Migratory Notes 117

Elizabeth Aguilera
May 30 · 11 min read

On the bus, more kids in custody, blocked border wall

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Central American migrants are “a source of substantial new revenue for Greyhound” as the company struggles with competition from Megabus, Miriam Jordan writes for The New York Times in an intimate portrait of journeys across America from the border. Where are they going? Just about everywhere across the U.S. according to a map showing where more than 7,000 migrants who passed through Casa Alitas shelters in Tucson, Arizona, were headed. “While President Trump has made a point of threatening to send migrants from the border to inland sanctuary cities that oppose his immigration policies, it is an empty threat,” Jordan writes. “Migrants are already traveling by the thousands every day to cities across the country — to Atlanta, Chattanooga, Orlando, Richmond, as well as to sanctuary cities, like New York, Los Angeles and Seattle.” (Jordan also offered an inside perspective of her trip, and the retirees supporting migrants along the way, at Times Insider.)

“When Trump unveiled his plans for an immigration crackdown, kids were 24% of border crossings,” Washington Post reporter Maria Sacchetti tweets. “Now they’re 37% — and climbing. In Yuma — they’re half.” She reports from Yuma, which has seen an unprecedented influx of families and where local Latinos, who make up the majority of the population, are divided politically. “Families are increasingly heading to the desert dunes of Arizona’s southwest corner because they sense the U.S. government’s focus is on the Texas border along the Rio Grande and because Arizona has less space for detention beds, meaning they are more likely to be released quickly,” Sacchetti writes.

Family Separations
In Texas, the newborns of some migrant women who give birth in custody are being taken away and put into state foster care if a relative can’t be found, reports Rewire in the third in a series of stories about the treatment of pregnant migrants at the border under the zero-tolerance policy. Reuniting with their babies has been tough unless the moms get help from advocates. Doctors and other medical personnel talked to Rewire on the condition of anonymity. “I don’t know if they lose their babies for good,” one doctor told Rewire. “But I do know the process is torturous for them.”

A Guatemalan father and son in Texas are believed to be the first separated family to win permanent protection against deportation. They also were apart among the longest: 378 days — over a year. While it’s a victory for the family, Robert Moore writes in Texas Observer, it did not come without costs: the 6-year-old boy’s “time in federal custody stripped him of the ability to speak with his mother, who stayed behind in Guatemala and only speaks a rare Mayan dialect.”

Border Wall
A federal judge blocked Trump’s border wall plans last week in the first ruling on the issue, determining the administration’s plan to divert funding from other agencies for construction exceeded the authority of the executive branch.“Congress’s ‘absolute’ control over federal expenditures — even when that control may frustrate the desires of the Executive Branch regarding initiatives it views as important — is not a bug in our constitutional system,” wrote the judge.

Military and DHS officials report that Trump has repeatedly pushed for a North Dakota construction firm to receive a contract to build part of the border wall,reports The Washington Post. The company’s executive is a GOP donor who frequently appears on Fox News saying he can build the wall in less than a year. The same company, Fisher Industries, has constructed a half-mile of the wall on private property in New Mexico, reports CNN. A crowdfunding project paid for the wall, estimated to cost between $6 and $8 million.

Trump Administration
In the latest purge of top DHS administrators, USCIS director L. Francis Cissna announced his resignation, which will be effective June 1, reports The Washington Post. Why? Despite Cissna’s record as an immigration hawk the Trump administration grew frustrated with his lack of action, reports BuzzFeed News. During his tenure, Cissna got rid of DACA and TPS protections, restricted access to asylum, and increased denials of immigration applications.

Cissna’s expected replacement, former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, has similar views on immigration but is much less adept at navigating the immigration system, reports Vox. The USCIS union criticized the move as an attempt to end legal immigration altogether “by appointing as the leader of USCIS someone who knows nothing about immigration,” reports CNN. Cuccinelli may not pass a Senate confirmation hearing because of critics in Congress, including Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell.

Immigration is an International Issue
The United Nations is asking Canada to step up and take more asylum seekers from Central America to ease Mexico’s burden, Canadian Press reports.

Migrant Deaths
Carlos Gregorio Hernandez Vasquez, the fifth Guatemalan minor to die in U.S. custody, left his Maya Achi community to help his family support his brother with special needs, reports Al Jazeera. “I saw other families on the news, but I never thought it would happen to me,” his father said. The family of Wilmer Josué Ramirez, the youngest of the six children who died in U.S. custody, mourned his death at a funeral service this week, reports BBC. His mother is still in detention in the U.S. and could not attend the service.

Visas & Citizenship
The Trump administration is planning on enforcing a law that would require U.S. citizen families who sponsor relatives to take on financial responsibility for them if they claim welfare benefits, and pay the government if they use programs such as food stamps or Medicaid, reports Bloomberg. The law has been on the books since former President Bill Clinton’s welfare reform legislation in 1996 but it was rarely enforced.

Religion Across Borders
For teens living transnational lives, an expanding “church youth groups and national networks like Young Life offer a home that transcends the border — a rare place to feel like they belong and sort out what it means to live for Christ in a culture of ‘the middle,’” Bekah McNeel writes in Christianity Today.

Visas for religious workers, while sometimes complex to file, are not seeing cutbacks reports Catholic News Service.

Being an American Jew working in the Palestinian West Bank on human rights prepared Marty Rosenbluth for the often lonely job in rural Georgia of being the only private immigration attorney in the nation’s strictest court, reports Jewish Telegraphic Agency. JTA is the latest news organization, including WUNC, to focus on Rosenbluth’s work in the shadow of Georgia’s Stewart Detention Center.

Immigration Data
Who are the immigrant groups that make the most money and are the most highly educated? Axios charts them. Some of the results are predictable: Indians have the highest levels of education; Mexicans have the lowest levels. But one finding is that Asian immigrants have incredible income inequality. And European immigrants also display a vast range of educational attainment.

Meanwhile, undocumented immigrants are becoming increasingly educated in the U.S., Quartz reports. The share with college degrees are rising, while those without high school degrees are falling. Why the shift? Overall levels are down, particularly from Mexico with increasing numbers from Asia. And despite the focus on the visa, the majority are now visa overstayers.

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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 “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.