Migratory Notes 128

Elizabeth Aguilera
Migratory Notes
Published in
13 min readAug 22, 2019


Indefinite family detention, camps for kids on two borders, no flu shots

Kids from refugee families are introduced to Minnesota’s summer camp culture. Photo is part of an essay by Christine T. Nguyen/ MPR News & Sahan Journal

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When a north Texas summer camp discovered teens were not coming from the Rio Grande Valley border region because parents feared going through immigration checkpoints, they moved the camp further south. “Although the original intent was to provide a Christian summer camp experience for the children of undocumented migrants, the Mo-Ranch staff does not pry into the immigration status of the campers and their parents,” Manny Fernandez writes. Summer camp is a chance for these children to forget about the immigration debate. “We do want to give them this opportunity to be in a bubble, to be in this awesome bubble where for this one week they don’t have to worry about anything else going on in their families or in the area,” one counselor said.

The Epoch Times calls itself a newspaper to “provide information to Chinese communities to help immigrants assimilate into American society.” But what it does not advertise is that the Falun Gong-affiliated publication, which is engaged in a war against Communism, has emerged as the top outside funder on Facebook ads for the Trump administration, an NBC investigation reveals. The New Yorker looks at another outlet aimed at Chinese immigrants, the incredibly popular College Daily that lives on WeChat and the web and targets “students living in the U.S. with news nationalistic undertones, delivered in a stream of memes and Internet-speak.” College Daily fired back, calling the article full of fabrication and false accusations.

The Trump administration announced a regulation Wednesday that would allow it to indefinitely detain migrant families on the border by overruling the decades-old Flores Agreement and closing what it calls a migration “loophole.” “When they see you can’t get into the United States — or when they see if they do get into the United States they will be brought back to their country — they won’t come,” Trump said in remarks to reporters Wednesday. “And many people will be saved.” Lawyers involved with the Flores Settlement, which mandates a 20-day limit on family detention, have pledged to challenge the new regulation in court.

USCIS Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli announced it is “Flores Day” at Dilley Detention center in South Texas the same place where a toddler died after being held there.

Nearly 9,000 asylum seekers who passed a credible fear interview were in detention as of last week, costing nearly $1 million a day, reports BuzzFeed News. Immigration advocates criticize the mass detention of asylum seekers, who were more often released under the Obama administration, at a time when detention centers are overcrowded. The Trump administration defends its position trying to put an end to what it calls “catch and release” policies.

On Monday, lawyers filed a class-action suit against ICE for systematically denying detainees proper medical care, reports Politico. This week, a CBP official said that the agency will not vaccinate migrant detainees for the flu despite widespread criticism of the conditions in detention centers, reports CNBC. Tal Kopan, reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, tweeted that ICE told her they may provide flu shots in its detention facilities.

The Trump administration spent months trying to find a way to prevent undocumented children from attending public school, but ultimately abandoned the idea after multiple advisers said it would not be possible given it would violate a 1982 Supreme Court decision, reports Bloomberg.

Trump’s latest asylum restrictions should be able to take effect in Texas and New Mexico, but not in California and Arizona, a Ninth Circuit panel of judges ruled Friday. The administration’s federal policy would bar most migrants from requesting asylum if they passed through a third country, such as Mexico, and did not request asylum there. The injunction was limited to states within the Ninth Circuit jurisdiction, in effect splitting federal asylum policy.

After the decision, USCIS sent new guidelines to asylum officers, but the instructions were so rushed that they included incorrect information, reports BuzzFeed News.

Another new rule would restrict eligibility for work permits to asylum seekers who crossed at a port of entry, reports BuzzFeed News.

A raid on Mississippi chicken processing plants has resurrected debate about whether U.S-citizen workers will do tough jobs in the agricultural and service industry. One restaurant owner in the Midwest says she it is nearly impossible to find American workers that want to work the long hours on their feet all day, reports NPR.

Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation, writes in The Atlantic that the raids were “a case study in how an industry with a long history of defying the law has managed to shift the blame and punishment onto workers.” He notes that the company that owned one of them, in 1994, “launched a hiring drive that year called ‘The Hispanic Project.’ Its goal was to replace African American workers, who were seeking a union, with immigrant workers who’d be more pliant.”

Public Charge
While the Department of Defense pushed to ensure immigrant members of the military were protected from a revised public charge rule, Veterans Affairs simply had “no comment,” reports ProPublica. As a result, veterans and their families are among those whose immigration status can be affected by the use of public benefits. Active-duty military are exempt because the Pentagon negotiated an exception but their families are not, which one immigration lawyer called “sloppy drafting” in an attempt to publish the rule quickly. “Narrow as it is, no such exemption exists for veterans and their families, so using public benefits — as well as other factors like having meager savings — will count against them if they or their families apply for green cards,” write Yeganeh Torbati, Isaac Arnsdorf and Dara Lind.

Immigration attorneys and organizations report that immigrants immediately questioned whether they should continue receiving public health benefits, such as Medicaid, after the public charge rule change was announced, reports AP. Doctors predict doing so would lead to a public health crisis.

Southern Border
Troops deployed to the border in April 2018 will receive an army medal for their service despite their controversial role in border enforcement, reports Military.com.

