GlobalWA’s Annual Conference: Global concerns felt locally

By Sara Veltkamp, Minerva Strategies –

There was a lot to like about the GlobalWA conference on Wednesday, December 3rd. My inner development academic loves discussing complicated global interactions, complex measures of success, and unintentional consequences of international development. My professional self loves storytelling, workshopping, and being inspired by others’ communication efforts.  And of course, the bartender in me loves to socialize – with or without a beer in my hand (though the former is best).  However, I will focus on what I believe to have been the most powerful portion of the day: The lunchtime keynote address by Sonia Nazario.

Sonia is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of Enrique’s Journey a true story about a young Honduran boy’s quest to be reunited with his mother who migrated to the U.S. to provide for her son.  I was riveted by the description of Sonia’s personal experience recreating Enrique’s harrowing rail journey to the U.S. – a journey taken by thousands of kids from El Salvador, Honduras, and elsewhere in Central America.

I felt Sonia’s words cut through my heart when she said that these children, after enduring that life-threatening journey, are often sent back to the desperate situations they are fleeing when they reach the U.S. border. Of course I was aware this happens, but I never really felt or understood until I heard Sonia – a testament to her masterful storytelling. She deserves all of the acclaim and awards she’s received for her courageous work, if not many more.

Immigration is often seen as a domestic rather than a global policy problem, but the focus by GlobalWA was timely and compelling.  Immigration is both a snapshot of global economic and social health, and a diagnosis of the U.S.’s ability to manage and respond effectively to it. Right now, the U.S. is failing. Global issues are increasing the number of people who seek economic and social opportunities in our country. We need more than limited executive action to fix our outdated, often hypocritical policy regarding our borders.

Check out organizations like the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project or One America for ways that you can add your voice in favor of comprehensive and compassionate immigration reform.

To learn more about the trials faced by kids and young adults as immigrants, purchase and read Enrique’s Journey, the book written based on Sonia Nazario’s Pulitzer Prize-winning feature series in the Los Angeles Times.