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San Diego Native Wins MacArthur ‘Genius’ Grant

Kelly Lytle Hernández, one of the 26 recipients of the 2019 MacArthur Fellows...

Credit: John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation

Above: Kelly Lytle Hernández, one of the 26 recipients of the 2019 MacArthur Fellowship Award, in an undated photo.

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Historian Kelly Lytle Hernández, who grew up in San Diego, is one of this year’s 26 MacArthur Award recipients.

Aired: October 3, 2019 | Transcript

When historian Kelly Lytle Hernández was growing up in San Diego in the 1980s, she had a lot of questions about what she was seeing around her.

"All San Diego residents who were living in the area prior to Operation Gatekeeper and Operation Hold the Line certainly will recall that the presence of the U.S. Border Patrol was far more common in our communities on our streets at schools and transit stations ... I lost far too many friends and neighbors to deportation. And that was a really a terrorizing experience even for myself," she said. "I saw what was happening to Mexicans, through the Border Patrol, through the lens of what was happening to black youth, through the police, and wanted to figure out how these stories were connected."

For the last 20 years, Lytle Hernández, a UC San Diego grad and history professor at UCLA, has been on a quest to find the origins of immigrant detention and mass incarceration in the U.S. This week, the MacArthur Foundation recognized her for her work with a 2019 MacArthur Fellowship, commonly referred to as the "Genius Grant." She is one of 26 recipients.

Lytle Hernández joined Midday Edition on Thursday to discuss her research and what the award means to her.

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KPBS Midday Edition is a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.

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