The World Affairs Council of Rochester kicks off its new season of speakers with a conversation about Mexico's evolving criminal landscape. There has been a great deal of news coverage of Mexican gangs, spurred by the White House.

Dr. Eric Olson is Deputy Director of the Latin American Program and Senior Advisor to the Mexico Institute at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. His work focuses on the impacts of violence and organized crime on democratic governance. Dr. Olson is our guest for the hour. 

The Senate's approved Department of Defense budget does not include any Special Immigrant Visas. These are not visas or exemptions for families showing up at the southern border; these are visas for interpreters who helped the United States on foreign battlefields, such as Iraq and Afghanistan. Interpreters risk their lives to work with U.S. forces, hoping that the American government will bring their families to the states. That's what has happened for years, but it now appears to be changing.

The president of the Rochester chapter of No One Left Behind says she has lost sleep, thinking about what this means for families who will now be denied a new life in the United States. But many GOP leaders have said that immigration needs restriction at every level. We discuss it with our guests:

  • Ellen Smith, president of the Rochester chapter of No One Left Behind
  • Dr. Jawaid Samedy, interpreter for the U.S. Army
  • Haji Yuldah, cultural advisor for the U.S. Army
  • Araz Majeed, interpreter for the U.S. Army

About half of the children under the age of five separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border were reunited with their parents by Tuesday’s deadline, but the Trump administration says it was not able to reunite all of the children in that age group by that time.

Local immigrants are reacting to this news and to policies set by the White House. We hear their immigration stories and what being in America means to them. In studio:

  • Akil Al-Jaysh, refugee from Iraq, U.S. citizen, refugee case manager at Catholic Family Center, and adjunct lecturer of Arabic at SUNY Geneseo
  • Tek Acharyam, refugee from Bhutan, U.S. citizen, case manager and social worker
  • Rose Tomlinson, immigrant from Jamaica, permanent resident, and small business owner
  • Lisa Hoyt, director of immigration and refugee resettlement at Catholic Family Center

In the last six weeks, nearly 2,000 children have been separated from their parents after crossing the southern border without proper documentation. While their parents are sent to immigration detention centers or to jail, the children are sent to government facilities or foster care. The move is part of the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy.

Activists across the country are protesting that policy, and many of those activists are immigrants themselves. This hour, we hear their stories and discuss the challenges they face. They also discuss what they’d like to see in terms of a national policy on immigration. Our guests:

Our Take A Number series is exploring problems around the world through the lens of a single number.

It's about 7 p.m. on a chilly night, and Sirene Garcia is standing outside an apartment building about an hour's drive from Rochester, N.Y.

Even though Garcia has had a cold for the past few days, she has her laptop perched on the hood of her car, trying to test out the new telehealth program. Once the program kicks off, Finger Lakes Community Health's doctors and nurse practitioners will be able to see patients at their homes through video calls.

Brinton Lykes is a psychologist who has spent her career living and working with people in Central America who have survived war and genocidal violence. In her work, she uses the creative arts and local cultural traditions to understand and document the effects of trauma on communities.

Lykes is in Rochester as guest of the Rochester Committee on Latin America to receive the International White Dove Award. She joins us in studio to discuss her work, and the United States' role in Latin American affairs.

Author Reyna Grande says there are voices missing from the conversation about immigration reform -- those of undocumented children. Grande crossed the border into the U.S. from Mexico when she was nine years old. In her new memoir, The Distance Between Us, she writes about the extreme poverty she and her siblings experienced in Mexico, and why a chance at a better life in the U.S. ripped her family apart. It's a true story of trauma, struggle, and hope - one that Grande says she hopes will help change misconceptions about immigrants in the U.S.

The Distance Between Us has been selected by Writers & Books for this year's Rochester Reads program. Grande will be in Rochester for a series of events this week, but first, she joins us on Connections. Our guests:

  • Reyna Grande, author of The Distance Between Us
  • Karen van Meenen, coordinator of the Rochester Reads and Debut Novel Series programs at Writers & Books

When we talk about DACA, building a wall, and immigration policy, what are we really talking about? Will Wilkinson from the Niskanen Center in Washington has an idea. He says the immigration debate is actually about whether Latinos are considered “real Americans.” He says that liberal pluralists in this country have sort of dithered, while white nationalism is on the move; nativism, as far as the White House, is helping to set policy.

Wilkinson says it’s time for liberal pluralists to get off the sidelines and fight for multiculturalism, to talk about history in more realistic terms, and to fight for better policies. Our panel discusses these issues and immigration policy. Our guests:

Raul Ramirez describes himself as a DREAMer The University of Rochester student is pursuing a BA in Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies. He has dreams of eventually practicing family medicine for the LGBTQ community. But Ramirez has a more immediate dream - for Congress to pass legislation that allows undocumented young people, just like him, and their families, to stay in the United States without fear of deportation. Ramirez, founder of the group UR DREAMers, joins this edition of Need to Know to share his story.

Some say the issue of immigration reform has not only taken a nasty turn in Congress, but also in our society. One reason might be lack of understanding and confusion in terms of what’s going on and why.

Joining this edition of Need to Know to share their understanding and perspectives on the issue at hand is:

  • Wes Renfro - Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science and Legal Studies at St. John Fisher College
  • Jocelyn “Josh” Apo - A Haitian refugee now US Citizen who released an inspiring memoir in 2017 about his journey, “Gold from the Well”
  • Jim Morris - Associate Vice President for Family Services at Catholic Family Center