Migratory Notes 115

Elizabeth Aguilera
May 16 · 12 min read

Child detention, system overhaul, deported Cubans

Transito Gutiérrez and Tanerjo de León watched their 16-year-old son leave their small Guatemala farming village and head to the U.S. The boy made it to the border but died in U.S. custody. “He went seeking life, but found death,” his father said. Credit: Anna-Cat Brigida

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Jorge Ramos takes viewers inside the country’s largest child detention facility — using a combination of government footage, animation, interviews with previous detainees and his observations, to portray what life is like for the kids. The video is part of Real America with Jorge Ramos, a cell-phone friendly, bilingual Facebook Watch series for Univision, where he has previously reported about border militias mobilizing and Sandra Cisneros’ connection to two countries.

New Immigration Plan
President Trump will announce Thursday afternoon a proposal to overhaul the country’s immigration system that would scale back family-based immigration in favor of skills-based migration. The plan was developed by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner working with top immigration advisor Stephen Miller. It has received criticism for being both too lenient and too harsh, leaving little likelihood of a compromise. Elements of the plan include:

At a press conference for his own plan to limit Central American asylum seekers, Sen. Graham said the White House proposal “is not designed to become law,” The Washington Post reports.

Asylum Seekers
The so-called “Remain in Mexico” program (officially Migration Protections Protocols) is gaining steam after a 9th Circuit panel ruled earlier this month in favor of the Trump administration. Journalists and NGOs were kicked out of hearings on Wednesday, according to border reporter Bob Moore. “A controversial court program is being conducted out of public view,” he wrote on Twitter. “In previous hearings attended by media and NGOs, MPP participants told of being kidnapped, robbed, assaulted and stabbed after being sent back to Ciudad Juarez under MPP. The public doesn’t have access to those stories now, at least through courts.”

More than 5,000 asylum seekers from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala have been returned to Mexico to await their asylum hearings, according to the latest statistics obtained by CBS News. About 900 were sent to Mexicali, forcing them to travel more than 100 miles to get to the port of entry in Tijuana for their hearings, reports The San Diego Union-Tribune. Overcrowding at the shelters in Mexicali where migrants await their hearings has led to a chickenpox outbreak, reports the Palm Springs Desert Sun. In Juarez, shelters are at capacity and can no longer house migrants sent back from the U.S., reports the El Paso Times. These migrants can’t register for work permits in Mexico since they handed over important documents to U.S. officials. Meanwhile, lawmakers introduced legislation Friday to defund the Remain in Mexico program, reports KTSM.

Often falsely promised citizenship by smugglers, Brazilians are seeking asylum in the U.S., leaving behind economic hardship, police brutality and a corrupt government, reports WNYC. They are in the top six groups apprehended at the U.S. border.

Deaths after Detention
A Guatemalan toddler apprehended at the U.S. border died on Tuesday, reports The Washington Post. He is the fourth migrant child since December to die after being apprehended and then brought to the hospital.

Juan de León Gutiérrez, the 16-year-old boy who died in U.S. custody last month, left his community in Guatemala because of worsening farming conditions caused by climate change, reports Time. US-funded NGOs are working to improve conditions so migrants can stay, but Trump’s proposed budget cuts make their funding uncertain. “As long as climate change continues to make life more difficult in Guatemala’s Dry Corridor, many will continue to leave,” Anna-Cat writes.

“Migrating is a necessity,” Gutiérrez’s mother tells her of the plight facing young migrants. “I hope that God helps and gives them strength so that what happened to my son doesn’t happen to them.”

Border Crisis
Facing a shortage of buses to move the high volume of migrants arriving along the border, DHS took the rare move of ordering flights last week to relocate migrants to less busy areas of the border for processing, reports The Washington Post. Meanwhile, NGOs in El Paso continue to be overwhelmed by large groups of migrants dropped off there, including 100 migrants released this week, reports the Deming Headlight. And photos obtained by CNN show migrants, including children, sleeping on the ground with Mylar blankets in temporary shelters in McAllen, Texas.

The Department of Defense is expected to build six tent camps for migrants across the border to house 7,500 migrants and they will be overseen by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, reports NBC News.

