An association for alumni and supporters of The Daily Texan

Friends of The Daily Texan

An association for alumni and supporters of The Daily Texan

Friends of The Daily Texan

An association for alumni and supporters of The Daily Texan

Friends of The Daily Texan

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Houston Chronicle reporter and former Texan staffer wins George Polk award for exposing family separation at the border

The Houston Chronicle

Houston Chronicle immigration reporter Lomi Kriel has won a prominent national award for her work on the Trump Administration’s immigration policy, including family separation at the southern border and the Remain in Mexico program.

The 71st annual George Polk Awards in Journalism, honoring 15 winners in 14 categories for their reporting in 2019, were recently announced.

Kriel, a former staffer at The Daily Texan at the University of Texas at Austin, was recognized in 2015 as a Rising Star, as part of The Texan Hall of Fame annual dinner, sponsored by Friends of the Daily Texan, Inc.

Lomi Kriel

Kriel, the first to report that separated parents had been deported without their children, has continued to do groundbreaking reporting on the Trump administration’s crackdown on immigration. A year after the administration ostensibly ended its practice of separating immigrant families at the border, Kriel obtained new federal court data and an expansive government database showing for the first time that the White House was systematically continuing to remove children from their parents by citing often unsubstantiated gang or criminal ties.

Those children included a 4-year-old girl who had been taken from her father in a Border Patrol facility. The government claimed he was a MS-13 gang member with a criminal history in El Salvador, but under questioning in court offered no evidence. The girl was eventually deported home with her father. After the story, the American Civil Liberties Union requested that the federal judge overseeing the family separation litigation include such children and require the government provide more information about such cases.

In 2019, Kriel continued her reporting on Jose Escobar, a Houston father who was one of the first high-profile arrests of Trump’s presidency, coming shortly after his sweeping executive orders made every immigrant here illegally– even some like Escobar with permission to stay — a priority for deportation. The Trump administration allowed Escobar to return to Houston in July and Kriel wrote an intimate portrait of his readjustment to American life and all he had missed in 2½ years away from his children.

She was there when the White House expanded its so-called Remain in Mexico program to Texas, and chronicled the return of dozens of Central American families who were forced to wait in Juarez as their asylum cases wound their way through U.S. immigration courts.

“We’re thrilled for Lomi,” said Chronicle Executive Editor Steve Riley. “She has been a national star in immigration reporting for several years, and we’re excited that the Polk judges saw fit to give her this honor.”

The Polk Awards are one of the most coveted awards in journalism. Other winners this year include reporters from the New York Times, the Washington Post, Politico, ProPublica and the New Yorker.

Born and raised in South Africa, Kriel immigrated to Houston in 1998 and speaks fluent Spanish and Afrikaans. She holds a master of arts in political journalism from Columbia University and a bachelor of arts in English from the University of Texas at Austin. She frequently reports from the border, and has also reported from El Salvador, Arizona and Washington D.C.