With Congress debating immigration reform it’s important for journalists to understand the law as it currently stands and how reform can impact the communities and people they cover.
Nelson A. Castillo, columnist for impreMedia and immigration attorney, gave an overview of the fundamentals of immigration law at EIJ13 on Sunday. He said it is important to know terminology, because “every law has several definitions.”
Castillo covered the various grounds for the United States denying a visa for immigrants, including health, crime, and terrorism.
“The list goes on and on,” he said.
Non-immigrant visas allow people to stay in a country for a specific reason, with the intent of departing the country. Castillo said there are some visas that can be renewed multiple times.
Immigrant visas require a petition, he said and are limited. Congress sets the number of visas for each country and category that are available each year. Types of visas include family based, employee based, and humanitarian based immigration. Reporters can go to state.travel.gov to find out the numbers of visas available, he said.
Castillo cautioned session attendees to understand the full context of these often complex situations. “Be careful how you report who has been removed,” he said. Depending on the situation or perspective, data can be misrepresented to potentially promote a political agenda.
Castillo also recommends finding an immigration lawyer as a source to make sure the law is understood and being reported accurately.
“Try to get both sides of the story, don’t try to become an advocate yourself,” he said.
Any information reporters seek from a non-profit should be verified by the Board of Immigration Appeals, he said. Accreditation can be found here.