Migratory Notes 132

Elizabeth Aguilera
Sep 19, 2019 · 14 min read

Mississippi’s Hispanic Project, border-crossing wiener, backlog hits 1 million

Camila, the border-crossing wiener dog, is the highlight of the day for many students in Columbus, New Mexico, reports El Paso Times. “Whether Camila has ever proved her paperwork — or her country of origin, which remains in question — isn’t clear,” writes Lauren Villagran. “Being a Dachshund, she comes from German stock.” Photo credit: Mark Lambie for the El Paso Times

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“The Hispanic Project,” which brought poultry workers to Mississippi, started with a tennis player from Chile. In a fascinating investigation that traces the roots of Latino workers in the state, The Mississippi Clarion-Ledger and USA Today interviewed dozens of people impacted when ICE raided poultry plants in August. “From 1990 to 2000, the Latino population increased by more than 1,000 percent in Scott County, which researchers call the ‘home of Mississippi’s Poultry industry,’” the authors write. Recently the newcomers tend to be from Central America. “Of the more than 300 people not immediately released after the recent ICE raids, nearly three-fourths are from Guatemala.”

At the El Buen Pastor shelter in Ciudad Juarez, a Cuban economist, Ugandan bodybuilder, and Salvadoran single mother find ways to share the small space. A moving photo essay from AP’s occasional series “Outsourcing Migrants” captures the daily life of migrants while they are stuck there at the border because of changing asylum rules, reports AP. “For migrants, El Buen Pastor is both a haven and a prison. It’s a small place — four sleeping rooms, four showers, four toilets and a chapel — that provides each arrival with a mattress, two meals a day, spotty wi-fi and protection from gangsters who trawl for targets in migrant enclaves of Juarez,” write Cedar Attanasio and Tim Sullivan.

Asylum and Refugees
A group of more than 125 mothers and children filed a lawsuit Monday, in the first challenge to a Trump administration asylum rule since the Supreme Court lifted an injunction stopping its implementation, reports Reuters. The plaintiffs allege that the rule, which makes migrants ineligible for asylum if they passed through another country on the way to the U.S. and did not seek asylum there, violates their rights to protection under U.S. and international law. The Supreme Court lifted the injunction last week that prohibited the ban from being implemented while litigation is ongoing. Unaccompanied minors are not exempt from the rule, but will be granted some additional, but still, unspecified protections, reports NBC News.

UNHCR also spoke out against the Supreme Court ruling, saying that the agency worries that people fleeing violence who need protection will not receive it, reports Voice of America. Although the rule is harsh, it is not an anomaly among Western countries, which have been working to restrict asylum, reports The New York Times. Trump’s plan — and the plans of many other countries — violate principles of the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, but there is no international enforcement mechanism that can prevent them from doing so. Acting head of USCIS Ken Cuccinelli defended the rule last week, saying that it will help cut down the backlog in immigration courts, reports AP. The backlog reached one million in August, according to data from Trac Immigration.

Tent courtrooms have been opened in two border cities in an effort to speed up the backlog on the border with judges appearing via videoconferences and cases closed to the public, reports AP. One lawyer told CBS News that the courts are a “farce of due process.”

A pastor from Honduras became one of the few people to win their asylum case out of more than 40,000 who have been sent back to Mexico under the Migrant Protection Protocols, reports The San Diego Union-Tribune. The pastor waited seven months for a decision in his case.

Many other migrants are growing restless because of the “squalid state of limbo” they live in Mexico, reports Texas Monthly. In a Harlingen court this week, two families declined a judge’s offer to give them more time to find a lawyer. Many migrants are deciding not to stay because of the dangers in Mexico or they risk drowning while trying to cross the Rio Grande River.

Border Patrol
Border Patrol, once “a largely invisible security force” now faces “a crisis in both mission and morale,” reports The New York Times in an article that features interviews with 25 current and former agents. Many told of increased animosity toward their work from their own communities. One former agent, who wrote a memoir about his time at the agency, said the response is warranted.“The intense criticism that is being directed at the Border Patrol is necessary and important because I do think that there’s a culture of cruelty or callousness,” he said.

The story received pushback from many readers on Twitter who called out the NYT for giving anonymity to some of the agents and accused the newspaper of being sympathetic toward agents.

In recent years, Border Patrol facilities have become so crowded that they are not only having difficulties finding space for migrants but have also run out of space for storage, reports Quartz. The agency recently posted that it needs 31 medium to large shipping containers.

Border Wall
More than 20 archeological sites are at risk of being destroyed if the Trump administration pushes forward with construction of a border barrier in Arizona, reports The Washington Post. The area was part of a prehistoric trade route and contains well-preserved artifacts, including ceramics and stone tools.

Other border wall projects in California and Arizona were halted this week because of a lack of funding, reports CNN. The decision from the Department of Defense comes as Trump pressures government agencies to push forward with the border wall.

Immigration is an International Issue
El Salvador deployed 100 agents from its newly created “Patrulla Fronteriza,” its own form of Border Patrol, to its border with Guatemala last week in what critics say is an effort to cater to the Trump administration’s demands for Central American countries to stop the flow of migrants, reports The Nation.

