Ted Robbins

A seasoned broadcast journalist, Ted Robbins covers the Southwest: Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, West Texas, northern Mexico, and Utah. His seasoning, then, includes plenty of chile pepper. It also includes five years as a regular contributor to The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, 15 years at the PBS affiliate in Tucson, work as a field producer for CBS News, stints at NBC affiliates in Tucson and Salt Lake City, as well as radio reporting in Salt Lake and print reporting for USA Today. He joined NPR in October 2004 and is based in Tucson.

The Southwest is growing fast and Robbins' beat includes the Mexican border, so his reporting focuses on immigration, water, development, land-use, natural resources, and the environment. From Tombstone to Santa Fe, Phoenix to Las Vegas, Moab to Indian Country, there's no shortage of people, politics, and places worth covering. Throughout it all, Robbins' reporting is driven by his curiosity to find, understand, and communicate all sides of each story through accurate, clear, and engaging coverage.

In addition to his domestic work, Robbins has done international reporting in Mexico, El Salvador, Nepal, and Sudan.

Robbins' reporting has won numerous awards, including Emmys for a story on sex education in schools, and a series on women at work. He won a CINE Golden Eagle for a 1995 documentary on Mexican agriculture called "Tomatoes for the North."

He says he is delighted to be covering stories for his favorite news source for years before he worked here. Robbins discovered NPR in Los Angeles, where he grew up, while spending hours driving (or standing-still) on freeways.

Robbins earned his B.A. in psychology and his master's in journalism, both from the University of California at Berkeley. He also taught journalism at the University of Arizona for 10 years.

When he's not working, Robbins enjoys camping, hiking, skiing, traveling, movies, theatre, cooking (back to seasoning), reading, and spending time with his young daughter.

 

These days, the Federal Public Defender's Office in Tucson, Ariz., has lots of space. Since the federal budget cuts known as sequestration began, the office has lost a quarter of its staff to layoffs or furloughs.

Under the Constitution, clients still need legal representation, so judges have to appoint private attorneys to replace the public defenders.

The sequester was supposed to save money. But in this case, the sequester is costing federal dollars.

The Arizona Legislature is debating whether to extend Medicaid to about 300,000 people in the state. The expansion is a requirement to get federal funding under the Affordable Care Act.

The big surprise is who has been leading the charge: Republican Gov. Jan Brewer. She's one of President Obama's staunchest critics and has confounded conservatives in her own party by supporting the expansion.

Google the words "Brewer" and "Obama." You'll get a now-famous image of Brewer wagging her finger at the president on the tarmac last year when she met him in Phoenix.

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Some employers around the nation have been using E-Verify to check the immigration status of employees for years. Operated by the Department of Homeland Security, the online system is designed to make it harder to hire unauthorized workers — and harder for those workers to find jobs.

While participation in the program has been voluntary since 1996, the immigration bill now in the Senate would make E-Verify mandatory.

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In the back and forth between Congress and the White House over immigration, both sides seem to agree that people now in the U.S. illegally should wait at "the back of the line" for legal residency — meaning no green card until all other immigrants get theirs.

But that presents a problem, because the wait for a green card can take decades.

Maria has been waiting in line with her husband for 16 years and counting for what the government calls a priority date for legal residency. Because she is in the U.S. without documents, Maria asked NPR to use only her first name.

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Half of all tomatoes eaten in the U.S. come from Mexico, and tomato growers in Florida aren't happy about that. In fact, they're willing to risk a trade war to reverse the trend.

At JC Distributing In Nogales, Ariz., one misstep and you're likely to get knocked over by a pallet full of produce. Forklifts crisscross each other carrying peppers, squash and especially tomatoes from trucks backed into the warehouse loading dock.

"This is a Mexican truck being unloaded," says JC President Jaime Chamberlain. "He's just waiting for his paperwork to get back."

Since the mid-1980s, the U.S. Border Patrol has quintupled in size — growing from about 4,000 to more than 20,000 agents.

The government has constructed some 700 miles of fencing and vehicle barriers. It has placed thousands of ground sensors, lights, radar towers and cameras along the border. And Customs and Border Protection is now flying drones and helicopters to locate smuggles and rescue stranded immigrants.

So here's the question: Is the Southwest border secure?

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