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Journalist To Speak About Immigration, His New Book At UWF Thursday

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Author and journalist Daniel Connolly has covered immigration for more than a decade. He’ll speak at the University of West Florida Thursday about the topic in general and his recently published title, “The Book of Isaias: A Child of Hispanic Immigrants Seeks His Own America.”

Connolly wrote “The Book of Isaias” after spending three years shadowing Hispanic immigrant students at a high school in Memphis, Tennessee.

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“It’s about a brilliant high school senior who is trying to decide whether he is going to go to college or work as a house painter with his parents, and his parents are Mexicans who entered the country illegally,” Connolly said. “So, his story as a child of immigrants reflects millions of other stories in America today. Roughly one in four young people in America today is a child of immigrants,” Connolly said.

Isaias Ramos, the teenager mentioned in the title of the book, and his high school peers contend with competing obligations to family, work, and their education. These competing forces make it hard to concentrate on school, yet Ramos and his friends persevere.

 “The children of immigrants have great potential,” Connolly said. “They can do great things. I also saw that there are a wide range of factors out there that threaten their potential. Everything from family responsibilities to school systems that in many cases aren’t really equipped to meet their needs. What I’m arguing in the book is that we should help them develop their potential for everyone’s benefit.”

Connolly encourages everyone to consider the plight of immigrants and to take action even though immigration and its related topics remain a matter of national debate.  He says local school boards have the ability to make a difference in immigrants’ lives immediately.

“For instance, a lot of children of immigrants require a lot of guidance because they don’t have parents at home who went to college in the U.S. or may not have gone far in school at all,” Connolly said. “Guidance counselors are people that local school boards can decide to hire. That’s just one example of how a local school board on its own can address the needs of children of immigrants while the issue is being basically being fought at the federal level,” Connolly said.   

Connolly will speak at 5 p.m. Thursday in Ballroom C of the Conference Center on the UWF main campus. The event is open to the public. The title of the talk is “One Journalist’s Perspective on Immigration, Economics and Globalization.”

Here’s what audiences can expect from the presentation.

“I always try to make a colorful slide show with lots of pictures,” Connolly said. “I think that’s more engaging. I also like to give some quizzes to folks about facts and figures. I like to ask people things like ‘On average, how long have people who have been living illegally in the U.S. …how long have they been living here?’ The answers to those questions often surprise people.”

Connolly will also speak at noon Friday at the Panhandle Tiger Bay Club meeting.