Apr 07, 2019

Poet Javier Zamora to Speak During Summit on Race

Reporting Texas

Javier Zamora. Courtesy of Javier Zamora.

Javier Zamora made the grueling trek north from El Salvador in 1999 to reunite with his parents, undocumented immigrants then living in California. Only 9 years old at the time, Zamora had joined other Salvadoran children in crossing the Sonoran Desert, the hottest in Mexico, to escape the civil war in El Salvador.

On April 10, Zamora, now a New York-based poet and activist, will join a four-speaker panel discussion at the LBJ Presidential Library. The panel, “Immigration: American Dreams and Challenges,” seeks to provide a comprehensive look at one of the country’s most divisive issues and will include discussion of what it means to be an American in 2019. Attendance is free and open to the public.

“Even the best journalists have huge blind spots when covering migration, oftentimes only depicting us as passive actors,” Zamora told Reporting Texas. “Hopefully, listening to people who are or have been undocumented … makes the audience question their biases.”

The panel will also include Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and undocumented Filipino immigrant Jose Antonio Vargas, Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund president Thomas Saenz and University of Texas at Austin public policy practice professor Ruth Wasem.

The event is part of the LBJ Foundation’s second “Summit on Race in America.” The last summit, which took place in 2014, marked the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Acts and featured former President Barack Obama as keynote speaker. This time organizers will turn the spotlight on issues of racial justice, including the divide between minority communities and the police, the criminal justice system and immigration policy.

President Donald Trump poured more fuel on the already fiery immigration debate when he declared a national crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border on Feb. 15. In March, Trump criticized Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador for not doing enough to stop immigration and directed the State Department to cut off foreign aid to those countries. Trump also threatened to close the U.S. southern border entirely.

“We keep hearing about immigration, and numbers, and walls, but at the end of the day it’s really about people,” said Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, director of civic engagement at the LBJ School of Public Affairs, who will moderate the panel.

“Open up any newspaper or turn on any cable channel, and the topic of immigration is one of the dominant issues,” DeFrancesco Soto said. “Bringing that conversation to the LBJ library is the perfect fit in terms of place and time.”