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.

Women from the Latinx community are being hurt more by the coronavirus pandemic than any other group. Not only are they facing higher infection rates but many are also losing their jobs or getting their work hours reduced.

The Spanish government has declared a state of emergency in the Madrid region, making it possible to impose new anti-coronavirus lockdown restrictions, against the strong opposition of the local government.

Tensions have heightened between the center-left national government and the center-right regional government over how to fight the new wave of COVID-19 outbreaks.

Singapore announced cruises will start sailing next month — but in order to keep crew and passengers safe amid the coronavirus pandemic, the ships will make no stops and simply return to the port they came from.

The island country is trying to creatively fire up its travel and tourism industry, as these businesses worldwide struggle due to the pandemic.

Some domestic workers and others impacted by COVID-19 are reacting angrily to President Trump's urging to "get out there" and "Don't be afraid of Covid. Don't let it dominate your life," soon after he left Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Monday, where he was treated for COVID-19.

They accuse the president of sounding not only reckless but callous about the more than 200,000 people in the U.S. who have died of COVID-19 and the more than 7 million who have been infected with the virus.

Wildfires in California continue to burn, ravaging entire communities and the blazes will soon hit a tragic milestone: 4 million acres burned.

The unprecedented fire season has already killed 30 people, burned down thousands of buildings and homes and forced more than 96,000 residents to evacuate, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, or Cal Fire.

Latinx isn't a new term, and neither are the debates around its use.

According to a recent Pew Research Center national survey of Latinos, Latinx has not caught on. Only 3% say they use the term and it's mostly young people, ages 18 to 29, who have embraced it.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said Tuesday that the city will impose fines on people who refuse to wear face coverings, after it saw a positivity rate for coronavirus tests of over 3% for the first time since June.

The fine is up to $1,000, the mayor's office told NPR.

City personnel will hand out free masks to anyone who is not wearing a face covering, the mayor said.

Updated at 4 p.m. ET

Firefighters are battling multiple fast-spreading wildfires in Northern California, including the heart of the state's wine country, as authorities say at least three civilians have been killed by the Zogg Fire in Shasta County.

Rio de Janeiro's Carnival, known as one of the best spectacles in the world, has been derailed by the coronavirus.

Event organizers announced Thursday evening that the colorful, rhythmic parades of 2021 are postponed indefinitely. It's the first time Carnival has been postponed in more than a century, according to The Associated Press.

A Maryland man was sentenced to 25 years in prison on Wednesday over a 2018 incident in which he shot a Black man in a Baltimore suburb and reportedly told him to "go back to Africa."

Brandon Higgs, the white man sentenced, was found to have links to white supremacist groups during the investigation, according to John Magee from the Baltimore County State's Attorney's Office.

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.

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.

Two crises collided this spring in Michigan. The state was already under a coronavirus lockdown when a catastrophic storm hit and a pair of dams failed, flooding the city of Midland.

The local hospital, MidMichigan Medical Center — Midland, hired a disaster recovery company to clean up the mess, including a water-logged basement and morgue. More than 100 workers — many of them recent immigrants — were brought from as far away as Texas and Florida. Bellaliz Gonzalez was one of them.

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.

Community health centers had been at the front lines of health care in the nation's poorest neighborhoods even before the spread of the coronavirus. But in the midst of the pandemic, patients who fear deportation or infection are forcing many centers to close.

Public health officials worry that the populations that these centers serve — mostly people with low incomes and immigrants — aren't getting proper health care and testing, may be unable to quarantine themselves and could contribute to spreading the coronavirus to the wider population.

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.

On a recent sunny morning at a remote U.S. base in northeast Syria, Rumi is sniffing around. She has white fur and black markings on her face. Some here call her "the raccoon dog."

"Rumi first started showing up in early January," says 1st Lt. Shelby Koontz. "She was really emaciated, caked in mud."

Even though the dog didn't look pretty, 25-year-old Koontz immediately fell for her.

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.

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