Migratory Notes 136

Micronesian loophole, African migration on the rise, DHS head #5?

Daniela Gerson
Oct 17 · 13 min read
An RV in Washington State serves as a support center for immigrants just released from detention, reports The California Sunday Magazine. “All the focus is on getting these men and women back to where they belong,” writes James Ross Gardner of the mostly retiree volunteers. “So the phone calls begin immediately. To a cousin in Miami. A sister in L.A. In Spanish. In Punjabi. In Fula.” Photo by Ricardo Nagaoka for The California Sunday Magazine.

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As the Trump administration slashes refugee admissions and cracks down on undocumented workers, employers are increasingly recruiting Micronesian workers, reports The New York Times. “They were legal, allowed to work in the United States without visas or green cards under decades-old agreements rooted in America’s atomic testing and military history in the Pacific,” writes Jack Healey. But these workers are not eligible for benefits like Medicaid, leaving them vulnerable if they become sick. He follows 200 Micronesians recruited to slaughter hogs in western Iowa and finds a “tangled migration saga of what the workers called mistreatment and broken promises.”

Warda Slewo was a Trump fan. His daughter Ashourina thought the president was a racist. Then the father was arrested in a sweep targeting Iraqi Christians in Michigan. Liz Goodwin reports in The Boston Globe that when Ashourina spoke to Warda in immigration detention she could not resist asking “Do you still support Trump?” He cursed in response in Aramaic. “Ashourina’s pointed question to her 53-year-old father is one that’s reverberating through the close-knit Iraqi Christian community in southeastern Michigan, opening up painful rifts among families and old friends that could affect the 2020 presidential election in this crucial Midwestern state,” Goodwin writes in a piece exploring a community where many trusted Trump to protect them and where some members are now reconsidering their allegiances. (The Detroit News previously reported on Slewo’s case.)

Caravans
What ever happened to participants in the migrant caravans that made national headlines last year? Reuters followed six migrants from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras “through detentions, deportations, family separations and course changes, as well as hopeful, if fragile, beginnings in the United States.”

Meanwhile new caravans continue to emerge. Frustrated with long processing times for Mexican visas, more than 1,000 people set out walking from the southern Mexican state of Chiapas over the weekend. The Mexican National Guard blocked the migrants from Central America, the Caribbean, and Africa from advancing north, reports Al Jazeera. About half of them were taken in by immigration authorities and brought to a holding facility for processing for legal status in Mexico, reports the LA Times.

The day before, a Cameroonian man died after a boat capsized off the Pacific coast of southern Mexico, in what immigration activists say points to the risks of increased enforcement to African immigrants, reports the LA Times.

Trump Administration
Kevin McAleenan became the fourth DHS head to depart under the Trump administration when he announced his resignation Friday. Under his six-month tenure, border crossings dropped and he oversaw controversial new reforms such as the Migrant Protection Protocols and safe third country agreements with Central American leaders. “If McAleenan passed as a moderate steward of DHS in the context of Trump’s Washington — a policy wonk and diplomat, who was data-driven and cautious — by almost any other standard, his tenure was marked by aggressive measures that have wreaked havoc on the lives of migrants,” writes Jonathan Blitzer in The New Yorker.

Sources tell Politico that acting USCIS Director Ken Cuccinelli is Trump’s top pick for the job, but he may have a tough time being confirmed by the Senate. Acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan is also a potential candidate, reports The Wall Street Journal. McAleenan will remain acting secretary until his successor is named.

Public Charge
Three federal courts issued an injunction last week against the Trump administration’s “public charge” rule that would have gone into effect Oct. 15. Judges ruled that the administration had not adequately provided a justification for the change, which would make it easier for the government to reject green card and visa applications for immigrants who use public benefits or may use them in the future. Multiple immigrant rights groups and more than a dozen state attorney generals are challenging the rule in court.

Remain in Mexico
The U.S. government has sent asylum seekers who crossed in Arizona back to Mexico under the Migrant Protection Protocols, also known as Remain in Mexico, although it is not an official policy there, reports the Arizona Republic. Since March, the Yuma sector has been transferring migrants to California where MPP is officially implemented. From there, the migrants are returned to Mexicali.

