SPECIAL ISSUE: Standout immigration stories that defined Migratory Notes’ first year

One year ago this month we published the first Migratory Notes in the chaotic aftermath of the Trump administration’s initial travel ban. We created it as a pop-up newsletter, assuming that the pace of immigration news would soon let up. We were wrong.

With the help of our advisory board and journalists across the country, we have compiled a list of standout immigration stories published in our first year. We selected stories that reveal the impact of new policies, feature fantastic writing, present information in innovative ways, and integrate visual journalism and graphics to illustrate immigration issues.

We hope you find them as informative and moving as we do.

— Daniela, Elizabeth and Yana

Travel Ban

Protesters at LAX / Konrad Fiedler

Judge Blocks Trump Order on Refugees Amid Chaos and Outcry Worldwide: The first hours of the travel ban produced a minute-by-minute frenzy and panic heard around the globe. Michael D. Shear, Nicholas Kulish and Alan Feuer worked around the clock to cover this story. (The New York Times, January 28, 2017)

It’s Working Out Very Nicely: The president’s executive order was hurtled into the world like a fastball with no warning, leaving a bewildering query hanging in the air: “What was that all about?” Ira Glass, Zoe Chace and Nancy Updike took on the question in a five-part radio series, which included a devastating meeting in a refugee camp to explain the ban. (NPR, February 3, 2017)

A Travel Ban’s Foe: A Young Firebrand and Her Pro Bono Brigade: The travel ban may have been less impactful than Trump intended in part thanks to one attorney that was tipped off to the ban and helped mobilize an army of law students and pro bono lawyers. Miriam Jordan offered a behind-the-scenes look at the meticulous preparations and the force behind a movement that appeared spontaneous. (The New York Times, May 7, 2017)

The Border

The French artist JR installed this work on the Mexico side of the border.

Minnesota Becomes a Gateway to Canada for Rejected African Migrants:Trump’s restrictions on refugees have spurred an exodus of African migrants to Canada, where many hope for a gentler welcome. Mila Koumpilova reported on a new flow of migrants north. (Star Tribune, February 4, 2017)

The Underground Railroad for Refugees: At a safe house in Buffalo, asylum seekers from around the world prepare to flee the U.S. for Canada. Jake Halpern reported on the growth of a movement supporting migrants traveling through the U.S. (The New Yorker, March 13, 2017)

A Path to America Marked by More and More Bodies: Border deaths have overwhelmed officials in South Texas, and with increased enforcement expected, the crisis shows few signs of letting up, Manny Fernandez and George Etheredge illustrated this story with a stunning graphics spread of found skulls. (The New York Times, May 4, 2017.)

Two Nations, One Aquifer: Water is a scarce resource on the U.S.-Mexico border, and with no governing treaties, it’s a race to the bottom (of a local aquifer), Lauren Villagran and Roberto E. Rosales produced a multimedia series tracking water on the border. (Albuquerque Journal, June 23, 2017).

The Wall

#AltWall — https://www.facebook.com/BordersUnite/

The Wall: If the border wall could be built, what would it cost? A team of reporters and photojournalists flew and drove every foot of the border to create an expansive multimedia package of aerial video, a podcast and a virtual reality experience. (USA Today, September 2017)

How a Local Bureaucrat Made Millions Amid the Rush to Build a Border Fence: DHS found the perfect partner to help them tackle regulatory hurdles and in the process, he and his family made millions of dollars. Kiah Collier, Julián Aguilar and T. Christian Miller delved into the strange story of how one part of the border wall was built, with illustrations by Susie Cagle. (ProPublica and the Texas Tribune, December 28, 2017)

The River That Became a Warzone: The U.S.-Mexico border wall is destroying the sacred spaces of one tribal community split between two countries. Zeke Peña used graphic journalism to bring the story to life. (The Nib, December 21, 2017)

Border Patrol

Border Patrol agents on San Diego border/ Jenny Hamel for KCRW

Video Reveals How Actions of U.S. Border Agency Led to Tragedy: Border patrol agents ordered a Mexican teenager to drink liquid meth, an act that ended in his death and illustrated the impunity along the U.S.-Mexico border. Brian Ross, Brian Epstein, John Carlos Frey and Pete Madden conducted a year-long investigation into allegations against the Border Patrol. (USA Today, August 2017)

On the Shadowlands of the Frontier, a U.S. Border Agent Plans His Future in Mexico: By day, the U.S. border agent patrols the area near El Paso; by night, he returns to his home in Mexico. Lauren Villagran wove a story that captured the complexities of a cross-border identity. (Los Angeles Times, November 24, 2017)


Cops and immigrants mural in the Mission District, San Francisco / Franco Folini via Flickr

