Migratory Notes 111

Elizabeth Aguilera
Apr 19 · 13 min read

More detention centers, Panama’s border, visa restrictions

Illinois is trying to pass a law that would keep a new immigrant detention center from being built near Chicago. This mural is painted on 18th St. in the city’s Pilsen neighborhood. Credit: Seth Anderson

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“In an era of travel bans, anti-immigration sentiment and terrorist attacks on mosques, anxieties among many Muslims are high. If they happen to be Muslim survivors of abuse, the fear can be paralyzing,” writes Adriana Carranca in The New York Times. That’s why many Muslim women in abusive relationships, sometimes as a result of arranged marriages, often fear coming forward. A women’s shelter in Brooklyn has seen an increase in Muslim immigrant women seeking their services because they are too scared to go to the authorities.

Migrants from outside of Latin America still make up a small percentage of border crossers in the U.S., but they are growing in number. As it has become more difficult to receive refugee status in the U.S., more African migrants have crossed the U.S.-Mexico border, by first flying to South America and then traveling north by land, reports The Washington Post. Now, hundreds are waiting in southern Mexico for transit permits that they allege are being denied them on racist grounds.

Sanctuary Cities
Democrats have launched an investigation into a Trump plan to release immigrants in sanctuary cities such as San Francisco, Boston and New York, reports Politico. The Washington Post reported the president’s goal was to retaliate against his political opponents, including Nancy Pelosi. “Using human beings — including little children — as pawns in their warped game to perpetuate fear and demonize immigrants is despicable,” a spokeswoman for Pelosi said.

The plan was rejected twice because of legal concerns and logistical complications, once in November and again in February. It remains unclear if Trump will still try to put his proposal into action. In an interview Sunday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said that Trump “likes the idea” but that the plan may still not move forward. Leaders in sanctuary cities say they would welcome the immigrants and some are already gearing up and working with non-profit organizations.

Immigrant detention has continued to expand as Trump has railed against “catch and release” policies. On Tuesday, Attorney General William Barr decided that asylum seekers in expedited removal proceedings will not be released on bond, a decision that is expected to lead to thousands more asylum seekers in detention. Families with minor children will not be affected by this new policy.

The U.S. government set up two more detention facilities under U.S. Army tents near El Paso, where hundreds of migrants have been held in “fetid conditions” without showers, clean clothes or diapers for their babies, reports The Daily Beast. These types of facilities will likely continue to be erected along the border.

CBP plans to build two additional “temporary” facilities to detain migrant children and families in El Paso and Donna, Texas that will cost $37 million and would remain open for an estimated eight months, according to work orders reviewed by Quartz.

The Illinois House passed a bill last week to prevent the construction of an immigrant detention center near Chicago by widening an existing law against private prisons, reports The Chicago Tribune.

Immigration is an International Issue
Panama quietly works closely with the U.S. to deter the tens of thousands of migrants who are trying to get to the U.S. through the dangerous Darien Gap, reports Lawfare. Most of these migrants come from Africa or Asia and travel first to Brazil or Ecuador because of their lax immigration laws. U.S. funding for Panamanian security forces increased 800 percent from 2014 to 2016, much of which goes towards patrolling the Darien Gap and apprehending migrants.

The U.S. government deported the husband of a U.S. soldier killed in Afghanistan, leaving their daughter alone in the U.S., and then quickly reversed the decision because of the public outcry, reports The Arizona Republic. The man was allowed to return this week and reunited with his 12-year-old daughter. News of his deportation caused outrage that many believe pushed the U.S. government to approve his return. “The government can exercise its discretion not to pursue deportation against the sole remaining parent of a U.S. citizen child,” said the ACLU’s deputy legal director, who called the deportation “unnecessary.”

Matthew Albence has been selected as acting ICE Director, reports BuzzFeed News. Albence is best known on Capitol Hill for comparing detention centers to summer camp. “It’s hard to imagine what’s tougher than what Nielsen and Vitiello were doing, but assuming there is such a thing, Matt is certainly up to the task,” said one former ICE official.

Two officials reported that Trump told acting DHS secretary Kevin McAleenan that he would pardon him if McAleenan was jailed for illegally denying asylum seekers entry into the U.S., reports CNN. Trump denied the comments.

The town of Yuma, Arizona declared a state of emergency on Tuesday after CBP apprehended 1,000 migrants in three days in the area, which previously didn’t see many migrants passing through, reports The New York Times. The mayor is asking for government resources from FEMA.

