Migratory Notes 103
National emergency, Salvadoran war reverberations, detention profiteers
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ProPublica engagement reporter Adriana Gallardo shares her own immigration story through her tattoos: a garbage can with flowers inside, an ear of corn, three words in the indigenous language Nahautl, and a tree, in a piece co-published with Guernica. The tattoos helped her understand her own experience, which she was recently forced to confront on a reporting trip to the border. What she had previously thought to be pure luck started to have more meaning. “I had cheated myself out of hard-earned truths, obstructing wisdom worth putting down in black and red, in Tlilli [wisdom], in Tlapalli [writing]. I stand by my luck, but the weight of healing is heavy, even for the lucky ones,” she writes. The story is part of Guernica’s Rewriting the West series, which it describes as “reports and essays that upend our current understandings of citizenship and allow us to reconsider the origin stories and mythologies of Los Angeles, Arizona, the Alamo, and other places we consider part of the U.S. West.” (Migratory Notes board member Fernanda Santos also contributed to the series with the story “The Best Kind of People”: Shifting Definitions of Citizenship and the Making of Arizona.)
Rufina Amaya was one of the only witnesses to El Salvador’s most brutal massacre in El Mozote, where nearly 1,000 people were killed by U.S.-backed Salvadoran military during the civil war. Amaya’s daughter Marta received a survivor’s settlement from the government, making her a target for extortion and eventually causing her to flee the country for the U.S. in spring 2018. Her story signifies how the lack of healing for cycles of violence in the past is triggering Salvadoran migration today. “In fact, you could point to Rufina and Marta’s story to explain the history that many Salvadorans have lived for the last 40 years. It’s like history is in a loop in this violent country,” writes Salvadoran reporter Nelson Rauda for The Daily Beast.
By declaring a national emergency on Friday, Trump plans to amass $8 billion to build a border wall by redirecting funds from various agency budgets, including the Treasury Department, Department of Defense, and Homeland Security. As one lawyer explains, the situation is a result of a precedent set by Congress of appropriating billions of dollars with few conditions, reports NPR. It now falls on Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan to decide if redirecting the funds is necessary from a military standpoint. He has yet to make a decision, reports Vox.
The decision triggered almost immediate legal action, including:
- Texas landowners and environmental groups were among the first to file lawsuits. (The Washington Post)
- Sixteen states, including California, New York and New Mexico, challenged the declaration on constitutional grounds in a lawsuit filed Monday. (AP)
- The ACLU filed a lawsuit on Tuesday challenging the categorization of the situation as an “emergency” and opposing it on constitutional grounds. (USA Today)
- House Democrats began organizing a formal measure to end the emergency through a vote, which they are hoping will garner support from some Republicans. (Politico)
Asylum & Refugees
A makeshift “shelter” housing an estimated 1,800 migrants in Piedras Negras, Mexico across the border from Eagle Pass, Texas was closed by Mexican officials on Tuesday after questions about the grounds for holding them and the conditions of the facility, a warehouse where families allege being separated by gender and never being told when they could leave, reports The Daily Beast. “Journalists, almost without exception, were not allowed to enter the factory, see conditions, and interview migrants. So we talked through the fence,” writes Alice Driver. “And then, on Tuesday, they were gone, shipped off to places harder for the press to find.”
The migrants, mainly from Central America, were guarded by Mexican police and military, who allegedly barred them from crossing the U.S. border and requesting asylum, a right under U.S. and international law, reports the Houston Chronicle. The relocation of the migrants began last week after Mexican officials reported a riot in the facility and feared that the migrants would rush the border, reports The Wall Street Journal. Eighteen migrants stayed behind and were allowed to cross the border and seek asylum, reports the LA Times.
The ACLU sued the Trump administration last week for returning asylum seekers to Mexico, alleging it is against the law and that it puts migrants in harm’s way, reports the San Diego Union-Tribune. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of 11 migrants from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador who reported being victims of violence in Tijuana. Among those who have been returned to Mexico under the program, 13 are minors, reports the Washington Post. (The LA Times recently published a major series investigating how Tijuana has become one of the deadliest cities in the world. The situation is growing more dire as returned migrants put an added stress on already struggling shelters and NGOs in the city, reports Arizona Republic.)
ICE has systematically relocated asylum seekers to jails and prisons located in places with weak support networks for migrants, making it more difficult for them to access legal services, reports Mother Jones. One such place is Tallahatchie, Mississippi, 90 miles from the nearest city.
For asylum seekers who are distrustful of authorities, a Honduran immigrant who went through the same experience before becoming a lawyer puts them at ease and helps them win protection in the U.S., reports The Inquirer.
