Nuevo Laredo, Mexico - Ruben Flores, 64, sits inside his one-room office. He types letters for people who can’t write. He opened his stall in 1964, just across from the city’s municipal building. For nearly 50 years he’s helped people with everything from taxes to government forms, but his favorite letters to write are love letters. To him the border has changed a lot over time and today he says it makes it harder for people to get visas and for tourists to enter his city.
Throughout the years he’s seen a lot of life pass by and has many memories. One of his fondest — the night he and his friends went to see the Beatles in ‘A Hard Days Night.’ “I remember the day like it was yesterday,” said Flores, with a wide grin.
And yes, he really said that, believe me I didn’t prompt the pun. Half his answers were in Beatles lyrics.
He’s one of the millions of people who came to the United States illegally. And he is one of millions affected by new policies ordered by President Obama.
Junior, 18, says he was brought years ago by his parents. They’re now back in Mexico, after his father was deported. Junior stayed, and he lives with his sister in Anthony, Texas, a small town 20 miles from Mexico. Now his life outside the law is ending: He’s close to receiving formal permission to stay. To understand what that means for Junior, watch this powerful video our colleague Kainaz Amaria took from a reporting trip NPR took along the U.S.-Mexico border in the spring.
That was Junior in March 2014.
Now, as a new year begins, Junior says he is waiting for a U.S. government I.D. under an Obama administration program known as DACA, which stands for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. He entered the program with help and advice from his former high school principal, Oscar Troncoso. It was the principal who allowed a lawyer to visit the school outside El Paso and meet with some of the many undocumented students who attend. Both Junior Adriano and Oscar Troncoso sat down to talk with me this week.
That’s the mouth of the Rio Grande. The foreground is the United States. The far shore is Mexico, where fishermen cast nets in the water. It’s so close we could smell the meat they’re grilling over there. From this spot by the Gulf of Mexico, we’ve begun a 1,900-mile journey along the entire US-Mexico border, all the way to the Pacific coast. We’re looking for tales of crossings - people, goods, and even culture that have leaped that surprisingly narrow barrier from one side to the other. Of course we’ll be crossing many times ourselves. Producers Nishant Dahiya and Selena Simmons-Duffin, photographer Kainaz Amaria (who took this image) and I will be sharing impressions of our journey over the next two weeks on On the Road, and we’ll begin broadcasting on Morning Edition and other NPR programs in late March. You’re welcome to cross over with us. (photo @kainazamaria/NPR)
Ralph Cowen, 67, is one of the organizers of a bi-national festival in Brownsville, Texas and nearby Matamoros, Mexico. His is a story of border crossings: he is Anglo, but a British ancestor migrated first to Mexico, and only later did his family arrive in Brownsville. In recent years violence across the border has kept people jumpy, yet Cowen reveals mixed feelings about the border walls and other intensive US security measures. “The fence to me is like the Berlin Wall,” he says “I have a piece of the Wall on my desk and it reminds me that things can change and walls can come down.” (@kainazamaria/NPR)
Just one of the cool insights from my friends’ amazing visual story about the Amazon rainforest.
The good news: Brazil has already done more than most countries to protect the rain forest. The bad news: A fifth of its rain forest is already gone. What happens next has the potential to affect us all.
It was almost spooky. Each night after 11 p.m., when nothing was stirring in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall, two men would enter. One would sit at the organ, playing a key or series of keys, and the other would crawl around inside the organ pipes, 40 feet off the floor. The process went on for months.
It was the all but final phase of installing a new organ for the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. And on Nov. 27, the organ makes its formal debut.
So here it is: our final image, for now, from Borderland [at least for the On The Road Tumblr! Web features and NPR broadcast pieces continue through March 28]. It’s a portrait of five students at Anthony High School outside El Paso, Texas.
