Mexodus: Bilingual student reporting project covers the Mexican exodus into the USA

Shuttered businesses and vacant homes in Juárez, Mexico, as well as the rising number of Mexican businessmen and students in El Paso, Texas, inspired University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) journalism professor Zita Arocha to launch Mexodus, a website dedicated to reporting on middle class Mexicans fleeing to the United States.

With a grant from the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation, instructors from Investigative Reporters and Editors and the MEPI Foundation in Mexico City, Mexodus published 20 bilingual reports on the impact immigration has on both sides of the border.

"It's a very important topic for Mexico because we're talking about a segment of the population that is well educated, has businesses and is leaving their country because of extortion, threats, kidnappings," Arocha explained to the Knight Center.

The project lasted nine months with contributions from approximately 100 journalism students from the University of Texas at El Paso and California State University Northridge, along with the Chihuahua and Mexico City campuses of the Monterrey Technical Institute (ITESM).

While most of the stories take place in Juárez, El Paso and Tijuana, Arocha would like to see more students copy the project to cover the same theme in other cities in Texas, California and Florida.

"It's my wish to change the stereotypes about Mexican immigration into the United States and to inform the American public about this phenomenon," she explained. The El Paso Times will publish the reports in a Sunday supplement of the newspaper on August 7.

Because of the drug-related violence in Mexico students did not visit Juárez for their reporting. Instead, they conducted interviews over the telephone or by e-mail. Students also did not release the names of crime victims.

See below an interview from the project with a 14 year-old student whose family moved to the United States after suffering a kidnapping.