In neighboring Guatemala, the president signed a “safe third country” agreement with the U.S., but aid has not been restored as promised in return. As a result, families are struggling to eat after many programs ended or reduced their staff and programming, reports NPR.

The Honduran foreign minister said Wednesday that the country is negotiating an agreement with the U.S. that would require Cubans to seek asylum in Honduras if they passed through on their way to the U.S., reports NBC News. He did not refer to the agreement as a “safe third country” agreement.

California lawmakers voted last week to ban privately-run prisons and immigrant detention centers in the state, reports The Guardian. While advocates told the Guardian they saw the move as a significant victory, one expressed concern that detainees will be moved hundreds of miles away to centers in other states. Governor Gavin Newsom still has to sign the bill, but is expected to do so. Currently, there are four private ICE contracted detention centers that would face closure including one in Adelanto, which is run by GEO Group. It is the second-largest in the country and government reports have found “significant health and safety risks at the facility,” reports the Desert Sun.

In Aurora, Colorado, the ACLU documented widespread medical neglect at another detention center run by GEO Group, including the 2017 death of a 64-year-old immigrant from Iran who was not given the medicine he needed, reports the Denver Post.

The Trump administration is considering charging immigrants nearly $1000 to appeal their deportation cases, leading to potential due process issues, reports BuzzFeed News. The fee is currently $110. Advocates say this would especially impact those in detention centers and asylum seekers waiting in Mexico.

Immigration Politics
Acting director of USCIS Ken Cuccinelli aims to publicize the personal information of refugees, asylees and their U.S. family members if they are being prosecuted for certain crimes, reports BuzzFeed News based on an internal memorandum it obtained. Federal regulations currently protect those details. “They are going to put people in danger,” the former USCIS chief counsel told Buzzfeed News, calling the memo inappropriate. “This undermines the very purpose of the asylum claim and the purpose of the prohibitions on the disclosure. I’m shocked.”

The revolving DHS door moved again this past week. The White House on Tuesday fired John Mitnick, who was the fifth general counsel for the Department of Homeland Security in the Trump administration, reports The New York Times.

DHS is investigating a swastika that was drawn in the building in Washington on Friday, reports CNN. “There is no room in the workplace for such symbols of hate. And there is no room in the workplace for those who ascribe to such a thing,” wrote Principal Deputy Undersecretary for the Office of Intelligence and Analysis Brian Murphy in an email to staff.

More than 70 people were arrested in a demonstration outside of Microsoft’s New York store in protest of the company’s work — including data processing contracts — with ICE, reports AP.

The San Francisco Chronicle obtained access to videos that have replaced interpreters in courts thanks to a decision by the Trump administration in July. The four videos played for immigrants in U.S. court contain information that would not normally be included in a judge’s opening comments, including an in-depth explanation of how immigrants can give up their cases and return to their home country.

Many immigrants have started receiving notices to appear in court with “dummy dates,” the term immigrants and lawyers are now using for fake dates, including holidays and weekends, reports the Miami Herald. USCIS started putting the dates on documents in order to comply with a court ruling that required it to do so. But the dates are not always correct, causing chaos in the court system.

Citizenship and Special Visas
An estimated 46,000 Salvadorans in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington D.C. have Temporary Protected Status and they have worked on countless construction projects that have contributed to the development of the area. If they are forced to leave, the area will likely face labor shortages and construction delays, reports The New York Times.

A Cuban political prisoner who came to the U.S. after the Carter administration negotiated his release has now been denied citizenship for the same reason the U.S. welcomed him: his past as a dissident in Cuba makes him “morally questionable,” reports the Miami Herald.

Immigrant rights groups filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration to prevent it from collecting data on the citizenship status of people living in the U.S., reports NPR. The Trump administration proposed compiling this data through other agencies after courts blocked an attempt to include a citizenship question on the census.

A USCIS internal memo asked that the agency be stripped of the ability to grant deferred action requests for medical reasons, reports Politico. Doing so would mean that the agency would stop granting humanitarian requests altogether, including medical deferrals. “USCIS strongly believes that the exercise of deferred action is subject to abuse,” writes USCIS Policy and Strategy Chief Kathy Nuebel Kovarik in the memo obtained by Politico.

Immigrants are increasingly turning to the black market to buy medications because of the fear of deportation if they use public services, reports the LA Times. The drugs are often smuggled from Mexico and can be dangerous when administered by someone who is not a registered pharmacist.

Immigration Journalism
A new study revealed that 90 percent of news articles in four major publications that quoted the Center for Immigration Studies from 2014 to 2017 did not explain the organization’s ties to extremist, white nationalist groups or to the Trump administration, reports The Intercept. The study, by Define America and MIT Center for Civic Media, also found that in these publications coverage of immigration had increased, as had the use of what is described as “denigrating terminology,” principally the term “illegal immigrant.”

DHS revoked its invitation to BuzzFeed News reporter Hamed Aleaziz to a tour of the border this week, reports The Hill. BuzzFeed News director wrote to DHS asking for an explanation, but DHS has yet to provide an answer.

Immigration Map of the Week

Illinois passed a law in June banning participation in 287(g) which deputizes local law authorities with some ICE capabilities. But this has not taken off elsewhere across the country. The Appeal: Political Report investigates why.


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 Democrats try again to provide health care to needy undocumented seniors. 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

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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