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Marisa Peñaloza

Marisa Peñaloza is a senior producer on NPR's National Desk. Peñaloza's productions are among the signature pieces heard on NPR's award-winning newsmagazines Morning Edition and All Things Considered, as well as weekend shows. Her work has covered a wide array of topics — from breaking news to feature stories, as well as investigative reports.

Although Peñaloza is a staff member on the National Desk, she occasionally travels overseas on assignment. Last year she traveled to Guatemala to report on parents separated from their children at the U.S. border and to Honduras to cover the genesis of the migrant caravans. She traveled to Brussels right after the terrorist attack in March of 2016 and to Haiti soon after the 2010 earthquake hit, and she went back several times to follow the humanitarian organizations working on the island nation. She's covered education in Peru and in Ecuador, a dengue outbreak in El Salvador, the Madrid train bombings in Spain, as well as the South East Asia Tsunami in Banda Aceh, Indonesia.

Her past productions include coverage of the 2018-2019 government shutdown; the opioid epidemic in communities of color; Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and Hurricane Harvey in Houston; the 25th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska in 2014; the devastating tornado in Moore, Oklahoma in 2013; and the Boston Marathon bombings also in 2013. In 2012 she produced a series on infertility, "Making Babies: 21st Century Families" — the stories explored the options parents have to create families. 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 produced coverage of New Orleans recovery after Hurricane Katrina. Peñaloza covered the Elian Gonzalez custody battle from Miami, protests outside the Navy site on the Island of Viequez in Puerto Rico, and the aftermath of the crash of the American Airlines flight 587 in New York. She also contributed to NPR's Sept. 11 coverage.

For two consecutive years, Peñaloza was the recipient of the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, which celebrates "excellence in investigative journalism on a wide spectrum of social justice issues." In 2015 she was honored with the Distinguished Journalism Award for radio for her series on clemency and sentencing reform, "Boxed In: When The Punishment No Longer Fits The Crime." Peñaloza was honored with the Robert F. Kennedy 2014 Award for a series on the increasing number of veterans who are getting out of the service with an "other than honorable" discharge. She was also honored with a Gracie Award in 2014 for a series on female veterans, "Women Combat Veterans: Life After War." She won the 2011 National Headliner Award in investigative reporting and the Grand Award for a series of stories looking at the role of confidential informants — people who pose as criminals so they can provide information to federal law enforcement, except sometimes these informants are criminals themselves.

In 2009, Peñaloza was 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 "The Forgotten Drug Wars," a five-part series of stories that examined the U.S.'s gains and losses since the war on drugs was launched more than 30 years ago.

Peñaloza made the leap from television to radio in 1997, when she joined NPR's National Desk. Before joining NPR, she was a freelance writer for the Fox affiliate and an editorial assistant at the local NBC station in Washington, DC. She graduated from George Washington University.

Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei said Friday he's tested positive for the coronavirus. Giammattei made the announcement to Sonora, a local radio station.

He said he feels well, is showing typical symptoms of high fever and body aches and has been treated at the Centro Medico Militar, one of the hospitals designated to treat COVID-19 patients in Guatemala City.

A firefighter was killed Thursday in California's El Dorado Fire, according to officials at the San Bernardino National Forest.

"Our deepest sympathies are with the family, friends and fellow firefighters during this time," forest officials said in a statement. The cause is under investigation, and the name of the firefighter is being withheld until the notification of next of kin.

The World Health Organization warned on Thursday that weekly coronavirus case numbers are rising in Europe at a higher rate than during the pandemic's peak in March.

At a virtual news conference, Dr. Hans Kluge, regional director of WHO in Europe, warned, "We do have a very serious situation unfolding before us."

"Weekly cases have exceeded those reported when the pandemic first peaked in Europe in March," he said. "Last week, the region's weekly tally exceeded 300,000 patients."

Wildfires are ravaging large swaths of the West in the middle of the wine grape harvest, sending hazardous smoke through picturesque vineyards.

It's forcing many agricultural workers to make a stark choice: Should they prioritize their health or earn badly needed money?

"The truth is that I have to work," said Maricela, 48, a team leader at a vineyard near Medford in southern Oregon. There are multiple fires blazing close to the town.