The U.S. government has stalled on testing DNA samples collected over the past six years by the Missing Migrant Project from family members of migrants who have gone missing en route to the U.S., reports The Globe and Mail. Six months ago, the Inter-American Court ordered the FBI to speed up the process, but it has not advanced. “It would end years of searching, uncertainty and excruciating pain for hundreds of families,” said a forensic anthropologist working to help identify the bodies.

Border Patrol has been under scrutiny for how it has cracked down on immigration, but in some places along the border, it’s seen as an important employer and part of the community, reports The New York Times. For decades, working as a Border Patrol agent has been a “bedrock middle-class job for generations of Mexican-American families.”

Immigration Data
Where do migrants go after they are released from immigration enforcement custody? Data shows that many continue to seek out urban centers where immigrant networks have grown over decades, including Houston, Los Angeles and Washington D.C., reports The Washington Post. The data, based on a sample of 1,545 immigrants released to an El Paso non-profit, also reveals some surprises. Many immigrants head to parts of the Southeast and Midwest, which were uncommon destinations for immigrants in the past.

Immigrants were the driving reason for the growth in 10% of U.S. counties during the last fiscal year because of aging and low birth rates among Americans, reports The Wall Street Journal. The counties include large metros, where this data is not a surprise, like Houston and Miami but also include Cincinnati, Buffalo, Albuquerque and Nashville.

Remittances reached an all-time high in 2018, with migrants abroad sending $529 billion back to their home countries, reports Foreign Policy. The U.S. is still the largest sender of remittances but the amount sent from Russia and Gulf countries has grown recently.

Visas & Citizenship
The Trump administration is considering placing visa restrictions on travelers from countries with the highest rates of visa overstays, reports Politico. The restriction would mainly affect visitors from African countries, including Chad, Liberia and South Sudan. The overstay rates for the countries in question are between 10 and 42 percent, but actually represent a minuscule number of people, leading to questions of whether the proposal is racially motivated, reports Pacific Standard.

More immigrants, particularly from Mexico, are being denied visas under the public charge designation that allows consular officers to deny visas if an immigrant uses or may use American welfare services, reports Reuters. “The refusals, capping an often complex and lengthy application process, can trap people for months or longer outside the United States, separated from American spouses and children, as they renew their efforts to legally return. Some may never be able to go back,” write Yeganeh Torbati and Kristina Cooke.

Attorney General William Barr is expected to change the rules to make it easier for some appellate immigration judges to declare their rulings binding and to expand the practice of one judge determining the outcome of a handful of cases at once, which would not allow judges to consider the details of particular cases, reports San Francisco Chronicle.

Many of Trump’s immigration policies have been halted permanently or temporarily through court rulings, but his advisors, including Stephen Miller, are now urging Trump to disregard these rulings to push his hardline immigration policies out of fear that he will taint his legacy by failing to follow through on his immigration promises, reports USA Today.

New York state decided Wednesday to prohibit courthouse arrests of undocumented immigrants unless ICE has a warrant signed by a judge, becoming the first state to bar courthouse immigration arrests, reports the Times Union.

Democratic presidential candidates are pitching ideas on nearly every other topic but immigration even though Trump has made it a defining issue of his presidency, reports The New Yorker. That is, nearly all except candidate Julián Castro, who has created a detailed immigration platform. His plan includes reversing the travel ban and decriminalizing the act of crossing the border illegally.

It’s not just poverty that is driving the continuing immigration to the West, argues David Frum, but that millions of people now have the means to leave. This poses questions for governments beyond a binary approach to immigration of building a wall or deciding to have open borders. Liberals have failed to address these concerns, writes Frum in the Atlantic, opening up the door to right-wing anti-immigrant politicians like Trump. “If liberals insist that only fascists will enforce borders, then voters will hire fascists to do the job liberals refuse to do.” He argues that reducing immigration and selecting immigrants carefully will help the country and ensure equal opportunity for new and native-born Americans.

A caravan of about 1,000 people departed from San Pedro Sula, Honduras last week to travel to the U.S. On Friday, about 350 migrants broke through a gate at the Guatemalan border with Mexico as they made their way to meet the caravan already in southern Mexico, reports AP. By Wednesday, the group had grown to about 2,000 people, mainly from Honduras, reports CNN en Español.

Tax Day
Undocumented immigrants were among those who hurried to file their taxes this week, and they paid an estimated $27.2 billion, reports Quartz.


Jobs, Fellowships & Awards

Families for Freedom — Organizer (NYC)
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)

Newsletters, Podcasts, & Facebook Groups

Curriculum & Campaigns

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“Because we punch above our weight:” Gov. Newsom says California deserves bigger say in U.S. immigration policy. 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.

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