Jackie Botts

Data reporter


I am a data reporter for Reuters News, based in Mexico. My data-driven investigations have delved into immigration, climate change, drug trafficking, criminal justice, poverty and inequality, labor, and more.

Together with a team of four other journalists, I was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in Explanatory Reporting in 2021 for a Reuters investigative series that employed a "pioneering data analysis" to examine qualified immunity, a legal doctrine that shields police who use excessive force. My reporting teams have also won a National Headliner Award and an Overseas Press Club Award, among other recognitions.

Contact me or tip me at jackiembotts@protonmail.com.



Under US pressure over fentanyl, Mexico wages "imaginary war on drugs"

Mexico's army appears to be raiding only a handful of active drug labs every month, despite U.S. pressure to crack down on fentanyl trafficking, with facilities that were already out of use accounting for 95% of seizures this year, according to defense ministry figures obtained by Reuters.

'Nobody wants to come this way'

Their journey starts with a humanitarian visa for Brazil: one of the few remaining exit routes for Afghans fleeing Taliban rule. It ends - after a perilous trek overland through Latin America across at least 11 countries - with scaling the border wall and jumping onto U.S. soil.

Migrants tell of mass kidnappings in Mexico before crossing into the U.S.

CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico, Dec 14 (Reuters) - Many of the hundreds of migrants who crossed the Rio Grande from Ciudad Juarez into El Paso this week were part of a group kidnapped in Mexico as they made their way to the United States, according to nine migrants interviewed by Reuters.

'VIP trips' cost migrants their lives in Texas smuggling tragedy

TLAPACOYAN, Mexico, Aug 1 (Reuters) - At first, Mexican migrants Pablo Ortega and Julio Lopez enjoyed the smuggling equivalent of a first-class ticket to the United States: complimentary beers, safe houses with video games, even a week at a hunting ranch.

Mistakes plague identification of migrants who died in Texas truck

A week after 53 migrants died in a sweltering trailer in San Antonio, Texas, some of their nationalities are still unclear, highlighting the challenges that officials from at least four different countries face in identifying the victims of the deadliest U.S. human smuggling tragedy on record.

Families fret over fate of migrants trapped in Texas truck

OAXACA CITY, Mexico, June 29 (Reuters) - (This June 29 story corrects last name of mother of two Honduran migrants to Caballero from Castillo) Before he began the journey that ended in disaster, Jose Luis Vasquez lived in a remote mountainous community in southern Mexico, where a single telephone connects a few indigenous families to the outside world, local residents said.

Pulitzer Prize

For cops who kill, special Supreme Court protection

Effective barrier Aldaba's lament has become an increasingly common one. Even as the proliferation of police body cameras and bystander cellphone video has turned a national spotlight on extreme police tactics, qualified immunity, under the careful stewardship of the Supreme Court, is making it easier for officers to kill or injure civilians with impunity.

Shot by cops, thwarted by judges and geography

For years, the words "qualified immunity" were seldom heard outside of legal and academic circles, where critics have long contended that the doctrine is unjust. But outrage over the killing of George Floyd and incidents like it have made this 50-year-old legal doctrine - created by the U.S.

Data, investigative and enterprise reporting in California

One man's lonely journey through California's plan to end homelessness

By the lone tent under the cement overpass, just visible from the Hollywood Freeway, Fernando Maya waited with several backpacks stuffed with clothes, electronics and food. Once a constant roar of traffic below his makeshift home, the freeway stood empty in the waning days of spring 2020 as the first wave of coronavirus tore through California.

Millions of students can't afford broadband | CalMatters

About twice a week, the $9.99 per month internet connection falters. It's often as Mario Ramírez finally wrangles his kids into their seats - the fourth-grader studies in the bedroom he shares with his 12 year-old sister, who studies in her parents' bedroom - in time for virtual class.

Why few farmworkers isolate in California's free COVID-19 hotel rooms | CalMatters

Lea este artículo en español. In the first days of August, Fresno farmworker Brenda Yamileth, lined up for a COVID-19 test alongside her mother and brother. Feverish and headachy, she held her 10-month-old daughter. Soon, all four tested positive. She quarantined with her baby in one bedroom of her Mendota house while her husband and 2½-year-old son slept in the other.

Close Quarters: The neighborhoods where COVID collides with overcrowded homes

The pandemic has layered a health crisis on top of a housing crisis on top of a class divide. A clear pattern has emerged as the coronavirus spares some California neighborhoods and strikes others: The virus takes a heavier toll in neighborhoods where people pack into overcrowded homes, according to a CalMatters analysis of neighborhood-level data from 10 counties.

Coverage of economic inequality in California

5 challenges in expanding California's permanent supportive housing - and potential solutions

As the number of homeless Californians swell, the state is spending unprecedented dollars to build tens of thousands of housing units for people living in shelters, vehicles and encampments. CalMatters detailed the experience of Fernando Maya, a chronically homeless man who left the streets of Los Angeles in 2020 and landed in one of those new units.