We save them for last because they represent the border region and, in some ways, the future of America. Statistically, US border counties tend to be younger than other areas of the United States. They’re often majority-minority counties, with a heavy Latino presence. There’s also a high percentage of people with ties to the outside world: three of our five students were born in Mexico. The truth is that when we talked with these students at length, not all of them said they fully felt American, nor were they all certain the United States accepted them. But at one time or another, something drew all five of our students’ families to this side of the border. One of the students saw his father deported, and still he has stayed.
What was the attraction? Maybe it was just this bright and welcoming high school; but maybe it was something more. Surely some of today’s young immigrants will eventually return home, just as some Italian migrant workers returned home from New York in the 1800’s. But surely others will stay, and make their mark on the United States as past immigrants have done. We do not quite live in a borderless world; but they will complete the crossing. (Photo kainazamaria/NPR)
Just after hosting Cuba’s foreign minister at the State Department, Secretary of State John Kerry sat down with NPR Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep to discuss the restoration of diplomatic relations with that country, as well as the status of a nuclear deal with Iran.
Kerry defended the Obama administration’s stance on both countries, and said if diplomatic relations with Cuba or a nuclear deal with Iran were scuttled — either by a future president or Congress — it would hurt the U.S.
Caption: Woodward and Bernstein inside the former headquarters of the Democratic National Committee. On the far right is the former Howard Johnson Hotel where Alfred Baldwin, a former FBI agent, monitored the burglary opposite the Watergate complex.
Many people know All the President’s Men as a film: a hit movie about the two young reporters who cracked the Watergate conspiracy. It’s the only blockbuster that centers on two guys making phone calls, organizing paper notes and meeting a source called Deep Throat in a parking garage.
But before the movie, there was a book, which came out 40 years ago this month. In it, reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein tell the story of how they uncovered the scandal.
It all started in the Watergate hotel and office complex in Washington.
Sospeso, a coffee shop in Tijuana, serves coffee their way. “No Modificamos Las Bebidas,” says a sign over the cash register - we don’t modify the drinks. When visiting I asked for a double espresso. “We only have one size of espresso,” said the clerk. It was good, though. So was the drink in the lower right - cold coffee from a glass drip contraption about three feet high. (Photo @kainazamaria/NPR)
The michelada, as consumed in Brownsville, Texas. It varies from place to place, but for this version the glass is rolled in salt and filled with ice and tomato juice, to which the customer adds beer and tobasco sauce according to taste. The hand pouring Tecate beer in the background belongs to Brownsville-born novelist Oscar Casares. The hand pouring Tecate in the foreground is mine. (photo @kainazamaria/NPR)
And here’s a photo my colleague Kainaz took as I photographed her. The Rumorosa has the best name of any border highway, and possibly the most spectacular views. You wonder how settlers ever made it through this region centuries ago - a stony land where desert sand washes up the side of mountains like water. It’s only two hours by way of the Rumorosa from Mexicali to Tijuana, but you feel you have passed through a portal into a different world. (Photo @kainazamaria/NPR)
Our journey along the entire US-Mexico border, from the mouth of the Rio Grande to the Pacific Ocean, is about 1,900 miles as the border runs. But with our inevitable zigzags, border crossings, twists and turns, we don’t know how far we’ll drive. So my colleague Selena Simmons-Duffin set the trip counter at 0.0 miles just before we began. (photo @kainazamaria/NPR)
Quemado, TX - Dob Cunningham proudly shows his “Texas Passport” which reads - Texas (Is there any other place?) Dob, 80, is a former Border Patrol agent whose ranch faces the Rio Grande and has seen a whole lot living on the border. (@kainazamaria/NPR)
Here’s the end of the road trip. We reset the trip odometer at zero when we started at the mouth of the Rio Grande on March 1; it showed 2,428 miles on the evening of March 16, shortly after we passed through the San Ysidro border crossing from Tijuana, Mexico to the United States. Our photographer Kainaz Amaria was in position to take this shot because she was driving, as she did for probably a majority of the trip; she split the duties with producer Selena Simmons-Duffin, and drove safely and without the slightest incident. Yes yes yes, Kainaz stopped the car before she picked up her camera. That time. (photo @kainazamaria/NPR)