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Her Newspaper Article Saved His Family — And Inspired Him To Follow Her Path

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Now a story of inspiration and reunion. Hamed Aleaziz is a reporter for BuzzFeed News covering immigration. And last week, the American Immigration Lawyers Association gave him the Media Leadership Award. He tweeted about it saying, I know firsthand the impact journalism can have on families.

HAMED ALEAZIZ: In the '90s, an Oregonian reporter profiled my parents' immigration saga. Because of the story, senators got involved. Now my parents are U.S. citizens. I was 8 at the time and knew then I wanted to be a journalist.

SHAPIRO: Turns out that tweet was slightly off. He was actually 10 at the time. But anyway, a couple of hours later, Katy Muldoon showed up in the replies tweeting this.

KATY MULDOON: Thanks for the shoutout, Hamed. Congratulations on the award and on all the remarkably great work you do.

SHAPIRO: She was the reporter who wrote the articles about the Aleaziz family in 1998. Katy Muldoon and Hamed Aleaziz are both with us now. Thank you for joining us. And, Hamed, congratulations on your award.

ALEAZIZ: Thank you so much. Thank you for having me.

MULDOON: Thank you so much.

SHAPIRO: Katy, you've written hundreds, maybe thousands, of stories in your career. Does this one that you did about Hamed's family more than 20 years ago stand out?

MULDOON: Well, it does. You know, I think as journalists, we always really hope that our stories have some sort of positive impact. So for me to learn all these years later about the fact that this one had even more impact than I already knew was really just lovely.

SHAPIRO: And, Hamed, you were a little kid at the time. You were just 10 years old. Tell us what your family's situation was.

ALEAZIZ: Well, my dad, you know, his visa had run out. He'd come here as a student. And, basically, the situation was the government was saying that he had to return to Iran. The issue was my brother was severely disabled. He was 13 at the time. And, you know, he had cerebral palsy. He couldn't speak or feed himself. And my parents didn't feel like it was safe to take him back to Iran to receive care there. And Katy wrote about this in her story.

SHAPIRO: And, Katy, do you remember why you decided to write about this story in the first place?

MULDOON: You know, I believe it was a member of the Iranian American community who reached out to me, and it just sounded like they had such an impossible choice to make. You know, either take their child back to Iran where he wouldn't be able to get the intensive sort of help he needed or to leave him behind in the U.S., which is just - sounded so heartbreaking to me. And it sounded like a story well worth telling.

SHAPIRO: How surprised were you when the outcome of the story was that the family would be able to stay together in the United States?

MULDOON: Well, I was really thrilled with the outcome of this story, of course. They are such a fine, loving family, and everybody got what they needed. So I was glad if I could've played some small role in that. That made me happy.

SHAPIRO: Hamed, how are your parents and your older brother doing today?

ALEAZIZ: Yeah. My parents are doing well. They both have, you know, good jobs, and they live in the Portland area. And they regularly visit my brother, who's now in a nursing home. And he's still the, you know, happy, kind guy that he's always been.

SHAPIRO: That's so great. Hamed, your family's story involved activists, lawyers, senators. You could have chosen to pursue any of those paths, but you chose journalism. Why?

ALEAZIZ: You know, Katy's name in our house was revered. There's no reason why me at 10 years old should have remembered her name for the rest of my life. But it was really because my parents would constantly talk about the impact that she made. And I just thought, you know, what other job could you have where you can inspire people to action, to make an impact on a family? And that carries me to this day to treat people with empathy and try to, you know, work my hardest to tell their stories, you know, as powerfully as possible.

SHAPIRO: Katy, what's it like for you to hear that?

MULDOON: Well, that's really amazing to hear. You know, you just - I really think you don't ever know how far a story might reach. And this one has reached farther than I ever could have hoped. You know, to have Hamed choose this career at this time when especially our immigration policies and situation are so fraught, he's just the kind of guy we need in this role right now. And so for me, that's icing on the cake.

SHAPIRO: If I'm not mistaken, you two had not spoken to each other for more than 20 years up until earlier this year. Is there anything that you've been wanting to say to each other?

ALEAZIZ: You know, I spoke with my father over the weekend, and he wanted me to share that he is so grateful that the time you put into the story and the fact that you, you know, helped him stay with his son. And, personally, I want to say thank you for giving me the inspiration to do this work. To know that journalism was my calling from a young age, it's so rare to find that. And thank you for that.

MULDOON: Well, I would say thank you to Hamed for letting me know the impact that that story I wrote so many years ago had on his family and his life. I just think that's great. And I appreciate it so much.

SHAPIRO: Hamed Aleaziz of BuzzFeed just won the Media Leadership Award from the American Immigration Lawyers Association and Katy Muldoon wrote an article for The Oregonian newspaper more than 20 years ago that inspired Aleaziz to become a journalist.

Thank you both for sharing your story with us.

ALEAZIZ: Thank you.

MULDOON: Thank you so much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.