A 45-year-old Mexican migrant died in Border Patrol custody this week after being diagnosed with severe liver and heart problems, further drawing attention to the need for improved medical care for migrants in U.S. custody, reports USA Today. More medical teams and Border Patrol agents trained as paramedics have been attending migrants at the border and expanding their coverage to more remote areas since the deaths of two Guatemalan children in December, reports the Washington Post.
- In Boston, a hunger strike of an estimated 70 migrants in jail began last week in protest of abuse and inhumane conditions, reports WBUR.
- In El Paso, ICE stopped force-feeding detainees last week who refused to eat in protest after widespread criticism. This week, lawmakers ordered that DHS investigate the conditions at the center, reports AP.
- In New Jersey, a recently released report from the Inspector General of DHS revealed inhumane conditions at a detention center, including expired meat, moldy shower stalls, and mattresses falling apart, reports WNYC.
The governor of Michigan refused to sell a former state prison to a private immigration detention company, given that the company could not ensure that they would not house adults separated from their children, reports Detroit Free Press. Her decision was met by a combination of praise and criticism. The company may now look to buy private land and sidestep the governor’s authority, reports Michigan Advance.
The CEO of private prison company GEO Group, George Zoley, told shareholders last week to expect increased profits given the provisions agreed upon in the recently passed budget proposal, reports Mother Jones.
The recently elected L.A. County Sheriff, who ran on an anti-ICE platform, now faces the challenge of putting his platform into action, reports the LA Times. He is considering steps such as ending the practice of publishing release dates of detainees and removing some misdemeanors from a list of crimes that could lead to deportation. The sheriff is part of a growing number of local law enforcement officials pushing back against policies that require they work with immigration officials because they believe it harms public safety. A judge issued a permanent injunction last week against a Trump administration policy that would have forced law enforcement agencies to cooperate with immigration enforcement in order to receive anti-gang police grants, reports the LA Times.
Mexican officials report that 1,000 Central American migrants from a caravan that arrived in Tijuana in October volunteered to be returned to their home countries and another 1,000 people have decided to stay in Mexico, reports the New York Times.
Mexican officials detained 200 Central Americans who crossed the border from Guatemala on Sunday, but promised to help them obtain humanitarian visas, reports Univision.
TPS & Special Visas
The Trump administration is considering granting Temporary Protected Status to Venezuelans, a plan supported by some Republican legislators including Marco Rubio, even though the administration has rolled back TPS protections for other nationalities, reports The Daily Beast. The proposal has received criticism from immigration hawks who are against providing any legal status and immigration lawyers who say that it will deter Venezuelan migrants from seeking asylum, a more permanent option for staying in the U.S.
Ensuring that an estimated 200,000 Salvadorans in the U.S. with TPS can avoid deportation is one of the top concerns of El Salvador’s president-elect Nayib Bukele. He hopes to improve relations with Washington to try to influence the issue, reports AP.
The Supreme Court decided on Friday that it will hear a case about whether to include a citizenship question on the 2020 census, taking on one of its most controversial cases since Trump appointee Brett Kavanaugh took the bench in a case that will test the limits of executive power, reports The New York Times. The court is expected to rule on the case before the end of June, when the forms are scheduled to be printed.
Trump’s immigration policies may be driving agriculture to automation much quicker than the industry would otherwise. Because the agricultural industry is fueled by immigrant workers it is now facing a labor shortage partially driven by Trump’s immigration crackdown. Companies are hoping that investment in developing automation will fill the gap and keep produce at reasonable prices, reports the Washington Post.
Trump claims to want to increase U.S. competitiveness in the development of artificial intelligence, but would need to open the country to high-skilled workers in the field to do so, causing a conundrum given his mainly anti-immigrant platform, reports Vox.
The U.S. garlic industry has benefitted from Trump’s import taxes on Chinese goods, but is hurt by his immigration policy, an example of the limits of Trump’s trade policy given that many businesses depend on an immigrant workforce, reports NPR. “If the Republican Party is pro-business, if they want to support industries across the country, they need to realize that immigration is a critical function of that,” said the vice president of one of the largest garlic producers in the U.S.
Twenty years ago, Democratic politicians argued for increased border security citing crime and the flow of drugs as threats. Democratic voters now overwhelmingly believe that immigrants are an asset to the country, forcing the politicians who represent them to change their stance, reports NPR.
For ESL students in Texas, immigration policy is never far from their minds, given the impact on their own lives, reports Experience Magazine. Providing a safe space for students is one teacher’s recommended approach. “It is a constant, nagging worry for them. So we do not run from it. I don’t act like my opinion matters. This is their thing. They get to feel how they feel, and like every other teenager in the world, they feel A LOT,” writes Kellye Hooks.
