Hispanic Journalists Outraged Over NAHJ’s Silence on Family Separations

A government issued handout image of the US Border Patrol Central Processing Center in McAllen, Texas, on June 17, 2018. (Credit: US Customs and Border Protection)

Nearly two weeks after news emerged that the U.S. Border Patrol has separated hundreds of immigrant families at the border with Mexico, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists has yet to issue an official response.

The group, whose mission statement says it provides a “national voice and unified vision for all Hispanic journalists,” has not issued any type of directive on how best to cover the family separations or what language to use when describing those being held at government detention centers.

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The lack of response has angered many NAHJ members.

“Some members are frustrated. They feel that NAHJ should be taking a stand,” one member of the organization, who asked not to be identified out of fear of retaliation, told Urban Hollywood 411.

“There are some who support NAHJ staying out of the fray, and then there’s other people who are in the middle who feel that we should be getting some direction on how to cover this, what terminology to use and so forth,” the individual added.

On June 8, Reuters reported that 1,800 families had been separated at the U.S.-Mexico border over the past 17 months. The article cited a senior government official who spoke to the news organization about President Donald Trump’s implementation of stricter border enforcement policies.

After the story was published, reporters and photographers swarmed McAllen, Texas, where “Ursula,” one of nation’s largest immigration processing centers is located.

 Detained immigrants pass their time behind metal fencing similar to a cage. (Credit: US Customs and Border Protection)
Detained immigrants pass their time behind metal fencing similar to cages. (US Customs and Border Protection)

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This past weekend the Border Patrol allowed journalists to tour the facility, and the agency released photos showing young immigrants – mostly Hispanic – being held behind metal wire.

Those pictures of immigrants in cage-like contraptions, as well as images of sobbing toddlers sparked international outrage over the Trump administration’s so-called “zero tolerance” immigration policy.

On Wednesday, June 20, Trump reversed course and signed an executive order to end the practice of separating children from parents illegally crossing into the U.S.

Despite the public outcry, a check of NAHJ’s website Wednesday showed no mention of the family detentions. The group’s verified Twitter feed included tweets of news stories about the issue, but there was no official statement.

Meanwhile on Facebook, former Chicago Tribune reporter, Ray Quintanilla wrote on the NAHJ page: “This is likely my final year in NAHJ because the group has lost its advocacy voice. What a shame.”

As of Wednesday afternoon, his comment had generated more than 250 reactions.

“I hear you. I hope the next leadership can lead better,” wrote NBC Los Angeles reporter-anchor and former NAHJ president, Mekahlo Medina.

“Look, it’s clear to me that NAHJ has reverted back to this idea of a journalists club instead of an organization with a mission these last two years. It’s lost some of its bite, fight and vision,” Medina said in a second comment.

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Freelance Dallas reporter and TV commentator, Rebecca Aguilar stated: “Sad that not one NAHJ board member, NOT ONE got on here to engage. Very sad that the president Brandon Benavides kept silent. When you are leader of an organization and people vote you in, they trust you will say something even if it is ‘no comment.'”

However, Houston Chronicle narrative writer Mónica Rhor countered: “As a journalism organization, NAHJ should not be taking sides in a political issue or news event. That would end up damaging the credibility of Latino journalists in the field.”

NAHJ did not immediately respond to Urban Hollywood 411‘s request for comment.

2 thoughts on “Hispanic Journalists Outraged Over NAHJ’s Silence on Family Separations

  1. Urban Hollywood 411 and Anita Bennett, next time instead of just poaching quotes off Facebook why not contact me directly and ask me to elaborate. This was lazy reporting, because no one contacted me on this story. I get that what we write on Facebook is open to the public, but Anita as a journalist you know better. Pick up the phone, shoot me an email…I don’t bite. Also on my quote above please be specific that you copied and pasted it off the NAHJ page. You did no original reporting, not even made contact. Journalism 101, call people you plan to quote. Journalism 102 confirm they are our quotes.

    1. Hi Rebecca. When you put your comments on a public forum, they can be used in news articles. But I’m sure you know this.
      I did speak with Ray Quintanilla by the way and he shared his thoughts with me. Thanks for reading.

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