Michel: Time to discuss undocumented immigrants

Michel: Time to discuss undocumented immigrants

Among the first WISC-TV editorial board meetings I attended when I became editor of this magazine last year was about immigration. We met with Julia Arata-Fratta, then-president of the Latino Chamber of Commerce of Dane County, who told us about the uphill struggle–mainly on the national level–to reform immigration policy. I’ve been interested in this complex issue since I lived in Arizona in the 1980s. Decades later, it remains among the thorniest and most difficult-to-grasp policy issues in America.

Why, then, would we attempt to tackle such a vast and complicated topic in this month’s cover story? First of all, this is not the definitive story about what it’s like to be an immigrant in Madison. We deliberately carved out a mere sliver of this intricate and multi-layered story and focused on one group in our area: undocumented Mexican immigrants. Even at that, the brave individuals who shared their journeys with us do not speak for all undocumented immigrants. Nor does the story we bring to you, starting on page 60, show the full scope of the immigrant experience in Dane County. But it’s a start.

Through the in-depth reporting of Maggie Ginsberg, I have a better understanding of how national policy is affecting Mexican immigrants statewide and on the local level. And so does Maggie. She talked to numerous people for this story, including local Latino community leaders Mayra Medrano, Mario Garcia Sierra and Grisel Tapia. They weren’t quoted in the cover story, but they influenced it. We are grateful to them for not only connecting Maggie with Miguel Morillo–an undocumented worker–and translating, but for sharing their personal experiences and nuanced insights to give context to what Morillo shared in his interview. Maggie tells Morillo’s story and that of Laura Minero, an undocumented immigrant who is a doctoral student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in her compelling, narrative style.

The timing is critical. At the beginning of this year, I shared with you that Madison Magazine would examine some serious social issues that would be talked about during the presidential campaign season–immigration among them. Although our story mentions the wall that Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump wants to have built along the U.S.-Mexico border, the focal point is clearly Madison and the surrounding area.

Any time I read stories on this topic, I also see a wave of comments; many of them heated and passionate and coming from both sides. My hope is that this story leads to thoughtful dialogue–the kind that brings about understanding and meaningful change.