In two moving pieces of journalism in the last week, Associated Press journalists cast a powerful spotlight on the toll of White House immigration policies on young children.
One story started with a brainstorming question posed by immigration beat team reporter Nomaan Merchant to enterprise editor Pauline Arrillaga: Could we profile a single block or community where multiple immigrants had been picked up, and explore the impact of those arrests?
Through source work, Merchant zeroed in on a community in Kentucky that was the site of an Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid. One by one, Merchant built a network of contacts of those affected by the two-day operation in December.
One by one, Merchant built a network of contacts of those affected by the two-day operation last December.
Video journalist Manuel Valdes and photographer Greg Bull joined Merchant on a trip to the community to chronicle the effects of the raid. Their reporting turned up examples of people who were arrested by happenstance, and with no criminal records – despite the administration’s mantra that the raids are for public safety. Perhaps the most poignant reporting and images focused on a 4-year-old boy whose father was arrested.
Meanwhile, Arizona immigration reporter Astrid Galvan was looking for ways to tell the stories of children separated from their parents at the border. She found a juvenile docket in Phoenix immigration court and camped out there for the day there in pursuit of stories, the only reporter in the courtroom.
What she found was a major story that affected the national debate on immigration – a 1-year-old boy who had a court appearance with a lawyer. Upon seeing the boy, she opened up her notebook and described in vivid detail how he nursed from his bottle, asked his care giver for “agua” and cried when the care giver retrieved his diaper bag. She then captured the money quote as a judge expressed his bafflement at having to advise a defendant of his rights when the defendant was a 1-year-old boy in diapers.
Galvan camped out at Phoenix immigration court – she was the only reporter in the courtroom.
Galvan's story was a smash hit. Front pages in El Paso, Tucson and various cities in Mexico and Latin America. It received shoutouts from Poynter and Columbia Journalism Review as an example of the great work journalists are doing to keep attention on the border and immigration. Stephen Colbert mentioned the story in his monologue and media outlets from far and wide reached out to Galvan for interviews about her coverage.
The raid story received tremendous play as well. It was the front page story in the Cincinnati Enquirer – the media market where the raid occurred. The story averaged an impressive 1:30 engagement time and 23,000+ page views. The more than 200 source matches included big industry names like the Miami Herald. Many of the social interactions are attributed to our own APNews.com, reinforcing the idea that our social medial promotion efforts paid off.
For enterprising and compelling stories that drove the narrative on immigration policy, Galvan, Merchant, Valdes and Bull win this week’s Best of the States award.