EL PASO, Texas - 2019 will go down as one of the most memorable years in El Paso history for many reasons. It was a year that put El Paso on the map. From national to international coverage, El Pasoans were in the spotlight.
One story will likely be considered one of the borderland's darkest days in recent history, the shooting of Aug. 3., when a lone gunman walked into the Cielo Vista Walmart in the morning hours, opening fire on customers and employees. The alleged gunman traveled all the way from a suburb in Dallas, killing 22 and injuring 26 people. The majority of the victims were from both El Paso and Juarez but there was also a German national killed in the gunfire.
According to police, investigators found a manifesto that reportedly belonged to the accused gunman. Police said that manifesto was filled with anti-immigrant, anti-Hispanic rhetoric, possibly revealing the motive behind that horrific mass shooting. The FBI is now investigating the mass shooting as domestic terrorism.
Potentially the second most memorable story of the year is the immigration surge which started in late 2018, but exploded in 2019. The events that took place along the border was considered by many in the national media, as well as U.S. officials to be a "border crisis". The unprecedented number of immigrants arriving to the U.S. border overwhelmed Customs and Border protection and Immigration and customs enforcement agents. The Trump administration stepped in, enforcing the controversial "Remain In Mexico" policy. Before the migrant protection protocol policy was initiated, migrants were being released into the U.S. in record numbers. About 200 migrants were dropped off at the downtown Greyhound bust station in El Paso on Christmas day in 2018.
The immigration surge gave rise to government funded soft sided shelters throughout the borderland. One in Tornillo, referred to by many as a "tent city", held unaccompanied migrant children. After various protests, the shelter came down, only to be replaced by another detention shelter, which to this day, holds adult immigrants. Temporary,soft-sided shelters also emerged under port of entry bridges downtown.
From the hardest moments the Borderland showed its best moment. The day after the Walmart shooting, El Pasoans gathered together to show the nation what ElPasoStrong meant. Many stepped up to help in any way they can, with lines out the doors at local blood banks as well as millions of dollars raised to help those impacted by the shooting. Through donations, One Fund El Paso was able to raise more than $11 million to help the victims of the shooting.
ABC-7's Saul Saenz sits down with journalists who have covered all the biggest events to have an in-depth conversation on how they covered the year's most memorable stories.
Journalist Angela Kocherga is the 2019 recipient of the Maria Moors Cabot prize from the Columbia school of journalism. Kocherga was recognized this year for her outstanding coverage of conditions of children and families in u.s. migrant detention centers.
El Paso Times reporter Aaron Montez recently partnered with a team of New York Times reporters for a series of reports on immigration along the border.
ABC-7 anchor Erik Elken filed seveal special reports related to the mass shooting and anchored in the field providing complete coverage at the border wall, as well as when CBP opened up migrant facilities for reporters to tour.
All three will join ABC-7's Saul Saenz this Sunday for ABC-7 Xtra beginning at 10:35 p.m. following ABC-7 at 10.