all, there was a common thread and it's something that actually, I see, not just with these four individuals, but with other people that have made that journey and ended up either in decline or in or in the U S um, is that they continue to try to support those that come after them. They continue to support their community. Um, and other migrants making that journey, whether it's, uh, like Veronica, who was, um, you know, leading workshops and writing letters to people who are currently detained, um, in different, um, you know, for-profit, uh, immigrant prisons, or like Edgar who organizes and was very involved in speaking out against detention during the COVID-19 pandemic and last spring. So they've all continued to do something, despite all these challenges to continue to support those that follow. Speaker 1: 02:50 Now, two of the people you write about Walter and Wendy are in Tijuana and they are working there and maybe planning to stay, tell us about them. Speaker 2: 03:00 Walter's case. There's a reason I wanted to speak with Walter. He's someone that I've got to know that I actually met during one of the caravans down in Southern Mexico, in Chiapas. And actually, I forgot to say yesterday in an interview. So I want to quickly say happy birthday to Walter cause yesterday was his birthday, but he actually was deported from Mexico back to Honduras for his involvement and accompanied caravans afterwards. And so, you know, it was a clear, clear representation or clear example of the criminalization that only increased at that time and during the Trump administration. And even right now, despite winning a lawsuit, because he had an alert place, a migratory alert placed on his passport and that prohibited him from finding work. And so just added to all the challenges. Um, and despite winning that case, he actually is now facing another, uh, battle in that his residency isn't being renewed. Speaker 2: 03:54 And with Wendy, Wendy is someone I met here in di Quanta. Actually, she used to work at a poopoo Syria, a Salvadorian restaurant here in the Quanah, and that shut down during the pandemic and during COVID last year. And she began selling poo-poos as making them at home and selling them through like various groups of WhatsApp. And that's how, that's how I really got to know her as well. But she also spent time working at a shelter and helping other organizations that were coming in that wanted to donate clothes and different donations and help find places that can use those. And they can send the donations and Speaker 1: 04:26 Edgar and Veronica. You already mentioned them. They were held in us detention centers before being released into the United States. And it seems like that whole experience made them immigration activists. What are they doing now to help others in similar situations, Veronica Speaker 2: 04:45 And a few other members of, of previous caravans continue organizing in the U S and as a matter of fact, they all joined, um, thousands of others in Washington on May 1st as well. And so various different people from various caravans actually convened there in Washington DC for that weekend. So they continue to speak out and, you know, really share their stories. I think that's one of the most powerful tools that they have is being able to share their stories, um, which is why I wanted to focus on them and use this as a sort of platform to be able to continue telling those stories. Speaker 1: 05:18 One thing our debate over caravans and border shutdowns has done in recent years is to de-humanize the people who make this journey. And even today, a Supreme court ruling makes it more difficult for asylum seekers to be believed. So how do you think telling these personal stories of people can change that? Speaker 2: 05:40 I think there's always the public perception that it helps. It's something that we saw a lot of, you know, as we started hearing about family separations and things like that, and sometimes it's telling those stories. And one of the things that happens, I think, you know, like specifically with, with the caravan is that it becomes a sorta like entity that is, you know, you lose all the individual faces and stories that make it up, and it becomes easy to sort of just target and just blaming and point the finger at. And as a result, we saw a lot of those policy changes. And so by telling their stories, they can continue to wake people up, continue to show that all these challenges and everything, you know, the reasons they leave their home countries is one part of it, but everything else in their journey, you know, it doesn't end when, when they'd make it to the border or when they, you know, as they're in detention centers across the U S um, it really continues. And I think people oftentimes forget about that, or, or maybe are aren't, don't realize that there's so much more involved and it doesn't just end there. And it didn't end in 2018 when, when the last caravans got here, Speaker 1: 06:46 I've been speaking with photographer and immigrant rights activist, Jeff felon, Suela author of the report. [inaudible] part of the union Tribune, social justice reporting project. Jeff, thank you very much. And congratulations on your stories. Speaker 2: 07:02 Thank you so much for having me appreciate it.

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For many of the migrants who made the perilous journey north through Mexico as part of the 2017-2019 migrant caravans, reaching the U.S. border would prove to be just one of countless challenges they’d face.
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