During one of his reporting trips to the border between southern California and Mexico, San Diego correspondent and Immigration team leader Elliot Spagat was struck by the number of migrants crossing the border who originated not from Mexico or even Central or South America, but from China.
While no stranger to meeting asylum-seekers from around the world along the border, Spagat quickly recognized a notable shift. A close look at Customs and Border Patrol numbers would confirm a nearly seven-fold increase in the number of Chinese migrants arrested by the agency compared to a year prior, with no sign of abating.
Spagat reached out to colleagues in Asia who helpfully connected him with someone closer to home, Asian Affairs correspondent Didi Tang in Washington. Tang eagerly jumped in with fascinating context about the influx, the economic reasons behind it and the perilous journey migrants were choosing via the increasingly popular Darien Gap.
Tang quickly offered interviews, translation and additional reporting that gave the globe-spanning context behind the numbers. Spagat returned to the border for additional interviews that would allow him and Tang to do what makes AP’s immigration reporting among the best — center on the voices and people behind the statistics. Putting faces and places to those voices were San Diego photographer Greg Bull and Los Angeles video journalist Eugene Garcia. Bull accompanied Spagat out of San Diego, but he and Garcia knew one more trip to a remote crossing further east would be worth their time. It allowed them to show the story in full and guarantee a complete all-formats endeavor that took final shape with the guiding hand of Amy Shafer, a U.S. desk editor and fellow on the Top Stories Hub.
In the day after it moved, the story continued to command a 90 engagement on APNews, while the customer-ready video was AP’s fourth most downloaded. The newsroom-ready video garnered nearly 40 downloads on day one.
The main story has been run by outlets large and small across the U.S. in the day since it moved, in many cases alongside accompanying the accompanying “takeaways.” Bull’s stark border wall photo of a group of Chinese migrants, including a young child, after crossing into the U.S., showed up alongside most of the text stories.
For shining a light both on a new influx at the border and the factors in China driving this migration, Spagat, Tang, Bull and Garcia are Best of the Week — Second Winner.