And The Loser Is… America!


Good news! As predicted by your humble correspondent, Sonia Nazario of the Los Angeles Times [Sonia.Nazario@latimes.com] won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for feature writing for her series titled “Enrique`s Journey”.

Congratulations, Sonia! [VDARE.COM NOTE: Congratulations, Joe!]

Nazario also won the RFK Memorial Journalism Award.  Noted the RFK judges:

“The series is part human drama, part powerful social commentary and, as a whole, truly outstanding journalism.”

The Pulitzer board described “Enrique`s Journey” as a

“touching, exhaustively reported story of a Honduran boy`s perilous search for his mother who had migrated to the United States.”

Well, it was exhaustive. And exhausting. Enrique`s six-chapter saga is as long as a short novel. (Let`s hope it doesn`t turn out to be fiction, as the New York Times` very similar June 28 1999 story about a Honduran illegal proved mostly to be.)

But touching?  If your idea of “touching” is the story of an uneducated alien with a history of drug abuse illegally entering the U.S. to find his uneducated mother, who has also illegally entered the U.S., then the Los Angeles Times is the newspaper to read.

If, however, you hold other views about illegal immigration, then your evaluation of “Enrique`s Journey” may be the same as mine.

Indeed, Nazario invariably refers to Enrique and his fellow aliens as “immigrants” and “migrants” – legal status unspecified. That Enrique ends up taking jobs from Americans (painting houses for $7 an hour!) and adding to the dramatic increase in North Carolina`s illegal alien population, is, of course, never directly mentioned.  

Given the enormous length of “Enrique`s Journey,” couldn`t a few paragraphs have been written about the social consequences of unabated illegal immigration – especially the flight north by the poor and the uneducated of Mexico and Central America?

Those paragraphs could have been written – but they were not. In fact, Nazario never even tried. In the “Notes about Sources” the LA Times wrote:

“Nazario conducted interviews in the United States, Honduras, Mexico and Guatemala with immigrant rights advocates, shelter workers, academics, medical workers, government officials, police officers and priests and nuns who minister to immigrants. At four INS detention centers in California and Texas and in two shelters for child migrants in Tijuana and Mexicali, Mexico, she interviewed youngsters who had made their way north on top of freight trains. She also consulted academic studies and books about immigration.”

But she did not interview American workers, overwhelmed American teachers, overburdened American taxpayers etc. It`s even possible that the books she consulted may not have included Alien Nation!

Although it tastefully avoided saying so directly, the LA Times was obviously very aware that Enrique and his family were illegal aliens. It decided to aide and abet them by not publishing their last names. Its rationale:

“A database review by Times researcher Nona Yates showed that publishing their full names would make Enrique readily identifiable to authorities. In 1998, the Raleigh, N.C., News and Observer profiled an illegal immigrant whom it fully identified by name and workplace. Authorities arrested the subject of the profile, four co-workers and a customer for being undocumented immigrants. The Times` decision in this instance is intended to allow Enrique and his family to live their lives as they would have had they not provided information for this story.”

I wondered if any of the Pulitzer judges commented on these unfortunate gaps in Nazario`s work.

So I called two of the seven panelists, Allison Walzer, Senior Vice President and Editor of the Wilkes-Barre (PA.)Times-Leader [allisonw@leader.net] and Neville Green, Managing Editor, St. Petersburg Times. [green@sptimes.com ]

Both were polite. But they told me that the panel discussed only the merits of Nazario`s work as submitted. Ms. Walzer reiterated that Nazario`s feature is a “snapshot” and that it was evaluated as such. Green said that the fact of illegal immigration was “implicit” in the story.

During my conversation with Ms. Walzer and Mr. Green, I tried (unsuccessfully) to make the point that “snapshot” portrayals of illegal aliens always have the sob story/heroic figure/family values twist.

Over the years, in my work for NumbersUSA`s media project, whenever I have told editors that more balance would make a more complete story for their readers, the inevitable response is, “Well, that is the story as it was written.”

My point, of course, is that these stories can be written differently.

Isn`t it the job of editors – and prize judges – to see that?

What about doing a story on why Lourdes and Enrique are now society`s burden? Why does the U.S. have policies that make our country everyone`s port in the storm?

At this moment, according to Nazario, Enrique is plotting with coyotes to bring his girl friend, Maria Isabel, to North Carolina—leaving their infant behind to be summoned at a later date.

No comment from the L.A. Times?

Nazario said that “Enrique`s Journey”

“was a way for The Times to take readers on a ride, tell a good story, and maybe cast a little light on the modern-day immigrant experience.”

What about the modern-day American experience?

Maybe next time Nazario wants to look at the “modern-day immigrant experience” with a Central American flavor, she might do a feature on Jose Arturo Velasquez, charged with first-degree murder by the Tampa police.

Like Enrique, Velasquez is from Honduras and is thought to be living there now.

Or the LAPD might appreciate an in-depth portrait of suspected child molester Cesar Augusto Nistal who holds dual citizenship in Guatemala and the U.S.

Authorities think Nistal is hiding out at his Guatemalan ranch.

A couple of final thoughts. Mexico is forever crying wolf about supposed “human rights abuses” of their aliens in our country. But read what concerned Nazario the most before she traveled through Mexico:

“I had talked to several immigrants about the dangers involved. I was afraid… Afraid of the gangsters, the bandits, the Mexican police, of being beaten, robbed, raped…”

The Mexican police” – my emphasis.

My second (possibly unkind) thought: The Pulitzer judges and the LA Times editorial staff made much ado about the extraordinary risks Nazario took to compile “Enrique`s Journey.”

In her “Notes” Nazario wrote:

“We [Nazario and her photographer and fellow Pulitzer Prize winner Don Bartletti] traveled through Central America and Mexico as Enrique had. We took buses through Guatemala. We began riding atop freight trains in Chiapas, Mexico. We rode seven freight trains up the length of Mexico.” 

Now Nazario may well have ridden on top of freight trains for days on end.

But I have looked at photographs of Sonia Nazario and I must say that I would have to see her clinging to a smokestack to believe it.

Joe Guzzardi [email him], an instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, has been writing a weekly newspaper column since 1988. This column is exclusive to VDARE.COM.