How Do We Document Stories at the Border?

Episode 4 of The Backdrop Looks at ‘Humanizing Deportation,’ a Digital Storytelling Project

A mural painted on a border wall is among the projects in which Elizabeth De La Cruz participated at UC Davis. The doctoral student talks about her projects and digital storytelling on the Backdrop podcast.

In a typical year, hundreds of thousands of people are deported from the U.S. for entering or staying in the country illegally. A digital storytelling project at UC Davis, called Humanizing Deportation, is documenting their stories.

Now, the project its being documented on The Backdrop, a UC Davis podcast. On this month’s episode, doctoral candidate Lizbeth De La Cruz discusses the project’s goals, how it got started and her experiences working as a researcher collecting and preserving these stories. Since 2016, De La Cruz has participated as a graduate research assistant for Humanizing Deportation.

“We have multiple groups all over Mexico composed of researchers, institutions, higher ed, and grad students like myself,” she said. “We support their documentation of their stories. We record their audios with our phones or with recorders and we go on in the field to do the research with them. We support them in creating not just their audio, but also creating a visual aspect of what their storytelling is.”

De La Cruz
De La Cruz

De La Cruz describes digital storytelling as “a ‘do-it-yourself’ style that allows for the participant or the storyteller to use their voice to communicate a story two to five minutes in length and then add images and small clips to make this short video of their whole life or a specific moment in their life that they want to communicate.”

The Backdrop podcast is a monthly interview program featuring conversations with UC Davis scholars and researchers working in the social sciences, humanities, arts and culture. Hosted by public radio veteran Soterios Johnson, the conversations feature new work and expertise on a trending topic in the news. It is available free, on demand at Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music, TuneIn, Stitcher and Spotify.

Listen to the podcast episode here. Read the blog’s initial coverage of Humanizing Deportation here.

Photo: A mural painted on a border wall is among the projects in which De La Cruz participated at UC Davis. (Courtesy photo)

Media Resources

  • Hayley Morris is an undergraduate student at UC Davis majoring in English who works as an intern for the News and Media Relations team in the Office of Strategic Communications.
  • Soterios Johnson of News and Media Relations is the producer and host of The Backdrop. He can be reached at 530-454-5956 or

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