How Miriam Jordan, Immigration Reporter for the New York Times, Is Covering a Major Shift in Border Policy

From a New York Times Insider column by Terence McGinley headlined “On the Border, on the Cusp of Change”:

As an international correspondent for Reuters and The Wall Street Journal, Miriam Jordan reported from India, Hong Kong, Israel, Mexico and Brazil. When she returned to the United States in 2004, she found a way to keep her reporting global: by covering immigration. Her experience and language skills (besides English, Ms. Jordan speaks Spanish, Portuguese, French and Hebrew) were well-suited to the beat.

She joined The New York Times as the national immigration correspondent in 2017, when President Donald J. Trump’s administration was constructing the most restrictive immigration policy in recent American history. Coverage of immigrant life in America has carried Ms. Jordan to the technology laboratories of Silicon Valley, the grazing slopes of the San Juan Mountains in Colorado and, of course, the United States-Mexico border. It’s there, in El Paso, where Ms. Jordan will soon cover the fallout from a major change in U.S. border policy.

Title 42, a pandemic-era health rule introduced by the Trump administration in March 2020, allowed the government to bypass procedural steps and quickly expel migrants who entered the country illegally. The expiration of the rule, at 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, is expected to result in an increase in already historically high crossings at the southern border.

Before traveling to El Paso from Los Angeles, where she lives, Ms. Jordan discussed her work

Tell me how you and your colleagues plan to report on the situation at the southern border in the weeks to come.

My colleagues and I will be positioned across the 2,000-mile border between the U.S. and Mexico on both sides. It’s going to be a lot of just observing how things unfold on the ground once this major policy shift occurs. There could be commotion. Maybe not. From what we’ve been able to ascertain so far, it could go either way. The truth is that we don’t really know.

How have the dynamics of the border and the communities along it changed in the years you’ve covered them?

The most remarkable change I’ve seen at the border is in the profile of the migrants seeking entry into the United States. It used to be the case that the overwhelming majority of people trying to come to the United States to work or find safety were from Mexico and Central America. Now it feels like the whole world is trying to come to the United States.

There are Russians trying to avoid conscription because of the war in Ukraine. There are Afghans fleeing the Taliban. There are Indians who are opposed to the Hindu nationalist government in that country. Venezuelans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Cubans are coming in large numbers because the economies in those countries were battered by Covid-19. The United States offers the promise of jobs. People want to make a living and support their families.

How did you become an immigration reporter?

I spent about 17 years as a correspondent, mainly in the developing world. I always had an affinity for the underdog and issues related to poverty, public health and wealth disparity. I always enjoyed spending a lot of time in the field with people, in communities in India, Brazil, Southeast Asia. Reporting on immigration was natural for me on my return to the United States. I am able to utilize some of my language skills, and I really enjoy grass-roots reporting.

Do you get to do as much grass-roots reporting as you would like to?

I do. I regard my role as a field reporter who is explaining the impact of our immigration policy, or the failure of our immigration policy, on immigrants; on the economy; on U.S. society as a whole. It’s really vital to have the perspective from the ground, and my editors give me the space and the latitude to be on the ground, telling the stories against the backdrop of policy shifts or policy stalemates.

Are there specific places that you visit for on-the-ground reporting?

I do devote a lot of time reporting on both sides of the border. But I really enjoy reporting in the interior of the country because immigrants are everywhere. They’re in small-town America, working in a meatpacking plant in Iowa or as physicians in underserved communities. They’re also researchers on university campuses. They’re restaurant servers and chefs and housekeepers in big cities. It’s hugely important to tell stories from the interior of the country. Most immigrants in the United States are not along the border.

It’s probably one of the more scrutinized beats in journalism in terms of how you frame stories and the language that you use. How hard do you work to keep your reporting balanced?

I aim to include different perspectives in my articles. I try to avoid using supercharged language that could be construed as opinionated. Believe me, I get it from both sides. I receive angry emails from readers on the left of the political spectrum who feel that sometimes my articles are not sympathetic toward immigrants. I also get it from the more conservative readers who feel that my articles are too sympathetic. I’m trying to present each story fairly, and with humanity and let readers come to their own conclusions.

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