POY RJI | Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute

Category: Documentary Daily Life

First Place

Cora Engelbrecht, Yousur Al-Hlou and Ben Laffin / The New York Times
“Meet the Afghan Women Fighting to Protect Their Rights”

Second Place

Larry Buchanan, Aaron Byrd, Alicia DeSantis and Emily Rhyne / The New York Times
“Where Are All the Bob Ross Paintings? We Found Them.”

Third Place

Joe Coscarelli, Alexandra Eaton, Will Lloyd, Eden Weingart, Antonio de Luca and Alicia DeSantis / The New York Times
“‘Old Town Road’: See How Memes and Controversy Took Lil Nas X to the Top of the Charts”

Award of Excellence

Kassie Bracken, Matt Richtel and Ora DeKornfeld / The New York Times
“Revenge of the Bacteria: Why We’re Losing the War”

Award of Excellence

Sean Gallagher, Charlie Phillips, Claudine Spera and Jacqueline Edenbrow / The Guardian
“Uncaged: saving China's songbirds from the poachers' nets”

Award of Excellence

Jessica Koscielniak and Duy Linh Tu / McClatchy & Fort Worth Star-Telegram
“The Wait at Matamoros”

Award of Excellence

Bill Laitner and Eric Seals / Detroit Free Press
“A Haircut and Healing”

Award of Excellence

Katie Falkenberg / Freelance
“The Shepherdess”

Award of Excellence

“The Wait at Matamoros”

(Originally published by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on October 21, 2019)

The Trump Administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy has returned more than 50,000 asylum seekers from Central and South America to Mexican border towns to await processing. These towns have now become squalid refugee camps with little infrastructure and few resources. The migrants live in tattered tents, bathe in polluted rivers, and survive on whatever food aid workers can provide.

But, the worst part for these refugees is the wait. Immigration court backlogs mean that most will not have their cases heard by a US judge for months. As the days and weeks pass, children get sicker, families exhaust legal options, and hope runs low.

“The Wait at Matamoros” takes an intimate look at life at the refugee camp in Matamoros, Mexico. The short film follows Yenny, her husband Jose, and their two-year old daughter, Monsey. The family traveled from Honduras to escape gang violence and extortion, only to be stopped at the US border. They have a scheduled immigration hearing but, in the meantime, they must figure out how to survive at the camp. Monsey is constantly sick from bathing in the river. The heat of the plaza becomes unbearable. And the nights stretch out mercilessly as Jose stays awake to protect his family from kidnappers.

Despite the brutality of life at the camp in Matamoros, Yenny and her family remain hopeful. One day, they are married by a minister from the United States, something they could not afford to do in their home country. Monsey plays with children on the concrete plaza. And Yenny awaits their turn to enter the United States.

The Wait at Matamoros