2021 Feature, Medium Newsroom winner

Trapped in Mexico

The Trauma of Seeking Asylum in the U.S. During the Trump Era

Judges comments

Leveraging wide-display photography and a compelling scroll experience, this feature tells a familiar narrative in a fresh, new way. It immerses you in a borderland purgatory marred by heartbreak and violence for those trying to enter the U.S.

About the Project

‘Trapped in Mexico’ is an investigation and special multimedia project that took almost two years to report and publish. It is a close examination of the ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy by the Trump administration, looking at its many different impacts, including the profound mental health ones on migrants stuck in Mexico waiting for their asylum cases in the U.S.

In 2019 and in violation of laws, agreements and regulations, the U.S. government established the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) or Remain in Mexico, a policy that forced asylum applicants to wait for their cases in some of the most dangerous Mexican cities on the U.S. border. In his four years in office and without congressional approval, Donald Trump and his administration destroyed immigration policies built by the last nine presidents. Through lengthy reporting in three different parts of the U.S.-Mexico border, this project uncovers a deep seated re-traumatization: asylum seekers on the verge of a mental health crisis.

This multimedia project seamlessly integrates text, photographs, short video documentary and graphics, allowing the viewers to navigate the content at their own pace and understand the issue through the eyes of migrants directly impacted by it.

In this project we identify the trauma that was generated by the abuse to asylum seekers by this policy. In Matamoros, Mexico, a Venezuelan mother of three children who had a legitimate asylum case was returned to the other side of the border and threatened with kidnapping. She became desperate and risked her kids’ lives trying to cross the Rio Grande River. In Tijuana, two young Salvadoran women fleeing extreme gender violence in their country of origin, found steep fear and threats that reminded them of the gang members that threatened them. She is currently in the US with her kids awaiting her court date. The other one was deported and suffers from PTSD that originated from the increasing threats she faced in Tijuana and the way she was treated in immigration detention during six months. The mental health toll of Donald Trump’s policies is probably the most severe consequence of his stringent immigration agenda.

Although much coverage has been previously published on MPP, the focus of this project on mental health goes beyond headlines to expose and find accountability for the profound pain inflicted on hundreds of thousands of people.