This fateful decision—to deny the existence of her three children in order to protect them—backfired on Vega Nava. She was arrested and deported, while women who admitted they had children were fitted with electronic ankle monitors instead of being sent away. After serving time and being sent back to Mexico, she was eventually allowed to return to her family in Postville under a work visa.

For Vega Nava and her family, and an estimated 11 million undocumented residents, the future remains uncertain. This week, with Grassley’s 77 amendments and others now tabled, the “Gang of Eight” reform bill looks set to pass the Senate and move to the House, where Steve King and a largely hostile Republican majority await.

As the battle in Congress goes on, and even after the bill passes or fails, immigration will continue to be one of the most complicated and consequential stories of our time. Journalists across the country could take a cue from reporters like Krogstad, Mehaffey, and others in Iowa, who are doing their part as storytellers to bring immigrant workers and families out of the shadows.


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Deron Lee is CJR's correspondent for Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, and Nebraska. A writer and copy editor who has spent seven years with the National Journal Group, he has also contributed to The Hotline and the Lawrence Journal-World. He lives in the Kansas City area. Follow him on Twitter at @deron_lee.