Elizabeth Aguilera
Feb 28 · 11 min read

Asylum seekers without lawyers, border military, undocumented spouses

Chilapa de Álvarez, in the southwestern state of Guerrero, has one of the highest homicide rates in Mexico and is the source of a wave of migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. The police patrolled the local cemetery on Day of the Dead. Credit: Omar Ornelas/The Desert Sun

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!

Mexicans used to leave the southern state of Guerrero for economic reasons, but now many are fleeing violence, reports the Desert Sun in a package of stories funded by the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting. “As international attention has focused on caravans of Central American migrants arriving at the U.S. border to seek asylum, the exodus of people fleeing the fallout from Mexico’s drug war has received less notice,” Rebecca Plevin and Omar Ornelas write. “Since 2007, the number of Mexican asylum applications adjudicated has increased by nearly 18 times.” The package also provides a detailed look at how cartels are using social media and technology to terrorize the region.

A Guatemalan mom, who claims she was raped and derided for being Q’eqchi, sought asylum in the U.S., only to be separated from her child and detained for nine months. The 5-year-old girl was turned over to her father but she is among the thousands of cases of children separated from their parent(s) at the border that have not been categorized as a family separation. As a result, the number of children separated likely far exceeds the government tally, reports The Houston Chronicle. “The Border Patrol agent told Sara Caal that she was taking her 5-year-old daughter to get a cookie and would bring her right back. She never did,” writes Lomi Kriel.

National Emergency
The House voted Tuesday to end Trump’s declaration of a national emergency, with 13 Republicans joining the effort to prevent the president from diverting funding to a border wall. Four Senate Republicans would have to support the “resolution of disapproval” to stop the president’s initiative in a vote in the coming weeks. Three have already said they will support it.

New data obtained by The Washington Post further disproves Trump’s allegation that criminal immigrants are flooding the country. Almost 63 percent of immigrants in detention at the time of the declaration had no criminal record.

More than 50 former national security officials from across the political spectrum, including former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, sent a letter to Trump Monday saying that his declaration of a national emergency is unjustified.

Zero Tolerance
Trump officials told the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday that they were aware of warnings that separating children from their families would cause trauma, but did not take action to stop the separations, reports The Washington Post. Three more high-level Trump officials, including DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and Attorney General William Barr, were subpoenaed on Tuesday as Democrats intensify their scrutiny of the family separation policy, reports The New York Times.

Despite months of advanced planning to implement a zero-tolerance policy, DHS did not send instructions to border officials about how to carry out the policy until after it went into effect, reports BuzzFeed News.

DHS operations to target illegal smuggling rings have decreased since Trump took office and some resources have been shifted to low-level enforcement tasks in order to prioritize detaining and deporting migrants, The Atlantic and ProPublica reports. Human smuggling cases dropped nearly 60 percent in Trump’s first year in office, from 3,920 to 1,671.

Workplace enforcement has increased roughly 305 percent in the past fiscal year, but criminal indictments and convictions have remained steady, the Voice of San Diego reports.

Vietnamese refugees, many who fought alongside U.S. troops during the Vietnam War, worry that Trump’s trip to Hanoi this week could lead to an agreement to deport more than 8,000 Vietnamese nationals who were previously shielded from deportation by a 2008 agreement, reports Bloomberg Businessweek.

Asylum & Refugees
A protest organized by drag queens at the border last weekend drew attention to the issues facing LGBT migrants and raised money for LGBT charities, reports NBC News.

A trans woman from El Salvador who sought asylum in the U.S. but was returned to her country was murdered, reports BuzzFeed News. It’s not clear if she was beaten to death by sex workers or authorities. Latin America has the highest rate of murdered trans people in the world, reports Vice and Broadly, in a story about a group of trans women that have banded together to demand improved detention conditions and support asylum seekers.

Attorney General William Barr could review a case that would limit asylum protections for family members of people who have received threats, which is currently considered a particular social group under asylum law, reports NBC News.

Asylum seekers sent back to Mexico under the “Remain in Mexico” policy may have to go through the asylum process without legal representation, given that U.S. immigration lawyers are unsure if they are allowed to represent asylum-seekers in Mexico or if they have the resources to send lawyers to Mexico to do so, reports the San Diego Union-Tribune.

