Migratory Notes 134

Elizabeth Aguilera
Oct 3, 2019 · 15 min read

Alligator moats, DNA swabs, address: Facebook

With immigrants from Ukraine, Sudan, Venezuela and dozens of other countries, the border has become a waiting room for the world, reports National Geographic. A Honduran family in Reynosa, Mexico, across from the U.S. border in McAllen, seeking asylum. Photo by Alice Driver.

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It’s a complicated love story woven together with Trump, immigrants, and saving lives. John Hunter comes from a long line of conservative politicians. His wife, Laura Hunter, is a Mexican immigrant who finds Trump despicable. They came together volunteering to ensure migrants have access to water, Cindy Carcamo reports in the Los Angeles Times. “On this one topic — saving lives in the desert — you could say we are all liberals,” said John, who plans to vote for Trump in 2020. “I just consider it being normal. When temps hit 115, people focus on the basics of survival, and petty differences are ignored.” But at home, they both voice their opinions. “This Trump stuff has been negative on our marriage, big time,” Laura said. But she also recognizes that differences of opinion are part of their connection. “I’m not an extension of him.… We have to agree to disagree. We have to agree to get along.”

Alligator snake moats, shooting migrants, an electrified wall with skin-piercing spikes: Trump has proposed extreme and violent ideas as he has grown more frustrated by his inability to stop migrants from crossing the border, reports The New York Times. Interviews with more than a dozen administration officials about one week in March reveal details of his thinking. For example, after advisers counseled him against shutting down the U.S.-Mexico border, Trump suggested shooting migrants in the legs to slow them down. His staff had to tell him that is illegal. Now, many worry that there are no longer any advisers willing to challenge Trump when he proposes these extreme, violent, and illegal actions. Trump disputed the reports on Wednesday.

The Justice Department plans to give immigration officials the authority to collect DNA from migrants in facilities holding more than 40,000 people, which would be a major expansion of the FBI database and raises serious concerns about privacy, reports the New York Times. A Homeland Security official told journalists that the rule against collection is outdated while an ACLU lawyer said mass collection on this scale “alters the purpose of DNA collection from one of criminal investigation basically to population surveillance, which is basically contrary to our basic notions of a free, trusting, autonomous society.”

New Mexico farmer James Johnson “embodies the complexity of the border for those who want both security and immigration reform,” writes Angela Kocherga in the Albuquerque Journal. He wants a border to prevent crossings or theft of his crops, but he also wants to hire more legal migrants to help on his farm. It’s these people along the border who are often most affected when politicians fail to pass immigration reform. Meanwhile, despite the increase in congressional visits to the border, lawmakers have not reached a consensus on how to tackle the problem, reports The New York Times. “The bigger question of how to avoid having the immigration crisis once again languish remains unanswered,” writes Emily Cochrane.

Through analyzing government cables about Guantánamo Bay post 9/11 Michelle García draws parallels to the separation and detention of immigrant families in an essay for Adi Magazine. “As with the War on Terror memoranda, this one revealed a government apparatus mobilized to address a threat,” García writes. “Immigration didn’t provide the justification for subjecting people at Guantánamo to cruel and inhumane treatment and depriving them of liberty and access to courts. War did. When stripped of its immigration veneer, the hieleras and the perreras at the border — iceboxes and dog kennels — find an analogy in the American-made war strategy named GTMO.”

Remain in Mexico
A judge questioned the Justice Department Tuesday about the “Remain in Mexico” program, which does not ask asylum seekers if they fear persecution in Mexico before sending them back there, a potential violation of international refugee law, reports CBS News. The DOJ lawyer said migrants, who are from various countries, can inform the government of fear without being asked in order to be considered to stay in the U.S. But this is not happening in practice, reports The Texas Observer. Recounting stories of stabbings, kidnapping and other attacks, Gus Bova writes, “cases like these, where the U.S. government returns refugees into the hands of their attackers before the blood is even dry, are why critics of MPP call the policy a ‘farce’ or a ‘sham.’”

Border Patrol has started to write “Facebook” as the address for migrants returned to Mexico that lack a permanent address, reports BuzzFeed News. This is one of the many reasons why migrants don’t always receive their notices to show up in court.

The ACLU and Texas Civil Rights Project filed a complaint with Homeland Security’s inspector general for an investigation into the practice of sending pregnant women back to Mexico while they seek asylum where they receive inadequate care, reports AP.

Mexican migrants are not subject to the “Remain in Mexico” program or other recent asylum restrictions, but many are now waiting months for a chance to seek asylum at the port of entry, reports the LA Times. Groups such as the ACLU say the practice of metering Mexican asylum seekers is illegal because it means they must stay in the country they are fleeing. U.S. officials say they are processing the requests as quickly as possible.