- Two women who were questioned by a Border Patrol agent for speaking Spanish in a Montana convenience store filed a lawsuit against the agency last week for violating their Fourth Amendment rights which allow them the protection from unreasonable searches. (CNN)
- After being detained by immigration enforcement and released on bail, rapper 21 Savage speaks about the immigrant experience in the U.S. (The New York Times)
- USCIS announced Friday that it will implement new regulations to ensure that petitions for spouses involving a minor only involve marriages that are legal and consensual. (AP)
- Hundreds protested a recent crackdown by ICE in North Carolina, in what they believe to be retaliation for local law enforcement’s decision not to cooperate with immigration authorities. (The Charlotte Observer)
Immigration Resources & Opportunities
Recently released immigration books (got one, send it over)
- A Nation of Nations: A Great American Immigration Story, by Tom Gjelten, reports on how the US has changed since the 1965 immigration laws.
- Humanitarianism and Mass Migration Confronting the World Crisis, by Marcelo Suarez-Orozco, reveals how in this young century more than 65 million people have already been forced to leave their homes.
- Origins and Destinations: The Making of the Second Generation, by Renee Reichl Luthra, Thomas Soehl, and Roger Waldinger, investigates children of immigrants in Los Angeles and New York
- Deportation in the Americas, edited by Kenyon Zimmer and Cristina Salinas, explores deportation policy and its global impact
- We Built the Wall: How the US Keeps Out Asylum Seekers from Mexico, Central America and Beyond by Eileen Truax
- Vanishing Frontiers: the Forces Driving Mexico and the United States Together, by Andrew Selee, explores the two countries intertwined histories.
- Homelands: Four Friends, Two Countries, and the Fate of the Great Mexican-American Migration by Dallas Morning News border correspondent Alfredo Corchado
- My Family Divided: One Girl’s Journey of Home, Loss, and Hope by Diane Guerrero with Erica Moroz
- From Here and There: Diaspora Policies, Integration, and Social Rights Beyond Borders, by Alexandra Délano Alonso, is the first book-length guide about consular services.
- Undocumented Lives: The Untold Story of Mexican Migration, about the Mexican government’s support for migration. PRI profiled the book’s author.
- The Making of a Dream: How a group of young undocumented immigrants helped change what it means to be American, by Laura Wides-Muñoz, covers the growth of the Dreamer movement.
Newsletters, Podcasts, & Facebook Groups
- The Global Nation newsletter and Facebook group from PRI’s The World.
- Refugees Deeply: a thrice-weekly newsletter on migration and displacement.
- Migration Information Source from the Migration Policy Institute offers a series of newsletters.
- Documented NY’s Early Arrival newsletter aggregates information on immigration in New York City. They are also launching a Spanish-language newsletter on WhatsApp.
- The Marshall Project newsletter: criminal justice news that regularly intersects with immigration.
- Politico’s Morning Shift newsletter: a daily read on employment and immigration.
- Give Me Your Tired, an (Im)migration Newsletter offers a weekly update on global migration.
- Radio Public curates a list of podcasts about immigration and migration.
- Tempest Tossed, a podcast with “conversations on immigration and refugees that go beyond the predictable soundbites.”
- Displaced, a podcast from the International Rescue Committee.
- A is for America America’s Voice discusses immigrant politics and organizing.
- Only in America: National Immigration Forum’s podcast about the people behind immigration issues.
- Moving Stories is an app and curriculum to capture and share immigrant stories.
- Re-imagining immigration has resources and lessons to teach about migration, immigration, refugees, and civic empowerment through history, literature, and the sciences
- The Advocates for Human Rights and the Immigration History Research Center at UMN free curriculum that helps students learn about U.S. immigration through personal narratives: Teaching Immigration with the Immigrant Stories Project
- Imm-print publishes an Immigration Detention Syllabus.
Reporting resources, tools and tips
- Covering Immigration Enforcement webinar from Poynter with Marshall Project contributing writer Julia Preston,
- The Pew Research Center offers a mini email course on immigrationto the U.S.
- Tools for covering ICE from the Columbia Journalism Review
- Migration Reporting Resources (Global Investigative Journalism Network)
- Resources for Investigating Visas (Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting)
- Reporting on Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Immigrants (90 Days, 90 Voices)
- Immigration Data Resources: An extensive, and growing, list of immigration resources curated by PRI’s Angilee Shah and shared as part of her presentation on finding immigration stories at NICAR 2018.
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 of Journalism at California State University, Northridge and West Coast Director of the Center for Community and Ethnic Media(CCEM) at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at City University of New York (CUNY). Previously she was a community engagement editor at the LA Times; 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 care policy 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 worked for the Denver Post covering urban affairs and immigration. Recently 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