Elizabeth Aguilera
Apr 25 · 12 min read

Stuck in the U.S., one lawyer’s crusade, citizenship census

Border Patrol found a 3-year-old boy alone near the Brownsville, Texas. The agency suspects a larger group of migrants left the boy behind and are searching for his parents. The toddler had his name and a phone number scrawled on his shoes. Credit: Customs and Border Protection

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“At night, Joaquin says, he sat with his son, wiping away pigeon droppings that fell from under the bridge where the pigeons mated. He remembers staring at his son and asking him for forgiveness,” writes Alfredo Corchado in The Dallas Morning News. In a detailed and riveting account, Corchado tells the story of one Guatemalan man who discovered he had been sold a $6,000 lie that wiped out his family assets and put them into debt. Now as he applies for asylum he is telling others to stay home. But after five days in detention he is living with relatives, earned $100 in a day, which would take two weeks in Guatemala, and more relatives are on their way despite his warnings.

Former Trump administration officials said that White House aide Stephen Miller personally intervened in immigration cases to request individuals be deported, a sign of his unprecedented and granular role in immigration policy, Gabby Orr and Andrew Restuccia write in a profile in Politico. “We tried to protect as many people from Miller and his requests as possible,” a former DHS official told Politico. “When he started going lower and calling random career officials, we would have to go and say, ‘If Stephen calls you, elevate it immediately and do not answer.’”

Census & Citizenship
Conservative Supreme Court Justices defended adding a citizenship question to the 2020 census on the grounds that it would help enforce voting rights when the Court heard arguments in the case Tuesday. Justices Gorsuch and Alito doubted the veracity that it would actually decrease immigrant participation. Liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor was particularly strident in questioning the government’s motives: “Are you suggesting they don’t have, whether it is rational or not, that they don’t have a legitimate fear?” The court must make a decision in the case before the term ends in June 2019 because forms will have to go to print shortly afterward.

Trump ordered the secretary of state and secretary of homeland security to develop proposals within four months to deal with visa overstays, which account for nearly half of the country’s 11 million undocumented immigrants, reports USA Today.

Weed & Housing
Green card holders suspected of using marijuana, even in states where it is legal, could be prevented from becoming naturalized citizens after USCIS issued guidance Friday that urged officers to consider the lack of “good moral character” even if the green card holder does not have a criminal offense, reports ThinkProgress.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) last week proposed to change a rule in order to prevent undocumented immigrants from living in public housing, reports The New York Times. Critics say the proposal will not significantly improve problems with the public housing system that lead to long wait times, reports CityLab. Instead, families with mixed immigration status could find themselves without affordable housing.

Border Militia
The FBI arrested a member of a right-wing militia group illegally detaining migrants along the New Mexico border on Saturday for illegal possession of a firearm. The arrest came just days after the ACLU of New Mexico called on the governor and attorney general to investigate the group, known as the United Constitutional Patriots, reports The Albuquerque Journal.

The militia group has relied on fundraising platforms including PayPal, GoFundMe and Facebook, all of which have since taken action to prohibit the group’s efforts to raise money, reports Slate. On Tuesday, the group was kicked out if its campsite in the New Mexican desert, reports BuzzFeed News. But the militia wants to continue policing the border and calls doing so their “God-given right,” reports The New York Times.

Border
Border Patrol agents found a three-year-old boy alone at the Texas-Mexico border Tuesday, reports NBC News. They believe the boy was left there by smugglers. The only information to identify him was a name and number written on his shoes. He is not an anomaly, reports The New York Times.

Border Patrol is investigating the behavior of an agent who was filmed screaming at migrants to move like cattle, reports ABC-7. The agency’s protocol requires that agents are polite and respectful.

A digital civil liberties group has called on Facebook to investigate fake social media accounts made by immigration agents and other law enforcement officials for sting operations, which violates Facebook’s terms of use, reports The Guardian.

Kids Detained at Guantanamo?
The Defense Department is seeking additional detention space for migrants outside of the border region in jails and military bases, reports The New York Times. One plan even considered housing migrant children at Guantanamo Bay. But activists are wary of claims by ICE officials that they are “overwhelmed” by the influx of Central American families because current facilities are not being used to their full capacity, reports AP. In recent weeks, the number of detainees at three detention centers has been reduced. “We believe that this is part of trying to justify a narrative,” said the director of an organization that provides legal aid to immigrants.

