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2020 Submission: Showcase Award for The Headliners Foundation of Texas

Veronica G. Cardenas for Texas Public Radio

Texas Public Radio documented the evolution of U.S. immigration policy in 2019, from President Trump's emergency declaration over border wall funding to the implementation of Migrant Protection Protocols. TPR reporters, including Reynaldo Leaños Jr. in the Rio Grande Valley, focused on how these policies impacted people living along the border as well as those passing through.

1) The Reality At The Border:A Wall in My Backyard 

This was the first story in our series "The Reality at the Border." The story focused on the Trump administration's proposed border wall expansion in the Rio Grande Valley and how residents will be impacted. We featured people with views on both sides of the issue, including a woman who had a wall built through her backyard 10 years ago. Our main source in the story went on to become the lead plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit against the federal government. Two of our sources in this story became go-to sources for our continuing coverage of how proposed border walls will affect communities in the Rio Grande Valley. The radio and video stories were picked up by NPR and aired nationally on All Things Considered.

2) The Reality At The Border: Butterflies And The Border Wall

The story was part of our ongoing coverage of the environmental impact of the proposed border wall. This story aired on public radio stations around Texas.

3) Shelters and City Governments Scramble to Help Migrants in the Rio Grande Valley

TPR's Reynaldo Leaños  Jr. visited the Good Neighbor Settlement House, a homeless shelter in Brownsville that was used to house migrants released from U.S. Customs and Border Protection custody. This story kicked off continuing coverage of the surge of migrants crossing the border and how aid workers struggled to handle the Trump administration's mass release of those migrants. The story also covered the Trump administration's changes to asylum, making domestic abuse and gang violence no longer a reason to claim asylum. The story originally aired on NPR's Weekend Edition Sunday.

4) WATCH VIDEO: Cellist Yo-Yo Ma Plays Bach In Shadow Of Laredo Border Crossing

World-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma brought his Bach Project to the sister cities of Laredo, Texas, and Nuevo Laredo, Mexico. Laredo’s “Day of Action” featured performances in both cities to celebrate the relationship between the two communities. A team of reporters — Norma Martinez, Lauren Terrazas and Jack Morgan — worked to capture audio, video and photos. This radio story was picked up nationally by NPR and the video was shared internationally on outlets including CNN, BBC, Al Jazeera and LA Times.

5) Laredo, Now No. 1 U.S. Trade Hub, Feels Impact Of Trump's Tariff Threats

This was one of a number of stories about how Laredo, which just became the top U.S. trade hub, is dealing with the economic consequences of the Trump administration's rhetoric towards Mexico. The story highlights the interconnectivity of business on both sides of the border and how President Trump's rhetoric and actions affect business at the border. One of our main sources for this story was Gerry Schwebel of IBC Bank, who worked on NAFTA and the new USMCA. This radio story and video were picked up nationally by NPR.

6) As More Migrants Cross Rio Grande, Border Patrol Rescues Surge

TPR's Reynaldo Leaños Jr. traveled to Eagle Pass to ride alongside Border Patrol agents as they patrolled the Rio Grande. Agents have saved a record number of migrants from drowning in the river. This story highlights the humanitarian efforts on the part of Border Patrol agents and also how the Trump administration's policy to process less migrants at ports of entry hpushed more migrants to make the dangerous journey across the river and turn themselves into Border Patrol. This radio story and video was picked up nationally by NPR.

7) Border Community Remembers Father And Daughter Who Drowned Crossing The Rio Grande

A photo showing a Salvadoran father and daughter lying face down in the Rio Grande after they died trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border made its way to every corner of the internet and has come to symbolize the plight of many migrants attempting to come to America. Residents in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley held vigils to remember the lives of Oscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his 23-month-old daughter, Angie Valeria. This story explored how the Trump administration's metering policy has also pushed more migrants to make the dangerous journey across the Rio Grande and we talked to people who met the family hours before their death. This story and video were picked up nationally by NPR.

8) ‘Kill Me Here Because I Can’t Return To My Country’: Migrants Face Legal Limbo As Asylum Laws Change

This story talks about the expansion of the Trump Administration's Migrant Protection Protocols to Laredo, requiring migrants to wait in Mexico for their day in U.S. immigration court. TPR's Reynaldo Leaños Jr. spoke to migrants waiting just across the Rio Grande in Nuevo Laredo, which the US State Department advises Americans not to travel to and considers one of the most dangerous regions in the world because murder, carjackings, extortion and sexual assault are so common.. This story was picked up nationally by NPR.

9) The Struggle Of A Pregnant Asylum Seeker On The U.S.-Mexico Border

This story looks at how Migrant Protection Protocols expanded into the Rio Grande Valley. Vulnerable populations, including pregnant women, were supposed to be protected under MPP but TPR found they were being denied entry into the US and continue to be placed in the MPP program. TPR's Reynaldo Leaños Jr. followed one pregnant woman on her journey to asylum. This story was picked up nationally by NPR.

10) Mexican Official Tries To Move Asylum-Seekers Stuck In Tent Camps 

This story highlights the growing tent encampment of migrants in Matamoros, which has reached more than 2,000 people waiting for their day in court under the Trump administration's Migrant Protection Protocols. TPR found that Mexican officials were mimicking the Trump Administration's policy that separated children from their families in order to clear the encampment. This story was picked up nationally by NPR.


In 2019, Texas Public Radio was able to cover a greater area of South Texas – even crossing the border into Mexico to hear directly from migrants, government officials and those leading humanitarian efforts. TPR’s reporters have travelled hundreds of miles to be on the scene when news breaks and often travel right back to stay on developing stories. This coverage was amplified through the use of platforms like Twitter and Instagram, bolstered by a greater emphasis on images and video produced with the help of local freelance journalists Veronica G. Cardenas and Ronnie Garza. Our dedication to reaching audiences beyond public radio is strengthened by our commitment to covering South Texas and the issues that matter to those living in the region.   

Jan Ross Piedad Sakian is TPR’s News Operations Producer. In this role, she develops strategy on collaborative and digital initiatives for the station. Since 2016, Jan Ross has served in a coordinating capacity for TPR’s state and national partners, including The Texas Newsroom.