There are additional reports of:

Asylum and Refugees
The Trump administration lowered the refugee cap to 18,000 for 2020, the lowest since the program began in 1980. With fewer refugees arriving, resettlement agencies receive less federal funds, causing many of them to shut down and give away tens of thousands of dollars worth of in-kind donations intended to help refugees set up homes, reports PRI’s The World.

The U.S. net increase in immigrants slowed to its lowest in a decade with 200,000 more people entering than leaving in 2018, reports The New York Times. The biggest decline is from noncitizens from Latin America. Experts believe this is — at least in part — a result of Trump’s immigration restrictions on asylum seekers and other legal forms of immigration.

A Justice Department draft rule could make it more difficult for unaccompanied minors to seek asylum by requiring them to apply for asylum within the first two months of entering the U.S., reports BuzzFeed News. Adults have up to a year to file for asylum after entering the country.

A man from Cameroon died in ICE custody on Tuesday after experiencing a brain hemorrhage, becoming the first detention death of the new fiscal year which started Oct 1, reports Buzzfeed News. The man was being held at Otay Mesa detention center in San Diego. In the previous 12-months, eight migrants died in custody, including several children and 24 migrants have died in ICE custody under Trump’s watch.

For black immigrants in highly policed communities, one misstep can lead to deportation in what activists call the “prison-to-deportation pipeline,” reports Vox. “As many immigrant justice advocates will tell you, if being black makes you a police target, then being black and undocumented in a poor neighborhood will make you vulnerable to surveillance, punishment, and exile,” writes Shamira Ibrahim. This has been the case for Ousman Darboe, a 25-year-old immigrant from Gambia who grew up in the Bronx and now faces deportation after being found guilty of disorderly conduct.

Federal judges issued three major rulings this week that set back the Trump administration’s immigration crackdown.

The Trump administration introduced videoconferencing to speed up immigration cases, but activists say inefficiencies in the process are slowing down the backlog even more, reports The Dallas Morning News.

Lawyers representing the city of Southaven, Mississippi are arguing against a civil rights lawsuit filed by the widow of an undocumented immigrant for his death on the grounds that he does not have civil rights because of his immigration status even though the courts have previously found that people have certain protections despite immigration status in the U.S., reports the Memphis Commercial Appeal. The man was killed when police officers went to the wrong house and shot into the house. Lawyers for the widow argue that this logic goes against previous Supreme Court rulings.

Baltimore City and the town of Gaithersburg filed a lawsuit to block the public charge rule on the grounds that it limits legal migration for poor immigrants and immigrants of color, reports The Baltimore Sun. The lawsuit says the rule, which goes into effect October 15, will have a “chilling effect” on the immigrant community and damage the economy.

The immigration court system operates with two separate clocks, reports The Chicago Reporter. Some cases are sent to the so-called “rocket docket” for immigrants who arrived within the past year. These cases take priority and judges are pressured to wrap up these cases in a year as part of the Trump administration’s crackdown on recent border crossers. Other cases are moving exceptionally slow. In Chicago, cases not on this “rocket docket” took an average of 799 days to resolve.

Immigration is an International Issue
Britain is expected to introduce a “points-based” immigration system that favors skilled, highly educated migrants after it officially leaves the European Union, reports Reuters. All around the world, countries are closing their doors to asylum seekers, reports Vice News. This is leading many experts to question if the right to seek asylum is slowly disappearing. A series from Atlas Obscura explores the changing understanding of borders in the 21st century from West Africa to Maine to Colombia. “Borders don’t really exist until we call them into the world. Then signs and pillars and fences go up, landscapes change, and people are drawn in for commerce, or for adventure, or out of desperation,” the editors write.

As the U.S. has restricted asylum, more asylum seekers are now crossing the border into Canada to seek protection, reports CBC News. An unofficial border crossing has now seen 50,000 people cross in two years. In response, the Canadian government has agents on the ground to try to direct the border crossers to an official entry point or to arrest them and process them as asylum seekers in a nearby building, set up explicitly to address the rising flow.

Acting DHS secretary Kevin McAleenan has succeeded in what Trump considers most important: reducing the number of apprehensions at the border. But he has failed in his attempt to keep DHS a politically neutral agency, reports The Washington Post. “It doesn’t matter who is in the White House — Bush, or Obama, or Trump — you guys all know that our job remains the same,” he told a group of Border Patrol, CBP and Coast Guard personnel last month. But his message may be falling on deaf ears. During his time as acting head of DHS, Trump hardliners have begun to rise in the ranks because of their loyalty to the president and his agenda.


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

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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