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Giving Personality To The Immigration Debate

Ryan Stone for NPR

Joy, surprise, disappointment, hope, and the many shades of emotion in between were expressed center stage during a night of conversation and storytelling about immigration on Tuesday, Feb. 24.

Michel Martin, former host of NPR’s “Tell Me More,” hosted the show "Long Way Home: Immigrant Stories of Old Roots and New Routes" in collaboration with WLRN. The production is part of a series of live events Martin has been hosting across the country.

The purpose of the night was not to air sides of the debate on immigration that is bubbling up in Washington and across the country, but to tell the human stories of immigration -- to give face to the debate.

Guests on the panel included Haitian-American author EdwidgeDanticat; hosts of NPR’s Alt.Latino Felix Contreras and Jasmine Garsd; first Latino inaugural poet Richard Blanco; and actress Diane Guerrero actress from the show "Orange Is the New Black," whose parents were deported to Colombia.

Each had their own story about being an immigrant living in the United States, even those, like Richard Blanco who now live a few hundred miles from Cuba, where his family emigrated from.

“You don't have to be an immigrant to have an immigrant experience in the United States,” Blanco said at the sold-out event.

Jessica Pompa is a Cuban-American born in the United States. She says she connected with many of the stories that were shared throughout the evening.

The stories that were told highlighted what’s behind immigration, Pompa said, “and it’s not really so much of a political issue as it really just a human issue.”

A Twitter discussion was held in tandem with the live event. You can see highlights from that below.

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