Migratory Notes 127

Elizabeth Aguilera
Aug 15, 2019 · 15 min read

Public benefits, gang lists, babies

Trump’s top immigration official suggested to NPR this week a change to the Statue of Liberty poem: “give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge.” While the statement set off outraged responses from many liberal politicians, USC Journalism and Public Policy professor Roberto Suro suggested 10 years ago to get rid of the poem altogether because the emphasis on “huddled masses yearning to breathe free” reflects a myth, not a reality, of the U.S. immigration system. “Economic imperatives, much more than political aspirations, have always driven immigration to the United States,” he wrote.

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Laura Peña once worked for the U.S. State Department on Central America issues and as an attorney for ICE. Her unique perspective led her to question the validity of the government’s tactics after she returned to the border region to work the other side of the courtroom aisle, defending immigrants facing deportation. “The system she’d once known, as flawed as it was, had turned into a black box she no longer understood, with an ever-shifting array of rules and policies that granted untold discretion to the government,” Melissa del Bosque writes. “She couldn’t even get ICE attorneys to comply with a fundamental tenet of a fair system: providing proof of their case, evidence they could fight against.” These issues came to a head when she met Carlos, a man from El Salvador who had been separated from his kids because he was accused of being a gang member due to a DHS gang database shared with El Salvador.

One widow’s fortune has been the biggest single source of a network of anti-immigrant groups that spent decades agitating for exclusionary policies which are now pursued by President Trump. In a broad look at the money and ideology shaping the “New Nativists,” The New York Times delves into the late Cordelia May’s “evolution from an environmental-minded Theodore Roosevelt Republican — in 1972 she was the nation’s largest single donor to mainstream congressional candidates — to an ardent nativist.” As a childless conservationist “she believed that the United States was ‘being invaded on all fronts’ by foreigners, who ‘breed like hamsters’ and exhaust natural resources,” write Nicholas Kulish and Mike McIntire. In a visualization, The Times shows how the $180 million her foundation has contributed to restrictionist groups is shaping the current administration.

Public Charge
In the latest round of California v. Trump, officials in Santa Clara and San Francisco filed a lawsuit Tuesday against a policy that could allow the government to deny entrance or green cards to immigrants if they have used — or are likely to use — public benefits like food stamps, Medicaid or housing assistance, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. The policy, which goes into effect in October and was finalized Monday, would expand the definition of “public charge” to more heavily factor in wealth, age, education, and English-language skills.

The rule change is expected to decrease immigration from Latin America and Africa, instead favoring well-educated immigrants from European countries, reports The Dallas Morning News.

The Trump administration has increased visa denials for immigrants under the existing public charge rule, reports Politico. More than 5,000 Mexican nationals were denied visas under the rule from October 2018 to July 2019, compared to seven denials in the same time period in 2016 under the Obama administration. “Applicants from various other countries — including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Haiti and the Dominican Republic — also saw dramatic increases in denials attributed to the risk that they would consume government benefits,” Ted Hesson writes. “The State Department statistics offer a window into how the Homeland Security Department’s forthcoming public charge regulation could reshape the legal immigration system.”

Mississippi Raids
After the largest ICE raids in a single state, schools and child social services scrambled to serve children whose parents and caregivers had been arrested, reports NBC News. ICE said that it did not detain some parents with children under five and released other parents within 24 hours. The agency said it did not notify schools or child services beforehand so as not to alert workers of the raids. Many immigrants have since been released pending their court dates, which could be in months or years, reports Vice News. In the meantime, they are struggling to support their families without work.

The government believes that all five of the companies raided violated immigration law and knowingly hired undocumented immigrants, reports The Washington Post. One of the plants had a job fair this week where 25 to 30 people — black, white and Latino — showed up, reports Mississippi Clarion Ledger. The company, Koch Foods, says that it uses E-Verify when hiring employees to ensure they have legal status.

Trump’s Undocumented Workers
A construction crew that includes many undocumented immigrants has continued to work at Trump’s businesses and properties even after the president has said he will more closely scrutinize the legal status of his workers, reports The Washington Post.

El Paso Shooting
For CNN reporter Nicole Chavez, like many young journalists, covering mass shootings has become an unfortunate routine part of the job. But covering a shooting in her own community at the Walmart that her family frequents was a personal tragedy. “I’m mourning because I’m part of a community full of love and fraternity, where families get together every weekend to go to church and cook carne asada in their backyards,” Chavez writes.

Reporter Jazmine Ulloa, another El Paso native, also returned to cover the aftermath of the shooting. “Where I am from needs to be explained to America every decade, and in recent years has tended to enter the nation’s collective consciousness through the lens of national security,” writes Ulloa for The Boston Globe. “Yet to me, it has always been more, as Gloria Anzaldúa once wrote, “una herida abierta.” An open wound where two countries grate against each other and bleed ‘the lifeblood of two worlds merging to form a third country — a border culture.’”

The shooting also sent shockwaves through Mexico, where an estimated 1.5 million Americans live, including many retirees. “A common worry among residents here is whether President Donald Trump’s virulent xenophobic, anti-immigrant rhetoric, reflected in the shooter’s manifesto, will reawaken Mexico’s own rabid nationalism that still simmers below the surface,” writes Alfredo Corchado for The Dallas Morning News.

The Intercept reviewed dozens of immigration forms filled out by Border Patrol and ICE that contained blatantly incorrect information about asylum seekers, leading to prolonged detention and deportation in many cases. Lawyers and experts say incorrect information on these forms is incredibly common and can be nearly impossible to override in court. “The evidence we have gathered raises serious concerns that Border Patrol officers consistently deny asylum-seekers the opportunity to make a claim for protection or falsify records in a way that undercut those claims,” Clara Long, senior researcher in the U.S. program at Human Rights Watch told The Intercept. Border Patrol and ICE did not respond to requests for comment.

