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. The proposed rule was one of President Donald Trump’s biggest steps to limit legal immigration, and it was hiding in plain sight, overshadowed by Trump’s efforts to stop illegal immigration and block asylum seekers.

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Pediatrician Jasmine Saavedra, left, examines newborn Alondra Marquez while Alondra’s mother, Esthela Nuñez, wraps her daughter at Esperanza Health Centers in Chicago, Aug. 13, 2019. Doctors and public health experts warn of poor healthcare and rising costs from sweeping changes that would deny green cards to many immigrants who use public assistance programs. Saavedra is convinced that if new Trump administration criteria were in effect for her parents three decades ago, she wouldn’t have become a pediatrician.

AP Photo / Amr Alfiky

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 in the Federal Register, making them official. When sources told her publication was imminent, she persuaded USCIS to give her an advance briefing so she would have time to digest the details of the complicated rule change. They agreed. Long also secured an embargoed interview with Ken Cuccinelli, the acting USCIS director.

Long wrote the story right before heading off on vacation. Then, while on vacation, she closely monitored the Federal Register website. As soon as the rule appeared, she alerted the Washington desk that it could move the story. AP beat The Washington Post by 45 minutes and The New York Times by about an hour on the biggest story of the day. By the time the White House and Homeland Security held briefings, Long already had all the key details on the wire. White House reporter Jill Colvin freshened the story later with reactions and more context.

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