An estimated 16,000 minors have been sent back to Mexico since the program began in January, reports Reuters. Of these, about 500 were infants. While they wait for their day in U.S. immigration court, some migrants have opted for a free bus ride to southern Mexico sponsored by the Mexican government. But many did not know that they will have to find their own way back to the northern border for their court dates, reports the LA Times.

Last week, hundreds of migrants staged a sit-in at the Gateway International Bridge that connects Matamoros and Browsnville, Texas, forcing U.S. officials to close it down, reports BuzzFeed News. They protested the squalid conditions they are forced to endure while living in tents outside the bridge and the lack of information given to them by U.S. officials about the process. In Mexicali, locals protested a new shelter for migrants returned under MPP, saying that it could draw crime to the area, reports the Palm Springs Desert Sun.

Border
As more Central American migrants have been forced to stay in Mexican border cities, the federal government is working with the textile factory industry — or maquiladoras — to integrate them into the local workforce, which currently has 50,000 vacancies, reports NACLA.

Water rescues increased by more than 1000 percent in the past year in the Del Rio sector of the border, reports CNN. The sector’s chief patrol agent attributes the change to the large number of people crossing, the high water levels in the river that are often deceiving, and smugglers searching out more dangerous routes.

Cuban Migrants
More than 800 Cubans were deported in the past year, a 10-fold increase since the Obama administration. Many are finding themselves stuck in limbo because Cuba is labeled a “recalcitrant” country that does not willingly accept deportees, reports AP. The country has been slowly accepting more deportees, but they may face retaliation upon return. A 43-year-old Cuban man died in ICE custody in Richwood Correctional Center in Louisiana on Tuesday, according to his wife, reports Telemundo. Buzzfeed reports that he had been on a hunger strike and that ICE confirmed the death as an apparent suicide.

Detention
A 9-year-old girl from El Salvador was released Monday from Border Patrol custody after being held there for 10 days in violation of the Flores Settlement Agreement that limits the amount of time minors can be held, reports KPBS. The girl has become ill but was not receiving medical treatment in Border Patrol care, according to her lawyer, who says cases of unexplained prolonged detention by Border Patrol are common. CBP declined to comment on the case.

A British couple and their 3-month-old baby were detained earlier this month for crossing the U.S.-Canada border while driving on a family vacation, reports BBC. They claim they did not realize they had crossed the border and were mistreated at the detention center in Pennsylvania. “We will be traumatized for the rest of our lives by what the United States government has done to us,” the mother said in a statement. A lawyer for the family said they expect to be released soon.

Citizenship and Special Visas
One of the few legal ways for many Guatemalans to enter the U.S. is through temporary agricultural visas. But they are vulnerable to scams in which recruiters steal their life savings, reports The Christian Science Monitor. The U.S. does not release statistics on these scams, but as of 2016, Guatemala was investigating cases which included almost 5,000 victims.

The lawyer for a U.S. citizen who was detained by Border Patrol and released after a month in U.S. custody worries that the U.S. government is now building a case to disprove his citizenship, reports the Dallas Morning News. He was given a court date for 2020 even though ICE could have used its discretion to close the case.

Census
The U.S. Census Bureau has requested information from state drivers’ license records in what appears to be an attempt to circumvent a Supreme Court ruling that prohibits a citizenship question on the 2020 census, reports AP.

Immigration is an International Issue
Trump said Wednesday he would release $143 million in aid to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador because of their cooperation signing asylum deals with the U.S., reports The Washington Post. Just one day before, the U.S. threatened to withhold development aid to Guatemala if the president elect tries to withdraw from a safe-third country agreement signed in July, reports Reuters.

Immigration Journalism
As the federal government has relied more on the private prisons to detain immigrants, reporters have had to find ways around private contractors’ claims that they can’t release documents because they hold trade secrets, reports Columbia Journalism Review.

Chart of the Week

African migration to the U.S. is growing faster than migration from any other region, reports Quartz. It grew 50 percent from 2010 to 2018. Immigrants from Cameroon lead the continent in terms of growth. Nigerians are the largest population.

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*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

Daniela Gerson

Written by

Ass’t Prof @CSUNJournalism and Senior Fellow @CCEMNewmarkJ. Co-creator #MigratoryNotes. Subscribe for free: https://bit.ly/2tkethJ @dhgerson

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

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