Russian opposition leader Alexei Nalvany plans to return to Russia, according to his spokesperson. He was recently poisoned with a nerve agent and has been undergoing treatment at a German hospital for more than three weeks.

"It's puzzling to me why anyone should think otherwise," Navalny spokesperson Kira Yarmysh tweeted.

Wildfires are destroying homes and communities on the West Coast — and they are also creating some of the world's worst air pollution in a region usually known for its clean living and stunning views. The fires and massive plumes of smoke are also affecting the fight to control COVID-19.

Agi Hajduczki, a research scientist at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, opens a large freezer and takes out boxes of DNA. She is part of a team making a COVID-19 vaccine.

Hajduczki places a small, clear plastic tray under a piece of white paper on the table of her lab. The tray is dimpled. Pale yellow fluid can be seen under the dozens of dimples.

Some of the dimples are clearly more yellow than others.

Anti-Black racism had always bothered John Collins, but he'd never personally done anything about it.

That changed after police killed George Floyd in May.

Stuck at home and furloughed from work because of the pandemic, Collins had time to watch coverage of the protests Floyd's death had set off and to reflect on the nation's history of racial injustice.

It was late at night when two teenage cousins from Honduras arrived in a hotel parking lot somewhere in the U.S., escorted by armed men in civilian clothes.

The young men crossed the border illegally into Texas last month and turned themselves in to the Border Patrol. After spending the night in detention, they say they were loaded into a van by the men who were not in uniforms and driven three hours to the hotel.

When Le Hoang Nguyen put up a bright yellow billboard in support of the Black Lives Matter movement in Houston, the pushback from his community, "was immediate, it was vicious, my Facebook wall filled up with just hate speech."

Nguyen's original idea for the billboard was to thank essential workers for their work during the pandemic, but when George Floyd was killed, he felt strongly about supporting BLM.

The insurance business owner knew that some people wouldn't like the message, but he thought people would respectfully agree to disagree.

Corporate executives and sports officials are joining a growing number of elected officials who want to recognize Juneteenth, a day that commemorates the end of slavery, as an official U.S. holiday. The movement is being fueled by the Black Lives Matter protests demanding reforms following the killing of 46-year-old George Floyd by Minneapolis police on May 25.

Juneteenth, which is on June 19, has long been an important holiday in the African American community, a time for celebration rather than mourning and remembrance.

California's first-of-its-kind effort to get cash aid into the hands of undocumented workers affected by the coronavirus got off to a bumpy start over the past week.

Across the state, tens of thousands of immigrants calling to apply encountered busy signals, crashed phone lines and frustration.

U.S. citizen children of undocumented parents who are excluded from the $2 trillion federal coronavirus relief package filed a federal class-action lawsuit Tuesday.

Undocumented workers are holding car caravans in several states Friday to demand dignity and safe working conditions. Latinx and Black immigrant workers are being forced to choose between a paycheck and their health.

Norma Morales is a 46-year-old single mother of two girls in New Jersey. She cleans homes.

"I started to feel symptoms four weeks ago," Morales says. "I came down with a deep cough and lost my sense of taste and smell."

Morales says she didn't get tested for the coronavirus because she doesn't have health insurance. She decided to stay home.

More than 30 million people have applied for unemployment as of April 30, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Many are falling behind on their rent and are being evicted, despite new rules designed to stop evictions. Experts say the moratoriums by state and local officials don't go far enough and are leaving tenants vulnerable.

"My main concern is that I'll be evicted," says David Perez. The self-employed father of one sells artisanal wares, like wallets and sandals, at a flea market in Elkridge, Md. "What's going to happen to my family?"

The battle against the coronavirus has been strained by shortages of ventilators, gloves and N95 masks, but hospitals are also scrambling to keep enough medical staff in place to deal with the surges of patients. Experts say immigrants are helping to fill this need and could play a bigger role if some of the obstacles they face are removed — from long and costly licensing processes to acceptance and even respect.

U.S. Army Capt. Cedric Pollard strolls into the business district of Tal Tamr, Syria, like a mayor at election time.