What's the role of unions in the 21st century?

Unions have historically formed to ensure fair wages, benefits and better working conditions for their members. They negotiate with businesses and governments on behalf of employees, who either work a particular type of job or in a particular industry.

Unpaid utility bills? California will pay off $2 billion to avoid shutoffs

Two years ago the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power shut off electricity at Will Hollman's home in the San Fernando Valley, forcing the family to rely on a gasoline generator. In late June of this year, the department disconnected the water, too - despite a statewide moratorium on water shutoffs that Gov.

Look up your Golden State Stimulus amount

California is expanding its Golden State Stimulus program for low-income households to middle-class families. Under a new budget that Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Monday night, state lawmakers agreed to spend $8.1 billion to help out millions of working families.

Will disabled Californians on SSDI get Golden State Stimulus? | CalMatters

Lea este artículo en español. A $600 check would go a long way for Janet Clendenin. The costs of the sugar-free foods she buys to manage her diabetes have risen sharply in South Lake Tahoe during the pandemic, Clendenin said. She usually has to criss-cross the picturesque region by bus to find discounts at Dollar Tree, Grocery Outlet and Walmart.

Newsom proposes expanding Golden State stimulus to middle class | CalMatters

Lea este artículo en español. At the start of the pandemic a year ago, today's news would have seemed unimaginable: The Golden State is sitting on a budget surplus so big, it's considering giving $600 stimulus checks to California households making up to $75,000, paying off back rent of tenants affected by COVID and helping millions of residents catch up on their water and electricity bills.

Newsom doubles down on sheltering farmworkers despite few takers | CalMatters

Lea este artículo en español. Heeding the calls of advocates and lawmakers, Gov. Gavin Newsom is pumping up to $24 million into his oft-touted-but-little-used program to help farmworkers self-isolate during the pandemic, offering new financial assistance and flexibility. However, it's unclear how much will actually get spent.

Economic indicators mask pandemic's true toll | CalMatters

On paper, the Golden State appears to have escaped 2020 without a personal debt crisis. Despite an unprecedented 2.4 million jobs lost in the spring, Californians joined their fellow Americans in paying down interest-heavy debt such as credit card bills while acquiring wealth-building loans by taking out mortgages.

Unpaid water bills top $1 billion in California | CalMatters

The first thing Deborah Bell-Holt does each morning is check whether water still flows from her bathroom faucet. It always does, thanks to an April executive order from Gov. Gavin Newsom banning water disconnections during the pandemic. But that didn't stop her utility debt from snowballing to nearly $15,000.

How California's budget depends on staggering wealth gap | CalMatters

Gov. Gavin Newsom's $227 billion California spending plan is setting records in more ways than one. Were his budget proposal approved by lawmakers as is, the state would spend an unprecedented amount to fend off poverty, eviction and K-12 education loss for California's most vulnerable residents in the 2021-22 fiscal year.

Finally, rent relief for a graduate starting out in the job market | CalMatters

By late December, Maya Brady and her girlfriend owed Sacramento Property Management Services about $4,000. The company sent regular matter-of-fact texts to remind them that they're late on rent. Brady imagines the same text arrives to many of her mostly working class neighbors in the apartment complex.

Will COVID spur California to ease food stamp applications? | CalMatters

A new bill could make it easier for seniors and people with disabilities to apply for CalFresh, California's version of food stamps, and allow people to enroll entirely over the phone by 2024. "California's food insecurity crisis is worse than ever, and we have a moral responsibility to make CalFresh benefits easier to access," said Sen.

Becerra sues Amazon to cooperate with California's COVID-19 safety investigation | CalMatters

Attorney General Xavier Becerra accused Amazon of withholding information in California's ongoing investigation into the company's coronavirus protocols and COVID-19 cases at distribution facilities across the state. The move reveals fresh government scrutiny over Amazon's workplace safety practices since the online retailer has been on a hiring spree throughout the pandemic.

California emergency workplace COVID-19 safety rules | CalMatters

Lea este artículo en español. California's businesses must follow new rules to protect workers from getting coronavirus on the job, while harvesting companies must minimize overcrowding in guest farmworker housing following a California Divide investigation that uncovered rampant coronavirus outbreaks this summer among a low-wage workforce putting fresh produce on America's kitchen table.

What Cal/OSHA has - and hasn't - been doing for workers? | CalMatters

As the pandemic grinds on in California, patterns have emerged: The people who contract COVID-19 tend less wealthy and less white, and many get sick at work. From senior nursing facilities to meatpacking plants to motel rooms of farmworkers brought from other countries to Amazon warehouses, the coronavirus has appeared in many workplaces.

Exclusive: Kaiser cited for failing to treat COVID-19 as airborne | CalMatters

Lea este artículo en español. California workplace safety officials issued a serious citation against a Kaiser Permanente psychiatric facility in Santa Clara, accusing the center of failing to provide workers with N95 masks and other protection against COVID-19. But the problems facing the health care giant may run much deeper.

