Demonstrators draw chalk figures of little boys and girls at the 24th Street BART plaza in support of the 63,000 minors from Central America who have been detained at the U.S.-Mexico border. About 100 demonstrators marched down Mission Street on Aug. 2. Photo Alejandro Galicia

The kid’s name was Walter. He was 17, far from home and curious about the camera strapped around my neck. That’s how we got to talking. I was visiting a shelter in Southern California in September, one that housed Walter and dozens of other unaccompanied minors who had made the journey from Central America to the United States, trying to escape the poverty, corruption and gang violence plaguing their respective homelands. I heard their stories, and Walter’s was heartbreaking. He left Honduras when his grandparents could no longer keep him there, seeking a better life in Pennsylvania, where his uncle lived. He hopped from train to train until arriving in Mexicali, where he was robbed at gunpoint by local thugs. He eventually turned himself in at the border. Walter and thousands of other minors weren’t the first unaccompanied children to seek asylum here. Many who are demanding that these children be sent back seem to have forgotten (or never learned) about the massive European wave that crashed through Ellis Island. That is one of the reasons for our coverage on the topic of immigration this year. Here’s what we did.

—Alexis Terrazas, editor-in-chief El Tecolote

Immigration education
No one who wrote for El Tecolote in 2014 had greater expertise on the subject of immigration, or was more proficient in simplifying the paperwork process, than columnist Wilson Purves. Purves, who is a legal advisor for the Mexican Consulate in San Francisco as well as a California licensed immigration attorney, had five “Immigration 101” columns in 2014. In his first column of the year, “I-601A modifications provide hope” (March 27-April 9), Purves relayed his experience and expertise for those applying for the waiver that would grant lawful permanent resident status.

In “How to apply for asylum from cartel violence in Mexico” (May 22-June 4) Purves gave simple, but blunt, advice to the increasing number of Mexican nationals seeking permanent stay in the United States to escape narco violence. He followed up that column with “How to renew DACA to extend legal temporary stay” (June 19-July 2), providing a step-by-step guide for those childhood arrivals who intend to continue to reside in the United States. Purves also took aim at the alarming wave of Central American minors abandoning their homelands only to be held in detention centers at the U.S.-Mexico border in “Thousands of immigrant minors arrive in U.S. seeking asylum” (July 31-Aug. 14) and likewise broke down the provisions behind Obama’s recent executive order in “President Obama’s executive order on immigration” (Dec. 4-17).

For the first issue of the calendar year (Jan. 16-29), El Tecolote staff writer Ana Carolina Quintela reported on the rising number of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement deportations from the fiscal year 2013, which reached more than 350,000.

Military veteran and El Tecolote columnist Amos Gregory profiled in his “Veterans’ Voices” column the cases of two U.S. war veterans, who were deported back to their countries of origin despite their military service. His first “Deported: U.S. veterans’ plight at the border” (May 8-21) focused on the plight of Vietnam veteran Hector Barrios, who died in Tijuana on April 20 after being deported years prior over a felony drug charge.

Gregory’s second profile “One vet’s struggle after being deported” (July 17-30) focused on Iraq veteran Jeff Brown, whose felony convictions got him deported back to Jamaica. But El Tecolote was also there to cover the response to such deportations. Staff writer Derek Wozniak in “Wave of protests demand end to deportations” (April 10-23) chronicled the rally that stopped traffic at a busy downtown San Francisco intersection, where demonstrators sat with arms linked. The rally resulted in 23 arrests.

Central American Children
Perhaps the immigration topic that garnered the most attention—not just at El Tecolote but nationwide—was the thousands of Central American children who, in escaping the violence of their homelands, ended up detained at the border. By mid-August, the number of detained unaccompanied children who had fled Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador had reached an estimated 63,000.

El Tecolote first began its coverage on the issue when editor Alexis Terrazas wrote “Protesters demand release of detained immigrant children” (July 3-16) after attending a rally in front of an U.S. Immigration and Customs field office in San Francisco, where dozens demonstrated support for the minors. On the front page of its Aug. 14-27 issue, El Tecolote staffers Laura Waxmann, Atticus Morris and Terrazas examined the local and political response to the humanitarian crisis, and how Obama’s request for funding regarding the issue went unsupported. In that same issue, El Tecolote reported how the San Francisco Unified School District unanimously voted to dedicate resources toward unaccompanied immigrant youth who planned to enroll in city schools.

But city officials didn’t stop there. In “Supervisors approve $2.1 million in legal aid for immigrant youths” (Sept. 25-Oct. 8), staff writer Noura Khoury covered the meeting in which the board of supervisors voted to authorize funding to aid undocumented minors—the story emphasizing that legal advice is something many children fleeing Central America don’t have upon entering the United States. In quoting three of the minors present at the meeting, Khoury captured the struggle and risk these children endured in seeking refuge up north.