South of the border, two deported U.S. veterans are carrying out a different type of service. The pair, who formed a support network in Tijuana for other deported vets, have recently been turning their efforts elsewhere, reports The Daily Beast: they have expanded their service to migrants languishing in Tijuana. “This is our mission now,” said Hector Lopez, a former Army reservist who was deported in 2016. “I’m an American, and I figured it was my duty.”

Dozens of families are suing the government for abuse to their children in foster care after they were separated at the border, reports AP and PBS Frontline. The allegations include physical and sexual abuse. A review of 38 legal claims obtained by The Associated Press “shows taxpayers could be on the hook for more than $200 million in damages from parents who said their children were harmed while in government custody.”

Since migrants are not entitled to a lawyer, groups of pro bono lawyers have formed to represent minors in immigration court, reports The New York Times. One such group is Safe Passage, which started as an informal group of one law professor’s former students and has since served more than 1,000 kids.

Citizenship and Special Visas
The U.S. government is expected to pay millions in fees after abandoning a legal fight to include a citizenship question on the 2020 census, reports BuzzFeed News. The Justice Department has already agreed to pay $2.7 million to the ACLU and could pay more than $10 million more to other groups.

The unusual scrutiny of a mother applying for a U visa, which is granted to immigrants who cooperate with law enforcement, could be a foreboding sign for the future of the visa program, reports Rewire. ICE officials have said they want to crack down on immigrants who seek the visa.

A high-ranking immigration official instructed judges in New York City to complete family deportation cases within a year, reports Reveal. The email, issued in a combination of all caps, bold and underlined text, could violate due process. It was revealed at a moment when the independence of immigration courts has become a controversial issue.

Most law enforcement agencies ban officers from shooting at an unarmed person in a moving car, but CBP has yet to do so, reports HuffPost. The case of a 21-year-old American who was shot in the head while crossing the border into Mexico in February raises questions about CBP’s practices. The agency still has not fully explained why the officer shot the man.

Immigration is an International Issue
More than 2,000 migrants who have been returned to Mexico to await their asylum hearing and some who didn’t make it to the U.S. at all, have accepted free rides home, Reuters reports. “The $1.65 million program, funded by the U.S. State Department, is raising concerns among immigration advocates who say it could violate a principle under international law against returning asylum seekers to countries where they could face persecution,” Mica Rosenberg, Kristina Cooke, Daniel Trotta write.

A U.S. official said this week that the U.S. could triple the number of temporary farm work visas for Guatemalans as part of the so-called “safe third country” agreement, reports Reuters. In an interview with Voice of America, Guatemala’s president-elect Alejandro Giammattei said he will seek to make a deal with the U.S. to improve the economic conditions in his country.

Trump Administration
The New York Times traces the trajectory of Trump aide Stephen Miller alongside the major events in the Republican party that led to its rise. “Years ago, the restrictionist movement was a ragtag group” with no strong ties to either party, one congressional aide said. Mr. Miller “embodies their rise into the G.O.P. mainstream.” Miller has retreated from the public eye in recent months, but his influence has been monumental in decisions such as the public charge rule, reports The Washington Post. “His colleagues speak of him with a mix of admiration, fear and derision, impressed by his single-minded determination and loyalty to the president, despite an awkward and sometimes off-putting style,” write Nick Miroff and Josh Dawsey. Acting director of USCIS Ken Cuccinelli is among the immigration officials that Miller has helped install. In 2007, Cuccinelli helped create State Legislators for Legal Immigration which described “foreign invaders” responsible for “serious infectious diseases, drug running, gang violence, human trafficking, terrorism.”


Immigration Resources & Opportunities

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

Newsletters, Podcasts, & Facebook Groups

  • BIB Daily Edition is a free aggregation of “inside immigration news” (court cases, new regulations and the like) and “outside news” (culled from the mainstream and not-so-mainstream media).
  • The Global Nation newsletter and Facebook group from PRI’s The World.
  • Center for Migration Studies Migration Update is a weekly digest of news, faith reflections, and analysis of international migration and refugee protection.
  • Migration Information Source from the Migration Policy Institute offers a series of newsletters.
  • Documented NY’s Early Arrival newsletter aggregates information on immigration in New York and nationally.
  • The Marshall Project newsletter: criminal justice news that regularly intersects with immigration.
  • Politico’s Morning Shift newsletter: a daily read on employment and immigration.
  • Give Me Your Tired, an (Im)migration Newsletter offers updates on global migration.
  • Radio Public curates a list of podcasts about immigration and migration.
  • Only Here is a KPBS podcast about the place where San Diego and Tijuana meet.
  • ¿Qué Pasa, Midwest? Podcast tells stories of Latino life “from the homeland to the heartland.”
  • Tempest Tossed, a podcast with “conversations on immigration and refugees that go beyond the predictable soundbites.”
  • Displaced, a podcast from the International Rescue Committee.
  • A is for America America’s Voice discusses immigrant politics and organizing.
  • Only in America National Immigration Forum’s podcast about the people behind immigration issues.

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 Paging more doctors: California’s worsening physician shortage. 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
Migratory Notes

Health/Social Services reporter @CALmatters, co-founder of #MigratoryNotes. I carry a mic & a pen. Prev: @KPCC @SDUT, @DenverPost. elizabeth@calmatters.org