Migratory Notes 131

Elizabeth Aguilera
Sep 13 · 14 min read

SCOTUS upholds asylum restrictions, Bahamians returned, fewer refugees

San Diego Union-Tribune cartoonist Steve Breen started visiting migrants in Tijuana last year to sketch them and to learn more about them as “real” people. In an essay published last week after the final episode of Drawn To America was released he wrote, “I was trying to move past adjectives and labels like legal and illegal, authorized or undocumented, open and closed.” What he found: “complexity is everywhere.” Illustration credit: Steve Breen for the San Diego Union-Tribune

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**Daniela is presenting at ONA in New Orleans today, Thursday at 2:30 p.m. If you are there too please stop by and say hello.

The Palacios brothers were approved to come to the U.S. in 2016 under an Obama-era program called the Central American Minors program that allowed kids fleeing their country to reunite with their parents in the U.S., reports the Houston Chronicle. Their father insisted they follow all the rules and arrive legally and he spent thousands of dollars over the years to make it happen. Once here, the brothers began settling into high school, learning English and trying out for the soccer team. “Then a government letter arrived unexpectedly this summer, threatening to derail everything the family had spent so long to build, at such cost,” writes Lomi Kriel. They now face deportation after the Trump administration abruptly ended the program and their renewal for humanitarian parole was denied. “They took all the right steps and now they are going to be sent back to danger and likely have no choice but to come back,” said one advocate for migrant children.

Immigration lawyer Carlos Spector has faced just about every challenge you can imagine: tongue cancer, a heart attack and the Trump administration, reports Mother Jones. “Spector specializes in arguing asylum cases with the worst odds, and after working for nearly 30 years in one of the country’s strictest immigration courts, he’d learned the value of patience,” writes J. Weston Phippen in a profile of the lawyer that shows the red-headed pocho’s dedication to asylum seekers at the border. “My father’s greatest lesson to me was that it was important to defend the other and the weak,” Spector said.

Hurricane Dorian
The Trump administration has sent mixed messages to Bahamians desperate to leave the island after Hurricane Dorian killed more than 40 people and destroyed thousands of homes. On Monday, Trump said that anyone from the Bahamas would need proper documentation to enter the U.S. “I don’t want to allow people that weren’t supposed to be in the Bahamas to come into the United States — including some very bad people and some very bad gang members and some very, very bad drug dealers,” he said in a comment with little evidence to back it up, according to Reuters. Acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan said Monday that the U.S. would allow anyone on “humanitarian reasons,” but later DHS clarified and said that anyone entering would need a travel visa and a passport to enter, reports Time. As of Tuesday, the Trump administration decided against offering Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Bahamians, reports CNN. Hundreds of evacuees were turned away at Nassau airport Wednesday, reports the Miami Herald.

On Sunday, Bahamians were kicked off a ferry en route to Fort Lauderdale. CBP blamed the ferry company, not border enforcement, reports the Miami Herald. The confusion led Bahamians to fill the Criminal Records Office this week in a rush to secure documentation of a clear criminal record so they could enter the U.S., reports The New York Times. A 12-year-old girl from The Bahamas who arrived in the U.S. with her godmother, because she lost her home, is now alone in a Florida shelter for unaccompanied minors. The child was separated from her godmother because she was not her biological mother, reports BuzzFeed News.

Asylum and Refugees
The Supreme Court ruled to allow the Trump administration to restrict asylum for non-Mexican migrants who passed through a third country before reaching the U.S. border while litigation against the rule is ongoing. The ruling lifted a lower court’s injunction that prevented the rule from being implemented (first all along the border, then just in California and Arizona, then along the whole border again).

Once the global leader in accepting refugees, the U.S. is considering further limiting the refugee cap to 10,000 to 15,000 refugees next year, reports The New York Times. This year’s cap was 30,000. “At a time when the number of refugees is at the highest level in recorded history, the United States has abandoned world leadership in resettling vulnerable people in need of protection,” said the president of Refugees International. Democrats, including presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobucher, criticized the plan as “immoral” and a “bad idea,” reports The Hill.

Blaise Pascal, a refugee from Burundi, has been able to explore his musical abilities thanks to a program that houses refugees at college campuses, reports PRI’s The World. But further refugee caps could mean that Pascal’s sister might not be able to join him in the U.S. The possible cuts are also forcing programs like the one that welcomed Pascal to North Carolina to rethink their work.

Border Emergency
Border apprehensions decreased in August for the third month in a row, and the U.S. has credited Mexico and Central America for their enforcement efforts. Apprehensions are down to about 50,000, compared to 67,000 in February, the month Trump declared a national emergency at the border. So when will the national emergency officially end? It depends on Congress, reports The Washington Post. Lawmakers should review every national emergency every six months but rarely exercise this oversight power. The Senate is expected to force another vote on the national emergency this month, reports Politico.