"Hello, how are you," he says, greeting everyone who comes out to see the Americans. Polland, a former school teacher from Orlando, has a commanding presence with a friendly demeanor. Kids dart along beside him, pulling his sleeve to get his attention. His soldiers hand out lollipops.

Even before the coronavirus pandemic began, the millions of mostly women of color, mostly immigrant and often undocumented domestic workers in the U.S. had little job security. But now the current health crisis has this workforce reeling.

Health scams are popping up as the coronavirus crisis grows around the country, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission.

The agencies warn about the proliferation of fraudulent products that claim to test for the coronavirus and prevent or cure COVID-19. The FDA has sent warning letters to seven manufacturers of therapy products including essential oils, nasal sprays and herbal concoctions.

Over the past 41 years, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been buying up land on the lower Texas-Mexico border to protect one of the most biologically diverse regions in North America from developers and farmers.

But the Rio Grande Valley of Texas is a hotspot for illegal immigration and drug smuggling, as well as biodiversity. That's why the Trump administration is planning to build 110 miles of border wall through the valley (which is actually a river delta).

On a muggy morning in Rio Piedras, a San Juan suburb, about three dozen volunteers dressed in parrot green polo shirts are gathered in a brightly lit conference room of El Retiro, a retirement community. The group is mostly women between 60 and 80 years old.

"What is resiliency?" asks Miguel Marrero. He's a psychologist and mental health program manager for Americares, a relief and development organization. He leads the discussion in his native Spanish. "We've been hearing this word over and over since Maria."

In Puerto Rico, nearly two years after hurricane Maria, the need for safe, affordable housing is still a massive challenge. "We have more than a half million people affected. And we have to build, minimum, 75,000 homes, " says Astrid Diaz, a well-known architect in Puerto Rico. She was part of a FEMA team that assessed the island's infrastructure after the storm.

Diaz often appears on television wearing her trademark yellow hardhat, promoting her "Casa Segura-Safe Homes" campaign.

Mameyes is a small community of about 1,000 people high in Puerto Rico's central mountains. But in its own way, it is one of the leaders of Puerto Rico's energy future.

Francisco Valentin grew up in Mameyes, where he runs a small store. Even before Maria he had big ambitions for his town. After Maria, he knew he wanted his community to run on solar power. And with the help of foundations, charities and the University of Puerto Rico — not the government — he has done that, converting the town's school, health clinic and several other buildings.

Nearly two years after Hurricane Maria, the town of Utuado is finally getting a new bridge over the Viví River to replace the old concrete and steel one that was heavily damaged during the storm and has been closed ever since.

"This is the main road in and out of town," Héctor Cruz says, as a crew uses a crane and other heavy equipment to construct the new bridge. Cruz is the director of emergency management in Utuado, a community in the highlands of central Puerto Rico.

For the picturesque college town of Durham in southeastern New Hampshire, a reckoning came in 2017.

That was the year a complaint about the cultural appropriation of Cinco de Mayo spiraled into weeks of racial unrest, a boiling over of tensions that had simmered for years at the University of New Hampshire. Students who called out racist incidents faced a backlash of online bullying, swastikas and slurs, and the vandalism of sculptures that symbolized their cause.

Arivaca, Ariz., is a tiny village, population about 700, with an outsize problem.

It sits just 11 miles from the U.S.-Mexico border and has become a magnet for self-styled militia groups from out of state that say they want to patrol the border and stop migrants. Their presence has strained a town that has long prided itself on its live-and-let-live, cooperative spirit.

When the women of Arivaca gather for Monday afternoon gentle yoga, there are certain topics they know to avoid.

As federal workers miss their first paychecks since the partial government shutdown began three weeks ago, frustration, anxiety and anger are rising.

Across the country this week, federal workers and industry leaders are starting to organize and rally to demand an end to the partial government shutdown.

"Trump, open the government — today," chanted the hundreds of federal employees and aviation industry executives gathered on the Capitol lawn in Washington, D.C., Thursday.

Editor's note: This article and some of the attached videos contain language that some people may find offensive.

One out of every two Latinos in the United States says that life has become more difficult for them in the past year, according to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington, D.C.

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."

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