Fund for Investigative Journalism Diversity Fellow Romina Ruiz-Goiriena’s report, “Gaming the System,” uncovered a cycle of corruption in the immigration system by detailing how wealthy people navigate around U.S. immigration barriers while the other 90 percent are detained or deported.
The four-part investigation, published in the Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald, detailed how rich foreign nationals from Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico and Venezuela, guided by a network of lawyers, real estate agents and bankers, have managed to stiff-arm U.S. immigration authorities and build up their financial portfolios while thwarting prosecutors back home.
Ruiz-Goiriena, who worked as foreign correspondent in Latin America and had reported on many of these wealthy expats, pursued the project for years. The final report included an interactive video game that allows users to experience and navigate obstacles within the immigration system based on their wealth.
Just two months after the series was published, federal legislation passed to address the core issues Ruiz-Goiriena’s reporting exposed. The Northern Triangle Enhanced Engagement Act, which was signed into law in December 2020 requires creation of a list of corrupt individuals who will be barred entry into the U.S. The legislation also requires the creation of a five-year strategy on efforts to advance prosperity, combat corruption and curb irregular migration.
Ruiz-Goiriena’s fellowship was a unique partnership forged by the Fund for Investigative Journalism, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and el Nuevo Herald, supported by the Jonathan Logan Family Foundation. Through this fellowship, Ruiz-Goiriena was embedded with the investigative team in the newsroom of the Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald for most of 2020.