Citizenship and Special Visas
About 1 million people legally in the U.S. are waiting to receive a green card — even though they have already been approved, reports The Wall Street Journal. The government only approves 140,000 employment-based green cards each year but gives no more than 7 percent of the total to people from any single country. That leaves an exceptionally long backlog of green cards, especially for applicants from India who make up a large percentage of highly skilled visa workers.

Two years after the Trump administration announced the end of DACA, undocumented students who were never able to apply are struggling to move forward with their education and careers, given the sense of uncertainty looming over them, reports the Palm Springs Desert Sun. “That affects everyday practices, that affects how they plan for their futures, and it affects their mental and emotional well-being,” said a Harvard professor who has studied and written a book about undocumented young adults.

Representatives from 10 colleges say their offices have experienced an additional workload to help international students secure their visas and navigate the immigration bureaucracy, reports The Atlantic. They worry about a drop in enrollment because of these added difficulties.

Migrants in Mexico
The hearings in Laredo and Brownsville for immigrants who have been returned to Mexico under the Migrant Protection Protocols are closed to journalists and the public, reports The Texas Observer. BuzzFeed News reporter Adolfo Flores was told that law enforcement, lawyers and their clients, and contractors are the only people allowed in the facilities.

A pregnant woman from El Salvador who was experiencing contractions after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border was given medication to stop labor and sent back to Mexico, despite widespread reports of the unsafe conditions in Mexico, reports AP.


Immigration is an International Issue
The White House is pressuring DHS to sign “safe-third country” agreements with Honduras and El Salvador by the end of the month, despite State Department recognition of the dangers in these countries, reports BuzzFeed News. Pressure from the U.S. is affecting borders in Mexico and Central America. At the Guatemalan border with Mexico, trade has also decreased because of Mexican enforcement, hurting the local economy, reports KJZZ in a series called Tracing the Migrant Journey. El Salvador announced that it will send 800 police to the country’s border with Guatemala starting on Thursday, reports Reuters.

In Lima, Peru, wealthy residents built a wall in the 1980s to fence themselves off from migrants from rural areas who fled the violence between the government and a leftist guerrilla group, reports The Atlantic. “Building a wall — the physical act of cutting oneself off from “the other” — may be turning into a common phenomenon in a more polarized world. Much like other famous walls — Northern Ireland’s “peace walls,” the barrier Israel erected along its border with the Palestinian areas, the Berlin Wall, the structure lining the U.S.-Mexico border — Lima’s became emblematic of already stark social divisions,” writes Megan Janetsky. Many Peruvians call it “Wall of Shame.”

U.S. Army veteran Hector Barajas, who is the subject of a documentary film, was denied entry to Canada on his way to the Toronto Film Festival by Canadian border officials, reports The Washington Post. He was later allowed entry, but the reason for his denial was never explained. Barajas is well-known for spending years as a deported veteran in Tijuana and started a “bunker” for other deported vets where he helped them with shelter, legal issues and veteran benefits before he was allowed to return to the U.S. last year.

A Mexican man died in ICE custody in Illinois Tuesday, the 8th death in the agency’s care this year, reports BuzzFeed News. The cause of death is still unknown.

An investigation by The Atlantic documented the excessive and arbitrary use of solitary confinement under the Obama and Trump administrations. Reasons for putting detainees in solitary ranged from medical conditions such as tuberculosis and HIV to menstruating on a prison uniform. (Other coverage on the use of solitary confinement has been done by The Intercept and The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, The Daily Beast and The Takeaway.)

A judge ordered ICE to give detained migrants in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee a fair chance of being granted parole, reports Mother Jones. The rate of parole has declined from 75 percent in 2016 to 0 this year in the Deep South region where ICE is concentrating asylum seekers.

A Marine veteran who survived two tours in Iraq says that he has not received proper treatment for his PTSD and other life-threatening health conditions while in Adelanto detention center in California, reports The Guardian. Jose Segovia Benitez, who was brought to the U.S. from El Salvador at 3-years-old, says he repeatedly filled out his naturalization paperwork but it was never completed and he now faces deportation.

Immigrant Rhetoric
A data analytics company founded by Charles Koch, the billionaire Republican donor, has helped Republican candidates spread their anti-immigrant message, reports The Intercept. Dozens of candidates used i360 to target voters with television and social media ads, leading some to win tight races.

In Colorado, a community organizes an annual “thank you” party for laborers who travel from Mexico on H-2A’s to do the grueling labor of picking peaches, reports The Colorado Sun. “In an era blighted by go-back-where-you-came from politics, this party plays out like an old-fashioned, culture-melding community celebration,” writes Nancy Lofholm. The farmer is already doing the paperwork to bring them back for the next harvest.

Fourteen migrant workers from Mexico allege in a lawsuit that they were part of a trafficking ring that brought them to the U.S. on H-2A visas to work in Georgia, but then transported them to Wisconsin to work illegally, reports Wisconsin Public Radio. Upon arrival, their documents were taken from them and they were given strict rules that prohibited them from talking to anyone or leaving the premises.


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 co-founder and 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 concise and insightful guide to immigration news.

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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