Only in America with Ali Noorani

By Ali Noorani

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What really drives the immigration debate? It’s people, not politics. Join us for “Only in America” podcast, to hear how Americans from all walks of life and from across the political spectrum are experiencing changes in their communities as a result of immigration. Faith leaders, law enforcement officials, business owners and others speak openly about the way culture, identity and values are shaping and defining our country, and they offer a constructive way forward in the immigration debate.

Episode Date
America's Changing Identity

This week, Ali talks with Ronald Brownstein, Atlantic Media's Editorial Director for Strategic Partnerships and a veteran political journalist. They talk baseball, America's changing demographics, and the prospects for the upcoming elections amid the controversy surrounding the Trump administration's immigration policies.  

Aug 15, 2018
Exploring American Identity

This week Ali chats with three authors whose work captures the contemporary conversation surrounding immigration and American identity. 

Michelle Warren

Dr. Sandro Galea

Jorge Ramos

Aug 08, 2018
How Diverse Communities Can Choose Their Destiny

This week, New York City Councilman Carlos Menchaca tells Ali Noorani how he got elected - by listening to the needs of the diverse communities he now serves, and empowering them to become active citizens in the democratic process. Plus, an update on the separated migrant children still without their parents. 

Aug 01, 2018
"They're Children First, and Immigrants Second"


Ali talks with Wendy Young, President and CEO of Kids In Need of Defense (KIND) about the thousands of refugee children separated from their parents at the southern border. 

And later, how the World Cup recharged the immigration debate in Europe.   


Jul 25, 2018
An Iowa Town: As Immigration Increases - Crime Rates Fall

Mark Prosser, the Chief of Police in Storm Lake, IA talks about how the crime rate there has fallen as the town's immigrant population grows. He tells Ali about his policing strategy, how the town has embraced new residents, and how President Trump's policies may make people fearful of reporting crimes for fear of deportation. 

Jul 18, 2018
Redefining What it Means to be American

This week, Ali talks with author Laura Wides-Muñoz, about her book, "The Making of a Dream: How a Group of Young Undocumented Immigrants Helped Change What it Means to be American." And, as hundreds of migrant children remain separated from their parents, the number of deportations of naturalized citizens is increasing.  

Jul 11, 2018
On Independence Day - Honoring America's Immigrants


This week's Independence Day show features 16-year-old Fez Zafar, who brought Des Moines High School students together for a series of Iftar dinners; Hector Barajas, a deported U.S. Army veteran who's back in California after 14 years in exile; and Vartan Gregorian, President of the Carnegie Corporation of New York.  

Jul 03, 2018
A Young Military Family Keeps the Dream Alive

This week, Ali talks with DACA recipient Esmeralda Tovar-Contreras. She's the mother of a 19-month-old baby and her fiance is in the U.S. Army. As thousands of Dreamers are threatened with deportation by the Trump administration's decision to rescind DACA, Esmeralda hasn't moved back in to the shadows. Instead, she debated the issue in heated exchanges on late-night TV with a group of voters who oppose DACA. 

Plus, we deconstruct the ruling behind President Trump's ban on travel from 7 mostly Muslim-majority countries.

Jun 27, 2018
Refugee Turned American Leader


Kathy Tran arrived as a refugee from Vietnam in 1980 as a child. Now she's a member of the Virginia House of Delegates. On World Refugee Day, Ali chats with Kathy about her desperate flight from war, her run for high office, and how she's living proof of the reality of the American Dream. 

Jun 20, 2018
How to Rid America of MS-13

In this special edition, the incredible story of the FBI informant who helped to break up an MS-13 gang in Boston, MA. Ali talks to journalist Michele McPhee who tells the story in next week's edition of Newsweek.

They discuss how the cooperation of Boston's immigrant community with law enforcement plays a vital role in fighting crime, despite the renewed threats of deportation under the Trump Administration's policies. 


Jun 18, 2018
For Immigrant Families, the Calm over Storm Lake

Ali visits the storied town of Storm Lake, Iowa, which proudly has one of the most diverse populations in rural America, and chats with the new Mayor, Mike Porsch. And later, the crackdown on asylum-seekers at the southern border, and the ongoing divisions in Congress over DACA. 