A transgender woman from Honduras was released from detention this week, after being held in detention for seven months after she was granted asylum because ICE appealed her case, reports The Guardian. Her case highlights how detention of asylum seekers has increased under the Trump administration.

ICE has struggled to adapt to an increase in pregnant women crossing the border and has instead leaned on NGOs and private shelters to care for these women, reports BuzzFeed News. But these shelters are also reaching their limit and one in San Diego, Christ Ministry Center, was recently ordered to close by fire marshals who said the number of people housed there was a fire hazard and the building was not up to code.

The potential reopening of a private shelter for minors in Philadelphia previously shut down after abuse allegations has sparked criticism from local residents who claim the company only cares about profiting off the $1.5 billion immigrant detention industry and not the well-being of migrant children, reports The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Leaving Guatemala
The Stay Here Center in Santa María Visitación, Guatemala risks losing funding for vocational programs to help would-be migrants stay home if Trump cuts the flow of aid to Central America, reports The Washington Post. But a lack of data makes it difficult to prove the efficacy of these programs beyond anecdotal evidence.

Towns in Guatemala along the Mexican border estimate that 10 parents leave each week, often with one or two children, reports Arizona Daily Star. The impact of this family migration is starting to show in Guatemala — in the empty chairs at schools, the extra work that kids who are left behind have to take on when their parents and siblings leave, and the crushing debt many families live with — although the full effects likely won’t be known for years.

Caravans Blocked in Mexico
An estimated 500 Central Americans traveling with a migrant caravan were detained by Mexican authorities Monday and will likely be deported, reports AP. The raid represents a stark shift from Mexico’s welcome of caravans in October. In towns in southern Mexico that helped feed migrants in October, the influx of Central Americans has led to resentment because of a perceived increase in crime and conflict between migrants and authorities, reports The New York Times. Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador defended the raids Tuesday as a way of protecting migrants from smugglers infiltrating the groups, reports AP. The incident has now led migrants to ride the dangerous freight train known as La Bestia to avoid authorities.

Justice & Deportations
Could immigration courts be independent of Justice and Homeland Security? And would that solve critical problems in the system? In an opinion piece providing an inside perspective on the current problems in the immigration justice system judge Dana Leigh Marks advocates for the creation of an immigration court independent from the Justice Department. “Many of the flaws in our operations stem from the fact that we are administrative courts located within a law enforcement agency, so crucial decisions are made by officials with little or no experience as judges,” she writes. “It is time to change that.”

Since 2016, ICE has increased deportations of immigrants with no criminal convictions in New York City by 266 percent, the biggest increase in the country, reports The New York Times. Among those ICE tried to deport was a 52-year-old father from Indonesia who feared religious persecution upon return. In addition, Homeland Security lawyers in Manhattan are now using video to ‘appear’ in an immigration court 20 blocks away, reports Gothamist/ WNYC. Across the country in the rural West, immigrants living in remote areas face the added burden of extra transportation problems and legal costs when they try to win their cases to be able to stay in the U.S., reports Wyoming Public Radio.

Lawyer Marty Rosenbluth is the only private lawyer who takes on cases in Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia, which has a reputation for high asylum denial rates, reports The Christian Science Monitor. His clients, mainly men who have put down roots in the U.S., are often deported despite his efforts. This leads him to wonder, “Is he stopping systemic injustices or just greasing the wheels of the deportation industry?” writes Simon Montlake.

Deportations to Puebla, a Mexican state with one of the largest immigrant communities in the U.S., have increased in recent years. Politico followed these deportees on their journey to a country they barely recognize, where they often experience violence and poverty.

Family Separation
Acting head of DHS Kevin McAleenan said Tuesday that bringing back family separation was “not on the table” in an interview with NBC News. Seventeen Central American parents separated from their children at the border were finally reunited this week. Among those reunited were 15-year-old Marisol and her father Elmer, reports NPR. “I don’t think you have any idea how much I’ve thought about this. Sometimes I’d be in school, and I’d get all stressed out wondering where he was, how he was, all that,” said Marisol.

Sanctuary Cities
Florida’s Republican-led House of Representatives voted Wednesday to require law enforcement to comply with ICE requests to hold undocumented immigrants until they can be taken into federal custody, reports The Washington Post.

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*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 synthesize exceptional immigration journalism.

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 synthesize exceptional immigration journalism.

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