Migratory Notes 114
Border deaths, refugee costs, voluntary deportation
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Claudia Gómez, a 20-year-old Mayan migrant from Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, was fatally shot by a Border Patrol agent in May 2018 while being apprehended. Her death may have been forgotten if a neighbor nearby had not taken a video that went viral, report Lauren Bohn and Andrea Ixchíu for Marie Claire in the first in a three-part series about women and migration. “An American flag still hangs over the window in a small room where Claudia used to sew clothes and where the family received visitors after Claudia’s body was sent back to Guatemala,” writes Bohn. A year later, her family continues to seek justice in her killing. Despite inconsistencies in the Border Patrol agent’s report, past cases of migrants shot dead at the border suggest that nobody will be held accountable for her death.
College professor Scott Warren has spent years working in the Arizona desert to bring water and aid to migrants making the dangerous journey. “In an alternate universe, one could imagine the efforts of Warren and his cohort being the kind of thing a society might actively support, or even prioritize,” writes Ryan Devereax in The Intercept. But instead, Warren and his fellow volunteers have been criminalized. He was the last of nine volunteers to be tried for entering a wildlife refuge without a permit and his trial began this week.
The number of immigrants, most of them in detention, who requested a voluntary departure doubled from 2017 to 2018, reports The Marshall Project. For the Trump administration, this indicates the success of its immigration policy. What is called “voluntary departure” is generally a decision made when it feels like there are no other options, as was the case of Alejandra Garcia Zamarrón, a mother of three who chose to return to Mexico over a prolonged stay in detention. “It speaks to the desperation of people in detention that they’d be trying to sign up in droves for this thing that actually causes them to be removed,” her lawyer said. “They’ve got to be thinking that there’s no way out.”
Trump’s latest choice for ICE director is Mark Morgan, a former FBI official and avid support of Trump’s immigration policies. Morgan formerly worked as head of Border Patrol under the Obama administration and on a special MS-13 task force as an FBI agent in California, reports PBS Newshour. If his nomination passes a Senate confirmation hearing, his greatest challenge may be staying in Trump’s good graces.
The Department of Justice drafted a regulation to expand the public benefits that could fall under the category of “public charge” to include cash welfare, Medicaid, food stamps and more, reports Reuters.
In a move that suggests the Trump administration is finding new ways around the courts to narrow asylum, it recently instructed asylum officers to be more skeptical of asylum seekers’ stories in revised training guidelines, reports Reuters. The guidelines also removed previous passages that encouraged cultural sensitivity and explained why migrants might not have documentation of their cases. The new rules could lead to longer delays in the already backlogged asylum process by requiring asylum officers to provide detailed explanations on their decision to allow a case to continue, an anonymous asylum officer told The Washington Post.
In March 2017, Trump ordered high-level officials to investigate the financial burden of refugees on the country and find ways to curb costs. The Center for Public Integrity found that the order was based on misinformation about refugees and asylum seekers. Statistics show refugees contribute more to the U.S. government in taxes than they use in public services.
Family Separation & Fake Families
Legal guardians and the children they were traveling with when they were separated at the border still have not been reunited because they are excluded from the court ruling ordering reunification, reports Reveal. It is unclear how many families are affected by this legal technicality. Lawyers are fighting to have legal guardians be recognized as parents to speed up reunification.
Since April 2018, Border Patrol has reported 3,100 cases of “fraudulent families” — adults with minors who cross the border and falsely claim to be related, reports the Arizona Daily Star. This is only about 1 percent of the total families that crossed the border during that time. In one case last week, Border Patrol said it apprehended a minor who had crossed the border posing as the relative of an adult migrant more than once, in what they call “recycling,” reports El Paso Times. Immigration experts caution against using individual stories to point to a trend.
Shelters for Minors
Former Trump chief of staff and DHS secretary John Kelly joined the board of Caliburn International, the largest operator of shelters for migrant children, reports CBS News. Recent deaths of minors in U.S. custody has drawn more scrutiny of policies promoted by Trump officials, including Kelly, to increase the detention of migrant children.
A pediatrician detailed a pattern of improper procedures for treatment of migrant children in shelters run by New Jersey non-profit Center for Family Services, including failing to schedule follow-ups, late vaccinations, and willful ignorance of chronic conditions, reports ProPublica. But when these patterns were reported, state authorities, the Office of Refugee Resettlement and Center for Family Services failed to take action.
Is the government’s data on immigrants too much of a mess to trust? That is what a class-action lawsuit alleges, reports the LA Times. At issue is the hodgepodge of ICE databases used to issue detainers — requests to hold someone in police custody on suspicion of being in the country illegally. If a judge rules in favor, it will affect detainers issued in 43 states.
It’s not only do-gooders protesting private prison firms. Shareholders of GEO Group, one of the biggest companies that holds immigrants, voted to require the company to provide information to investors about human rights policies and abuses, reports Miami New Times.
Seven undocumented immigrants said they were hired at Trump Winery in Charlottesville, Virginia even though hiring staff was aware of their immigration status, reports Univision. Their lack of papers often allegedly led to abuse, including working long hours without extra pay, no vacation time, and no medical insurance. Univision has not received a response from the winery or the Trump administration.
