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Sonia Nazario

Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author & Journalist


They call it “the train of death.” Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Sonia Nazario clung to the top of a freight train with a young Honduran boy named Enrique on his brave odyssey to reunite with his mother in the United States. Chronicling her experience in her astonishing bestselling book, Enrique’s Journey, based upon her newspaper series that won the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing, she offers a gripping personal perspective on one of the most challenging and divisive issues today: immigration.

A projects reporter for The Los Angeles Times and now at work on her second book, Nazario has spent more than two decades reporting and writing about social issues. Garnering dozens of awards, including the George Polk Award for International Reporting and the Grand Prize of the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Awards, she tackles some of the hot button issues of today, such as hunger, drug addiction and immigration. Nazario has always combined sensitivity with a sensible viewpoint on the subject matter.

In sharing the epic journey that thousands of immigrant children make each year to find their mothers in the US, Sonia Nazario further explores the perils modern day immigrants face. With a reporter’s eye to the truth, she humanizes the issue, posing new perspectives that fall on both sides, while offering solutions destined to change the national dialogue on the influx of immigrants and the effect they will have on the state of the nation.

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Unequal Justice: Immigrant Children & US Courts

Unequal Justice: Immigrant Children & US Courts
Last year, about 30,000 children entered the United States illegally and alone from Mexico and Central America. This year, the number is expected to grow by 70%. These children were caught by US Border Patrol and ordered to go to immigration court to see if they would be allowed to stay in the US legally or would be deported.

Like all immigrants who come to the US unlawfully, children are not entitled to a public defender. So more than half of them - children as young as two years old - go to court alone. They are expected to argue their case for asylum or other relief to stay in the US with no legal advocate by their side. Many of these children have legitimate fears of being harmed if they are deported to their home countries.

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Sonia Nazario will discuss:

  • What is this nation's responsibility to provide legal help to the children? Do children who have broken the law coming to the US illegally deserve government legal help?
  • The increasing violence and other factors pushing a surging number of these children to leave their home countries - Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico - and travel to the US alone, often gripping on the tops of freight trains to make this modern-day odyssey to reach the US. They face bandits, gangsters, corrupt cops, and the added dangers of getting on and off moving freight trains. Many lose their lives in their quest.

Nazario discusses these issues in a personal way, having spent three months riding on top of freight trains through Mexico to report her national bestselling book, Enrique's Journey: The Story of a Boy's Dangerous Odyssey to Reunite with His Mother. Some are coming to reunite with family members, but many are fleeing harm in their home countries. She shows how after so many traumas in their home countries and on their journeys north, immigrant children face another blow: the American judicial system.

Nazario provides a provocative look at whether our nation's immigration courts deal fairly with perhaps one of the most vulnerable populations amongst us: children who come to the US illegally and alone.

Enrique’s Journey & America’s Immigration Dilemma

Using Pulitzer-winning photographs, Sonia Nazario takes you inside the world of millions of immigrant women who have come to the US as single mothers, and the children they have left behind in their home countries in Central America and Mexico. She discusses the modern-day odyssey many child migrants—some as young as seven, all of them traveling alone—make many years later riding on top of freight trains through Mexico on their quest to reunify with their mothers in the US.

Nazario, who spent three months riding on top of these trains to tell the story of one child migrant named Enrique, shares her story in the context of determination. She discusses the role of determination in her own life—in overcoming the death of her father at age 13, living through parts of the Dirty War in Argentina, and overcoming major travails in college to ultimately become the youngest person hired at The Wall Street Journal and one of a handful of Latinos to win the Pulitzer Prize—as well as in the lives of the migrants she wrote about.

Unlike many who speak on this topic, Nazario sees immigration as an issue with many shades of gray, with winners and losers.

In Praise of Ganas (Persistence)

Yes, passion and risk taking can get you far. But to Pulitzer Prize-winning author and journalist Sonia Nazario, persistence has been the key to her success. This presentation is an ideal convocation or commencement speech in praise of ganas—Spanish for persistence.

Making Ethical Choices

As a journalist, Sonia Nazario often feels like a "fly on the wall," watching difficult situations play out without being able to take action herself. Because of this, the stories she has written over the years have frequently been featured as case studies in half a dozen textbooks on journalism and ethics.

This presentation is an exploration of the ethical dilemmas a journalist faces, in which Nazario shares her experiences making ethical choices. She accompanies her speech with a PowerPoint of photographs.

Narrative Writing: How to Construct a Compelling Story

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