Migratory Notes 126

Elizabeth Aguilera
Aug 8, 2019 · 15 min read

Mass Latino shooting, Mississippi raids, growing fear

In El Paso, a growing memorial has been erected in honor of the 22 people who were killed and the many more injured in a mass shooting at a Walmart by a shooter who went there explicitly to “kill Mexicans.” The memorial sits near the big box store where the shooting took place Saturday. The youngest victim, 15-year-old Javier Rodriguez, was remembered by his friends and family in a tribute reported by PBS Newshour. Photo credit: Cassandra Jaramillo of the Dallas Morning News

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Frankie Madrid moved to the U.S. when he was 6-months-old and was “sunlight walking,” according to those who knew him. But he struggled with his mental health, writes Valeria Fernandez for The California Sunday Magazine. After being arrested and serving a few months for drug possession the 26-year-old was deported to Mexico, a county he had never known. Madrid became increasingly depressed at the thought of not being able to see his family again and worried about being gay in Mexico. While he never could return to the U.S. alive, his body eventually did. On October 2, 2017, Madrid committed suicide.

Mississippi Raids
The largest workplace raids in decades were carried out in Mississippi food processing plants on Wednesday, reports AP. Nearly 700 mostly Latino workers were arrested for immigration violations. Officials said the timing, which coincided with Trump’s visit to El Paso after the massacre at a Walmart where the shooter targeted Latinos, was a coincidence. It was also the first day of school in Mississippi. The raids have created intense fear among Latinos, reports BuzzFeed. “This is a high-profile way to send a message and to create more fear in immigrant communities about ICE and about their ability to live and work in this country,” said John Sandweg, former acting director of ICE under Obama.

El Paso Shooting
The El Paso mass killing “and the bigoted motive that echoed the worst racist rants of anti-immigrant hard-liners — marked for many Latinos a devastating new low in the Trump era,” reports the LA Times. The attack, Adrian Carrasquillo writes in The New Republic, highlighted ethnicity as a motive for hate: “One consequence of the heinous, racist, cowardly shooting targeting Mexicans and immigrants in the majority-Hispanic border town of El Paso Saturday is how it burst the bubble anyone may still be trying to live in — that this isn’t ultimately about white supremacists doing what it takes, including brutal violence, to stop the country from changing.”

Latinos across the country expressed a turning point of feeling physically targeted.

Some undocumented immigrants impacted by the shooting feared immigration arrest as they searched for loved ones or sought medical help, reports NPR. But ICE did not engage in any enforcement activities after the shooting, reports the El Paso Times. Eight of the victims were Mexican citizens and Mexico’s foreign minister said Monday that the country plans to be involved in the investigation, reports The Wall Street Journal.

In El Paso, which prides itself on being a safe, harmonious city, residents “see their binational, bicultural daily existence as an important asset. A strength, not a burden or weakness,” Alfredo Corchado writes in The Dallas Morning News. Following the shooting, “leaders called not so much for sympathy, but for immediate action. Everything from gun control to more voter participation.”

Trump blamed the internet for being a bastion of racist hate, but did not take any responsibility for his own words that may have motivated the shooter. More than 2,000 Facebook ads for Trump’s campaign have referred to immigration as an invasion, the same word used in the shooter’s manifesto, reports The Guardian. White House officials pushed back on Department of Homeland Security efforts to make fighting domestic terrorism — such as from white supremacists like the alleged attacker in El Paso — a priority, CNN reports.

On Monday, Trump tweeted that he wants to tie new gun laws to immigration reform in order to make something positive out of the tragic situation. But as many pointed out, doing so would implicitly tie gun violence to immigrant communities, falling in line with Trump’s past attempts to criminalize migrants.

Politics of Immigration
Presidential candidate and El Paso native Beto O’Rourke emerged after the mass shooting with a different position, reports The New Yorker. “The challenge for O’Rourke and the rest of his party on immigration is that, while they are talking about policy, President Trump is waging war against Mexicans and Central Americans who would attempt to cross the southern border,” Benjamin Wallace-Wells writes. “The figure who remains after this week in El Paso is more marginal but more interesting: a protest candidate, an antiwar politician, for a different kind of war.”

For the first time since the Migrant Protection Protocols began in January, some migrants sent back to Mexico to wait for their asylum claims to process will have a government-funded place to stay. The first government shelter for Central Americans returned to Mexico opened in Ciudad Juarez last week, reports AP. It can house 3,500 people; more than 20,000 people have been returned via the program. In a renovated school bus in Tijuana, an NGO is providing schooling for migrant children, reports Reuters. The program helps children whose schooling has been disrupted and who struggle with social skills because of the violence they experienced in their home countries.

Because of Trump’s crackdown on asylum seekers, more migrants have to wait in Mexico for their cases to be heard. A series from PRI’s The World called The Waiting Room provides a glimpse into the anxiety of this wait for migrants in Tijuana, including Rawand who had to flee Iraq because of his political activism.

One of the first cases of an asylum seeker, waiting in Mexico, being granted asylum involves a Honduran Christian church leader. But the celebration was short-lived. The man, who said he was targeted in his home country after trying to outreach to gang members, was not allowed to enter the U.S. and was held overnight because the government intends to appeal the decision, reports the Desert Sun. Advocates got him released Wednesday.

Migrant Deaths
A 32-year-old Salvadoran man died in CBP custody last week of heart complications after crossing the border with his 8-year-old daughter. He is the sixth adult to die in U.S. custody this year. “Our dream was to be together there, but now with what happened, I don’t have the courage to go alone,” his wife in El Salvador told Reuters.

