Kendra Smaby – Staff Writer
How many times could you learn the ABC’s?” This was Aura Bogado’s response to a question fielded to her about the education that migrant children receive while in ORR (Office of Refugee Resettlement) custody. Bogado made many impactful statements in her lecture given on Tuesday, April 19.
COVID-19 has been a huge impact on all of our lives, and the Moe lectureship was no exception; Bogado had been scheduled to speak on March 10, 2020. Bogado was in a hotel in Minneapolis, set to give the lecture when she made a decision. She said, “I really wanted to do it, but the world was telling me something else.” With this decision, the Moe lectureship in 2020 became the first campus event to be canceled at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. More than two years later, Bogado was finally able to join us, just in a different way.
The Moe lectureship is a highly prestigious lectureship, endowed by Karin and Robert Moe in honor of their daughter, Kris Burke Moe ’84. The lectureship has boasted scholars such as feminist and prison abolitionist Angela Davis, and now, Murrow award, Hillman prize and IRE medal winning reporter Aura Bogado.
Bogado was introduced by LALACS students Maria Flores Marquez ’22 and Josh Wilson ’22 who spoke to her qualifications as a senior reporter and producer for Reveal and a graduate of Yale University, and how excited they were to finally get to hear Bogado speak.
While COVID-19 had initially created a barrier to Bogado speaking, now it opened doors. Bogado was unable to join us in person for the lectureship but was able to take advantage of one of the biggest discoveries of the pandemic: Zoom.
Bogado began her lecture by thanking former Gustavus History professor Misti Harper for reaching out to her about the lectureship over two years ago. With the delay of the lecture, there have been a lot of changes that Bogado has investigated. For example, Title 42 and its exploitation of the COVID-19 situation to keep certain people out of the United States under the guise of protecting public health. This new development has become a focal point in Bogado’s work that did not exist two years ago. For this lecture on the “Separation Generation: How U.S. Policy Keeps Families Apart” Bogado focused on unaccompanied children, and specifically their experiences when they were in ORR, or the Office of Refugee Resettlement custody. Bogado described and showed us clips of her interviews of migrant children describing their experiences in hieleras (ice boxes) which is the common name that is used to refer to where the children are initially held by I.C.E. stemming from their cold temperatures.
Bogado followed the story of Santos, a Honduran who was deported from the US and then killed in Honduras under the false perception that he had money because he had lived in the US. After his murder, his family then recived demands and had to flee Honduras in order to seek asylum in the United States. During this process, a ten year old girl and her brother were separated and sent to an ORR office in Oregon.
After a relocation to Massachusetts, the girl was then separated from her brother and sent to a residential treatment facility in Florida. She continued to bounce around treatment programs in the United States while being unable to attend court dates in Massachusetts until finally her court hearings were moved along with her back to Oregon 7 years after she had arrived in the United States and been separated from her family. Ultimately the girl requested voluntary departure because she had had no family contact and assumed they were back in Honduras when they were in fact in North Carolina.
The 40 minute lecture then fielded a subsequent 40 minutes of questions.
Bogado opened up about her own status as an undocumented migrant when she was a child and how this allows her to relate to those she interviews. She also discussed having to sue the government to obtain records. Finally, Bogado emphasized that “I wish ORR was a household name. It is a very secretive agency taking care of very vulnerable people.”