Seth Freed Wessler


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Seth Freed Wessler is a reporter with ProPublica’s South unit who focuses on immigration, the justice system and inequality

Wessler was previously an independent reporter and a fellow at Type Investigations. He has reported for the New York Times Magazine, Reveal/The Center for Investigative Reporting, Mother Jones, the Smithsonian Magazine, the Nation, This American Life and others.

Wessler’s 2020 story on life inside a federal immigration facility in Georgia during the COVID-19 pandemic won a Sidney Award. His first documentary film, an account of the same detention center, will be released with Field of Vision later in 2021. Wessler’s investigation into neglect in the U.S. Marshals Service’s detention system was a finalist for the National Magazine Award for reporting in 2020 and won the Sigma Delta Chi Award for Magazine Investigative Reporting and the Deadline Club Award for Investigative Audio Reporting. He shared a Peabody Award in 2019 for an investigation into public spending on Confederate memorials and heritage groups across the South. The project also won awards from the National Association of Black Journalists and an Online Journalism Award. His work has been honored by investigative awards from the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers, the John Bartlow Martin Award, the John Jay/H. F. Guggenheim Award for Excellence in Criminal Justice Reporting and a Hillman Prize.

Wessler is a founder of the Gumshoe Group, an initiative to support freelance journalists and is a lecturer at CUNY's Newmark Graduate School of Journalism. He was previously an enterprise reporter for, a reporter for and a Soros Justice Media Fellow.

Help ProPublica Reporters Investigate the Immigration System

We need your help to find productive ways to examine the country’s immigration system — what’s working and what isn’t. We especially want to hear from federal workers, attorneys, employers, labor advocates and ESL teachers.

Bused From Texas to Manhattan, an Immigrant Struggles to Find Shelter

Rogelio Ramon crossed the border into El Paso and found himself with no options except a bus to Manhattan. Once in New York, he was at the mercy of a system that struggles to shelter the hundreds of migrants who arrive in the city each day.

5 Takeaways From ProPublica’s Investigation of Coast Guard Detentions at Sea

Since the summer of 2021, the Coast Guard has detained surging numbers of people, including unaccompanied kids. Key findings from our investigation reveal the hidden world of immigration enforcement at sea, a border where different rules apply.

When the Coast Guard Intercepts Unaccompanied Kids

A Haitian boy arrived on Florida’s maritime border. His next five days detained at sea illuminate the crisis facing children traveling to the U.S. alone and the crews forced to send them back.

Federal Agency Rejects Developer’s Report That Massive Grain Elevator Won’t Harm Black Heritage Sites

For the second time, the Army Corps of Engineers has reprimanded a Louisiana developer for its failure to offer an adequate assessment of the impact that its $400 million project would have on neighboring Black communities and historic sites.

Developers Found Graves in the Virginia Woods. Authorities Then Helped Erase the Historic Black Cemetery.

The cemetery’s disappearance cleared the way for the expansion of a Microsoft data center, despite layers of federal and state regulations nominally intended to protect culturally significant sites.

Army Corps of Engineers to Order New Study of Grain Elevator That Could Harm Black Heritage Sites

Following our reporting, a federal agency says that a proposed grain elevator in Louisiana could harm a historic plantation and asks why a report was changed to minimize discussion of possible damage.

She Warned the Grain Elevator Would Disrupt Sacred Black History. They Deleted Her Findings.

A whistleblower says a plan to build a grain elevator on an old plantation would disrupt important historic sites, including possibly unmarked graves of enslaved people, and that her cultural resource management firm tried to bury her findings.

Eugene Clemons May Be Ineligible for the Death Penalty. A Rigid Clinton-Era Law Could Force Him to Be Executed Anyway.

His lawyers presented no defense at trial. Then a clerk’s office misplaced a plea for his civil rights behind a file cabinet. Now, it’s almost impossible for the federal courts to address the problems with his case.

Should a Mental Illness Mean You Lose Your Kid?

Mindi has never harmed her daughter and is capably raising a son, but authorities took her daughter under a concept sometimes called "predictive neglect."

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