Poultry collusion? Mexican asylum seekers on the rise, Cubans targeted

Daniela Gerson
Sep 5 · 7 min read
SOS (Safety Orange Swimmers), an art installation of 20 orange figures grasping on life preservers created to bring attention to the global refugee crisis, has been on display in Toronto this summer.

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A “bombshell lawsuit” charges companies producing more than 90% of U.S. chicken have colluded to keep pay down in the dangerous industry that relies on immigrant labor, reports Bloomberg. Since 2009, leaders of 18 firms’ “human resources and compensation departments have held annual secret meetings at a Destin, Florida, hotel to discuss pay and benefits for line and maintenance workers at about 200 plants, according to the complaint in Baltimore federal court,” Deena Shanker and Polly Mosendz write. “Using consulting agencies as intermediaries, the suit says, they share detailed wage information” and have kept wages at an average of $11/hour, meaning most employees live below or near the poverty line. The lawsuit follows a price-fixing complaint that spurred a Justice Department probe this summer.

Migrants in Mexico
A resurgence in Mexican gang violence is sending more migrants to the U.S. border seeking asylum where they are forced to wait in their own country, which is a possible violation of international human rights accords, reports The Dallas Morning News. More than 500 Mexican nationals are on a list of asylum seekers in Ciudad Juarez and more are in other border towns. For Mexican President Lopez Obrador this is creating new pressures, which could change his recent cooperation with President Trump to crack down on asylum seekers.

Meanwhile, life in Mexico is becoming more dangerous for migrants. A study released Tuesday by a network of migrant shelters throughout Mexico reported an increase in assaults, robberies, and kidnappings in the past year, reports KJZZ.

Cuban migrants are particularly vulnerable because their families often pay large ransoms.

It’s not just cartels that threaten migrants. The Mexican National Guard has showed up to migrant shelters to intimidate the directors and try to carry out immigration enforcement, reports the Arizona Republic.

More than 2,000 Central American migrants have been flown or bused home under a UN program this year, but immigration advocates worry that migrants don’t fully understand their rights when they opt into the program, reports the LA Times.

Central American Enforcement
El Salvador and the U.S. signed a bilateral immigration cooperation agreement last week during acting DHS Secretary Kevin McAleenan’s visit to San Salvador, reports NPR. The agreement focused on curbing migration by cracking down on smuggling networks and creating El Salvador’s own “border patrol.” El Salvador already appears to be following through with its portion of the agreement. Officials arrested 25 people, including powerful businessmen and lawyers, in a bust of a migrant smuggling network last week, reports AP.

Guatemala has ramped up enforcement efforts in recent months after pressure from the Trump administration. That is making the journey even more difficult for Honduran and Salvadoran migrants reports BuzzFeed News in a narrative piece that traces the journey of one Honduran mother and her kids.

Hurricane Dorian
ICE confirmed Friday that it would not conduct enforcement operations at evacuation sites or shelters for those affected by Hurricane Dorian, reports CNN. In the past, ICE has suspended operations during natural disasters and emergencies, but many undocumented immigrants worried this could change under the Trump administration. Trump administration officials said that transfers of FEMA funds to ICE would not affect the disaster response, reports NBC News.

Enforcement
The latest shakeup at Homeland Security, pushing out the top U.S. asylum official, is causing “consternation and fear among asylum officers and other USCIS officials, who worry that the administration is dead set on pushing forward with policies that may not always be legal,” writes Hamed Aleaziz for Buzzfeed News. John Lafferty led USCIS’ Asylum Division for six years.

USCIS officers are now allowed to make fake social media profiles to collect information from immigrants to detect fraud or security concerns, reports AP. USCIS said allowing the previously prohibited fake accounts would make it easier to detect fraud, but doing so is against Facebook and Twitter user guidelines. Facebook said Tuesday that the new policy would violate its rules and that the company would take the proper steps to close fake accounts. Twitter said it is still reviewing the policy.

Deferred Action for Lifesaving Medical Treatment
The Trump administration backtracked on a decision to end a program that allowed immigrants to stay in the country while undergoing lifesaving medical treatment, reports The New York Times. On Monday, USCIS said it will review cases pending as of August 7, but it is unclear what will happen to cases filed after that date. This week, the body of a 41-year-old man who died after being deported to Iraq where he could not buy insulin for his diabetes was returned to the U.S. for burial, reports CNN.

Detention
A lawsuit against the government for violating the Flores agreement, which sets standards for the conditions and the length of time minors can be kept in detention, revealed that girls in detention are only given one sanitary pad a day, forcing them to bleed through their pants in many cases, reports HuffPost.

A draft proposal would allow CBP officials to collect DNA from immigrants in U.S. custody, possibly violating migrants’ rights by taking their personal information even though they have not committed a crime, reports BuzzFeed News.

Reports of sexual assault at Otay Mesa Detention Center in San Diego more than doubled from 2017 to 2018, reports Voices of San Diego. A total of 49 cases were reported. Nine of those claims were found to be unsubstantiated.

Border Wall
As of Tuesday, the government suspended 127 military projects to divert $3.6 billion to fund Trump’s promised border wall, reports The New York Times. The announcement caused outrage among Democratic lawmakers whose districts would be affected by the shift in funding made possible by Trump’s February declaration of a national emergency. The move was approved by Defense Secretary Mark Esper in one of the first tests of how he will balance the demands of the president with criticism from congress since he took the position in July, reports Foreign Policy.

A total of 11 border projects in California, Arizona, and Texas will receive the reallocated funding, reports NPR. Even before the Tuesday announcement, crews had begun to pour cement and install poles known as bollards along the border in Arizona, reports the Arizona Daily Star. The project is expected to cost $646 million for 63 miles of wall in Arizona. The Trump administration also announced it will begin constructing a border wall in the Rio Grande Valley, but would not provide details about when construction will start or how long the border section will be, reports the San Antonio Express News.

Northern Border
At least six Canadian Muslim men have been denied entry to the U.S. in the past two weeks, raising concerns among lawyers that they are being targeted for their religion, reports CBC News. At least two of the men tried to enter separately and at different ports of entry and CBP said it has not issued any new directives to deny entry to Canadian Muslims.

Labor
Since at least the 1980s, Central American immigrant workers have played an important part in the country’s labor movement, reports The New Food Economy (the piece was first published by The Conversation in January, but was republished for Labor Day.) At a time that union memberships were down, “many Guatemalans and Salvadorans were veteran community organizers. They had faced down government terror to participate in unions, peasant leagues, Catholic social justice campaigns or indigenous rights initiatives,” Central American expert Elizabeth Oglebsy writes.

In the current context, however, demanding better work conditions could mean deportation, reports PRI’s The World. Advocates are not sure if the recent raids at poultry plants in Mississippi were connected to organizing and lawsuits at one of the main plants. “I don’t know what provoked it, I don’t know why they did it, but I still think at the end of the day, the chilling effect that it has on workers is the same either way,” Caitlin Berberich, managing attorney with Southern Migrant Legal Services in Nashville, told Monica Campbell.

Migrant Mental Health Globally
Chicas Poderosas and Redacción document the challenges facing four Venezuelan children in Argentina who are growing up after being forced to move thousands of miles from their native country. And a photo essay in The Guardian documents the mental health struggles of Europe’s refugees. “I feel as if I am living the war all over again, although this time it is a war that is fought within the four walls of my apartment, a psychological war that inhabits my mind,” said a 23-year-old mother from Syria now living in Athens, Greece.

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Migratory Notes

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

Daniela Gerson

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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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