Newsom weighs aid for undocumented Californians with no safety net | CalMatters

Lea este artículo en español. Out of work for months in the spring, Mariana, who cleans houses, and her husband Gerardo, who is a door-to-door salesman, paid their landlord just $300 of their $1,200 rent for a one-bedroom apartment they crowd into with their 2-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter, in National City.

Why won't counties report workplace COVID outbreaks to the public? | CalMatters

Lea este artículo en español. Napa County doesn't collect data about coronavirus outbreaks in workplaces. Sonoma County does, but won't identify them because it would compromise the county's working relationship with employers. Alameda County won't share outbreak locations to protect privacy and to guard against what one health official called undue stigma.

How COVID is worsening California's income inequality | CalMatters

Lea este artículo en español. The decade dawned on a California that was both "the richest and poorest" state in the nation, in the words of Gov. Gavin Newsom. Wages for the top 10% of California's earners had grown three times as fast as those of the bottom 10% of earners since 1980 - all as the cost of buying or renting shelter skyrocketed.

Pandemic steals most from immigrant working women | CalMatters

Lee este artículo en español. Early estimates indicate that the coronavirus pandemic has stolen jobs from non-citizen workers - including immigrants who have green cards, work visas or are undocumented - in California at higher rates than citizens. And women have suffered greater job loss than men.

Overlooked Pacific Islanders hit hard by coronavirus | CalMatters

Pacific Islander communities in California have long faced economic and health disparities that make them uniquely vulnerable to the novel coronavirus. Often overlooked by public health officials, community leaders are mounting their own response. For two weeks in March, Dr. Raynald Samoa fought to move air through his lungs.

California could protect stimulus checks from debt collectors. Will Newsom act? | CalMatters

Californians have begun to see money appear in their bank accounts: $1,200 for single people and an extra $500 for each kid. But for Californians with consumer debt, that money could just as quickly vanish. The payments, part of the $2.2 trillion national coronavirus response package or CARES Act prohibits federal and state governments from intercepting the payments, except to collect child support debt.

Out of a job? Can't pay your bills? These proposals may help keep you afloat amid coronavirus

Donna Insalaco had to lay off 40 of the 45 employees at Pizzaiolo, her gourmet pizzeria in downtown Oakland, after sales fell through a "black hole." "A lot of tears," Insalaco said, "All of us here live check-to-check." Responding to a statewide call for restaurants to close their doors to dine-in customers, Pizzaiolo is now only offering pick-up and delivery.

Are low-income voters Bernie's secret weapon? | CalMatters

For all the talk of electability, Sen. Bernie Sanders would have the Democratic presidential nomination in the bag if every voter were like Ryan Frye, his two adult brothers, his sister-in-law and his parents. The family, which shares a home in the small, rural town of Newman in California's Central Valley, have all pledged their allegiance to Sanders in the race.

How one man found freedom from his struggle to survive in the Bay Area | CalMatters

By Jackie Botts In January, I sat among dozens of other reporters in California's Capitol as we peppered Gov. Gavin Newsom with questions about his spending plan for the year, a bulging $222 billion budget full of progressive proposals: $1.4 billion in new funds for homeless services, expansion of the state's health insurance for low-income residents, a proposal that the state manufacture generic drugs to bring prices down.

Getting food stamps to poor Californians is surprisingly difficult | CalMatters

Pressure is increasing on counties to sign up more people for food stamps since the state's participation rate is one of the lowest in the nation. But greater enrollment may require more money or more state intervention. In May 2017, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors set an ambitious goal: enroll 70,000 new families in food stamps in two years.

California could get $1.8 billion in food stamp funding. It just needs people to sign up

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, is a food assistance program that aids millions of low-income families and individuals. California, a state with the nation's highest poverty rate, consistently ranks near the bottom when it comes to enrolling low-income people in CalFresh, the state's name for the federal food stamp program.

ABCs of LGBTQ History Mandated for More U.S. Public Schools

Charley Parkhurst, a legendary stagecoach driver during California's Gold Rush, also known as "One-Eyed Charley" is seen in this illustration image, released by Santa Cruz Museum of Art & History in Santa Cruz, California, U.S., on May 2, 2019.

Public Radio International
After the California wildfires, community leaders are trying to rebuild homes - and trust in...

On Oct. 21, when wildfires in Northern California were still smoldering, about 150 people gathered at a middle school gymnasium. Thousands more watched the livestream on Facebook. Officials in Sonoma County, the region most devastated by the fires, had put together a Spanish-language community forum to address the concerns of the Latino community - the first of its kind in the county.

Multimedia Storytelling

Local: In The Peninsula
Experience Bay Area capoeira in 360 degrees

The fighters circle around each other, eyes locked. One throws a swift kick at her opponent, who spins and ducks away. The pattern continues: spin, kick, escape. They're ringed by onlookers who clap and sing to the rhythm of tall drums and the , a musical bow with one string that produces a thick twang.