A new lawsuit in Washington State has shed light on ICE’s practice of detaining undocumented minors who have been accused of a crime in certain juvenile jails, often taking them far away from their families, if the agency determines that they are a public safety or national security threat, reports the Seattle Times. Lawyers say the process lacks oversight and the decisions are often arbitrary.

Trump has deported fewer immigrants than Obama and initiatives to block his policies, led by lawyers and activists, may be the reason, reports The Wall Street Journal. After Obama expanded the Bush-era Secure Communities program that allowed local jails to share fingerprints with immigration enforcement, activists and lawyers mounted a successful resistance to the program that eventually led to its end. Under the Trump administration, they have used the same tactics to block immigration policies through the courts and state legislatures.

A lawyer filed a complaint with the DHS Office for Civil Rights and Civil Liberties asking for a blind six-year-old to be released from detention to her stepfather because she needs daily care. But the office said that it does not address individual complaints, but rather uses the information to “find and address problems,” leading lawyers to question the effectiveness of the office in preventing and addressing human rights abuses, reports NPR.

The ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of six immigrants who said they were detained in a bait and switch operation by ICE after they showed up to an immigration appointment to discuss the possibility of getting a green card after they had married a U.S. citizen, reports the Baltimore Sun. The lawsuit alleges the agency is in violation of “constitutional and statutory practices established for immigrant families seeking legal status.”

Ilyce Shugall applied for a job as an immigration judge in 2015, convinced that the bench should have a breadth of experiences represented, including former advocates like herself. This year she resigned. “I knew when I joined the bench that there would be frustrations, as immigration courts are governed by the Justice Department and lack the independence of other courts in the federal judicial system,” Shugall writes in an opinion piece for the LA Times. “But nothing prepared me for the unprecedented, unfair and unworkable policies the Trump administration imposed on the courts and the immigration process.”

Lawyers have successfully fought for the release of at least 18 migrants who were detained in squalid conditions in Border Patrol facilities, reports AP. But lawyers suspect officials released the migrants quickly to avoid a lawsuit that would require them to release all migrants held in these conditions. “They know they’re wrong and the court’s certainly going to come down on them because of the conditions,” one lawyer said.

ICE has sent dozens of asylum seekers to a jail in Alamance, North Carolina overseen by a racist sheriff who once referred to Mexicans as “taco eaters” and whose department has been sued for racial discrimination, reports The Charlotte Observer. The jail in Alamance may have been one of the only options, an unintended consequence of sanctuary policies. ICE has had to rent new jail space in North Carolina after some sheriffs decided to adopt sanctuary policies.

About 30 migrants were pepper-sprayed at an ICE jail in rural Louisiana Friday for protesting the conditions in detention, reports Mother Jones. The next day, more than 100 detainees were pepper-sprayed at an ICE processing facility in Pine Prairie, Louisiana, reports BuzzFeed News. Inmates say they were also shot with rubber bullets, but ICE denied the allegation.

Immigration is an International Issue
Conditions in Mexican detention centers have reached five times the capacity, leading to overcrowding, overflowing toilets and bedbugs, reports The New York Times.

The U.S. is seeking other Central American countries to join Guatemala in migration agreements, The Tico Times reports.

Colombia granted citizenship to more than 24,000 babies born to Venezuelan mothers this week, an important stride forward in the recognition of the more than 1.5 million Venezuelans who have fled to Colombia, reports The Washington Post. “Today we can say, amid difficulties, that the way of xenophobia is not the right way,” said Colombian President Ivan Duque. Colombia is one of the few countries in the region that does not grant birthright citizenship to all babies born in the country.

Push Factors
Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez was implicated in two major corruption scandals this week that help explain why so many Hondurans are fleeing. Univision revealed Monday that politicians, including members of the president’s family, used a network of more than 50 nonprofits to launder more than $70 million over 10 years. Hernandez was also named as a co-conspirator in a drug trafficking case in the U.S. against his brother, reports Univision. “The revelations are the latest in a string of bombshells that paint an increasingly shocking picture of Honduras as a narco-state, further complicating relations with the U.S. government, which has called President Hernandez an ally in the war on drugs,” write Jeff Ernst and David C. Adams. “It also appears to provide evidence of the Honduran government’s own complicity in the rise of violence that made Honduras one of the world’s most dangerous countries and forced countless migrants to flee north.”

An estimated 60 percent of Hondurans live in poverty and textile workers are among the worst paid in the country, driving many to migrate, reports CBC News.

Trump administration officials have repeatedly said that 90 percent of migrants don’t turn up to their immigration hearings when they are released from detention, but lawyers and judges estimate the true percentage is somewhere between 14 and 33 percent, reports Newsy. One reason advocates say the stats are so different is because many immigrants are not receiving their notices to appear in court because of a backlog and then their cases are quickly resolved as “deportation in absentia” cases.

Citizenship and Special Visas
The Trump administration decided last week to end two parole programs for Filipino veterans and Haitian nationals which allowed their family members to travel to the U.S. before their visas were approved, reports BuzzFeed News.

Immigration Chart of the Week

In the past year, from April 2018-March 2019 there have been 11 prosecutions for employment of illegal employment of immigrants, according to TRAC. They compare that “with 85,727 individuals prosecuted for illegal entry, 34,617 prosecuted for illegal re-entry, and 4,733 prosecuted for illegally bringing in or harboring immigrants.” Of those 11 prosecuted, only three were sentenced to serve prison time.


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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 senior fellow at 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 reported A Japanese American newspaper chronicles the ‘searing’ history of immigrant incarceration for PRI’s The World. 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 was California 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

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

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