NPR’s multi-station effort brings border issues home

Illustration: Wes Gatbonton

Seven miles from Yuma, Arizona, the town of Los Algodones, Mexico, tells a story that has nothing to do with guns, cocaine or narcotraficantes. The community’s main industry isn’t drugs; it’s dental work, and when its customers cross the border from the U.S., they’re besieged by representatives from some of the town’s 400 dental offices, proffering their services at a fraction of what they’d cost at home.

If you’ve been listening to KNPR recently, you might have heard the story, part of the ongoing collaborative project between seven public radio stations examining the U.S.-Mexico border and how immigration from Mexico is affecting the Southwest as a whole. Called Fronteras, the project looks at what KNPR News Director Adam Burke calls “an incredible shock wave” of changing demography in the region, reporting on it from the public policy side, the law enforcement side and from the other side of the border itself.

“A community that has as many immigrants as we have can’t afford to ignore them,” Burke says. But Las Vegas’ immigrant community has long been under-covered by local news outlets. Fronteras correspondent Jude Joffee-Block is working to end that and, along with reporters in San Diego, San Antonio and Phoenix, among other places, to provide a wider perspective on how the border plays a role even in states like Nevada that don’t actually touch it. “The way that Arizona and Texas and California deal with our border issues affects us,” Burke says. “The ambition of the project is to piece together that bigger puzzle.”

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