Nov. 06, 2020

Best of the States

AP explores impact of Trump immigration policies; rare interviews with Stephen Miller, migrants

President Donald Trump has altered the immigration system arguably more than any U.S. president, meaning this year’s election could have major implications for future immigration policy and for those trying to enter or stay in the U.S. In the run-up to the election, AP’s immigration team unraveled four key policies that have upended lives: reduced refugee numbers, restrictions on international students, a virtual shutdown of asylum and the curbing of legal immigration. 

The journalists used unmatched source work, data reporting and AP’s global footprint, scoring key on-the-record interviews, from would-be refugees stuck overseas to Stephen Miller, Trump’s lead immigration adviser.

For timely, in-depth coverage of immigration issues that likely hang in the balance as the election is decided, the team of Spagat, Tareen, Snow, Watson, Bull and Akour wins this week’s Best of the States award.

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Oct. 09, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Tip, source work reveal Pence immigration order to CDC

worked sources and turned a tip into an exclusive story detailing how Vice President Mike Pence ordered the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to use the pandemic as justification to halt immigration into the U.S., over the objections of the agency's scientists who twice refused to take the action.

Burke notified Dearen, who started working CDC sources. After a couple of fruitless weeks, he succeeded in identifying a person close to the events who agreed to talk, and a former Pence aide who confirmed the story on the record.

Meanwhile Burke moved the story beyond politics to bring home the order’s human toll. She gathered data that showed nearly 150,000 people, including 8,800 migrant children, already had been expelled under the order, and she interviewed the father of a 16-year-old Honduran boy who had been held in government custody under the order.

Even on a weekend dominated by news of Trump’s hospitalization, the piece was the top story on AP News and was widely used and cited by local and national news outlets. https://bit.ly/2SvTB14

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Sept. 18, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

AP scoop: Mexico diverted development funds under US pressure

used public records requests and persistent reporting to scoop the competition on Mexico’s diversion, under U.S. pressure, of more than $4 million from a fund meant to address the root causes of migration. The money was instead used to bus asylum seekers away from the U.S. border and renovate immigration detention centers. Former officials and experts reacted to the story with harsh criticism of the administration of President Andrés Manual López Obrador. https://bit.ly/33Dn5iK

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July 31, 2020

Best of the Week

AP exclusive leads to release of migrant kids held in US hotels for deportation

Earmarked for deportation, the immigrant children, some mere toddlers, were parked in nondescript hotels – out of sight and, the Trump administration thought, out of mind.  But not out of reach of an Associated Press exclusive.

With an investigation based on source work, court records and witness accounts, immigration reporter Nomaan Merchant exposed how the Trump administration held children in hotels despite federal anti-trafficking laws and court rulings that mandate child-appropriate facilities.

Merchant’s exclusive sparked outrage and accusations of child abuse. Five days later, the Trump administration said it would not expel 17 people, including children, detained at one Texas hotel, and the hotels pledged to stop allowing the practice.

For his investigative story that punctured layers of secrecy and changed the fortunes of all-but-invisible immigrant children, Merchant wins AP’s Best of the Week award. 

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April 24, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Disturbing court case of virus-stricken detainee

used careful source work to get a rare interview with a migrant in detention who was stricken with COVID-19. Salomon Diego Alonzo coughed and gasped through much of the interview, and what came next was even more disturbing: Alonzo was forced to attend a crucial asylum hearing by phone, lasting two hours before the judge decided to delay the case. Alonzo was hospitalized the following day. Merchant wove a compelling story, bringing to life one hearing that exposed a callous handling of sick immigrants amid the pandemic. https://bit.ly/3bxPUAb

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Feb. 21, 2020

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Documents reveal underuse of holding cells for asylum seekers

for first reporting unsealed documents that raised questions about the Trump administration’s reasoning for forcing asylum seekers to remain in Mexico. Spagat closely watched the court file and prodded an official once a deadline had passed, breaking the news that holding cells at most U.S. facilities were no more than half full – and some were completely empty – during an unprecedented surge of asylum-seeking families from Central America. The Trump administration claimed that people had to wait in Mexico because it didn’t have the means to accommodate them. https://bit.ly/39PkhAM

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Dec. 27, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

All-formats look at volunteer doctors responding to border crisis

for calling attention to the migrant health care crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border with a compelling, all-formats look at how volunteer doctors are stepping in to care for sick, vulnerable and traumatized asylum seekers from Central America. The team followed Dr. Psyche Calderon as she made rounds in Tijuana, part of a movement of health professionals and medical students from both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border that is quietly battling to keep asylum seekers healthy and safe while their lives remain in flux.https://bit.ly/2SmiY6Vhttps://bit.ly/2SpxgUf

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Nov. 01, 2019

Best of the States

Experience, persistence pay off with breaking news: US to collect asylum seekers’ DNA

Immigration and Homeland Security reporter Colleen Long’s ears perked up in early October when she heard agency officials mention “CODIS” as they briefed reporters on the likelihood they would expand their practice of collecting DNA from migrants. 

CODIS, she knew from experience, was an FBI database usually associated with violent crimes, so Long was surprised to hear of its use in connection with migrants whose only crime was crossing the border illegally. Long followed up with detailed questions at the briefing but didn’t get answers, so she kept pressing officials.

Her persistence was rewarded with an advance briefing on the new rule, and additional details about how the DNA policy would be implemented. Long’s story moved hours ahead of the official announcement, becoming one of the most-read stories of the day. 

