Massive worksite raid, from the bridge to a parking lot, climate change migrants

Daniela Gerson
Apr 4 · 14 min read
ICE arrested more than 250 workers in a North Texas raid Wednesday, making it the largest in more than a decade. Almost everyone who couldn’t prove legal work status began crying, an Ethiopian CVE employee with a green card told journalist Dianne Solis, who reported in a Twitter thread on the raid. After this worker was cleared he received a green paper wristband.

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“On your 18th birthday, immigration officials will come for you,” a lawyer counsels her teenage clients. “You will be shackled, you will be placed in an orange jumpsuit, and you will be taken to jail. ‘But I need you to know you are not a criminal.’” Dr. Edith Bracho-Sanchez writes for CNN that for unaccompanied minors who crossed the border and cannot find a sponsor to take them in, the days before their 18th birthday are filled with fear and anxiety as they prepare to be transferred to adult detention centers.

Smugglers who guide migrants along the journey through Mexico to the U.S. border are thriving despite Trump’s promise to build a border wall — and perhaps because of it, reports CBS News. “The smugglers we spoke to say there’s a cost of doing trade, just as in any business, and as long as there’s demand to move migrants across the border, they will figure out a way to meet it,” says Adam Yamaguchi in a documentary about the business of illegal migration.

“It’s hard to imagine a more self-destructive decision, and it wouldn’t solve the border asylum crisis in any event,” writes the Editorial Board of the Wall Street Journal of Trump’s repeated proclamations that he will shut down the border. “Shutting down legal border traffic would by most estimates halt some $1 billion to $1.2 billion in daily economic activity. That’s more than 1.5% of U.S. GDP.” Economists told The New York Times that shutting down the border would cause a recession in both Mexico and the U.S. The auto industry would be hit particularly hard and could close down since every automaker depends on parts imported from Mexico, reports CNN.

El Paso Holding Pen
On Sunday, CBP transferred all migrants who were being held in an area enclosed by razor wire under an El Paso bridge to a nearby processing center, reports the El Paso Times. VICE News reports the new location was a “parking lot” which some described as worse conditions than under the bridge.

The move came one day after the ACLU filed a complaint about the inhumane conditions of the holding pen, including migrants being forced to sleep on the floor with no blankets for warmth, sleep deprivation tactics and verbal and physical abuse, reports Texas Monthly. “It’s hell in there,” a Honduran who had already rode La Bestia with his teenage brother told BuzzFeed News of the holding pen. “The bridge is one of the worst things I’ve ever experienced.”

Aid to Central America
Trump’s Friday decision to cut $500 million in aid to Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala for failing to curb migration immediately raised questions over his authority to do so and the impact of his decision on these countries. The funds have previously gone to improving the justice system, easing the effects of climate change on farmers, and job training, according to statistics from Washington Office on Latin America.

In a New York Times op-ed, Haverford College professors Anita Isaacs and Anne Preston predict cutting aid would only exacerbate the problems leading to migration, but also pointed out the challenges with aid, which is often distributed ineffectively. Democratic politicians also criticized aid which often goes to state forces that carry out human rights abuses, reports Al Jazeera.

What is Driving the Central American Surge?
In a two-part series about the factors driving migration, The New Yorker reports that about half of the Guatemalans deported from the U.S. last year were from the Western Highlands, a region vulnerable to climate change and home to about 20 percent of the country’s population “Extreme poverty may be the primary reason people leave,” a Guatemalan climate scientist said.“But climate change is intensifying all the existing factors.

In neighboring Honduras, a long-term drought affecting small-scale coffee growers and subsistence farmers is also leading many to migrate, reports PBS Newshour as part of a series on migration from Central America.

Despite similar issues, the Central American surge has largely left out one country from the Northern Triangle which historically has been a source of large numbers of migrants: El Salvador. “In fiscal year 2018, the number of Salvadorans apprehended by Border Patrol decreased 37 percent from the year before to less than 32,000,” Anna-Cat Brigada reports for The World. And while more than 118,000 families from Guatemala and Honduras were apprehended from October 2018 to February 2019, just under 12,000 from El Salvador were during that same period. Some Salvadorans are seeking refuge in other countries in Europe and Latin America as they continue to flee violence. Other factors that explain the smaller number of Salvadorans apprehended at the border include effective violence prevention programs and a population that has aged out of the youth bulge, a disproportionate number of residents ages 18 to 29, reports The Washington Post.

Detentions of Central American migrants in Mexico have remained almost the same under the liberal new administration of Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador, who has claimed to support migrants, reports The Washington Post. Still, that rhetoric may be swaying Central American migrants, reports The New York Times. The growing perception of Mexico as a more welcoming country –even if not backed up by statistics — could be leading more Central Americans to migrate.

The Mexican Interior Secretary last week said that the “mother of all caravans” was forming in Central America. This sparked criticism from activist groups that she stoking fear, reports AP. The Honduran foreign minister also rejected the comment and said that exaggerating the size of the caravan could actually lead to more migration, reports Reuters. A caravan that left San Salvador on Saturday turned out to be much smaller than expected: about 40 people, reports AP.

California Governor Gavin Newsom is traveling to El Salvador this weekend on his first international trip in office to investigate why people are leaving Central America, reports Elizabeth for CALmatters. Newsom also said he is going to Central America because of how the Trump administration has handled the waves of migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border. Elizabeth will be traveling with the Governor and reporting for CALmatters.