Exonerated, Then Deported: The deportation machine stops for no one, even immigrants wrongly imprisoned and eventually exonerated. Christie Thompson reported the story of one Haitian immigrant. (The Marshall Project, February 6, 2017)

She Showed Up Yearly to Meet Her Immigration Agents. Now They’ve Deported Her: A woman who was considered a low priority for deportation was one of the first to be apprehended when she checked in with ICE under Trump’s new rules. To stop her deportation, immigration activists threw their bodies in front of cars and chained themselves to tires. Fernanda Santos captured the woman being arrested with live tweeting, a narrative story, and a follow across the border that included a Facebook Live conversation with family members. (The New York Times, February 8, 2017)

‘Everyone is Affected.’ Immigration Raids Turn Oregon City into a Ghost Town: A town transformed and enriched by undocumented immigrants and their families nearly disappears in the shadow of Trump’s enforcement. Casey Parks produced an in-depth look at the impact of raids on one community. (The Oregonian, April 12, 2017)

He Crossed the Border Illegally but Wasn’t Deported — Because He Brought his Child: Trump’s move to end “catch and release” policies has an exception — a parent travelling with a child. Jessica Contrera told the story of a father and his daughter on a bus journey from an ICE holding facility. (The Washington Post, June 25, 2017)

Hundreds of American Citizens End Up in Deportation Proceedings Each Year: Immigration data shows in the past six years, at least 1,715 people were targeted for deportation by U.S. immigration agents despite the fact they presented documentation, testimony or some other claim of U.S. citizenship to an immigration judge. Lise Olsen, using data that Northwestern University’s Deportation Research Clinic received via a Freedom of Information Act request, revealed how widespread the false detention of citizens is. (Houston Chronicle, July 30, 2017)

Leave the Light on for You…Unless You’re Undocumented: The front desk clerks at a Motel 6 in Phoenix had been calling ICE on undocumented guests.(The hotel has since been sued multiple times for its actions, which is says have stopped.) Antonia Noori Farzan and Joseph Flaherty broke open the investigation with a deep dive into a sea of criminal complaints. (Phoenix New Times, September 13, 2017)

Internal Emails Show ICE Agents Struggling to Substantiate Trump’s Lies About Immigrants: ICE agents were tasked with finding immigrants who were a risk to public safety. But a cache of emails shows they couldn’t. Alice Speri dug into pages of internal ICE communications. (The Intercept, October 4, 2017)

ICE Agents are Trying to Deport the Parents of Children who Flee Dangerous Countries: The “human smuggling disruption initiative” is targeting undocumented parents in the U.S. who sent for their children from dangerous countries. So far, the program has apprehended more than 400 parents and guardians over a three-month period. Dianne Solis took an in-depth look at the program. (The Dallas Morning News, October 25, 2017)

‘Will They Take Me, Too?’: As the chances of deportation grow, hundreds of immigrant parents have come to one woman in Florida for emergency guardianship for their children if they are deported. Brooke Jarvis profiled a woman who could become responsible for thousands of immigrant children. (The New York Times, December 14, 2017)

Why Don’t Mexicans Just Apply for Citizenship?: Green cards are difficult to get, there is a backlog built into the immigration system, and Mexico has some of the longest wait times are just a few of the reasons that Mexican citizens can’t just apply for citizenship. Dianne Solis broke down the seemingly simple question and the complicated answers. (The Dallas Morning News, December 15, 2017)

An American Family Finds Their Way in Mexico after Deportation: A mixed-status family faces culture shock, a language gap and few economic opportunities. Valeria Fernández spent months documenting one family’s journey from Arizona. (PRI Global Nation, January 11, 2018)

When Deportation is a Death Sentence: For many immigrants, being deported means going home to the death and destruction they fled to come to the U.S. And many don’t survive. Sarah Stillman, with a dozen graduate students from Columbia University’s Global Migration Project, investigated the fate of dozens of immigrants forced to return. (The New Yorker, January 15, 2018)

Refugees, Asylum Seekers, and Unaccompanied Minors

Black migrants in Mexico / Ebony Bailey

Canadians Adopted Refugee Families for a Year. Then Came ‘Month 13’:Canada’s experiment with refugee integration allowed ordinary Canadians to privately sponsor Syrian refugees. But after a year, the refugee families are on their own. Jodi Kantor and Catrin Einhorn tracked the program and its many complexities. (The New York Times, March 25, 2017)

From Migrants to Refugees: The New Plight of Central Americans: Thousands of people from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras flee to Mexico, Belize, Costa Rica and the U.S. to seek refuge. As they leave their homes, the migrant shelters they flee to become akin to refugee camps and governments along the way turn a blind eye. In a four-part multimedia series, a team of journalists reported the harrowing stories. (Univision and El Faro, October 2017)

