#21 Days to Exile

#21 Days to Exile
May 18, 2017 paperlesslion

The deportation process gets up close and personal in real time when Detroit Public Television tells the story of Maria Garcia Juarez and her impending deportation to Mexico. The young mother, even though married to an American who is the father of her child, fears she has only 21 days remaining in the United States. Complicating the situation further, both father and youngster have serious health issues. A Detroit Public TV and Bridge Magazine collaboration for the Detroit Journalism Cooperative, #21 Days to Exile aired Thursday, May 18 on DPTV Channel 56.

Learn more at http://dptv.org/maria.

It all started in Southwest Detroit. As part of our Knight and Kellogg-funded “Roadshows,” Detroit Public TV’s One Detroit team spent three months scouring the area, talking with neighborhood organizations and key stakeholders who then led us to others who could help us tell a complicated and controversial story.

Sixty people and organizations later, our team developed with our new partners a ninety-minute American Black Journal Roadshow broadcast live on Detroit Public Television that focused on issues critical to Southwest Detroit including immigration, environmental justice and education.

Engagement. Partners. Collaboration.

The night before our broadcast, Carine Saleh, a Dearborn attorney who agreed to be on our panel about immigration, contacted Detroit Journalism Cooperative’s regional editor, Scott McCartney. She informed him that her client, Maria Garcia Juarez, had been given orders to leave the United States by May 26.  Because all legal avenues were nearly exhausted, Ms. Saleh was now resorting to media attention to help Maria’s cause.  Detroit Public TV and its DJC partner Bridge Magazine debated and investigated the merits of Maria’s story at a rapid pace, because both organizations realized they needed to capture the story in real time.

On May 5, we launched #21DaystoExile. Both organizations published the first installment of Maria’s story on Thursday, May 11 on Bridge and DPTV’s MiWeek program. New installments are scheduled for May 18 on MiWeek and May 25 on Bridge and MiWeek.

Maria’s situation is complex and intriguing. Her past as a juvenile offender in California, which triggered her deportation, makes for a case that’s not so clear-cut.

Since she came to Michigan five years ago, she got married to an American citizen, she has been employed; she’s been a student, and she’s now raising an 18-month old son.

And then tragedy struck. Her husband discovered recently that he has leukemia. Because her son has health issues, she is afraid to travel to Mexico with him for fear that care there will be inadequate.

One Detroit and Bridge embarked on this three-week storytelling project precisely because Maria’s story is many-layered and raises dozens of  questions that we felt would foster a robust public conversation.

Questions like this: What is the immigration process like? How does deporting a person play out? Then there are the existential questions: How long does one have to be in the U.S. before being considered truly American?

#21DaystoExile was never meant to be a targeted indictment of the system, and it is definitely not a Trump vs. Obama polemic even in light of Washington Posts recent article. Instead, 21 Days is a real-world example of deportation playing out in real time, where both sides of the immigration debate have the space to make valid points. It is an immersive, journalistic experience into the world of immigration and deportation, where viewers can follow the case online with video explainers, raw interviews, case documentation, video diaries and much more.

Along with its coverage of Maria’s story, the Detroit Journalism Cooperative will take a look at other issues concerning immigration here in Detroit. We’ll examine the numbers: How many are being deported? Are they dangerous? What’s different now than years past? What rights do immigrants have? We’ve also heard from residents in Southwest Detroit that there is a new fear about what the government might do with their immigration status. We’ll be telling some of those stories too.


This has yet to be determined. But on May 26th, Maria Garcia Juarez has a decision to make.  It is her choice: whether to get on a plane bound for a country that she hasn’t visited since she was eight months old — a country where she knows no one — which would force her to  leave  behind her infant son and sick husband, or whether to  let authorities arrest her and deport her to the place of their choosing.

Whatever Maria decides, Detroit Public TV and Bridge — as part of the Detroit Journalism Cooperative — will be there, following the story, adding to the conversation, and illuminating and informing our audience, whatever the results  may be.

We hope you will join us at http://dptv.org/maria and that you will continue to follow the conversation on social media using #21DaysToExile. Don’t miss MiWeek TONIGHT (Thursday, May 18th) at 7:30 P.M. ET for the next chapter of Maria’s story.