Migratory Notes 119

Tariffs drama, falling undocumented immigration, coffee conundrum

Daniela Gerson
Jun 13 · 13 min read
Mexican President Lopez Obrador was greeted with a celebratory rally in Tijuana on Sunday, hailed for his deal to push back on tariffs, the Desert Sun reports. Photo credit: Omar Ornelas/ The Desert Sun

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The migration problem is a coffee problem,” the head of a cooperative in western Guatemala tells The Washington Post in an in-depth feature linking the unprecedented numbers of people emigrating from the area to the falling price of the commodity. Coffee producers in Guatemala, who grow some of the highest quality beans in the world, have been hit by a “perfect storm” of crop diseases and new competitors that has robbed them of profits even as the prices of lattes in the U.S. increases writes Kevin Sieff. Among the coffee growers pushed north are half of the 100 members of a Guatemalan coffee cooperative that supplies beans to Starbucks.

The town of Santa Maria “sits at the intersection of two of California’s deepest and most polarizing issues: immigration and the lack of affordable housing,” Alejandro Lazo writes in The Wall Street Journal. In agricultural communities, particularly along California’s central coast, tighter border enforcement is increasing the use of H-2A agricultural temporary worker visas, which require employers to provide for housing. Among the angriest are undocumented immigrants who are being pushed out not only of farm work jobs, but places to live. (The Conversation notes a different consequence of stricter immigration enforcement: farmers are increasingly leasing prison labor to get the job done.)

Tariff Deal
Trump heralded his “new deal with Mexico!” on Saturday. But The New York Times reports there was little new in it, according to officials from both countries.

Three key points:

  • Deployment of Mexican national guard troops to stop Central American migrants: “the Mexican government had already pledged to do that in March.”
  • Expansion of Remain in Mexico program: “Arrangement was reached in December in a pair of painstakingly negotiated diplomatic notes that the two countries exchanged.”
  • Failed to persuade Mexico to accept a “safe third country” treaty.

Vox concludes that the threat to impose tariffs was part of a manufactured crisisused to make the president look like he struck a good deal. Alice Driver writes in an opinion piece in CNN that Trump’s push to punish Mexico “fails to recognize the truly global reality of migration” and notes that the people she encounters seeking asylum at the U.S. border include migrants from Eritrea, Venezuela, Ukraine and Cuba.

While much of the “Remain in Mexico” may have already been agreed upon, there are new provisions that could ramp it up, reports The Hill. More than 10,000 Central American asylum seekers have already been sent back to Mexico under the program, reports CBS News. For those seeking asylum who fear they will be a target of violence in Mexico, the chances that they can convince U.S. authorities to allow them to wait in the U.S. are exceedingly small, according to a Reuters investigation. That includes pregnant women or mothers with small children now facing months of uncertainty in Mexico as they wait for their asylum cases, reports the Associated Press. “You can hear gunshots while you dress your children for school,” one migrant told The Wall Street Journal.

Mexico announced it would start its deployment of 6,000 national guard troops to its southern border on Wednesday, but no troops were spotted by the end of the day, reports Reuters. Alejandre Hope, a security analyst, wrote in The Universal that the number is equivalent to the entire police forces for many Mexican states, concluding “one fact is indisputable: it is no small thing that Mexico ceded in the negotiations with its neighbors.” What is not as clear is what the troops will actually do on the border, reports The Washington Post.

Mexico plans to fund its national guard deployment with the sale of the president’s plane, reports The Guardian.

Migrant Deaths
Border Patrol agents have rescued more than 300 migrants from a stretch of the Rio Grande in 2019, compared to only 12 the year before, reports The New York Times. Many of them do not survive. “The more troubling ones, the ones more recently, are the small infants. When you see the small infant and you hear the infant dying, you think about your own children,” said one Border Patrol agent.

Doctors questioned the care given to Carlos Hernandez Vasquez, a 16-year-old Guatemalan migrant who died of the flu in U.S. custody, because flu deaths are uncommon at that age, reports The Washington Post. A new report from the nonprofit Physicians for Human Rights alleges that immigration officials pressure doctors to release patients before they are ready and make it difficult to offer the required follow-up care, reports The New York Times.

In March, families of migrants in El Paso waiting under the International Bridge made headlines around the world. Now, as temperatures are rising, people are still there. Texas Rep. Veronica Escobar, who visited the site Friday, told the El Paso Times that “many of the migrants, a majority of whom are from Cuba, have been held outside for weeks, without access to cots, showers or basic hygiene.” Bob Moore writes for Texas Monthly that a professor who visited described a “human dog pound” filled with “one hundred to 150 men behind a chain-link fence, huddled beneath makeshift shelters made from mylar blankets and whatever other scraps they could find to shield themselves from the heat of the sun.” The government responded that it is temporarily housing people out of doors and that showers are prioritized for children and vulnerable populations.