Remain in Mexico
Migrants returned to Mexico under the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP) have been bused further south to Monterrey and Chiapas, reports The Texas Tribune. Many then decide to return to their home countries in Central America or find work in Mexico. The plan has been called a “thinly veiled deportation scheme,” reports Voice of America.

A human rights organization has documented more than 100 cases of rape, kidnappings and other violent crimes against migrants returned under MPP, reports The Washington Post. But even when migrants go through a non-refoulement interview, set up to allow migrants to express their fear of being returned to Mexico, they rarely pass the strict requirements, reports CBS in the first of a three-part series on Remain in Mexico.

Border apprehensions dipped below 100,000 in July for the first time in five months, reports The Washington Post. U.S. officials credit Mexico’s cooperation and other deterrence policies as the reason for the decrease, even though apprehensions typically drop during these months. Along Mexico’s southern border with Guatemala, crossings are also down, reports the LA Times. The infusion of Mexican National Guard troops appears to be making the difference. “It’s a lot different now — people here respect us a lot more now,” Jose Armando Ramos Hernandez, a 10-year veteran of the National Immigration Institute, Mexico’s immigration enforcement agency, told Patrick McDonnell. “Before, we used to receive threats. Now with the National Guard, everyone stops, no one threatens us.”

Still, at the U.S.-Mexico border the CBP commissioner maintains there is an ongoing crisis. In an effort to share the situation with the public, the Trump administration is allowing more journalists to enter some detention facilities, reports The Washington Post. “The restrictions have made it difficult for the agency to convince the public that the border is in crisis, and the Trump administration has allowed more video cameras and photographers inside its facilities, even though the images of detained children often generate anger and disgust,” writes Arelis R. Hernandez, who toured the Central Processing Center in McAllen, Texas with photographer Carolyn Van Houten.

Immigration is an International Issue
Guatemalans elected rightwing former prisons director Alejandro Giammattei as their next president Sunday in the midst of a diplomatic crisis over the safe third country agreement, reports The Christian Science Monitor. The country signed an agreement in July that would prevent migrants who passed through Guatemala to seek asylum in the U.S. after Trump threatened a tariff increase, sparking a wave of remittances to the country, reports Bloomberg. The president-elect said Monday that he would seek better terms for Guatemala in the agreement, but is unlikely to pull out of the deal, reports Reuters. Giammattei has promised to curb migration by building an “economic wall of prosperity and employment” that focuses on growing the economy and creating more jobs. Turnout was low, and even the Guatemalans who voted for him doubt that he will improve conditions so that they won’t have to migrate, reports Anna-Cat for Foreign Policy.

A KJZZ series “Tracing the Migrant Journey” is taking listeners to seven points along the migrant trail. It started with San Pedro Sula, Honduras where citizens have taken to the streets for months protesting the administration of President Juan Orlando Hernandez, who was recently named in a drug trafficking case filed in New York.

The Justice Department filed a petition Friday asking to decertify the union of immigration judges which has repeatedly criticized the Trump administration’s handling of the immigration court system, reports The New York Times. Members of the union believe the move is in retaliation for their comments. The Clinton administration also tried to decertify the union.

Judges in Minnesota have stopped playing the 90-second video of Trump welcoming new citizens during naturalization ceremonies, reports Sahan Journal (a new immigration news site which launched this week). Playing the video has been a tradition for decades, but judges are given discretion to choose what to include in ceremonies.

A court in New York has seen an 11-fold increase in immigrants winning their cases after a program began offering pro bono l services to immigrants, who are not entitled to a lawyer because they go through civil proceedings, reports The New York Times and Documented. The program expanded since it began in 2013, but is now under threat as the Trump administration has made it more difficult for immigrants to access lawyers.

Immigrant Integration
For 32 years journalist Jason DeParle has followed a Filipino family from a Manila shantytown to the Houston suburbs. The Villanueva family, he writes in The New York Times, is an antidote to the current dominant national narrative of immigrants failing to “assimilate” into American culture. “In a country of 44 million immigrants, no family stands for the whole,” DeParle writes. “The Villanuevas merely stand for the substantial immigrant success missing from the Trump Twitter feed.” He examines the different paths sociologists have documented toward immigrant integration, and questions whether in the current context it will be more challenging due to a lack of one mass media narrative, economic instability, and rising xenophobia. Or, will it be easier, with guaranteed civil rights and a more diverse population? The piece is adapted from his forthcoming book: “A Good Provider Is One Who Leaves: One Family and Migration in the 21st Century.”

Family Separation
After the children’s magazine Highlights published a letter against immigrant detention and family separation, some readers threatened to cancel their subscriptions and others thanked the magazine for speaking up. In an interview with Fatherly, CEO Kent Johnson said the decision to publish the letter was about human rights.


Immigration Chart of the Week:

Pew Research Center published a report based on newly released data from the Center for Health Statistics. It showed a decrease in births generally, across foreign-born, and especially amongst Hispanics. That drop was primarily due to decreasing numbers of Mexican immigrants and shifting childbearing culture. The share of Asian and African immigrant births rose, reflecting growing numbers from those backgrounds. Overall, though, immigrant fertility remains higher than that of U.S.-born women.

Immigration Resources & Opportunities

Recently released immigration books (got one, send it over)

Newsletters, Podcasts, & Facebook Groups

Curriculum & Campaigns

Reporting resources, tools and tips

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 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

Migratory Notes

At a time of rapidly shifting policies, we publish a weekly…

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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