Elizabeth Aguilera
Feb 7 · 13 min read

Travel ban separations, SOTU promises, a private wall

A classroom in a Long Island school that was the site of a brutal anti-immigrant hate-crime murder a decade ago. Since then, despite the area’s reputation, it has revamped its programs to be more supportive of students from Central America. The story is part of a series from the Hechinger Report and Huff Post on the impact of the immigration policies on schools, which also includes a piece on studying while seeking sanctuary. Photo by Sarah Garland

Know someone who might like Migratory Notes? Please help us spread the word: Here’s the subscribe form and here’s an archive on Medium. Got a story or an immigration-related resource or opportunity we should know about? Send it on!

Dallas Morning News reporter Julieta Chiquillo was one of 95,000 people that the Texas Secretary of State flagged as potential non-citizen voters. She discovered she was on the list because she registered to vote with a driver’s license that she obtained legally, but has not updated since she became a citizen. Chiquillo began searching for information about other people wrongfully put on the list but found few answers. “Here I am today, a statistic being used to vilify immigrants. All because of an innocent discrepancy,” Chiquillo writes.
It is suspected that at least 20,000 names were put on the list by mistake. “Maybe one day we’ll know just how many Texans were unjustifiably swept up by this list,” Chiquillo writes.

Arrangements that deputize local officers to arrest immigrants have increased dramatically under the Trump administration. Radio Ambulante visits a Central Florida community that is feeling the impact with undocumented immigrant families afraid to answer the door, organizers creating rapid text broadcasts that share where police are located, and a minority affairs police official who feels his force is being maligned unfairly.

Two years since the travel ban went into effect, two married couples tell their stories of living in the limbo of separation. “Americans now have the right to marry whoever they want, but under President Trump’s travel ban, they are no longer guaranteed the right to live here in the United States with their foreign-born spouse,” says Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian in a video showcasing two love stories interrupted.

State of the Union
President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address Tuesday called for unity, while offering no sign of compromise on immigration issues dividing politicians. His speech was filled with false statements about a crisis at the border, undocumented immigrants committing crimes at higher rates, and the growing presence of MS-13, which the Washington Post fact-checked. Trump unexpectedly said he wants to increase legal immigration, but provided no specifics of how he would do it while his administration has restricted legal migration by granting fewer visas and approved fewer refugees, reports Slate.

In the speech, Trump did not mention the possibility of calling a state of emergency to get funding for the border wall, which Republicans reject based on concerns that doing so would set a precedent for future Democratic leaders to do the same, reports Politico.

Among those in attendance were undocumented workers recently fired from Trump’s golf club. “Very sad that he doesn’t change his position but happy that we’re there to tell the truth, to remind him of those who work for him,” Sandra Diaz told CNN after the speech. Some residents along the California-Mexico border paid little mind to the promises in the speech, given that they don’t believe a border wall will help solve their problems and because they embrace the cultural exchange at the border, reports The New York Times.

Immigration is an International Issue
They are sometimes called American Mexicans, los invisibles, or los otrosDreamers. More than 600,000 U.S. citizen school-age children live in Mexico, many of them taken with family members who were deported or left in fear of deportation, reports California Sunday Magazine. “American students in Mexico frequently end up in rural schools, the ones with the fewest resources to help them. No public schools offer Spanish as a Second Language classes, and less than 5 percent of their teachers speak any English,” Brooke Jarvis writes. “Many families, especially if they were deported unexpectedly, have trouble assembling and authenticating all the various documents that are needed to enroll, which means that kids end up missing months or even years of instruction. Some never return to a classroom. “

El Salvador’s new president-elect Nayib Bukele has promised to address the widespread violence and inequality that drives migrants to the U.S., but the same formula the 37-year-old former mayor used may not be as successful at fixing the problems on a nation-wide scale, reports Migratory Notes’ Anna-Cat Brigida for Foreign Policy.

CBP announced last Thursday that it had made the largest seizure of fentanyl ever, reports the Washington Post. The seizure happened at a legal point of entry, further evidence that a border wall would not stop the flow of drugs across the border.

On Tuesday, New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham, the first Latina Democratic governor of the state, ordered the state’s National Guard to withdraw troops from the border in a move that challenged Trump’s narrative of a “border crisis,” reports NBC. In Arizona, other army soldiers provoked residents and local officials when they added more barbed wire to fencing in Nogales last weekend, reports Nogales International.

