Marisa Peñaloza

Marisa Peñaloza is a senior producer on NPR's National Desk. Peñaloza's productions are among the signature pieces heard on NPR's award-winning newsmagazines Morning Edition and All Things Considered, as well as weekend shows. Her work has covered a wide array of topics — from breaking news to feature stories, as well as investigative reports.

Although Peñaloza is a staff member on the National Desk, she occasionally travels overseas on assignment. Last year she traveled to Guatemala to report on parents separated from their children at the U.S. border and to Honduras to cover the genesis of the migrant caravans. She traveled to Brussels right after the terrorist attack in March of 2016 and to Haiti soon after the 2010 earthquake hit, and she went back several times to follow the humanitarian organizations working on the island nation. She's covered education in Peru and in Ecuador, a dengue outbreak in El Salvador, the Madrid train bombings in Spain, as well as the South East Asia Tsunami in Banda Aceh, Indonesia.

Her past productions include coverage of the 2018-2019 government shutdown; the opioid epidemic in communities of color; Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and Hurricane Harvey in Houston; the 25th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska in 2014; the devastating tornado in Moore, Oklahoma in 2013; and the Boston Marathon bombings also in 2013. In 2012 she produced a series on infertility, "Making Babies: 21st Century Families" — the stories explored the options parents have to create families. Peñaloza was one of the first NPR staff members to arrive on the Virginia Tech campus to cover the shootings in 2007. She was on assignment in Houston waiting for Hurricane Ike to make landfall in September 2008, and she produced coverage of New Orleans recovery after Hurricane Katrina. Peñaloza covered the Elian Gonzalez custody battle from Miami, protests outside the Navy site on the Island of Viequez in Puerto Rico, and the aftermath of the crash of the American Airlines flight 587 in New York. She also contributed to NPR's Sept. 11 coverage.

For two consecutive years, Peñaloza was the recipient of the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, which celebrates "excellence in investigative journalism on a wide spectrum of social justice issues." In 2015 she was honored with the Distinguished Journalism Award for radio for her series on clemency and sentencing reform, "Boxed In: When The Punishment No Longer Fits The Crime." Peñaloza was honored with the Robert F. Kennedy 2014 Award for a series on the increasing number of veterans who are getting out of the service with an "other than honorable" discharge. She was also honored with a Gracie Award in 2014 for a series on female veterans, "Women Combat Veterans: Life After War." She won the 2011 National Headliner Award in investigative reporting and the Grand Award for a series of stories looking at the role of confidential informants — people who pose as criminals so they can provide information to federal law enforcement, except sometimes these informants are criminals themselves.

In 2009, Peñaloza was honored with several awards for "Dirty Money," an enterprising four-part series of stories that examined law enforcement's pursuit of suspected drug money, which they can confiscate without filing charges against the person carrying it. Local police and sheriffs get to keep a portion of the cash. The awards for "Dirty Money" include the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi Award in the investigative reporting category; the Scripps Howard Foundation's National Journalism Foundation Award; and the RTNDA Edward R. Murrow Award in the "best website" category.

In 2008, Peñaloza was honored by the Education Writers Association with its "National Award for Education Reporting" for a year-long NPR on-air and online series following a Baltimore-area high school's efforts to improve student achievement. She won the Nancy Dickerson Whitehead Award for Excellence in Reporting on Drug and Alcohol Problems in 2007 for "The Forgotten Drug Wars," a five-part series of stories that examined the U.S.'s gains and losses since the war on drugs was launched more than 30 years ago.

Peñaloza made the leap from television to radio in 1997, when she joined NPR's National Desk. Before joining NPR, she was a freelance writer for the Fox affiliate and an editorial assistant at the local NBC station in Washington, DC. She graduated from George Washington University.

Two crises collided this spring in Michigan. The state was already under a coronavirus lockdown when a catastrophic storm hit and a pair of dams failed, flooding the city of Midland.

The local hospital, MidMichigan Medical Center — Midland, hired a disaster recovery company to clean up the mess, including a water-logged basement and morgue. More than 100 workers — many of them recent immigrants — were brought from as far away as Texas and Florida. Bellaliz Gonzalez was one of them.

Corporate executives and sports officials are joining a growing number of elected officials who want to recognize Juneteenth, a day that commemorates the end of slavery, as an official U.S. holiday. The movement is being fueled by the Black Lives Matter protests demanding reforms following the killing of 46-year-old George Floyd by Minneapolis police on May 25.

