KQED’s News Education project recently asked local middle and high school students to consider some of the major political issues at play in the 2016 presidential election and describe which ones impact them most. Hundreds of students responded, leaving comments and tweets on our Do Now and Lowdown platforms.

We called it the “My Backyard Campaign” project, and as a follow-up, announced a call-out for students to submit short videos on the topic.

Among the 100 thoughtful submissions we received, one video, in particular, called “My Rift” rose to the top, about an Oakland teenager’s very personal experience with America’s immigration system.

Madeline, featured in the video, is currently a senior at Oakland Tech High School. The first generation teenager poignantly describes the emotional toll of being separated from her mother, who was deported after overstaying her visa, and the impact of growing up alone. We contacted Madeline and produced a longer follow-up video (above) about her story and her two friends who helped produce the project.

This project is part of a recently launched national civic engagement initiative called Letters to the Next President 2.0. Hosted by KQED and National Writing Project, it’s an effort to promote and showcase youth perspectives on election-related issues. Visit the project site to learn more and get involved.

Madeline’s Story: Immigration Politics through the Eyes of A First-Generation Oakland Teen 19 March,2016Matthew Green

  • Rebecca Ramirez

    Beautiful but sad story, should be shared everywhere.

  • Ella

    This is a wonderful illustration of the real struggles bay area students have. It brings a serious issue to light in our community and in communities all over the US.

  • Yao

    I’m sorry that you have to go through that and no one should be stripped away from their parents.

  • Odehe

    Such a beautiful story. It shows how troubling the immigration system is right now. Love you Maddy!

  • Brenda

    It’s sad to see how our government is breaking apart so many families.

  • Jacob

    This does a great job of shining a light on an important side of the issue that you never really see in most media.

  • Brian S.

    Although I could not share the same experiences that she went through, I empathize her. Her connection with her mother was severed because her mother was deported from the U.S. NO ONE should ever feel this way. This is one of many examples of what could happen if we decide to deport millions of “illegal” immigrants from the U.S. We need to spread and share these stories, let these stories be heard across the nation to bring awareness of the effects of deportation.

  • Savon

    This is such an inspiring story and something that no one should have to go through. I think there are many people with similar stories like yours, and its important to speak out.

  • Mai

    This just goes to show how corrupt the system that we live under is.

  • William Campbell

    So many more people should check this out. Such a wonderful story although it is sad. This story should be on like Oprah. Anyway, I’m glad that this is another step to portray this issue in the U.S.

  • Simone

    This story was really touching and it made me realize that this issue does affect a lot of people, even people who are around me everyday and I was so unaware that they were going through something so terrible.

  • Alexandria

    It was eye opening to see the struggle of a student that sits right behind me in class. I cannot imagine growing up far away from my parents.

  • Kristelle

    This is a beautiful story and a great way of representing how our immigration system can impact someone’s life. I’m sorry you have to go through something like this. I hope you get to be reunited with your mom real soon.

  • Katya

    This shows an important point of view of an issue that has been drawing increasing attention with the current election

  • Ryan Hoang

    A problem many people have to struggle with… I hope the country will change in this aspect, and in others as well.

  • Brian M.

    It’s terrible that people who come to this country for a better life get kicked out and have to leave their children. This video is does a great job addressing that issue and should be shared with everyone.

  • Meleina

    This is a great video that shows the importance of how families are being torn apart. This really hits hard to home considering my family’s background.

  • Lia

    Beautiful but heartbreaking story too many people have to deal with. It really shows how corrupt the immigration system is.

  • Maddy

    Both videos are very well done and I admire the courage it must have taken to tell your story. I hope that you will be able to be reunited with your mom and that these videos will help people see the disastrous effects of our immigration policy and inspire them to take action.

  • Jerrick Le

    I can’t imagine the pain it brought to your family when you had to split up. You are a very strong and brave person to share your story. I really hope that this will change in the future.

  • Sidhartha

    This is just a reminder that families are important to keep together.

  • Troy

    Its a really nice first person experience of the damage that a toxic immigration process can create.

  • Allie

    Both of these videos do a great job of explaining one of the many tragic but true stories about families torn apart by immigration. The videos also create an emotional connection and it helps the viewer to empathize with Madeline’s story. I hope she is able to have her mother at graduation!

  • Holly

    Thank you for sharing your story; it´s sad that our country, one that is built on immigration, would tear families apart for being immigrants

  • Alvin Gao

    Immigration is a big issue covering the 2016 presidential election. This story illustrates just how the policy today has affected people. This isn’t the only case of this happening as this happens all over America. It’s easy to dismiss immigration as just numbers of people who are here illegally, but if one were to look closer, each number contains another story just like this one.

  • Chris Soohoo

    Wow. This is such an amazing and impactful story. This really shows the human side to the immigration issue at hand. Madeline’s story needs to be shared with everyone.

  • aryana

    @KQEDedspace #DoNowImmigration I believe there should be an easier pathway for immigrants to come legally in the first place — I’ve heard that the legal process takes as long as 25 years. Those without legal status who are living in the U.S. should be offered it; there’s currently a proposal to do this for immigrants who do not have a criminal record. And if people are really concerned about jobs, how about treating the problem of outsourcing? It’s absolutely unacceptable and angering to me that so many families have to be separated because of the current system, and that the deported are denied asylum so abruptly, especially when they didn’t even harm anyone; I think the human issue should take priority when reforming immigration policy.

  • Sayyid Abdel-Qawi

    This story was a very enlightening tale on the struggles and hardships that accompany immigration.

  • Christian Valdez

    It’s just soo sad to see families being separated from each other. It shows some of the issues with immigration in the united states. It really is a moving story that shows us what some people have to go through.

  • aryana

    oh, sorry, should have posted that other comment of mine on the do now site… for the video comment, as I said, it’s very angering and saddening to me that so many families have to be separated because of the current system. How can someone only concentrate on the legal aspect when the human consequences are so scathing? This video’s message should reach even more people!

  • Azisa

    I think this is one of the most important topics that America’s legislative system fails to address. Her story as well as many other’s often goes unnoticed and I believe it is time our generation steps up to let law makers know that the policies they are implementing has been separating perfectly fine families.

  • Christie Luong

    I’ve know madeline since junior year, and i had no idea that this happened to her. This really shows how much it hurts to be separated from families. I might not know exactly how she feels because i’ve never been in her situation before, but i do know that it must feel awful to know that a family member is out there but yet you cannot be with them, especially someone so close.

  • Jackie

    I feel like a lot of people are silent about this issue and what they go through and it is good to hear how it affects children so that people have a better idea of what is going on.

  • Colston

    This video does a tremendous job of making the viewer feel more connected with the issues at hand and I think that if enough of us can come together and realize just how serious this issue is, we can make the right decision and come up with a policy that benefits all.

  • Miriam

    Immigration is a big issue overall because families are getting separated. Some parents leave young kids alone and sometimes they don’t get to see each other for a long time like in Madeline’s case. Many of us that are lucky to have both parents rely on our parents for most things or call them our best friends but what about those kids whose parents are deported? They aren’t fortunate enough to have that bond. It’s just sad overall.

  • Lea

    I can’t imagine being separated from my mother at such a your age and going through the difficulties of high school without her. Our country was built by immigrants and it makes no sense to deport them today. Obama hasn’t done enough to try to keep families together or unite them.

  • Carlos Lope

    This is a sad story. I hope you/ most of the kids who have had their parents deported reunite as soon as possible.

  • Olivia

    I think that this issue is one that our government fails to properly address. Her story and many others highlights the heartbreak that comes from separating families. It is time to speak up and make a positive change to stop the separation of families like this one.

  • Ellie

    This video does a really good job showing how much immigration policies can affect people, I think it is very important to see this especially with the elections coming up.

  • Winnie Yao

    This video shows just one of the many families that have been torn apart because of the immigration policies. I hope even more people can see this video and realize that immigration may not seem like a problem as a whole but with family members it certainly is.

  • Courtney

    This was a very inspiring story! Its sad to think about how so many families are being torn apart. It was amazing to see how Madeline has been able to stay strong and keep going.

  • Lucy

    This is an incredibly moving story and I am so impressed and proud that you had the courage to share it, Madeline. It will truly inspire others in your situation and inform those who aren’t. The beautiful, simplistic style of the video made it all the more powerful. These immigration policies need to be changed and fixed.

  • Roselena

    It’s sad how our government is constantly tearing families apart and how children are being left behind.

  • Riley Moore

    I appreciate how this video gives people who don’t experience these hardships everydays a much needed look into what an extremely broken immigration system can do to families.

  • Zackery

    It really shows the emotional toll that people who have had family members deported face. I think this video shows what the statistic fail to capture. Really powerful video.

  • Adrienne

    These videos are so amazing and I think it is extremely amazing that you were able to tell your story about immigration. I hope that these immigration laws and restrictions change and as soon as possible.

  • Angel DYNes

    Someone show this to donald trump. i feel that this is just a small snippet of millions of families being torn apart and it is completely immoral. america has pride itself on the values of the family structure but this goes back on what we as a nation believe. Hearing this story is heart breaking.

  • Jiemin

    It’s depressing to see how the current immigration policy is breaking up families. This is something that no one should go through. I hope the system will change to be more fair for those who weren’t born here.

  • Michael B

    This just shows how some of the people you see everyday can have so much going on at home and we would never know. It’s sad to see a family torn apart because of some old policies. This story is just one of millions going around in the US every single day. If we can all get together and protest for what is right, we can make change for these future families.

  • Christina

    #DoNowImmigration if I could I would change the immigration system so we are not separating families and leaving children behind without parents or guardians.

  • Keyshauna

    This is such an amazing and inspiring video that I believe everyone should see. People are quick to judge those who are labeled as¨ immigrants¨ but don´t see how they manage to get through their every day lives. I think people need to be a bit more open minded & put themselves in their shoes to gather a better understanding.

  • Islam

    This is a very serious issue that not many people knew about including myself. Just imagine what it would be like without your parent. I believe that immigrants should have rights too, especially the once that pay taxes, and don’t get benefits from them. I also want to give my respect Madeline for staying strong.

  • Silvia Chen

    She shared an amazing story. It really expressed the feelings of many others who had to go through this. No one should have to experience seeing their parents or relative being deported.

  • Itzel Garcia

    Such an impactful story, it should be shared with everyone. Sad to see what our country is actually doing to these families, tearing them apart, not thinking of the damages it leaves on their children. Such a traumatic and stressful experience, but Madeline is very strong and she shows a lot responsibility despite her circumstances she excels in school. Hopefully her mother has the opportunity to make it her graduation!

  • AJ

    If i had the power to change immigration laws, i would do it in a heartbeat. I believe that if and immigrant has a kid that is going to school and they are trying to work and find a job they should be able to stay. Stripping these kids of their parent’s only adds more unwanted stress and distracts them from them studies because they are always thinking about their parents.

  • Onuva Chowdhury

    I love how Madeline spoke up about this issue.I wish immigration laws could be changed. This video really put me to tears.


Matthew Green

Matthew Green produces and edits The Lowdown, KQED’s multimedia news education blog, an online resource for educators and the general public. He previously taught journalism at Fremont High School in East Oakland, and has written for numerous local publications, including the Oakland Tribune and San Francisco Chronicle. Email: mgreen@kqed.org; Twitter: @MGreenKQED


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