A Honduran teen who traveled with a migrant caravan planned to seek asylum in the U.S., but he was murdered in Tijuana, reports The Intercept. The case shows the dangers that young migrants face during all parts of the journey.

Since October, Jackson, Mississippi has become a stopping place for asylum seekers en route from the border to destinations across the south, the Mississippi Clarion Ledger reports.

California’s attorney general recently released the findings of the first state inspection of detention facilities, which revealed that migrants are confined to their cells for up to 22 hours a day and have little access to doctors and lawyers, reports the LA Times.

As the detention system has expanded, abuse often goes unpunished. Thousands of unaccompanied minors have reported sexual abuse while in U.S. custody since 2015, reports Axios. In most cases, the alleged perpetrator was another minor, but there were also 178 cases of adult staff accused of sexual abuse.

In Aurora, Colorado an immigration attorney alleges that private prison company GEO Group has opened a second detention facility without the proper permit despite widespread reports of improper medical care and regular chickenpox and mumps outbreaks, reports Vice News.

A Honduran woman delivered a stillborn baby ICE custody last week, but the agency is not categorizing the case as an in-custody death, reports The Daily Beast. BuzzFeed News has previously reported on the lack of medical care for pregnant women in detention.

Records released by the ACLU Monday show that a U.S. citizen Marine veteran was wrongfully held in ICE detention in December because of racial profiling, reports NBC News.

In a visit to the border this week, Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan emphasized long-term solutions to border security, suggesting that the nearly 6,000 troops there temporarily could become permanent, reports Foreign Policy. Critics worry that this points to a militarization of domestic security.

Meanwhile, Wisconsin’s governor issued an executive order Tuesday to withdraw National Guard troops from the Arizona border, becoming the latest governor to challenge Trump’s border crisis narrative, reports KBJR. There are about 112 soldiers from Wisconsin on the border.

The fate of a historic chapel in Texas near the U.S.-Mexico border is unclear after Trump’s declaration of a national emergency, but a local priest and his congregation are fighting to save it, reports The Atlantic in text and a compelling video.

A nonprofit in Nogales, Arizona organizes culinary tours of both sides of the U.S-Mexico border to reveal that the border region has a culture to explore beyond conflict, reports PRI’s The World.

TPS & Special Visas
More than 37,000 visa applications from countries affected by the travel ban were denied in 2018, compared to less than1,000 the year before, reports Reuters. Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen were the countries most affected, with visa approvals decreasing by 80 percent since 2016.

A group of U.S. citizens with undocumented spouses are pushing Congress to change legislation that requires their spouses to leave the country for 10 years in order to legalize their immigration status, reports The Center for Public Integrity and PRI’s The World.

A judge granted citizenship to the son of a same-sex couple after being previously denied based on the Israeli citizenship of the father, reports AP. LGBT activists say the case is part of a trend of denying citizenship to the children of same-sex couples.

A naturalized citizen born in Pakistan is fighting the government’s effort to strip him of his citizenship based on the claim that he became a permanent resident fraudulently, reports The Intercept. The case is an example of the Trump administration’s expanding denaturalization efforts.

Skilled workers applying for H-1B visas have faced increasing complications since 2017, leading to delays that are affecting workers and businesses, reports AP. “They’re just blocking the avenues so that employers will get frustrated and they won’t employ foreign nationals,” said one immigration lawyer.

An investigation into a massage parlor in South Florida that involved several prominent men including New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, also revealed a sex trafficking ring that lured Chinese women to the U.S. with the false promise of a better life, reports The New York Times.

As the movie “Roma” wins more accolades, it has inspired domestic workers in the U.S., many of them immigrants and undocumented workers, to fight for better conditions, reports Real America with Jorge Ramos.


Immigration Resources & Opportunities

Ronny Rojas, a former data editor at Univision and current Knight Fellow at Stanford, is investigating creating a network of investigative immigration reporters. He is asking journalists and editors to take his brief survey.

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 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. She recently reported Trump’s under-the-radar $1 abortion idea: Will it undermine Obamacare in California?. 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, Mirta Ojito, 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