Jun 13, 2018
"Embrace immigrants the way scripture calls us to"

A Texas judge speaks out as hundreds of migrant children, separated from their parents who fled violence in Central and South America, are sent to detention centers near the southern US border.

And Ali chats with Jenny Yang and Matt Soerens from World Relief about how to unite the evangelical movement around immigration. 


Jun 07, 2018
Three Women Paving the Way for America’s Immigrants

Ali talks to three amazing women who are working both in public and behind the scenes to re-imagine the future for immigrants in the United States.

Left to Right:-

Gaby Pacheco, DACA recipient, and leader of TheDream.US

Karen Tumlin, Legal Director of the National Immigration Law Center

Sayu Bhojwani, President of the New American Leaders Project  

May 28, 2018
How Detroit's Leading Latina plans to raise a Struggling City

This week, Ali talks with Raquel Castañeda-López, the first Latina to be elected to the Detroit City Council.

Raquel tells of her childhood struggles born and raised in a diverse but poverty-stricken section of the city, and how the local residents gave her the courage to run for office. She also lays out her vision for the resurgence of Detroit, with policies which embrace the city's diversity. 

May 24, 2018
Fleeing Baghdad for South Bend - the immigrant who helped the US Army

Ali chats with Rafed Alsaad, who had to flee his home in Baghdad  after helping the American forces in Iraq. Now living in South Bend, Indiana, he talks about saving his wife and children, but having to leave his wider family behind, and the welcome he received from the neighbors in his new community. 

And later, why France's immigrants are now the country's top bakers.


Mahmoud M'seddi, winner of the Parisian Baguette section of the French annual Festival of Bread, with President Emmanuel Macron. 

May 17, 2018
Making America Open Again - the Legal Battle

Ali talks with Cecillia Wang, a deputy legal director at the national ACLU about the court battles against the Trump Administration's anti-immigration campaign. 

She also directs the Center for Democracy, which encompasses the ACLU’s work on immigrants’ rights, voting rights, national security, human rights, and speech, privacy and technology.

Cecillia believes the collective will of America's communities to protect the Constitution will prevail.  

May 10, 2018
Afraid to Go to Church, Afraid to Go to School

This week, the fear in America's immigrant communities as ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) continues to expand  arrests and deportations.


And Ali talks to Rondell Treviño, from Memphis,TN, who founded The Immigration Project to demonstrate how the Bible teaches us to reach out and embrace immigrants. He’s also a Pastor at the Woodland Presbyterian Church in Memphis.  

Rondell received a Bachelor of Arts in Biblical Studies from Belhaven University, and a Master of Divinity from Capital Seminary.

He’s advocated in Washington for positive immigration reform, and is devoted not just to his wife, Laura, and daughter Sofia, but also to the Dallas Cowboys. We chatted about his efforts to encourage communities to embrace immigrants, and about his strange encounter with law enforcement in his home town.

May 02, 2018
A migrant's tale: "The only friend I have is God"

This week, Ali chats with Catholic Priest and award-winning author and film producer Father Dan Groody.  

He’s Associate Professor of Theology and Global Affairs at the University of Notre Dame, and the Director of the Global Leadership Program at the Kellogg Institute for International Studies. He draws on years of work helping migrants and refugees both internationally, and in the US.

His work began in Central and Latin America, but was inspired by a story from his high school days. 

(Additional sound courtesy of NPR, NBC News and KETV Omaha, Nebraska)

Apr 25, 2018
Dr. Russell Moore: "The Future of Evangelicalism is at Stake"

This week, Dr. Russell MoorePresident of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, America’s largest Protestant denomination.

He talks to Ali about how to heal the divides on immigration among the Evangelical Christian churches of America. "There are two signs at the border" he says, quoting a former Southern Baptist leader.

"One says 'Keep Out' , the other says 'Help Wanted'."

And later, ICE deportations gather pace, leading to fear in America's immigrant communities. 


Apr 18, 2018
From the Refugee Crisis, the Jihadists of the Future

A leading international journalist says President Trump's immigration policies have changed America's relationships with the world.