Border Security
In a visit to the border last week, Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said troops will stay there indefinitely “until the border is secure,” reports AP. On Saturday, Shanahan told Congress he will divert an additional $1.5 billion in Defense Department funding to build 80 miles of fencing along the border, part of which would come from funds dedicated to the Afghan War. The money will be in addition to the $4.6 billion previously reprogrammed for the border wall.

The Trump administration considered a plan to deport families in a massive sweep targeting Central American families in 10 of the largest cities across the U.S. including New York, LA, and Chicago. “Senior Trump adviser Stephen Miller and ICE Deputy Director Matthew Albence were especially supportive of the plan, officials said, eager to execute dramatic, highly visible mass arrests that they argued would help deter the soaring influx of families,” report Nick Miroff and Josh Dawsey for the Washington Post. But before Trump’s purge at DHS, officials opposed it, not on ethical, but practical grounds. The targets in the sweep, which is still under consideration, would be asylum seekers ordered deported for failing to show up to a hearing.

The administration’s expansion of immigrants targeted for deportations has extended to Cubans, reports NPR. The 463 Cubans deported last year is still fewer people than many other nationalities, but the number has increased more than seven-fold since 2016.

Immigrants with marijuana convictions in states that have legalized the drug are also vulnerable to deportation. A federal appeals court decided last week that it would not recognize reduced charges for an immigrant woman convicted of a marijuana-related crime in California prior to the 2016 legalization. She is now facing deportation, reports AP.

In a rebuke to federal immigration policies, California Governor Gavin Newsom used his state constitutional authority to pardon two Cambodian immigrants with criminal records from years ago, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. These types of pardons have become a common way to avoid deportations which have grown under the Trump administration, reports Pacific Standard.

The Somali man arrived at JFK ready to join his pregnant wife in Ohio with a valid visa, issued before the travel ban went into effect. He cleared immigration but was then “randomly detained” and taken into secondary inspection by a secretive CBP taskforce set to prevent terrorists. He has since spent 17 months in immigration detention. This case shows how the Tactical Terrorism Response Team is used to prevent immigrants from entering the country based on allegedly random selection, reports The Intercept.

Private prison company and immigration detention contractor GEO Group logged its best quarter on record in early 2019, reports the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. The company has thrived despite protests and criticism. But the company could soon be forced to pay immigrant detainees in Washington minimum wage instead of the current wage of $1/day after a judge ruled against the company, reports the Seattle Times.

The head of Florida’s prison system is considering a plan to enter into an agreement with ICE so that corrections officers could identify and process undocumented immigrants, reports the Tampa Bay Times. Massachusetts, Arizona, and Georgia are the only states that currently have this type of agreement with ICE.

Legal aid group RAICES filed a complaint last week alleging that ICE has broken its own rules by preventing detainees from accessing free legal services by making it more difficult to meet with lawyers, reports NBC.

Visas & Citizenship
The U.S. government failed to prove that a naturalized citizen from Pakistan fraudulently received citizenship in an emblematic case decided last week, reports The Intercept. The case is part of a larger attempt by the Trump administration to strip people, mainly from Bangladesh, Pakistan and India, of their citizenship.

The number of naturalized citizens increased by 55 percent from 2017 to 2018, reports KFox14. Experts believe it’s because more immigrants are realizing the importance of citizenship and voting rights.

U-visas, which allow victims and witnesses of crime to obtain a path to citizenship, are facing the largest backlog ever, reports The New York Times. Law enforcement report that the backlog is making it more difficult to do their job.

Immigration Data
After a Marshall Project and New York Times analysis showed last year that immigrants correlate to lower crime rates not higher, many people asked about undocumented immigrants. A new analysis the Marshall Project did, building on a recent Pew Center study, shows that the same is true regardless of immigration status. “Preliminary findings indicate that other socioeconomic factors like unemployment rates, housing instability and measures of economic hardship all predict higher rates of different types of crime, while undocumented immigrant populations do not,” Anna Flagg writes.


Immigration Resources & Opportunities

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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. One of her recent stories was Coming Waves of Seniors will strain a caregiver network already stretched thin. 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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