Immigrant-run radio station helps migrants adjust to changing US political climate

World Today

Growing hostility to immigrants has made life more difficult for many in the United States. But one group in Southern California is offering tips to help people cope. They’ve launched a new radio channel to broadcast advice and hope.

CGTN’s Ediz Tiyansan reports.

Every morning at 7-o’ clock, Luis Valentan anchors a live radio show aimed at  thousands of immigrants across the United States. Named after the Spanish term for “day laborers”, Radio Jornalera has become a voice for immigrant workers in the country. 

This 46-year-old single father from Mexico had worked in menial jobs for nearly three decades. He says he’s struggled with discrimination and abuse from employers.

“A lot of families flee to different states, back to Mexico,” Valentan said. “We’ve seen a lot of pain and suffering, you know, watching all these families breaking apart, kids ending up being alone. I had to take care of two teenagers at that time.”

Ordinary workers come on the show to share their experiences.

“The way this radio is most useful to the listeners is all the advice that experienced workers like myself can provide so they don’t make the same mistakes,” said Jose Perez. “They might have problems with the language barrier, and in some cases, the employers do not comply with what they say when they’re hiring. They make an offer but later they say they can’t pay that much.”

In a store room-turned-studio, the radio station has already become a major resource for immigrants in a few months. Organizers are now airing the show on a mobile application as well as on social media, to reach a wider audience.

“We connect the show through Facebook live and YouTube live,” said Radio Jornalera producer Manuel Vicente. “In that way we reach more people, we connect with the community. Usually the people who listen to us, they’re either working or they’re waiting to go to work, so they can spend that time learning. The impact that we have is tremendous; in one show we reached 200-thousand people in one transmission.”

Radio Jornalera was founded by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, which runs a community Job Center. For years, it’s been a meeting place for hundreds of day laborers and employers alike.

But aside from finding daily jobs, workers also come here to hone their skills and learn about their rights. In fact, it was the anti-immigrant rhetoric of President Donald Trump that triggered the plan to launch this radio station.

“Mexico is not sending their best and brightest,” then-candidate Trump said when launching his campaign. “They are sending their worst — drug dealers, rapists and murderers.”

“The idea of the radio came when Trump ascended to power,” said Pablo Alvarado, co-founder of the National Day Laborers Network. “We needed our own means of communications, we needed to create our own content. Because CNN, MSNBC, Fox will never come and provide coverage and do justice to what immigrants think, so we have to generate our own content.”

He’s just one of the thousands of immigrants vowing to continue fighting for their rights.