Daniel Connolly
Journalist, Author, Immigration Expert

Daniel Connolly is a longtime journalist specializing in coverage of immigration to the United States, particularly Mexican immigration. He is the author of The Book of Isaias: A Child of Hispanic Immigrants Seeks His Own America. Daniel has won numerous awards from state and national journalism organizations and received grants from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and the International Center for Journalists. He recently was one of a group of journalists who contributed to “the Migrants,” a massive USA Today project about Central American migration.


His past speaking engagements have included a wide range of schools, colleges, universities, and professional groups. Among his notable appearances are a keynote at the annual book festival Bookstock in Memphis, multiple appearances at national conferences of the group Investigative Reporters and Editors, as well as special appearances at City University of New York Law School and Princeton University.


His goal in every speech is to keep the audience engaged through frequent questions, concrete examples, attention-grabbing visuals, and memorable stories.

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The Book of IsaiasA Child of Hispanic Immigrants Seeks His Own America
St. Martin's Press

18-year-old high school senior Isaias Ramos plays in a punk rock group called Los Psychosis and likes to sing along to songs by Björk and her old band, the Sugarcubes. He’s also extremely bright. The counselors at school want him to apply to Harvard, but Isaias isn’t so sure. He's thinking about going to work painting houses with his parents, who crossed the Arizona desert illegally from Mexico. Despite the obstacles and his own doubts, Isaias sets out on the journey to become the first in his family to go to college. He faces make-or-break standardized testing, immigration bureaucracy, absurdly high college costs, and, most importantly, the siren song of doubt. In the tradition of Friday Night Lights and A Hope in the Unseen, this deeply human narrative offers a powerful antidote to the heated political rhetoric about immigrants and their children.

Today's Immigration Battles - How We Got Here, Where We're Going In 2019, Daniel was among a select group of journalists who took part in USA Today’s international journalism project “The Migrants,” a deep look at today’s migration from Guatemala and Honduras.

In this vivid and engaging talk, Daniel explains the federal policy decisions that led to today's immigration battles. For years, federal immigration policy was like a coconut - hard on the outside (a tough, militarized border) and soft on the inside (a U.S. interior with virtually no immigration enforcement.) The federal government allowed millions of unauthorized immigrants to live in this country, but with limited rights. Daniel explains how this history shapes today's dramatic events.
Understanding and Engaging With Children of Hispanic Immigrants Roughly one in four young people in the United States today has at least one immigrant parent. In this interactive, fast-moving talk, Daniel explains what he learned in his years following immigrant families in Memphis, outlining the challenges facing this important group of young people, and suggesting solutions to meet their needs.
Working Across Cultures to Understand America's Hispanic Population Daniel isn't Hispanic, but he's fluent in Spanish and has a deep network of sources and contacts within immigrant populations in the U.S. In this talk, he'll offer tips to groups and organizations that wish to improve their relationships with the various Hispanic populations in the U.S., whether for social services, education, business or related purposes.
A Life in Journalism In this talk geared toward college students, Daniel offers colorful accounts of his life as a reporter, from covering tiger attacks at a local zoo as a college journalist to delving into the lives of transborder drug traffickers. The talk helps bring the journalism world to life and helps students discern if this profession might be right for them.
Advice For Writers Daniel offers a wide range of practical seminars to help writers reach their potential. Among them:
- Time Management and Organization for Writers and Researchers
- Understanding the Book Publishing World
- How to Find a Literary Agent
- Improving Your Writing: a process approach based on lessons that Daniel learned from legendary writing coach Chip Scanlan and that he uses every day to produce polished, professional prose.
How the Immigration Story Became Daniel's Story Daniel has been covering immigration for years, and in 2018 the immigration story became highly personal for him when he married a woman born in the Dominican Republic. Together they worked to obtain her U.S. citizenship, helped her and her family members navigate the U.S. health care system, and planned to raise their own bicultural children. This personal talk helps give a real-world perspective to the abstract issues surrounding the immigration topic.
Immigration Policy During the Coronavirus Pandemic As the coronavirus pandemic sweeps across the world, Daniel continues to cover the immigration story as part of USA Today’s national immigration team. Daniel will speak on the up-to-the minute issues affecting the lives of tens of thousands of people trying to enter the United States - and the millions of other immigrants who already live here.
The U.S. Supreme Court and DACA The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling in 2020 on the future of DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhoood Arrivals. This is the program that offered work permits to a select group of young immigrants who had been brought to this country illegally or on visas that later expired. Daniel studied DACA exensively while writing “The Book of Isaias” and shares his thoughts on the meaning, limitations, and future of the program.

Read “the Migrants,” a massive USA Today project about Central American migration Daniel Connolly was a part of.

Watch this trailer for Daniel Connolly’s The Book of Isaias.

Watch Daniel Connolly discuss immigrants and education on C-SPAN2 Book TV.