For making the early connection to the policy implications of the DNA database, then pressing the issue with officials until she had the exclusive details, Long earns this week’s Best of the States award.

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Aug. 23, 2019

Best of the States

Foresight, persistence, sources put AP ahead on green card restrictions for legal immigrants

Few reporters were paying attention to a draft rule barring legal immigrants from getting green cards if they received benefits like Medicaid or food stamps – but AP’s Colleen Long was.

Long, AP’s Washington-based Homeland Security reporter, had spent months asking U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services when the final rules would be published, making them official. With a heads-up from sources, she was eventually able to get an advance briefing and interview, writing the story just before heading off on vacation. Then, as soon as the rule appeared, she alerted the Washington desk to move the story, giving AP a major beat over other news organizations. By the time the White House and Homeland Security held briefings, Long already had all the key details on the wire.

For her skilled source-building, persistence and meticulous reporting, Long wins this week’s Best of the States honors.

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July 26, 2019

Best of the Week

AP hours ahead as Trump moves to end nearly all asylum at southern border

Washington-based homeland security reporter Colleen Long earned a key scoop – one that set the news agenda for days and left the competition scrabbling to catch up – when a source alerted her to a change in rules for those seeking asylum at the southern border: The rule would effectively end asylum for people coming from Central American countries and change decades of U.S. policy.

Following the tip, she also knew that she had a window of opportunity to drive her advantage home before the law was announced early the next morning. Long’s story caught other news organizations completely off guard and left major outlets to cite the AP for hours as they struggled to catch up.

For her deep knowledge of immigration policy, diligent reporting and outstanding speed of delivery on a story of vital interest, Colleen Long earns AP’s Best of the Week.

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July 05, 2019

Best of the Week

Searing photo of migrant drownings launches all-formats AP coverage across borders

When New York photo editor Pablo Salinas alerted colleagues to the image of a drowned father and daughter from El Salvador lying face-down in the Rio Grande after they tried to cross into Texas, it was clear it captured, like few other images, the dangers faced by migrants and asylum-seekers trying to make it to the United States.

AP’s much-applauded decision to acquire and publish that image by freelance reporter Julia Le Duc, showing the stark and often-hidden reality of migrants dying by the hundreds each year along the U.S. border, showcased AP’s significant role in shaping the news agenda.

It also stands as a lesson for AP staff with several important takeaways, highlighting the role of editors to find, gather and acquire important images for AP’s global audience, the role of AP’s Top Stories Hub to coordinate and amplify news stories, and the value of rapid response by journalists in the region to verify, report and provide context for any news-making picture.

Finally, it showed how the thoughtful implementation of AP’s standards across all platforms and social media can allow AP to stand out.

For an exceptional multinational effort in finding, recognizing and acquiring Le Duc’s tragic and important image, and presenting it to AP’s worldwide audience with context and sensitivity, the team of Pablo Salinas, Marcos Alemán, Eduardo Verdugo, Rebecca Blackwell, Chris Sherman, Gerardo Carrillo and Peter Orsi shares AP’s Best of the Week award.

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June 28, 2019

Best of the Week

AP team exposes perilous conditions and spurs action for 250 kids at Border Patrol lockup

First word came from a trusted source cultivated by AP investigative reporter Garance Burke – Customs and Border Protection was holding 250 migrant infants and children at a Border Patrol station in Clint, Texas, without enough food, water or basic sanitation. “Are you available today?” the source asked, and AP swung into action.

El Paso, Texas, correspondent Cedar Attanasio met with attorneys who had just interviewed the children, while investigative reporter Martha Mendoza set to work contacting lawmakers and government officials. Burke, with the help of attorneys, found parents of the young children who were locked inside and inconsolable. The trio worked through the night, drafting a story focused on the fact that girls as young as 10 were caring for a toddler handed to them by a guard.

The story had enormous impact almost immediately. National outlets scrambled to match the story, citing AP extensively. The reporters’ next-day story was about lawmakers’ calls for change, and on Monday Mendoza and Burke again broke news: The Trump administration was moving most of the children out of Clint.

For a highly significant scoop that dominated the news cycle on multiple days and returned world attention to the border crisis, Mendoza, Burke and Attanasio win AP’s Best of the Week award.

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June 21, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Team coverage of African migrants at US-Mexican border

for impressive teamwork and collaboration, using AP’s footprint to tell the story of African immigrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border in record numbers. When the migrants started showing up in remote areas of Texas, the immigration beat team deployed Selsky, a former Africa bureau chief. He found many of the African migrants being put on buses to Maine, where Whittle and Amendola picked up the story, covering Congolese and Angolan asylum seekers at a Portland gymnasium converted into a shelter. Selsky also coordinated relevant reporting from Europe, Africa and Latin America. https://bit.ly/2XVjbhc

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May 17, 2019

Beat of the Week

(Honorable Mention)

Immigration team finds 13,000 immigrants on wait lists in Mexico to cross the border

for all-format reporting across the U.S.-Mexico border, revealing that 13,000 immigrants are stuck in Mexico on haphazard wait lists that have formed as the Trump administration placed limits on how many asylum cases it accepts each day. The team visited the eight main locations where lines were forming and tallied the number of people on the various lists, finding some migrants sleeping in tents for months on end, vulnerable to violence and shakedowns. And they broke news about a family that decided to forgo the long line and cross illegally, killing four people as they were swept away by the swift-moving Rio Grande. https://bit.ly/2Q4dF8Y

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