Migratory Notes 133

Elizabeth Aguilera
Sep 26, 2019 · 13 min read

Jimmy Carter and detention, heroin poppies, Minnesota town divided

Migrants head south after being returned to Mexico from the U.S. when they sought asylum. The child is being helped aboard a moving train by two migrants while her father and mother assisted her two younger siblings on June 24, 2019, part of a USA Today Network reporting project that involved dozens of reporters to capture what was happening across thousands of miles on immigration in one week. Credit: Omar Ornelas, USA Today Network

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The U.S. immigrant detention system, the largest in the world, got its start under President Jimmy Carter. Today more than 50,000 immigrants are detained per day under the Trump administration and many spend months in custody. “Detention, once reserved only for those who threatened public safety or posed a flight risk, is now ubiquitous,” writes Emily Kassie in a multimedia documentary video collaboration between The Marshall Project and The Guardian that explores the exponential growth of the multi-billion dollar immigration detention industry and how it crosses political divides.

For one week in June, USA Today sent nearly 30 reporters across 20,000 miles to capture a week in the U.S. migrant experience. “Rather than report on one thing, we wanted to report on everything, at the same time,” writes Manny Garcia. “Because what’s happening in immigration in America is not happening in single-issue reports. It is all happening at the same time, at this moment and every moment.”

Father and daughter Jaime Escalante Galvez, 35, and Adriana Escalante Gonzalez, 2, on the way to Sky Harbor International Airport on June 25, 2019, in Tempe, Ariz. The family crossed into the U.S. through an opening in the border fence and asked for asylum. Credit: Sean Logan, USA Today Network

The result is a stunning multimedia series, with parts translated into Spanish and broadcast on Telemundo, that stretches from Guatemala, where farmers have started growing heroin poppies to make money, to San Antonio, where local governments are taking on the work — and picking up the tab — of the federal government after migrants are dropped off, to the halls of Congress in Washington DC. The series includes an interactive trip through the asylum process, charts and analysis documenting “why this migrant crisis is different,” and video footage from across the country and Central America.

The U.S. announced it will stop releasing migrant families after they have been apprehended at the border, ending the program colloquially known as “catch and release,” reports NPR. Asylum seekers will be returned to Mexico under the Remain in Mexico program and others will be quickly deported to their home countries, DHS said in a statement. Sending families to Mexico allows the U.S. to bypass the Flores Settlement Agreement, which sets out standards for the detention of minors and limits their time in detention to 21 days, reports Vox.

In an effort to cut down the number of migrants who pass the first test in the asylum process, Border Patrol agents have begun conducting credible fear interviews as part of a pilot program, reports CBS News. The LA Times reported last week that border enforcement agents had started training. Border Patrol agents would replace trained asylum officers who work for US Citizenship and Immigration Services who are well-versed in U.S. and international refugee law.

Mental health experts are visiting the border to help potential asylum seekers process traumatic experiences, reports Slate. They can’t offer extensive therapy given the time constraints, so they focus on small fixes, such as calming exercises and aromatherapy instead.

Remain in Mexico
At the border, closed-to-the-public teleconference hearings are confusing lawyers and their clients, reports CNN. The tent courts, which are used for the MPP hearings, are one of many policy decisions moving the immigration court system “closer and closer to a model that doesn’t resemble anything in the American judicial system,” the president of the National Association of Immigration Judges told the Texas Observer. Instead, the courts are mired with lack of due process and transparency.

The bodies of Honduran mother Idalia Yamileth Herrera Hernandez and her 21-month-old son were recovered in San Felipe Creek, Texas after they drowned crossing the Rio Grande from Matamoros, where they were sent after asking for asylum in the United States under the Remain in Mexico program, reports CNN.

A Guatemalan woman who had been staying in Mexico under the MPP program won her case this week, but was not released, reports Voice of San Diego. Instead, she was taken into Border Patrol custody and her lawyers don’t know why.

Third-Country Deals
The U.S. signed a deal with Honduras Wednesday at the UN General Assembly that would send some asylum seekers to the Central American country, reports The Wall Street Journal. It is still not clear what the country will get in return, though increased temporary work permits have been discussed. In addition, on Sunday, Honduras said it plans to sign an agreement with Cuba to deport citizens that enter Honduras illegally, reports Reuters.

The U.S. also signed a nearly identical “safe third country” agreement with El Salvador Friday that would require asylum seekers to seek protection in El Salvador if passing through there en route to the U.S. This is similar to an agreement signed with Guatemala in July but yet to be implemented, reports El Faro. At the country’s current capacity — only one asylum officer — it would be nearly impossible to implement. A draft of the agreement between the U.S. and El Salvador showed that the wording of the agreement is so vague that it could require migrants who never passed through El Salvador to await their asylum process in the Central American country, reports The Intercept. In exchange for his cooperation with the U.S., Salvadoran president Nayib Bukele is hoping for more U.S. investment in El Salvador and the continuation of TPS for 200,000 Salvadorans living in the U.S., reports The New York Times.

Push Factors
Research compiled by CBP about a year ago shows that crop shortages are driving migrants to leave Guatemala, but the Trump administration plan to reduce migration from the country ignores this reality, reports NBC News. Instead, it focuses on creating border enforcement, increasing housing in Guatemala, and providing more temporary work visas.

Immigrant Youth
A small farming town in Minnesota has received one of the highest number of unaccompanied minors in the country. Five times voters have rejected a move to expand the school district to ease overcrowding created by the influx of Central American immigrant kids, reports The Washington Post. Tensions in town are high, and many feel this is not just about schools but about the ethnicity of the new students and a changing culture. One of the residents against expanding the school district is bus driver Don Brink, who resents the new immigrant students he picks up on his daily route.

A few thousand Rohingya children, a Muslim minority in Myanmar, fled to the United States before the Trump administration increased limits on refugees, reports The New York Times. They were sent with the hopes that they would one day be reunited with their parents in the U.S., but now that dream seems nearly impossible.

The Valdez family dream of returning to Seattle where they lived before the husband and father was deported in 2013 and his wife and daughters joined him in Mexico. The family is one of many who are now living in Mexico but dreaming about and planning to return to the U.S, reports The Seattle Times in a series Beyond the Border with support from the Pulitzer Center. Even as they try to make a life in Mexico, they are preparing to leave as soon as Rafael Valdez can legally return.

New data reveals no connection between increased deportations and lower crime rates, according to a report from UC Davis. The researchers studied more than 1,000 communities that participated in the Secure Communities program that encouraged coordination between local authorities and immigration enforcement with the goal of improving safety, reports The Marshall Project.


Travel Ban
At least 18 students from Iran have not been allowed to board their flights to the U.S., reports the Davis Enterprise. Iran is one of the countries affected by the travel ban, but Iranian students are supposed to be exempt. Neither DHS or the US Embassy explained to the students why they weren’t allowed to board, but the State Department told The New York Times there has been no change in policy. As of September, more than 31,000 people have been denied entry to the U.S. because of the travel ban, reports CNN.

The U.S. Department of Labor has proposed loosening the guidelines for treatment of migrant farmworkers on temporary visas such as easing up on housing inspections and allowing employers to pay less for worker transportation from their home countries, reports KJZZ Fronteras Desk. The move is meant to “ease burdens” on employers, but some advocates say it will just drive wages down.

Immigration Chart of the Week

USA Today’s The Migrants series visualizes the recent rise in asylum-seekers from Guatemala and Honduras and fall in migrants from Mexico.


Immigration Resources & Opportunities

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

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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