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Telling stories on the frontlines — with your help

A small yellow shoe, woven from candy wrappers into an intricate little design, has been sitting in a pocket of my camera bag since I met Javier in Nogales, Sonora, in 2017. 

Made from yellow gum wrappers, the little shoe was made during Javier's 11-month stay at a privately run detention facility managed by Corrections Corporation of America, now renamed as CoreCivic for U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Javier hailed from Iguala in the state of Guerrero, Mexico — a city that was shaken in 2014 by the disappearance of 43 student teachers from the Ayotzinapa student college, and repeated running battles between the Mexican army and armed civilians in 2019. 

Javier traveled  roughly 1,400 miles on foot, and by bus, and asked for asylum in the United States. At first, officials told him "to try somewhere else," and then later, he was bought in to the U.S., and interviewed twice, he told me. He was later transported to Florence, Ariz., and he spent months waiting for "the process" until he met a judge. He plead his case, but even with the help of the Florence Project, a nonprofit that provides legal aid for people in detention in Arizona, the judge ruled that Javier's case lacked evidence, and he was deported to Nogales, Sonora. 

He had spent three days in Nogales, and I met him after a meal in the soup kitchen, or el comedor, run and maintained by the Kino Border Initiative.  He was trying to get to see his older sister, who was living in Dylan, South Carolina, and he didn't have much.

Just a bag, a collection of stories by Jules Verne, and several little decorations made from candy and gum wrappers. He planned to give one to a volunteer, and he smiled broadly when he was told that the objects he had made, densely-woven artifacts of his time, were beautiful. 

"I had a lot of time," he said. 

People tell us stories. Their stories. This year has been hard. For TucsonSentinel.com, I've covered immigration and border issues, but that landscape kept shifting as other issues, important issues came to the fore. 

I coughed from pepper spray, deployed by Tucson Police Department officers during the early Black Lives Matter protests, and had a camera lens covered in ash as the Bighorn Fire tore across thousands of acres in the Catalinas. I hiked in the San Pedro riverbed, sweated in the sun in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, and spent hours in a mask at Trump's campaign event at Tucson International Airport. I've talked to nurses and doctors and administrators about COVID-19. And, I've tried to stay home, and tried not to worry. 

Thanks for reading TucsonSentinel.com. Tell your friends to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

I do this, because journalism remains important and vital.

And, we need your help. 

As Dylan Smith, our editor and publisher put it, "ever since TucsonSentinel.com began publishing full-time in early 2010, we've worked hard to bring you news you can trust." 

"And we'd venture to guess that you've come to rely on our reporting because no one covers Tucson & Pima politics and border/immigration news with the same persistence and integrity as we do." 

As we approach the end of the year, we've been "blown away by the generous outpouring of support by our readers" and we have a vital opportunity to dig deeper because so many of our readers have stepped to support the important work of our  nonprofit newsroom.

Thursday, December 31, is the last day to donate and have your gift count toward our 2020 NewsMatch goal. 

Next year, we want to grow even more. There are stories we didn't cover, and stories we wanted to cover, but that were logistically unfeasible.

We're a small band, a little bunch of madmen and women, but the TucsonSentinel.com, as I say regularly, punches above its weight. So, want to help keep me in cameras and tacos, and help build a mantle for us to hang a few awards? Throw your weight behind our nonprofit, independent outfit.

This is a good time. We’re part of the NewsMatch program, a fund that will double your donations. And, as part of this effort, subscriptions also count. So, agree to give us $10 per month, NewsMatch will make that subscription worth $240 now.

And, a larger donation will mean even more. 

Thanks for reading TucsonSentinel.com. Tell your friends to follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

We're in the final hours of the special NewsMatch campaign, and we're ever-so close to our year-end fundraising goal. We still need to raise about $4,500 before midnight.

Please give now!

Subscribe and stretch your donation over time:

$10/mo. Cub Reporter
$15/mo. Printer's Devil
$20/mo. Stringer
$40/mo. Correspondent
$50/mo. Senior Correspondent
Enter your own monthly amount (number only)

Or give a secure one-time gift with PayPal or your credit card:

$5,000 Newshound
$2,500 Trusted Source
$1,000 Copy Desk Chief
$500 Correspondent
$250 Stringer
$100 Printer's Devil
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Enter your own amount (below)

But even when we meet that initial goal, it's not over yet.

And if you happen to have missed that deadline because you ran across this piece after New Year's Eve, no matter: we still need your support all through 2021, and beyond. Please donate to keep us pushing ahead.

We're working to raise the local contribution necessary to fund our new IDEA reporter from Report for America next year. That Inclusivity, Diversity, Equity and Access journalist will dig into truly untold stories in Southern Arizona — with half of their salary covered by the national RFA nonprofit program. But we (and that means all of us in Tucson) need to step up and cover the other costs of that big step for our nonprofit watchdog newsroom.

Every contribution from a donor right now — whether you sign up for a monthly gift of $20 or a make a one-time contribution of $50, $200 or $1,000 — counts toward that goal.

Because of RFA's support for a large portion of the salary of our new IDEA reporter, and the leverage from NewsMatch, every dollar you give now can mean a total of $4 supporting journalism in Tucson.

And meeting it will mean the Sentinel receives a special bonus grant from NewsMatch to help us keep digging into what really matters here in Tucson — and it'll mean you're a member of our Watchdog Club group of supporters who sustain journalism in Tucson.

We tell your stories. We tell your stories because we care about them, and we care about this community. With more resources, we get to tell more stories. So, help us out. 


And, Happy New Year! See you in 2021. 

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