Marisa Peñaloza

Marisa Peñaloza is a Producer on the National Desk. From breaking news to documentary-style features, Peñaloza's productions are among the signature pieces heard on NPR's award-winning newsmagazines Morning Edition, All Things Considered and Weekend Edition. Her work has covered a wide array of topics, from hurricanes, education, immigration, politics and the economy to homeland security and litigation. She has also produced investigative reports and traveled across the U.S. and the world for NPR.

Although Peñaloza's permanent assignment is on the National Desk, she occasionally travels overseas on assignment. She was in Haiti soon after the heartquake hit near Port au Prince in early 2010. She's covered education in Peru and a dengue outbreak in El Salvador, the Madrid train bombings in Spain as well as the Tsunami in Banda Aceh, Indonesia. Last year, she traveled to Honduras to cover the sock industry as part of a two-part series on globalization and to El Salvador to produce a series of stories on immigration. Her past productions include coverage of the Elian Gonzalez custody battle from Miami, protests outside the Navy site on the Island of Viequez, in Puerto Rico, the aftermath of the crash of the American Airlines flight 587 in New York. She contributed to NPR's 9/11 coverage. Peñaloza was one of the first NPR staff members to arrive on the Virginia Tech campus to cover the shootings in 2007. She was on assignment in Houston waiting for hurricane Ike to make landfall in September 2008, and she continues to produce coverage of New Orleans recovery after Katrina.

Peñaloza is an award-winning journalist. This year, Peñaloza and a NPR team were honored with several awards for "Dirty Money," an enterprising four-part series of stories that examined law enforcement's pursuit of suspected drug money, which they can confiscate without filing charges against the person carrying it. Local police and sheriffs get to keep a portion of the cash. The awards for "Dirty Money" include the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi Award in the investigative reporting category; the Scripps Howard Foundation's National Journalism Foundation Award; and the RTNDA Edward R. Murrow Award in the "best website" category.

In 2008, Peñaloza was honored by the Education Writers Association with its "National Award for Education Reporting" for a year-long NPR on-air and online series following a Baltimore-area high school's efforts to improve student achievement. She won the Nancy Dickerson Whitehead Award for Excellence in Reporting on Drug and Alcohol Problems in 2007, for a five-part series of stories that examined this country's gains and losses since the war on drugs was launched more than thirty years ago, "The Forgotten Drug Wars." She is the recipient of the 2005 unity award for producing Debbie Elliott's Brown vs Board of Education piece, "Before Desegregation: The Education Migration."

In 2003, Peñaloza produced a two-part story entitled "Corruption at the Gates." NPR correspondent John Burnett and Peñaloza discovered that some U.S. border officials are on the take, illegally passing drugs and immigrants into the country in return for bribes. The reports won them a National Headliner Award in the investigative reporting category.

In 2001, "Globalization and the Return of Dengue" won Peñaloza the Pan American Health Organization's Award for Excellence in International Health Reporting. The story was part of a series of stories for NPR and American Radio Works on globalization and disease.

Peñaloza made the leap from television to radio in 1997, when she joined NPR's National Desk. Before coming to NPR she was a staff at the local NBC station and a freelance writer for the Fox affiliate in Washington, DC.

Peñaloza graduated from the George Washington University in Washington, DC with bachelor's degrees in Broadcast Media and Political Science. She lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland, with her husband Eric Niiler, also a journalist, and son Diego.

Despite the Trump administration's immigration clampdown, newly released data show the number of Central American families and unaccompanied children crossing the Southwest border illegally has risen sharply.

The government blames loopholes in U.S. immigration laws for acting as a magnet for immigrants. But there's another explanation. The push factors in impoverished regions in Central America are as powerful as ever.

The current drug addiction crisis began in rural America, but it's quickly spreading to urban areas and into the African-American population in cities across the country.

"It's a frightening time," says Dr. Edwin Chapman, who specializes in drug addiction in Washington, D.C., "because the urban African-American community is dying now at a faster rate than the epidemic in the suburbs and rural areas."

José Ortíz and Ethan Leder had never met, but they quickly came up with an unconventional plan to help Puerto Rico.

Ortíz and Leder's personalities are similar: both are high energy, do-er types. "It's all about doing stuff" says Leder. "Not just talk," adds Ortíz.

When Hurricane Maria hit, Ortíz, a 47-year-old flooring business owner, says his "brain was completely obsessed with it." He was born in Mayagüez, Puerto Rico and was 11 when his family moved to the Washington, D.C. area. "I was just trying to get in touch with anyone in Puerto Rico to offer help."

The Hamptons condo and apartment complex in Tampa is quintessential Florida. Lush and modern, the stucco homes are painted in a soft rainbow of pastels. All around are palm trees, Spanish moss and lily pads.

"It is a very quiet place. You have a lot of children that live here. A lot of professionals live here, retirees," said resident Michael Colon, 66.

But on May 19, that tranquility was shattered in an improbable case that involves four young roommates at the complex.

Two of the men are dead and the other two are in jail.

On a sunny morning in Guadalupe Victoria, near the Guatemalan border in the state of Chiapas, Mexico, Hilda Pastor is washing corn in her backyard sink to make tortillas. It's a daily ritual that starts the night before.

"I mix dried kernels, water and a spoonful of cal" — that's calcium hydroxide or slaked lime, "and it soaks overnight," says Pastor, a 48-year-old mother of three.

As the Trump administration is expected to overhaul America's immigration system, some policymakers suggest looking north to Canada.

That's because Canadians see immigration as critical to their economic success. The nation has invited in so many immigrants that today, one-fifth of the population is foreign-born.

Yet Canadians don't seem to wrestle with anti-immigrant nativism that has erupted in the U.S. and Europe.

Researchers seeking to predict how Americans will vote have for years identified an important clue: The more religious you are, the more likely you are to lean Republican.

Conversations with more than two-dozen self-identified "faith" voters in Boone, N.C., suggest that pattern is holding this year, even while revealing the same high level of voter disenchantment evident across the country.

On a muggy Sunday morning in Rockville, Md., the parking lot of the local pet store is organized chaos at its finest. Several hundred people pack the lot looking for a dog to adopt, and they have 50 to choose from. But they'll have to sort through a whole bunch of barking and tail-wagging to do it.

The scene looks like a mix between a fair and speed dating. Volunteers run the check-in table, coordinators walk potential adoptive families through the logistics and people move from dog to dog trying to find a perfect match to take home.

On March 24, 1989, the tanker Exxon Valdez struck a reef in Prince William Sound, Alaska, spilling 11 million gallons of crude oil into the pristine water. At the time, it was the single biggest spill in U.S. history. In a series of stories, NPR is examining the lasting social and economic impacts of the disaster, as well as the policy, regulation and scientific research that came out of it.

It's a blustery, snowy March day when Michelle Hahn O'Leary offers a tour of Cordova, Alaska, situated on the eastern shore of Prince William Sound.

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