Ted Robbins

As an NPR correspondent based in Tucson, Arizona, Ted Robbins covers the Southwest including Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada.

Specifically, Robbins reports on a range of issues from immigration and border security to water issues and wildfires. He covers the economy in the West with an emphasis on the housing market and Las Vegas development. He reported on the January 2011, Tucson shooting that killed six and injured many included Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

From Tombstone to Santa Fe, Phoenix to Las Vegas and Moab to Indian Country, there's no shortage of people, politics and places worth covering in the growing American Southwest. Robbins' reporting is driven by his curiosity to find, understand and communicate all sides of each story through accurate, clear and engaging coverage. In addition to his domestic work, Robbins has reported internationally in Mexico, El Salvador, Nepal and Sudan.

Robbins' reporting has been honored with numerous accolades, including two Emmy Awards: one for his story on sex education in schools, and another for his series on women in the workforce. He received a CINE Golden Eagle for a 1995 documentary on Mexican agriculture called "Tomatoes for the North."

In 2006, Robbins wrote an article for the Neiman Reports at Harvard about journalism and immigration. He was chosen for a 2009 French-American Foundation Fellowship focused on comparing European and U.S. immigration issues.

Raised in Los Angeles, Robbins became an avid NPR listener while spending hours driving (or stopped in traffic) on congested freeways. He is delighted to now be covering stories for his favorite news source.

Prior to coming to NPR in 2004, Robbins spent five years as a regular contributor to The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, 15 years at the PBS affiliate in Tucson, and worked as a field producer for CBS News. He worked for NBC affiliates in Tucson and Salt Lake City, where he also did some radio reporting and print reporting for USA Today.

Robbins earned his Bachelor of Arts in psychology and his master's degree in journalism, both from the University of California at Berkeley. He taught journalism at the University of Arizona for a decade.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. A federal judge in Arizona has ruled against the man who calls himself America's toughest sheriff. The judge ruled that the Maricopa County Sheriff's Department has used racial profiling to enforce the state's tough immigration laws. Sheriff Joe Arpaio has maintained that his department has the authority to round up undocumented immigrants. NPR's Ted Robbins has been following the case and joins us now. Ted, thanks for being with us.

TED ROBBINS, BYLINE: You're welcome.

Nearly half the people now in the U.S. illegally didn't climb walls, wade across the Rio Grande or trek through the desert to get here. They arrived legally, with tourist or student visas. And when those visas expired, they just never left.

Like the rest of the 11 million undocumented people in the United States, they are part of the underground economy and the government doesn't know where they are. The Senate immigration bill now before Congress tries to address this problem — though not as richly as it does border security.

Some employers around the nation have been using E-Verify to check the immigration status of employees for years. Operated by the Department of Homeland Security, the online system is designed to make it harder to hire unauthorized workers — and harder for those workers to find jobs.

While participation in the program has been voluntary since 1996, the immigration bill now in the Senate would make E-Verify mandatory.

Reducing illegal immigration — a key requirement for any immigration overhaul — is largely up to the U.S. Border Patrol. That agency has doubled in size over the past decade. It's now the largest law enforcement agency in the country.

Critics say the agency has become overly zealous in its mission and faces little accountability. In the past three years, agents have killed nearly 20 people along the Southwest border — and few of those cases have been resolved.

Rocks Thrown, Shots Fired

Budget-cutting from the government sequester that began March 1 could affect U.S. exports and imports, including what we eat.

Customs and Border Protection officers regulate trade at the nation's 329 ports of entry, in harbors, airports and on land.

One by one, drivers approach booths with Customs and Border Protection officers at the Mariposa Port of Entry in Nogales, Ariz. More winter produce enters here than at any other place in the U.S. Semis filled with tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers headed to grocery stores around the country.

In the back and forth between Congress and the White House over immigration, both sides seem to agree that people now in the U.S. illegally should wait at "the back of the line" for legal residency — meaning no green card until all other immigrants get theirs.

But that presents a problem, because the wait for a green card can take decades.

Maria has been waiting in line with her husband for 16 years and counting for what the government calls a priority date for legal residency. Because she is in the U.S. without documents, Maria asked NPR to use only her first name.

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MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

The basketball world lost both a huge fan and one of its most innovative team owners today. Jerry Buss turned the Los Angeles Lakers into the NBA's glamour franchise and won 10 championships. Buss died early this morning at the age of 80. NPR's Ted Robbins has this remembrance.

TED ROBBINS, BYLINE: Jerry Buss once said: I don't just want winners, I want champions. And, boy, did he get them. Yet when Buss was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame, he remembered feeling humbled back in 1979 when he bought the Lakers.

Half of all tomatoes eaten in the U.S. come from Mexico, and tomato growers in Florida aren't happy about that. In fact, they're willing to risk a trade war to reverse the trend.

At JC Distributing In Nogales, Ariz., one misstep and you're likely to get knocked over by a pallet full of produce. Forklifts crisscross each other carrying peppers, squash and especially tomatoes from trucks backed into the warehouse loading dock.

"This is a Mexican truck being unloaded," says JC President Jaime Chamberlain. "He's just waiting for his paperwork to get back."

Brad Holland had big plans for the empty lot he owns in midtown Tucson, Ariz.

"This was going to be my dream house before the economy collapsed," Holland says. "I had a big empty lot and said, 'Wow, a lot of good can come out of this.' "

Since the mid-1980s, the U.S. Border Patrol has quintupled in size — growing from about 4,000 to more than 20,000 agents.

The government has constructed some 700 miles of fencing and vehicle barriers. It has placed thousands of ground sensors, lights, radar towers and cameras along the border. And Customs and Border Protection is now flying drones and helicopters to locate smuggles and rescue stranded immigrants.

So here's the question: Is the Southwest border secure?

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