Journalists and developers combine forces, explore immigrant issues at MigraHack

Journalists and developers combine forces, explore immigrant issues at MigraHack
Los Almighty Windy City Data Hustlers hard at work. Photo by Lucio Villa.

It was a busy weekend for some of us at The Chicago Reporter. By 9 a.m. on Saturday, we were already glued to our computers at Cibola, a tech incubator community space in Pilsen, and it was nearly 6 p.m. before we ventured out into the evening’s chill. This wasn't for a work project--it was all for fun.

Reporter Maria Zamudio, photojournalism fellow Lucio Villa and I spent Friday through Sunday taking part in MigraHack. This was a "hackathon," a marathon for hackers to develop open-access digital projects and learn new digital tools that brought together journalists, advocates and developers.

The only requirement was that we use immigration data.The project was organized by the Institute for Justice and Journalism and RDataVox Funding for the project came from  the Smart Chicago Collaborative, Hoy and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Throughout the weekend there were 49 gallons of coffee drunk and 245 cookies consumed by participants.

Our team--Los Almighty Windy City Data Hustlers--included David Eads, news application developer for the Chicago Tribune, and Wilberto Morales, a database intern at Hoy.

Our project, Finding Care, looked at undocumented immigrants left out of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act through the eyes of a young man whose immigration status made him ineligible to be placed on the transplant list for a kidney he desperately needed. It won the grand prize for best storytelling with data visualization.

A lot of great projects came out of the MigraHack workshop. Below are just a few that we particularly enjoyed:

Illinois in the Ice Age won in the best data visualization category and was the audience favorite, chosen by hackaton participants. It mapped the path of eight immigrants detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Illinois as they were transferred from one detention center to another--more than 600 times.

Another group looked at people obtaining permanent residence by region and then dug even further by country. The country-level infographic, which won second place in the best data visualization category, lets you choose which countries you want to compare, giving an interesting and detailed portrait of worldwide immigration to the United States.

The award for best insight project went to Dan Hill, who created two interactive games. One allows you to draw the border, based on an aerial view and what may or may not look like American cities, and then shows you where the border line really is.

The second game, called “Naco or Naco,” shows the demographics of Naco--cities in both Arizona and Mexico. Based on information provided about the unemployment rate and high school graduation rate, you choose which you think is on the Mexican side of the border. By doing this, argued Hill, you challenge your conception of what the demographics on each side of the border are.

The rest of the projects will be posted on MigraHack's website. Watch out for them there.

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