As the Trump administration has made it more difficult for migrants to seek asylum, smugglers and criminal groups are profiting, charging up to $30,000 to help a family of four cross the U.S.-Mexico border, reports USA Today.

More asylum seekers have been sent back to Mexico this week under the “Remain in Mexico” policy in a process that has been chaotic and confusing to migrants, mainly from Central America, who are given information packets in English and struggle to figure out where to go in Mexico, reports PRI’s The World.

Border Wall
As Trump has failed to secure federal funding to build a border wall, some of his wealthy supporters have hatched a plan to build a wall with private funding on private land with the help of an Israeli firm that has constructed a fence along the Gaza Strip border, reports Politico. “In what amounted to a kind of #MAGA field trip, former Trump strategist Steve Bannon, former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, former Colorado Rep. Tom Tancredo, baseball legend Curt Schilling, and former Sheriff David Clarke convened to plan construction of a wall along the southern border. Blackwater founder Erik Prince phoned in from South Africa,” Ben Schreckinger writes, with Bannon alleging that while they do not have the billion plus dollars needed, they could raise it. Trump reportedly approves of the plan.

CBP has contracted Anduril Industries, the company of 26-year-old entrepreneur Trump-supporter Palmer Luckey to expand technology in California to ramp up border security and detect illegal crossings, at a moment when Trump continues to emphasize the need for a physical barrier, reports the Washington Post.

Refugees are helping to revive Rust Belt cities where jobs have been lost and businesses shuttered, reports CityLab.

Refugees fleeing human rights abuses or religious persecution often require mental health services to address their trauma when they arrive, and these types of programs are growing in the U.S., reports LAist.

Reporting Across Borders
Mexico denied entry last week to two immigration activists and two journalists after their passports were flagged, reports LA Times. It is unclear who issued the alerts, but all had worked with the migrant caravans in some capacity and some suspect the denial of entry was retaliation for their work possibly by the United States

CBP issued an apology this week for “inappropriate remarks” made to BuzzFeed News deputy breaking news director David Mack when he was returning from an international trip. Mack is an Australian citizen and tweeted that he was being “grilled” about the outlet’s coverage of the investigation into Trump’s ties with Russia, reports BuzzFeed News.

Rapper 21 Savage, a UK national who allegedly overstayed his visa, was detained by ICE on Sunday, a week after criticizing the Trump administration’s immigration policies on The Tonight Show. His lawyers maintain that he is being wrongfully detained and the U.S. has known about his immigration status since 2017 when he applied for a new visa, reports AP. Immigrant rights groups have criticized ICE for engaging in tactics to damage the rapper’s reputation in order to create an “us vs. them” dichotomy, an overstep of the agency’s power, reports Pacific Standard.

A father and chemistry teacher from Bangladesh who has lived in the U.S. for 30 years was arrested by ICE in Kansas in January, reports The Kansas City Star. An online petition asking to allow him to stay now has at least 10,000 signatures.

DHS announced new visa restrictions on Ghanian nationals in response to the country’s refusal to accept deportees, reports CNN. Ghana is the fourth country that the U.S. has imposed these types of sanctions on since 2017.

Immigrant Affairs
San Diego’s Republican mayor has decided his administration will hire an immigrant affairs manager as part of an initiative to make the city more welcoming to immigrants, reports the San Diego Union-Tribune. “At the end of the day, we don’t get to set federal policy on immigration — who comes in and who goes out — but what we do have control over is making people feel welcome in our city,” said a representative of the mayor’s office.

Voting Rights
In August 2018, a Trump-appointed prosecutor arrested 20 immigrants on allegations of voter fraud during the 2016 presidential elections. It was the biggest sweep under the Trump administration, at a time when Republicans wanted to portray illegal voting by non-citizen immigrants as a major threat, reports the Washington Post. The prosecutor decided to focus on prosecuting non-citizens for voting despite allegations of a ballot-tampering initiative with larger implications for voting fraud.

As many as 30 migrants at a detention center in El Paso have refused to eat as part of a hunger strike to protest verbal abuse and threats of deportation, reports AP. In mid-January, a judge authorized force-feeding through nasal tubes, which is causing nosebleeds and vomiting.

A recently released DHS report shows that ICE was aware of 14,000 “deficiencies” in private contracting facilities, which include cases of sexual assault, employee misconduct, and mistreatment of detainees, but only issued fines for two of these cases.

