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We've received several calls this week about our Sunday Fatal Funnel story that put a face on illegal immigration. Our feature on Julio Lopez, titled The Face of Illegal Immigration, evoked a lot of comments, mostly negative.

Some posters basically accused us aiding and abetting a criminal for not turning in Lopez to ICE authorities. (As an aside, here's an interesting ethics story that kind of ties into this debate. )

This whole debate reminds me of a diversity conference I attended in Chicago last year. There, a group of editors discussed big stories newspapers didn't cover or didn't cover well enough. One editor mentioned the 2004 front-page apology by the Lexington Herald-Leader:

It has come to the editor’s attention that the Herald-Leader neglected to cover the civil rights movement. We regret the omission.

Think about that: A newspaper apologizing for neglecting to cover one of the most important stories of the century. As part of the apology, the newspaper on July 4, 2004,  published a front-page package of stories and archive photos documenting Lexington residents involved in the movement. The stories received international attention.

The discussion among the editors at the conference then turned to current events: What big story are newspapers failing to cover well now? Most all of us agreed newspapers as a whole are not doing a good job covering immigration issues.

At the time of that conference, our commitment to the Fatal Funnel was already underway. I came back from that conference armed with more confidence that this is an important series that needed to be told. Our commitment to finish the series is as strong now as it was when we started it.

We wanted to talk about important immigration issues like border security and drug cartels because we think they are important issues, especially in South Texas. We used the 5-year anniversary of the 19 dead immigrants as a springboard for a community discussion.

We gave readers untold stories about the tragedy and how it affected the people who experienced it. We hosted a documentary filmmaker and his film about the drug cartels at the Leo J. Welder Center because we thought it was important and the right thing to do. The community must have, too, because we had to add a second show at the last minute. We've sent community service editor Gabe Semenza, photographers  Frank Tilley and TC Baker and video editor Bill Clough to doggedly pursue angles of this series all across Texas because the stories need to be reported and told.

And we're not done yet. The last few installments will put a climatic finale to the series and evoke, we hope, even more civil discussion.

Some people have a hard time talking about hot-topics like immigration -- they spew hatred or polarizing rhetoric. But that doesn't mean the stories aren't worth reporting and discussing. The issue is just too important at this point in our nation's history to just wish it away.

Thanks as always for reading.
Thomas R. Martinez