A team of AP journalists provided comprehensive and visually led coverage of the expiration of pandemic-related asylum restrictions in the U.S. and the impact on people both along and far from the U.S.-Mexico border.
AP journalists in the U.S. and Latin America had been here before: Pandemic-related asylum restrictions in the U.S., known as Title 42, were set to expire at least twice in the previous year until courts intervened. This time though, they knew it was for real and spent weeks and months reporting about the consequences, from disinformation spread to would-be asylum seekers thousands of miles away to major shifts in U.S. immigration policy that will have effects for years to come. But it was in the days surrounding the expiration date itself that the expertise and collaboration of colleagues from California to Colombia and El Paso to Washington shone.
As the end of Title 42 approached, U.S. immigration team leader Elliot Spagat worked closely with Department of Homeland Security reporter Rebecca Santana, White House reporter Colleen Long and others to ensure steady and analytic coverage of the Biden administration’s preparations, including an explainer that would sit atop Google search traffic and APNews page views for days.
And as thousands of asylum seekers sought to cross the Mexico-U.S. border ahead of the expiration, AP responded. After days of tireless reporting on a crash that killed eight migrants outside a shelter in Brownsville, Texas, reporter Valerie Gonzalez — barely weeks into her new gig at AP — didn’t miss a beat, deploying to strategic points with photographer Julio Cortez as restrictions expired — and scoring a scoop on detailed Border Patrol contingency plans for releasing migrants from overcrowded facilities. Across from Brownsville, photographer Fernando Llano and video journalist Gerardo Carrillo provided coverage from Matamoros, including a steady stream of live shots and a signature image from Llano of a baby swaddled atop a suitcase being carried across the Rio Grande.
On the other end of the Texas border, religion reporter Giovanna Dell’Orto, photographer Andres Leighton and video journalist Lekan Oyekanmi deployed for long days and late nights in El Paso, while reporter Maria Verdez, photographer Christian Chavez and video journalist Alicia Fernandez did the same across the bridge in Ciudad Juarez. Even further west, in San Diego/Tijuana, Spagat joined with photographer Greg Bull and video journalists Eugene Garcia and Jordi Lebrija to report on migrants caught in limbo as the policy landscape shifted literally overnight.
But the border was only part of the story, as Kathia Martinez, Ivan Valencia, Natacha Pisarenko and Abraham Terán illustrated with simultaneous coverage of migrants hoping to make their way north from the treacherous Darien Gap jungle that links Panama and Colombia.
The seamless collaboration of these journalists amounted not only to deeply reported, people-focused and contextual spot coverage that showcased the AP footprint, but also resulted in a truly layered report including live video, photo galleries, dozens of video edits, vignettes, spot takeouts and several days of smart follows.
For an extraordinary effort that showed the AP’s breadth and depth of knowledge on this issue, the team earns Best of the Week — First Winner.