Immigration story airs on Reveal

When Reveal from the Center for Investigative Reporting broadcasted a piece by reporter Ashley Cleek on October 28, 2017, it marked the public debut of FIRE-supported stories.

FIRE provides Virtual Newsroom services, including pro-bono lawyers and research assistance, and in limited cases grants, to help freelance investigative reporters produce pieces in the public interest.

In her 15-minute radio report, Cleek narrated the results of a six-month investigation into the fate of immigrant youths who petitioned Florida courts for protection against abuse and neglect in their home countries.

Cleek found that as numbers of vulnerable young immigrants increased in Florida, the percentage receiving legal protections declined.

"As Florida courts began to receive more of these petitions from immigrant kids,” she explained, “they denied them at a higher rate—and appellate courts upheld the denials and cautioned the courts against hearing these cases.” Given the precedent, she said, lawyers filed fewer cases and courts denied a higher percentage of the petitions.

The upshot: in Broward and Miami-Dade counties, where authorities resettled the highest numbers of immigrant minors, the number of those minors lacking legal protection more than doubled from 2015 to 2016, according to records she obtained.

The records formed the heart of Cleek’s investigation. As a recipient of FIRE’s Virtual Newsroom award, Cleek relied on FIRE-referred experts to successfully negotiate her open-records request. She also used a Virtual Newsroom grant to cover expenses in obtaining court documents and audio recordings.

In addition to the Reveal piece, Cleek is now at work on a print version of the story.

Her radio version, part of Reveal’s three-story package on immigration, starts at the 39:09 minute mark here.

The whole show is also available at Reveal.