Immigration Data
The Intercept gained access to a Republican Party newsletter sent out to GOP representatives, detailing the crimes committed by immigrants in their districts, which appears to be part of a coordinated effort to portray immigrants as criminals despite statistics showing this to be misleading.

The percentage of undocumented immigrants in the general population has decreased in every border state except Texas since 2007, countering Trump’s claim that undocumented immigrants are “invading” these areas, reports Axios. The largest decrease was in Arizona, where the population share decreased by 45 percent from 2007 to 2016.

A statistic mentioned in the SOTU address and previously reported in many media outlets that six in ten migrant women are sexually assaulted in Mexico does not check out, given that it derives from a report more than two decades ago, other anecdotal evidence, and another report with a small sample size, reports the Washington Post.

Trump credited a decrease in crime in El Paso to a border wall, but statistics do not show a correlation between lower crimes rates and construction of a border fence in 2008, reports the Washington Post and El Paso Times.

Climate Change
Evidence shows that DHS has admitted, at least internally, that climate change can cause instability and migration, reports Longreads. But countries continue to build up borders to keep out migrants while failing to make any significant changes to address the polluters that contribute to climate change.


Immigration Resources & Opportunities

Recently released immigration books (got one, send it over)

Newsletters, Podcasts, & Facebook Groups


Reporting resources, tools and tips

If there’s a story or immigration-related opportunity you think we should consider, please send us an email.

*Daniela Gerson is a co-founder and the editor of Migratory Notes. She is an assistant professor at California State University, Northridge with a focus on community, ethnic, and participatory media. She is also a senior fellow at theDemocracy Fund. Before that she was a community engagement editor at the LA Times; founding editor of a trilingual hyperlocal publication, Alhambra Source; staff immigration reporter for the New York Sun; and a contributor to outlets including WNYC: New York Public Radio, The World, Der Spiegel, Financial Times, CNN, and The New York Times. She recently wrote The Grand Refugee Hotel: The Sequel to My Grandfather’s Germany for Refugees Deeply. You can find her on Twitter @dhgerson

*Elizabeth Aguilera is a co-founder and the executive editor of Migratory Notes. She is a multimedia reporter for CALmatters covering health and social services, including immigration. Previously she reported on community health, for Southern California Public Radio. She’s also reported on immigration for the San Diego Union-Tribune, where she won a Best of the West award for her work on sex trafficking between the U.S. and Mexico; and before that she covered a variety of beats and issues for the Denver Post including urban affairs and immigration. This week, she moderated a panel for Zocalo Public Square about How Immigrants are Influencing Health. You can find her on Twitter@1eaguilera

*Yana Kunichoff is a special projects editor for Migratory Notes. She currently covers public education for Chalkbeat Chicago. She was project manager for Migrahack 2016 in Chicago. She has also produced feature-length documentaries and a pop-culture web series for Scrappers Film Group; worked as a fellow with City Bureau, where she won a March 2016 Sidney Hillman award for an investigation into fatal police shootings; and covered race and poverty issues for the Chicago Reporter. Her work has appeared in The Guardian, The Atlantic, Pacific Standard and Chicago magazine among others. You can find her on Twitter @yanazure

*Anna-Cat Brigida is a staff writer for Migratory Notes. She is a freelance reporter covering immigration and human rights in Mexico and Central America. She began covering immigration as a journalism student at USC Annenberg and later moved to Central America to work as a reporter. She has covered the region since 2015 and has been based in El Salvador since January 2018. She has also worked as a Spanish-language writer for Fusion out of the Mexico City office. Her work has appeared in Washington Post, The Guardian, Univision, LA Times, and Al Jazeera, among others. You can find her on Twitter @AnnaCat_Brigida

*Migratory Notes Advisory Board: Daniel Connolly, Maria Kari, Dan Kowalski, Paola Marizán, Roberto Suro, Phuong Ly, Fernanda Santos

Migratory Notes

At a time of rapidly shifting policies, we publish a weekly concise and insightful guide to immigration news.

Elizabeth Aguilera

Written by

Health/Social Services reporter @CALmatters, co-founder of #MigratoryNotes. I carry a mic & a pen. Prev: @KPCC @SDUT, @DenverPost. elizabeth@calmatters.org

Migratory Notes

At a time of rapidly shifting policies, we publish a weekly concise and insightful guide to immigration news.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade