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Across formats, across countries: AP dominates coverage of border migrant encampment

A young girl holds her stuffed animal overhead as migrants, many from Haiti, wade across the Rio Grande river from Del Rio, Texas, returning to Ciudad Acuña, Mexico, to avoid deportation, Sept. 20, 2021. The U.S. was flying Haitians camped in the Texas border town back to their homeland and blocking others from crossing the border from Mexico. (AP Photo / Félix Márquez)

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AP journalists in three countries had already dominated coverage of the thousands of mostly Haitian asylum seekers who converged on a U.S.-Mexico border bridge encampment when immigration reporter Elliot Spagat turned a hunch into yet another scoop: Biden administration rhetoric about the immediate expulsion of people from the camp belied the fact that many, if not most, were staying at least temporarily in the U.S.,highlighting an increasingly chaotic U.S. asylum system.

What followed was another week of outstanding and indefatigable AP coverage,and collaboration that started days earlier when Spagat confirmed key details about a U.S. plan to begin flying people back to Haiti,while photographer Eric Gay arrived in Del Rio,Texas, to begin AP’s week-plus run of on-the-ground reporting.

Making up the all-formats teams:

— Reporter Juan Lozano,video journalist Sarah Blake Morgan and photographers Julio Cortez and Gay in Del Rio
— Maria Verza,video journalist Fernanda Pesce and photographers Fernando Llano and Félix Márquez across the border in Ciudad Acuña,Mexico
— Alberto Arce,Evens Sanon,Pierre Luxama and photographers Rodrigo Abd and Joseph Odelyn in Port-au-Prince,Haiti
— Spagat and Dánica Coto in San Juan,Puerto Rico
— Marcos Martínez Chacón in Monterrey, Mexico
— Ben Fox in Washington
— Josh Goodman in Miami

And others across desks and formats. All continued to put AP ahead with authoritative breaking updates and vivid images for days to come.

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U.S. Customs and Border Protection mounted officers attempt to head off migrants crossing the Rio Grande from Ciudad Acuña, Mexico, into Del Rio, Texas, Sept. 19, 2021. – AP Photo / Félix Márquez

Hundreds of images brought the stories to life and drove news cycles. AP photo and video staffers waded into the Rio Grande to capture Border Patrol agents on horseback aggressively corralling migrants in the water; they used a drones over the Rio Grande and the migrant encampment; they documented the release of some migrants while others,deported back to Haiti, arrived amid chaos and violence in a country they barely recognize.

The teams meanwhile joined with far-flung colleagues to produce a steady stream of distinctive enterprise that broke news in its own right in a real-time collaboration that only AP can own.

San Diego reporter Julie Watson led a one-day turn on a lively,explanatory story from Tijuana,Mexico, focused on the Haitian diaspora with contributions from five countries across the Americas. Watson came back with another story on how Haitians used technology to amass in large numbers in Del Rio,with contributions from several others including misinformation reporter Amanda Seitz and our new partners at University of California, Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.

Race and ethnicity reporters Aaron Morrison and Astrid Galvan teamed with data reporter Jasen Lo to explore the deeply held belief that U.S. immigration policies are anti-Black, along with the analysis to show that Haitians are granted asylum in the U.S. at the lowest rate of any nationality with consistently high numbers of asylum seekers.

These and other Only on AP stories — including compelling looks at Haitians returning to a nation that is even more violent,impoverished and politically unstable than when they left, as well as those who plan to resettle in other countries until their next opportunity to head the U.S. — were enhanced with detailed and immersive graphics from artists Francois Duckett and Phil Holm.

For sweeping,collaborative,win-each-day coverage that earned praise from customers and colleagues alike, this team of more than two dozen journalists is AP’s Best of Week — First Winner.

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