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AP partnership examines Biden’s troubled border policy

Haitian migrants use a dam to cross into the United States from Mexico, Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021, in Del Rio, Texas. The U.S. plans to speed up its efforts to expel Haitian migrants on flights to their Caribbean homeland, officials said Saturday as agents poured into the Texas border city where thousands of Haitians have gathered after suddenly crossing into the U.S. from Mexico. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

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San Diego-based immigration reporter Elliot Spagat and investigative reporter Valerie Gonzalez of The (McAllen, Texas) Monitor produced an authoritative look at President Joe Biden’s border policy, drawing on interviews with administration officials, internal documents and intelligence reports, and on-the-ground reporting. The story was AP’s first collaboration in partnership with AIM Media Texas, a consortium of newspapers in the Rio Grande Valley.

Well before the arrival of some 15,000 Haitian migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border in September, Spagat had been looking closely at the Biden administration’s immigration policy. The uneven and often chaotic response to that September surge underscored that Biden, despite campaign promises to overhaul immigration and now with nearly a year in office, lacked a coherent plan for the border.

To uncover how Biden’s policy, or lack thereof, had come to this point, Spagat teamed up with Gonzalez, obtaining memos that detailed early conversations about border policy, conducted interviews with high-ranking current and former U.S. officials and Mexican authorities. Exclusive internal documents, obtained through sources and Freedom of Information Act requests, included email traffic between Border Patrol officials during the surge and a tally of the thousands of migrants released into the U.S. despite the administration’s tough talk of expelling migrants.

Editors Katie Oyan, Jerry Schwartz and Peter Prengaman worked closely on the text and photo editor Alyssa Goodman built a striking presentation. Video journalist Manuel Valdes produced a strong piece that elegantly broke down the weak points in Biden’s border policy.

The end result was arguably the most comprehensive look to date at how Biden’s border went from hopeful to chaotic. The piece appeared widely in news outlets across the U.S.

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