Mindy Belz of World magazine tells Ali that some of today's unwelcome refugees fleeing war, poverty and oppression could become the Jihadis of the future. 



Apr 11, 2018
SPECIAL - The Honduran Caravan: "Everyone is hell-bent against them"

In this Special Edition of Only in America, Alex Mensing, Project Coordinator for Pueblos Sin Fronteras, talked to Ali from the Mexican side of the Guatemalan border, where a caravan of migrants were  preparing for another leg of their desperate journey northwards towards Mexico City.

Alex says the contingent, mostly of women and children, is fleeing poverty, violence and oppression by the regime in Honduras. He says the migrants feel like everyone - from Mexico, to Trump's United States - is "hell-bent against them". 

Alex MensingMarch


Apr 05, 2018
Trump's America "dangerous and hostile for immigrants" - Jorge Ramos

"Get back to Univision" yelled Presidential candidate Trump as he ejected journalist Jorge Ramos from a news conference in 2015. 

In this episode Jorge, known as Mexico's Walter Cronkite to millions of viewers, tells Ali that Trump has created a hostile and dangerous country for immigrants. 

And he chats about his new book, "Stranger: The Challenge of a Latino Immigrant in the Trump Era." 

Jorge Ramos Headshot 

Apr 04, 2018
Flooded out, then scared of the shelters - the undocumented of Houston

Ali meets with Jarrett Barrios, the CEO of the Red Cross Los Angeles, who tells of the mission to Houston, Texas, after Hurricane Harvey. 

Many undocumented immigrants whose homes were wrecked still refused to go to the shelters, for fear of deportation. 


And, later, why the citizenship question on the 2020 census will under-count key populations, leaving some states short of funding and political representation. 

Mar 29, 2018
In the Eye of the Immigration Storm

Karen Tumlin, Legal Director of the National Immigration Law Center, is in the heat of the battle over the Trump Administration's immigration reforms on several fronts. She gives Ali an update on migrant detentions, the "Muslim Ban", and the outlook for the Dreamers. 

And later, Dreamer Gaby Pacheco on her experiences on the DACA campaign trail.


Mar 21, 2018
"My kids wouldn't survive working those fields" - a top Florida Sheriff

Sheriff Michael Chitwood of Volusia County, Florida - an area the size of Rhode Island - speaks with our host Ali Noorani about how he polices his immigrant population.

He tells Ali many farms and businesses are dependent on low-wage migrants, and explains why the Trump Administration's edict to arrest the "undocumented" is beyond his financial and human resources, and his remit as a state law-enforcement leader. 


Mar 15, 2018
And the Oscar goes to.....Immigrants

At the National Immigration Forum's Spring Event, Ali's guests are Geronimo Gutierrez, Mexican Ambassador to the U.S., and Tim Dixon, Co-Founder of "More in Common". They talk about the immigration challenges facing America, and the polarization of opinions. 



Mar 07, 2018
Snakes and Ladders

This week, as President Trump speaks of snakes, a couple from South Carolina help students and immigrants climb ladders.
Meghan and Derrick Smith, from Spartanburg, help disadvantaged young people get into college, and speak of their optimism that multi-cultural worship will save America's white churches.


Feb 28, 2018
"I was a stranger, and you welcomed me."

What does the Bible say about welcoming immigrants? Twenty Christian leaders read the words of Matthew 25, when Jesus tells his followers, "I was a stranger and you welcomed me." And, and Ali's Interview of the Week, how does the child of a single mother, living out of her car, become the President of a top American University?

Watch the video and download a free study guide 

And in Ali's Interview of the Week, how does the child of a single mother, living out of her car, become the President of a top American University? A conversation with Beck A. Taylor. 

Beck A Taylor, President of Whitworth University


Feb 21, 2018
The wall in the Dreamers' path, and discovering "Color Town"

Ali dissects the critical Senate immigration debate, which threatens to leave the Dreamers in further limbo.

And the leader of the Wesleyan Church, Jo Anne Lyon, talks about her awakening, her life, and the Church's work to help immigrants.

Feb 13, 2018
Making American Democracy Great

Sayu Bhojwani, Founder and President of New American Leaders, tells Ali that American democracy will be stronger when our elected officials mirror the nation's diversity.