Read Daniel Connolly’s contribution to Global Nation here.

“After students in my Urban Education class at Wabash College read The Book of Isaias, Daniel Connolly’s visit (via video conferencing during the pandemic) was exactly what my class needed to continue their introduction to urban education. He was as engaging as I imagine he would have been if he’d met face-to-face with my students, challenging them to think more deeply about what they as future teachers could take away from Isaias’ story. Daniel brought valuable perspective and insight into our discussion as my students sought to understand the complicated challenges facing immigrant students, and he guided us to a deeper appreciation for the role urban schools play in shaping the academic and social/emotional experiences of immigrant students.”
- M. Michele Pittard, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Education Studies, Co-coordinator of Faculty Development, Wabash College

"Unlike many authors and academics, Daniel knew his audience and spoke directly to them. His approach, content, and language was well gauged to the age group of the audience. One of the tests of an appropriate speaker for us is if he or she elicits questions, and we had a good collection of questions for him to field after his presentation. His presentation was both personal and informative, drawing on his own experience and blending into a field he had both lived and studied."
- Wyoming Seminary

"Daniel Connolly’s conversation with my first-year composition students at the University of Memphis was honest, engaging, and enlightening. By highlighting lessons from his decades of experience as a journalist, Daniel helped the students to see the work of writing. They were inspired to follow their passions and be determined in the face of failure. Particularly useful was Daniel’s five question approach to ignite the writing process as well as his hands-on demonstration of the steps in that process. Because Daniel brought writing to life, the students left inspired to see themselves as writers even and especially when it is difficult. That’s a gift that will last throughout their academic and professional lives!"
- Jessica Swan, Ph.D., Instructor, Department of English, University of Memphis

"Daniel Connolly’s presentation before my “First Year Writing Seminar” at Rhodes College in Memphis was remarkable; he offered clear, systematic advice about writing based on his own experiences, fortified through many successes as a working journalist during the past two decades. He is a gentle, humble, honest teacher, willing to discuss his writing process, and frustrations. My students left the class uplifted and very encouraged."
- Michael J. LaRosa, Associate Professor of History, Rhodes College

"Daniel Connolly's presentation is intelligent and well thought out, his on the ground reporting work gives him unique insight and understanding. His speech on immigration encourages one to stop, think and re-analyze thoughts on the subject."
- Jeff Weeks, Panhandle Tiger Bay Club.

“One of the most notable demographic changes in recent decades is Latino migration, settlement, and community formation in non-traditional destinations. Daniel Connolly’s engaging talk fosters awareness of the immigration debate, makes individuals rethink the demographic changes in their own communities, and highlights the far reaching impacts of Latin American migration to the United States.”
- Simone Delerme, McMullan Assistant Professor of Southern Studies & Anthropology, University of Mississippi

"The University of Memphis Honors Forum, Hispanic Immigration to the USA, was delighted to meet Daniel Connolly in person. He visited class, presented the ideas that inspired writing the book and answered student questions. The best part of the talk was getting Daniel’s authentic signature in student’s books. One student comment was, “How often do you have the real author’s signature in a book that you read for class!”
–Jennifer Johnston, Instructor of Spanish

"Daniel Connolly’s presentation about The Book of Isaias is the perfect vehicle for students to learn about how to cover immigration with a sensitive, holistic approach. His honest, open description of the daily challenges he faces as a journalist also was highly appreciated by my journalism students. Students today are seeking authentic, unfiltered perspectives, and Daniel delivered."
- Robert Stewart, Director, E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, Ohio University

Praise for The Book of Isaias “There is a wide, almost universal air to the author’s writing, as he alternately tells a narrowly focused story and a broad-based one, making clear that this tale of one family’s immigration cannot be told without laying bare the complex context in which it is situated. A story of one child… that has much wider, timely resonance.”

“Compelling…Connolly’s touching story about the challenges that children of immigrants, both documented and undocumented, face in making their way in the United States provides readers with a deeper understanding of the immigration debate.”
Library Journal

“Never has immigration—specifically Mexican immigration—been a more divisive issue, and never have we been more in need of nuanced portraits of real immigrants as they make their tricky passage through modern American life. Here Daniel Connolly treats us to just such a portrait. Richly reported, empathetic, carefully observed, and devoid of tendentious argument or political spin, The Book of Isaias is a stout rebuke to anyone who wishes to build a wall—real or metaphorical—around this unimaginably complicated and delicately human issue at the center of our national discourse.”
Hampton Sides, bestselling author of Americana, In the Kingdom of Ice, and Hellhound on His Trail

“The story in this book is a crucial one – for American cities like Memphis that have grown to rely economically on immigrants too often absent from civic life; and for Mexico, for whom the departure of Isaias and his family represents a massive depletion of energy and its most crucial natural resource.”
Sam Quinones, journalist and author on Mexico and the Mexican-American experience, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic