As immigration reform has stalled in Washington, while a Democratic president presides over record deportations, H-2A guest worker visas have allowed companies to recruit some 30,000 workers a year. These visas offer foreign workers legal entry and access to employment, but the personal costs are high. Only by recruiting workers from places like the remote, impoverished villages of the Peruvian highlands can American ranchers find men who agree to work for wages as low as $750 a month, bound by a contract that requires them to stay on for a full three years, often missing such major life events as the birth of their own children.
The humming light fixture plant in Sparta, Tennessee, had been there since the 1960s, and had recently won national awards for its productivity. Yet, one morning in November 2010, a Philips executive no one recognized drove up and walked into the plant, accompanied by a security guard wearing sunglasses and a sidearm. The plant would be shut down, and the jobs shipped to Mexico. This photo essay accompanied Esther Kaplan's meditation on the offshoring of American jobs, published in Virginia Quarterly Review, and winner of the 2015 Molly National Journalism Prize.
For my Master's thesis at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism, I spent four months traveling in Peru, documenting the rituals and traditions of the Quechua people in Cusco, Puno, Ayacucho, and the Sacred Valley. I was particularly interested in how indigenous animist traditions of honoring the Earth had absorbed and incorporated Catholic rites—vestiges of Spanish colonial rule. As part of my research, I shared the photographs I made with shamans, clergy, local anthropologists, folk performers, and others to understand the cultural significance of the moments and scenes I had captured through their eyes.
More than 1.5 million Californians have lost their homes since the foreclosure crisis began in 2007. This 8-minute video documentary captured this devastation early in, in 2007 and 2008. That's when Julia Prodis Sulek, a reporter with the San Jose Mercury News, and I followed the residents of the Paseo West Development in California's Central Valley as dozens of brand new homes were auctioned off well below their original sale price. One retired couple ended up outside of Seattle, in an apartment above their daughter's garage; another former homeowner ended up living in a trailer nearby, doing lawn work at his former home and those of his former neighbors to make ends meet. Published by the San Jose Mercury News.
Since assuming power in November 2012, China’s leader, Xi Jinping, has waged a wide-ranging and highly visible campaign against corruption, ensnaring thousands of officials in the government, state-owned enterprises, and the military. News outlets around the globe covered the story incrementally, but I partnered with Seattle-based Schema Design to create a tool that allows readers to analyze the corruption campaign by locale, sector, time period, and by family and social networks. Published on ChinaFile, it's since been used by reporters at Bloomberg News, the Financial Times, the New York Review of Books, Foreign Policy, and elsewhere.
Few companies have received as much scrutiny about their supply chains as Apple. So when Apple released an updated list of suppliers in 2013, I put a team of interns to work mapping what Apple called its “major manufacturing locations of suppliers who provide raw materials and components or perform final assembly on Apple.” The firm had been publishing annual supplier responsibility reports for several years. But this was only the second time Apple had released detailed addresses of their suppliers. The mapping revealed that more than 600 of Apple's 748 listed suppliers and assemblers are in Asia—331 of them in China. The map, published on ChinaFile, went viral, picked up by the likes of CNN, the Atlantic, the Guardian, and Business Insider.