An additional 30,000 seasonal work visas, known as H-2Bs, were approved by the Labor Department and Department of Homeland Security after a “tug of war” in which business leaders won out over immigration hardliners, reports The Wall Street Journal. “Not exactly out of the “buy American, hire American” playbook,” Politico reporter Ted Hesson tweeted. “The program offers 66,000 visas annually, so that’s a notable increase.”
Immigration arrests in Atlanta have increased in the past two years, leaving empty vans previously used by day laborers that have become “tombstones for the disappeared.” A New York Times Op-Doc followed Mundo Hispanico reporter Mario Guevara as he documents these arrests, often to the dismay of ICE officers.
ICE announced a new program Monday that will allow state and local law enforcement to circumvent sanctuary laws that prohibit their cooperation with immigration agencies. As the legal fight over sanctuary policies heats up, so has the battle over defining the term, reports Pacific Standard. As many as 12 states hinder law enforcement cooperation with ICE to varying degrees, but some cooperation still continues. For example, New York is a sanctuary state, but ICE still receives some information from local law enforcement. The New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services alerts ICE when it finds certain information, such as past deportations of someone fingerprinted, reports Documented.
This week, Trump endorsed his son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner’s immigration plan, which received a warm reception when presented to Republican legislators, reports AP. The plan would favor “merit-based” immigration, but the number of immigrants allowed to legally enter the country would remain roughly the same. The proposal also details changes to border security that would require everyone and everything passing through ports of entry to be scanned.
But 18 months before elections, any appearance of progress on immigration reform is likely a “mirage” given the lack of communication between leaders of both parties, reports Politico. And who can keep up with what the more than dozen candidates vying for the Democratic nomination are promising to do if elected? The Washington Post compiled a handy guide to Democratic 2020 candidates’ immigration proposals.
Democrats, meanwhile, have not reached an agreement about the DREAM Act, because they can’t agree on whether to include those with criminal records, reports Politico. A compromise on border wall funding also remains elusive as Democrats refuse to validate Trump’s claims of a “crisis.” On Monday, eight lawyers backed a lawsuit filed by the House to prevent Trump from spending billions on a border wall without Congressional approval.
A federal ruling last week gave civil rights and immigrant advocacy groups a second chance to legally fight Trump’s travel ban, reports BuzzFeed News. Meanwhile, two years after the ban went into effect, families hoping to be approved for a waiver still have not received information about their applications, which remain in “administrative processing,” reports the LA Times. Fewer than five percent of waivers have been approved.
Anti-Immigrant Rhetoric and Hate Speech
- In Tennessee, civil rights groups and other organizations have called for the suspension of Judge Jim Lammey for sharing anti-immigrant and anti-Semitic content on his Facebook page. (Memphis Commercial Appeal)
- In Alabama, a recent case of a woman killed in a car crash by an undocumented immigrant sparked anti-immigrant rhetoric, a common fear-mongering tactic that dates back to the civil rights movement. (AL.com)
- In New Mexico, Armando Delgado Gonzalez, a member of United Constitutional Patriots, a paramilitary group targeting migrants along the U.S. border, said they should send migrants to gas chambers according to a police report. (BuzzFeed News)
- The Trump administration has refused to offer temporary protection from deportation to Venezuelans even as the U.S. continues to call for regime change in Venezuela because of an ongoing economic and humanitarian crisis. (The Guardian)
- The ACLU filed a lawsuit to challenge Attorney General William Barr’s decision to prevent asylum seekers from getting a bond hearing, resulting in them remaining in detention during their immigration proceedings. (BuzzFeed News)
- Legal efforts to end the Remain in Mexico program were struck down this week when an appeals court in San Francisco ruled that the Trump administration can continue to send asylum seekers to Mexico to await the outcome of their cases. (Reuters)
Immigration Resources & Opportunities
Recently released immigration books (got one, send it over)
- The Death and Life of Aida Hernandez: A Border Story by Aaron Bobrow-Strain
- Refuge Beyond Reach, by David Scott FitzGerald, details how wealthy countries in the Global North systematically deny asylum seekers.
- 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
- Kids on the Line is Reveal’s immigration newsletter.
- The New York Times launched the “limited-run” newsletter Crossing the Border.
- 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.
- Only Here is a KPBS podcast about the place where San Diego and Tijuana meet.
- ¿Qué Pasa, Midwest? Podcast tells stories of Latino life “from the homeland to the heartland.”
- 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.
Curriculum & Campaigns
- We Have Rights is a campaign to educate immigrants about rights in encounters with ICE
- Ecologies of Migrant Care has collected nearly 100 interviews with migrants, activists, academics and other immigration experts to shed light on the reasons why Central Americans flee and detail the networks that have developed to help them along their journey.
- Moving Stories is an app and curriculum to capture and share immigrant stories.
- Re-imagining Migration 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
- Freedom for Immigrants publishes an Immigration Detention Syllabus
Reporting resources, tools and tips
- No Refuge from Council on Foreign Relations’ InfoGuide series, includes an interactive map of origin and destination countries for refugees, and policy options that can help refugees and support host states.
- Covering Immigration Enforcement webinar from Poynter with Marshall Project contributing writer Julia Preston.
- The Pew Research Center offers a mini email course on immigration to 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. One of her recent stories 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