When we began planning a student trip to the border for this political reporting class, a year ago, we never imagined that our students would do the bulk of the journalistic work featured on this website remotely, under a pandemic lockdown, never having set foot in the Southwest. By the second week of March, we had completed months of intense planning, lining up eight days of interviews that our students would do with politicians, community leaders, academics and others along the border of western Texas and southern New Mexico. We planned to travel to the Southwest over the students’ spring break in April and had purchased plane tickets for ourselves and our 13 students. We had secured a hotel and a bus driver who would take us to our interviews, and organized a side trip to White Sands National Monument. Excitement among our students ran high. They had been researching border issues since the semester started and were ready to go. Our plans collapsed the week of March 9 when we learned the college had canceled all travel due to the spread of the coronavirus. Soon after, classes moved online.
The fact that our students were able to report and produce this package of stories from their homes is thanks to the help of many, many people – both in the borderlands and here in New York. We acknowledge and thank them for the ways they supported our students, including their willingness to be interviewed from afar.
Many of the people who helped make this project possible, some of whom we quoted in these stories, we first met during a scouting trip that the two of us made to El Paso and New Mexico in January. When plans to reconnect in April fell through, they generously met our students virtually and/or connected them to other sources at the border. We thank:
• Adrianne Riley
• Father Michael Gallagher of El Paso’s Sacred Heart Catholic Church
• Javier Perea, mayor of Sunland Park, N.M.
• Josiah Heyman, anthropology professor at the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP)
• Pedro Villalobos
• Rene Romo
• Rick Cofer
• Simon Chandler, executive director of El Segundo Soccer Club
• State Reps. Mary González and Joe Moody
• Willivaldo Delgadillo, a writer and UTEP professor
We also owe gratitude to additional sources from the El Paso area, whom we did not meet in person, but who graciously gave their time after we contacted them by email and phone. They include:
• Daniel Escobar, Chief Communications Officer, Socorro Independent School District and his colleagues in the school district
• Diana Fuller-Belin, senior advisor, Mescalero-Apache Tribe
• Irene Mortensen, Intergovernmental Public Liaison, U.S. Border Patrol, El Paso Sector and Border Patrol agents Sara M. Cabrera and Ernesto Mena
• Kevin Bixby, executive director of the Southwest Environmental Center
• Miguel Hernandez, Executive Director El Paso County Housing Authority
• Nicolas Palazzo, staff attorney at Las Americas, and Paige Censale, a communications counselor at Las Americas
• Ralph Carrasco
We are also grateful to the experts who met with our students in New York City, including:
• Ahsia Badi, New York Census Director, Engage USA
• Dan Gerstein, founder and CEO of Gotham Ghostwriters
• Emily Kaplan, writer and freelance journalist
• Francis Donnelly, Baruch College librarian and expert in geospatial imaging
• Michael Lewan, political consultant with the Livingston Group
We owe a great deal of thanks to many colleagues at Baruch, including Josh Mills, chair of the journalism department; Aldemaro Romero Jr., dean of the Weissman School of Arts and Sciences; Provost James McCarthy and Associate Dean Gary Hentzi, who approved our initial plans; David Birdsell, dean of the Marxe School of Public Affairs; Paula Berggren, professor emeritus. Profuse thanks to the colleagues who worked hard behind the scenes, including Glenda Hydler, the journalism department assistant, as well as Boo Choi, Joyce Marotta, Amanda Becker and Irina Laskin.
Lastly, we thank our students, who showed incredible resilience and grit during these difficult weeks.
Profs. Andrea Gabor and Vera Haller, Baruch College Department of Journalism