Asylum Seekers
On Monday, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen ordered CBP to expand the controversial Remain in Mexico program to send hundreds of asylum seekers to Mexico per day, reports BuzzFeed News. A former CBP official said the administration has “no control,” so they are “trying to do everything they can to deter people from coming right now.” Nielsen also reported a growing trend in fake Guatemalan birth certificates presented at the border to prove a connection between an adult and child, reports NPR. Now agents in Texas are running those documents by the Guatemalan consul, which is finding “about a dozen sham birth certificates a day.”

At least 50 children are waiting in Mexico for the chance to ask for asylum, even though CBP officials have previously said that minors would not have to wait since they are part of a vulnerable group, reports The San Diego Union-Tribune.

Trump proposed another change this week to address the increase in asylum seekers: getting rid of immigration judges, reports Vox. It’s unlikely he could do so, but the comment is part of a larger strategy to restrict asylum seekers’ access to credible fear interviews.

As El Paso receives more asylum seekers, lawyers and advocates worry that asylum seekers’ right to due process is being undermined. An administrative complaint alleges that judges are promoting “a culture of hostility and contempt towards immigrants” in court, reports CNN. Only 4 percent of asylum cases there were approved from 2013 to 2017 compared to 35 percent nation-wide.

The stress on U.S. immigration agency resources caused by the record-number of families crossing the border was predictable and preventable, reports The New York Times. The crisis is not about the number of immigrants, but about not knowing how to process the influx of asylees and dispersing them. “The numbers aren’t that big, but if you’re treating families as criminals and arresting them, holding them, the system can’t handle that,” Princeton sociologist Douglas Massey told The New York Times.“It makes it look like there’s absolute chaos at the border, but the chaos is because we don’t have policies that fit the problem.”

Zoltan Tamas, a 38-year-old Romanian immigrant who worked as a driver for the Trump family, has been detained for eight months as he fights to stay in the U.S., reports The New York Times. The green-card holder, writes Miriam Jordan, “has fallen prey to the crackdown on immigration that is at the top of the president’s national agenda — and letters of support from high-profile businesspeople and his former bosses have so far not helped him win leniency.”

An ICE agent in a Muhammed Ali T-shirt in the back of a Philadelphia courtroom seemed non-threatening, but his presence represents how the agency has ramped up enforcement efforts and targeted low-level offenders for immigration enforcement, reports The Philadelphia Inquirer. After the outlet reported on the case, the Philadelphia sheriff ordered that ICE agents identify themselves to deputies when they are in a courtroom.

In Charlotte, a police department that has adopted sanctuary policies is finding that distinguishing their work from ICE and building trust with immigrants is a daunting task, reports The Charlotte Observer.

First Person
All I know is she came back pounds thinner, with lice and a hacking cough, and she cried for days, traumatized by a government that keeps children from their parents because they are migrants,” writes Sindy Flores, an asylum seeker from Honduras, on the separation from her 18-month-old daughter after the child was taken from her father at the U.S. border and placed in a shelter, in an op-ed for The New York Times.

I travel in fear,” Andreas Gal, a naturalized citizen who was detained by CBP at the airport when returning from an international trip, writes in Medium. “I’ve reduced my international travel and my heart pounds every time I go through U.S. customs. I will, however, not be silent.” Since the incident he has filed a civil rights complaint. These cases are becoming more common as CBP monitors the social media of citizens and collects information on journalists, activists and lawyers.

Trump son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner has been preparing a proposal to allow more low- and high-skilled workers to enter the country after Trump tasked him with coming up with a plan for legal migration, reports Politico. But immigration hawks close to Trump will likely try to thwart the proposal.

The Republican governor of Tennessee announced this week that he plans to ensure an education voucher program only goes to legal residents, which critics believe could violate a 1982 Supreme Court ruling that students can’t be denied a public education because of immigration status, reports AP.

Family Separation
There are parallels between the family separation crisis and the dirty wars in Latin America, which the U.S. sponsored, including emergency declarations, the creation of an enemy, and missing paperwork needed to identify and reunite families, scholars Marcelo M. Suárez-Orozco and Nancy Scheper-Hughes write in the Los Angeles Review of Books.

Immigration Journalism
With border reporting, or immigration reporting, if you’re able to connect people to people, it doesn’t matter if they’re your neighbor or someone who lives across the ocean from you, you’re going to be able to relate on a human level,” says journalist Perla Trevizo of the Arizona Daily Star. The Juarez native does so by finding human stories all readers can connect with, reports PBS Newshour in a mini-profile on covering the Arizona border.

Photographer Tomas van Houtryve took a 19th century wooden camera on the trail along Mexico’s old northern boundary to meet families who have lived there for centuries, reports The New York Times. He interviews and photographs, on glass plates, some of the descendants of the original people who can say the border crossed them after the Mexican-American war that ended in 1848 with the U.S. taking territory that now includes the southwestern states, and Utah and Wyoming.


Jobs, Fellowships & Awards

CQ Roll Call — Immigration and Homeland Security Reporter (DC)
Gannett Co./El Paso Times — Border and Immigration Reporter (TX)
Miami Herald — Immigration/General Assignment Reporter (FL)
Committee to Protect Journalists — Freelance Central America Correspondent, part-time (Central Am)
Southern California Public Radio/KPCC — Editor, Diverse Communities (CA)
San Jose Spotlight — Vietnamese-speaking Reporter and Freelancers (CA)
The Graduate Center at CUNY — International Migration Studies Program, applications due April 15.

Immigration Resources & Opportunities

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

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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. Her latest story was Destination El Salvador: Newsom’s first international trip as governor is a counterpoint to Trump. 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.

Daniela Gerson

Written by

Ass’t Prof @CSUNJournalism and Senior Fellow @CCEMNewmarkJ. Co-creator #MigratoryNotes. Subscribe for free: @dhgerson

Migratory Notes

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

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