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Data provides base for telling a deeply human story about Venezuela migrants

A migrant family from Venezuela eats breakfast alongside the railroad tracks in Mexico City, March 26, 2024. AP PHOTO / FERNANDO LLANO

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Immigration team lead Elliot Spagat noticed a trend in the monthly Customs and Border Protection data that no other news outlet did — the plummeting number of Venezuelans entering the U.S. — and then quickly used the international AP footprint to tell the story of Venezuelans struggling under Mexico’s crackdown.

Spagat, Chris Sherman and Valerie Gonzalez interviewed Venezuelan migrants in Tijuana, Mexico City and Matamoros to paint a picture of Venezuelans increasingly stuck in Mexico where they’re subject to shakedowns for bribes and at the whim of cartels as they wait to schedule appointments on an app the U.S. uses to organize immigration at the border.

Their story detailed how Mexico is cracking down on Venezuelan migrants attempting to transit the country, and how Venezuelans are often forced to pay bribes to keep from being sent back. Mexico City photographer Fernando Llano and video journalist Fernanda Pesce took photos and video of Venezuelan immigrants living alongside railroad tracks in Mexico City, while Santana contributed with reporting from Washington.

The story was the result of the reporters’ deep knowledge of the data and quickly using the AP footprint to report out the data through personal stories in multiple locations in Mexico.

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