Juneteenth, which is on June 19, has long been an important holiday in the African American community, a time for celebration rather than mourning and remembrance.

California's first-of-its-kind effort to get cash aid into the hands of undocumented workers affected by the coronavirus got off to a bumpy start over the past week.

Across the state, tens of thousands of immigrants calling to apply encountered busy signals, crashed phone lines and frustration.

Community health centers had been at the front lines of health care in the nation's poorest neighborhoods even before the spread of the coronavirus. But in the midst of the pandemic, patients who fear deportation or infection are forcing many centers to close.

Public health officials worry that the populations that these centers serve — mostly people with low incomes and immigrants — aren't getting proper health care and testing, may be unable to quarantine themselves and could contribute to spreading the coronavirus to the wider population.

U.S. citizen children of undocumented parents who are excluded from the $2 trillion federal coronavirus relief package filed a federal class-action lawsuit Tuesday.

Undocumented workers are holding car caravans in several states Friday to demand dignity and safe working conditions. Latinx and Black immigrant workers are being forced to choose between a paycheck and their health.

Norma Morales is a 46-year-old single mother of two girls in New Jersey. She cleans homes.

"I started to feel symptoms four weeks ago," Morales says. "I came down with a deep cough and lost my sense of taste and smell."

Morales says she didn't get tested for the coronavirus because she doesn't have health insurance. She decided to stay home.

More than 30 million people have applied for unemployment as of April 30, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Many are falling behind on their rent and are being evicted, despite new rules designed to stop evictions. Experts say the moratoriums by state and local officials don't go far enough and are leaving tenants vulnerable.

"My main concern is that I'll be evicted," says David Perez. The self-employed father of one sells artisanal wares, like wallets and sandals, at a flea market in Elkridge, Md. "What's going to happen to my family?"

The battle against the coronavirus has been strained by shortages of ventilators, gloves and N95 masks, but hospitals are also scrambling to keep enough medical staff in place to deal with the surges of patients. Experts say immigrants are helping to fill this need and could play a bigger role if some of the obstacles they face are removed — from long and costly licensing processes to acceptance and even respect.

U.S. Army Capt. Cedric Pollard strolls into the business district of Tal Tamr, Syria, like a mayor at election time.

"Hello, how are you," he says, greeting everyone who comes out to see the Americans. Polland, a former school teacher from Orlando, has a commanding presence with a friendly demeanor. Kids dart along beside him, pulling his sleeve to get his attention. His soldiers hand out lollipops.

On a recent sunny morning at a remote U.S. base in northeast Syria, Rumi is sniffing around. She has white fur and black markings on her face. Some here call her "the raccoon dog."

"Rumi first started showing up in early January," says 1st Lt. Shelby Koontz. "She was really emaciated, caked in mud."

Even though the dog didn't look pretty, 25-year-old Koontz immediately fell for her.

Even before the coronavirus pandemic began, the millions of mostly women of color, mostly immigrant and often undocumented domestic workers in the U.S. had little job security. But now the current health crisis has this workforce reeling.

Health scams are popping up as the coronavirus crisis grows around the country, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission.

The agencies warn about the proliferation of fraudulent products that claim to test for the coronavirus and prevent or cure COVID-19. The FDA has sent warning letters to seven manufacturers of therapy products including essential oils, nasal sprays and herbal concoctions.

It's early morning in northeast Syria. It's sunny and chilly. Capt. Alex Quataert briefs his soldiers on the day's patrol.

"In the last 48 hours we've had two attacks on critical petroleum infrastructure," he says.

The convoy will visit one of those sites today.

Over the past 41 years, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been buying up land on the lower Texas-Mexico border to protect one of the most biologically diverse regions in North America from developers and farmers.

But the Rio Grande Valley of Texas is a hotspot for illegal immigration and drug smuggling, as well as biodiversity. That's why the Trump administration is planning to build 110 miles of border wall through the valley (which is actually a river delta).

On a muggy morning in Rio Piedras, a San Juan suburb, about three dozen volunteers dressed in parrot green polo shirts are gathered in a brightly lit conference room of El Retiro, a retirement community. The group is mostly women between 60 and 80 years old.

"What is resiliency?" asks Miguel Marrero. He's a psychologist and mental health program manager for Americares, a relief and development organization. He leads the discussion in his native Spanish. "We've been hearing this word over and over since Maria."

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