With no detention beds available, since October Customs and Border Patrol officers have been dropping off immigrants at bus stations more than a hundred miles from the border. Among those spots are Southern California’s exurbs and desert communities. In San Bernardino, Roxana Kopetman writes in the Orange County Register, a routine has developed: It starts with a CBP van dropping migrants off at Greyhound stations. Then the nonprofits pick up the immigrants, mostly from Guatemala, mostly men traveling with children, and take them to a local Catholic church. While the governor has put a half a million dollars toward support, organizations supporting migrants say their role is “unsustainable.” “The mounting costs have raised doubts — among local officials and advocates alike,” writes Ruben Vives in the Los Angeles Times.

After teenager Lupe Félix’s mother was barred from entering the U.S. Félix began to commute across the border to school in San Diego. Journalist and educator Jesse Hardman, who worked with Félix as part of the Boyle Heights Beat podcastin LA, gave Félix a microphone to record her senior year, on both sides of the border, for a story for KCRW.

Photos of 100,000 travelers crossing land and border checkpoints were hacked during a cyberattack, raising questions about how information collected by increased surveillance could hurt individuals privacy, the Washington Post reports.

Leadership in Flux
Nearly every key position has changed at Department of Homeland Security in the past two months, sometimes multiple times, reports The Wall Street Journal. The Partnership for Public Service, a nonpartisan group, estimates that 59% of key leadership jobs at the Department of Homeland Security currently don’t have Senate-confirmed people in those roles.

Trump’s new immigration chief, Ken Cuccinelli, supports ending birthright citizenship and champions militarizing the border. The former Virginia attorney general, who promised to crack down on “asylum loopholes” in his first email to immigration staff, has a long record of anti-immigrant policies, reports The Daily Beast.

Push & Pull Factors
Honduran migrants are more likely than even those from El Salvador and Guatemala to say they’re running away from danger — and from the danger of domestic violence,” Jill Filipovic reports in Politico Magazine on rampant sexual violence in Honduras that is driving women to leave. “In 2016, of the more than 400 homicide cases with female victims in Honduras, only 15 were even investigated, resulting in just two convictions.”

Central Americans are heading to Europe to seek asylum or overstay tourist visas in greater numbers. While still tiny in comparison to those heading to the U.S., Central Americans seeking asylum in Europe increased by more than 60 percent last year to more than 7,000 people, reports The New York Times.

Foreign tech workers interest in jobs in Canada is growing at the same time that interest in tech jobs in the U.S. has stagnated because of more restrictive immigration policies under the Trump administration, reports Vox Recode.

Every year a government survey already asks U.S. residents if they are citizens. It’s the American Community Survey. Based on its results, adding a citizenship question to the census could lead to a 12 percent undercount of the Hispanic population. California, New Mexico, Arizona and Texas would be the most affected by the citizenship question. The Supreme Court is expected to rule in favor of keeping a citizenship question later this month.

An army base in Oklahoma will be used as a temporary shelter to house the growing number of unaccompanied minors entering the U.S., reports NBC News. It also once served as a Japanese American incarceration camp, Time reports.

Health Care
California is poised to become the first state in the country to provide healthcare to undocumented immigrant young adults. “At a potential cost of $1 billion — battle lines are being drawn about who should benefit, and who ultimately will pay the price,” Elizabeth writes in CALmatters, noting at issue was if elderly adults should also be included. Ultimately, in a deal released late Sunday, the governor’s budget only included low-income young adults.

By the Numbers
As the number of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. hits a 13-year low, Mexican nationals now make up fewer than 50 percent of undocumented people in the country, according to a new Pew Research Center report. From 2007–2017:

  • Undocumented immigration from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, India, and Venezuela increased.
  • Undocumented immigrant population rose in Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, North Dakota and South Dakota.
  • While the unauthorized population decreased in most big states, California, Texas, Florida, New York, New Jersey and Illinois still are home to the majority of undocumented immigrants.

Five handy charts from Vice News illustrate some of the key problems with immigration courts, including too few judges, the growing complexity of immigration cases and fewer plea bargain options for migrants in the system.


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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 most recent story wasCalifornia poised to go further than any state to insure the undocumented — too pricey, or about time? 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 the 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.

Daniela Gerson

Written by

Ass’t Prof @CSUNJournalism and Senior Fellow @CCEMNewmarkJ. Co-creator #MigratoryNotes. Subscribe for free: https://bit.ly/2tkethJ @dhgerson

Migratory Notes

At a time of rapidly shifting policies, we publish a weekly concise and insightful guide to immigration news.

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