The mission of Voices Beyond Borders is to document the experiences of immigrants and migrants from all walks of life in New York City and Chicago. We are not here to comment on general immigration or policy; rather, to paint the human side of incredibly politicized terms. We encourage a democratic exchange of storytelling—open, honest and sincere.
Our aim is to foster a greater understanding of immigrant and migrant communities in our two cities. We fuse together street style photography, with news aggregation and long-form multimedia profiles. With every profile we ask five basic questions: Why did you move here? What does the word immigrant/migrant mean to you? How do you bring your home with you? Is living in America and/or being an American different from what you expected? What has your greatest challenge been as an immigrant/migrant?
The project was borne out of the desire we feel — both as journalists and as Americans — to provide a platform where the everyday stories of American immigrants can be told.
Two years ago today Governor Jan Brewer of Arizona signed into law the nation’s most restrictive immigration law in generations. The law, known as SB1070, set a new standard for restrictions on immigrants, and laws around the country — especially in Arizona and Alabama — have been ramped up since. This Wednesday the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments challenging the most controversial aspects of SB1070.
Hitting closer to Voices Beyond Borders’ home, last year AP broke the news that New York police had created an agressive surveillance program to gather intelligence on New York’s Muslim communities. Muslim neighborhoods, businesses, and mosques were infiltrated, with individuals and groups monitored even if there was no evidence they were linked to terrorism.
New Yorkers surveyed were supportive of the terrorism-combating initiative; last March a Quinnipiac University poll showed that 82 percent of New Yorkers thought NYPD was doing a fine job in preventing terrorism, while 58 percent said police acted appropriately in dealing with Muslims.
In an era of increasing xenophobia in our country, Voices Beyond Borders is looking at our communities and asking: Who are our neighbors?
We centrally focus on the immigrant and migrant experience in New York City and Chicago. We are also open to submissions from anywhere in the U.S., as well as occasional stories from abroad.
Voices Beyond Borders is a collaborative effort by Andrea Hart and Courtney Brooks, two journalists who met while working in South Africa. They together covered the 2008 xenophobic attacks which saw more than 60 foreigners living in South Africa’s townships killed. They also covered the ensuing refugee crisis in which tens of thousands of foreign nationals were shunted to hastily-constructed camps around the country. Andrea also led a reporting project on Zimbabwean refugees which unearthed an illegal holding center where South African police were abusing orphaned immigrants.
Since then, Andrea returned to South Africa to report on the youth voting population during the country’s 2009 elections. After graduating from Northwestern University she served as the assistant news editor for Circle of Blue and recently worked as a local editor for AOL/Huffington Post’s Patch.com. She is currently a Chicago-based multimedia journalist exploring how online media gives voice to the voiceless by putting issues in the context of people. She experiments with community journalism that empowers youth and utilizes citizen reporting at Radio Arte, Yollocalli, Mikva Challenge, Digital Youth Network and Young Chicago Authors.
Courtney returned to South Africa twice, first working as an intern at Agence France Presse in Johannesburg and then as The Associated Press’ Cape Town correspondent. After graduating from Northeastern University in Boston she worked as a correspondent for GlobalPost in Cape Town during the 2010 World Cup. She then moved to Prague for a year-long fellowship at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, where she covered immigration, human rights violations and politics in Eastern Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East. She was hired by RFE/RL in late 2011 and now serves as the company’s United Nations and New York correspondent.
This is an independent blog and in no way connected to our present or past employers.