They Fled Dangers at Home to Make a High-stakes Bet on U.S. Immigration Courts: Two women with nearly identical asylum cases experienced drastically different outcomes, depending on which judge heard their case, and where. Mica Rosenberg, Reade Levinson and Ryan McNeill analyzed thousands of court decisions to understand the immigration court system. (Reuters, October 17, 2017)


Sold for Parts: Immigrant workers were exploited by a major chicken processing company until they got hurt — then their immigration status was used against them. Michael Grabell investigated how companies use America’s laws against immigrants. (ProPublica, May 1, 2017)

My Family’s Slave: What if the women who raised you, comforted you and cooked all your meals turned out to be a slave to your family? The late Alex Tizon wrote a harrowing and deeply personal story about the woman who raised him, who was enslaved by his family, and his struggle to come to terms with that reality. (The Atlantic, June 2017)

Trump’s crackdown focuses on people in the U.S. illegally — but not on the businesses that hire them: For decades businesses have gotten a pass from the consequences of hiring undocumented workers, while the employees themselves have been targets of life-changing enforcement and public ire. Cindy Carcamo reported on long-standing employer loopholes, and how they need to end to prevent unauthorized immigration flows. (The Los Angeles Times, March 20, 2017)

Our Town: Over a period of 20 years, Albertville, Alabama went from 98 percent white to a quarter Latino as the workforce changed in poultry plants. Jeff Sessions believes the influx of mostly undocumented, immigrant workers drove down wages for American workers. Ira Glass and Miki Meek conducted over 100 interviews in eight months to understand the dynamics when immigrant workers come to one town. (This American Life, December 8, 2017)

Detention Industry

This company is making millions from America’s broken immigration system: Libre by Nexus helps detained immigrants make bond — but for a hefty price. Behind the company is an ordained minister set to make millions more if enforcement ramps up. Michael E. Miller looked behind the scenes of a growing industry. (The Washington Post, March 9, 2017)

Jailing Immigrants Means Money and Jobs for Poor Areas. Is This Deal Humane? The answer depends on who you ask. But for many detained immigrants it’s hardly humane, especially when detention centers don’t always provide basic care for detainees, like medical care. Lisa Pickoff-White and Julie Small spent nine months investigating one county jail in California and its reliance on immigrants. (KQED, August 2, 2017)

Inside a private prison’s $150M deal to detain immigrants in New Mexico:CoreCivic, the second largest for-profit prison contractor in the country, makes big money no matter how many people it houses. Sarah Macaraeg digs into the company’s lucrative deals. (Reveal, October 26, 2017)

Shifting Communities

Whose Kansas Is It Anyway?: The racially motivated murder of two Indian immigrants in Kansas shook their Kansas community, and pushed many to reconsider whether their ‘model minority’ status can really keep them safe. Arun Venugopal travelled to the Midwest to explore the issue with the Indian community through a podcast. (WNYC, May 8, 2017)

‘Love Thy Neighbor?’: A Muslim doctor considered a small town in rural Minnesota his home; until the 2016 election, when his neighbors voted overwhelmingly for Trump. Instead of leaving, he single handedly tried to turn around a community’s perception of Islam. Stephanie McCrummen told the story of one man and his efforts to feel at home in a newly hostile environment. (The Washington Post, July 1, 2017)

‘People here live in fear’: MS-13 menaces a community seven miles from the White House: Central American migrants find themselves in the grip of the same violence they fled; and despite Trump’s rhetoric against the transnational gang, many of its victims are undocumented immigrants. Michael E. Miller and Dan Morse told the story of one community’s terror. (The Washington Post, December 20, 2017)


Protesters in support of DACA in Portland, Oregon / Joe Frazier via Flickr.

How the Dreamers Learned to Play Politics: Under the banner of the Dreamer movement, a nation of young, undocumented immigrants learned to wield their power. But the story of the movement isn’t without its internal frictions and divides. Julia Preston analyzed the players, how the movement started, and where it is going. (Politico, September 9, 2017)

Ten things the media should do — and not do — when reporting on Dreamers: Immigrants brought to the U.S. as children give a handy go-to reporting guide for how journalists can improve their reporting on Dreamers.Itzel Guillen, Irving Hernandez and Allyson Duarte lay out the facts. (The Guardian, December 11, 2017)

White House

The Trump Effect: The impact of the president’s immigration policies range from border issues to the travel ban and everywhere in between, including interior enforcement. Christine Chan, Matthew Weber and Wen Foo visualized the ‘Trump effect’ far and wide. (Reuters, October 2017)

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