And, with the March 5 deadline for DACA looming, who among the Republicans in Congress is going to "give a little" as President Trump says?   

Feb 06, 2018
"Dark was the night, cold was the ground" - the real "State of the Union"

Ali speaks with Sandro Galea -  the Dean of Boston University's School of Public Health - a European immigrant who now leads one of America's top university colleges, about health and immigration, and about Blind Willy Johnson - the blues singer who inspired himand his new book. 

And after the State of the Union speech Ali gives his take on the prospects for the Dreamers, and how the deadlocked Congress might just find a way out, despite their divisions and the ambiguous input from the White House.   

Feb 01, 2018
In Congress, the storm's ahead for Dreamers

This week, Ali ponders how Congress - with it's competing and ever-divisive stances on immigration, will manage to safeguard the Dreamers. And he chats with Jer Swigart, from Bend, Oregon, the co-author of "Mending the Divides" and leader of the Global Immersion Project, on faith-based peacemaking and healing between communities.

Jan 23, 2018
"They're scared of us, and of the unknown"

This week, Ali picks apart the twisted deadlock over DACA and the Government funding bill in Congress. And he talks to Gaby Pacheco - a prominent Dreamer - about her life, and her quest to find funding for college scholarships for thousands of immigrants.



Jan 16, 2018
From Arizona, the business case for the Dreamers, and for NAFTA

This week, host Ali Noorani examines the challenges ahead as Congress wrestles with the future of DACA, with the deadline looming. 

And the CEO of Arizona's Chamber of Commerce, Glenn Hamer, tells him about the indispensable role played by immigrants in the state's booming economy; why Dreamers must be allowed to stay, and how NAFTA can be a long-term success.   

Jan 10, 2018
Voices of Christian Dreamers

With the fate of thousands of DACA recipients still in the hands of a deadlocked Congress, Ali chats with four members of the Voices of Christian Dreamers, who visited Capitol Hill this week to plea for their American futures.


Liz Dong

Ruth Velazquez

Vanessa Gutierrez 

Amado Lobatos 

The Des Moines Register DACA story 



Dec 19, 2017
The dreamers of Utah come to DC

Ali breaks down the math in the immigration debate on Capitol Hill, and talks to Bernardo Castro, a young Utah dreamer lobbying for an American future for himself and his family. Ali also chats with author Michelle Warren about her latest book, "The Power of Proximity", and  her life among the diverse communities of the Denver, Co. suburbs. 

Dec 12, 2017
In Miami - the hope beyond the rhetoric

Ali talks with Dr. Eduardo Padron, the President of Miami-Dade College - America's largest community college. Dr. Padron talks about his optimism for the future of immigrants in the U.S., despite the "ugly rhetoric" currently surrounding the issue. Plus, Ali gives his weekly take on events on Capitol Hill.

Dec 07, 2017
Idaho: where a workforce becomes a family

Ali visits the cattle plains of Idaho, where thousands of hispanic immigrants have powered the booming dairy economy. But industry leaders fear labor shortages if deportations increase.

Dec 04, 2017
The refugee children - an American transformation

Ali talks with the award-winning author Helen Thorpe, who spent a school year watching refugee children who'd fled war, famine and disasters flourish in a classroom in Denver, Co.

Dec 03, 2017
Saving the Dreamers

Congress is running out of time to choose what to do with the Dream Act recipients. And Ali goes to Illinois, and hears from the sheriff who changed his mind on immigration.

Dec 03, 2017
Chicago Faith, Baseball, and Immigration

Ali is in Chicago, finding out how people reconcile their faith with the politics surrounding immigration. And how baseball's World Series is boosted by multi-cultural stars.   

Dec 03, 2017
A flavor of Texas

Ali visits Texas, where employment has risen thanks to the North American Free Trade Agreement. And he finds out how the people of Houston came together to meet the challenges of Hurricane Harvey. 

Dec 03, 2017
Guess who's coming to dinner in Boise?

Ali travels west to find out how diversity is affecting rural communities. And, we ask: does God believe in borders? 

Dec 03, 2017