Shipping containers along the border
Students from the Howard Center for Investigative Journalism did a piece about former Governor Ducey’s plan to place shipping containers along the border to stop undocumented crossings. It wound up costing taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars when the federal government threatened to sue the state and the Governor agreed to remove the containers.
The story was first brought to the attention of Alex Appel, an investigative reporter at the Howard Center, while she was doing a story on human trafficking.
“I first heard about it when I listened to a meeting from the Arizona Human Trafficking Council, and you had the assistant director for the Arizona Department of Emergency Military Affairs go and talk about how they had all of this money, and they weren’t sure how to use it,” said Appel.
Appel brought the story to Ken Foskett, her professor for investigative journalism at the Howard Center, and Foskett immediately recognized the merit and relevance of the story.
“This was a really good story that Alex brought in. From my perspective, it was sort of the fundamentals of what investigative reporting is about, which is holding governments accountable for taxpayer money. There was a lot of taxpayer money involved,” said Foskett.
The research that was done for this report was a group effort from different students at the Howard Center, with each reporter taking on a different role. Francesca D’Annunzio, another investigative reporter, was in charge of obtaining records. She filed approximately 35 records requests during the investigation.
“Some of the records we got back within maybe 10 business days, but there are plenty of records that I requested that we haven’t gotten back to this day even after six follow-up emails and different phone calls,” said D’Annunzio.
D’Annunzio noted how Arizona public record laws make it difficult to enforce the release of these documents.