Migratory Notes 137

Elizabeth Aguilera
Oct 24, 2019 · 14 min read

Underground living, twin asylum cases, enforcer Marshals

Of the estimated 941,000 green card holders who would be affected by the public charge rule, about 300,000 are from Asian countries, reports NBC News. Photo by Daniela Gerson

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U.S. Marshals, the nation’s oldest law enforcement force, are supposed to take care of pretrial detainees. With the explosion of immigration detention, Marshals are finding a new, sometimes sinister, role in detaining more people than ICE, according to an investigation from Mother Jones and Latino USA. “Due in large part to President Donald Trump’s aggressive immigration policies, the Marshals population is approaching historic highs,” Seth Freed Wessler writes. “About two-thirds of all prosecutions between October 2018 and April 2019 were related to immigration crimes, including many of the people swept up in Trump’s ‘zero tolerance’ border policy. In their frantic pursuit of beds, the Marshals have helped prop up failing jails, according to our extensive analysis.”

A visually arresting multimedia project from The New York Times provides an intimate glimpse into the “underground lives” of the estimated tens of thousands of immigrants living illegally in Queens basements. It’s “an open secret…a haven for thousands of people who work in restaurant kitchens, on delivery bikes, in small factories or on construction sites.” One of these immigrants is Amado, who works six days a week at a restaurant and lives in a basement apartment with no windows. Once a year he returns to his village in Mexico where he steps, literally, into the light as “a man with a wife, two stepdaughters, an extended family, friends. Some might even call him rich. He has a piece of land to call his own.” The rest of the year he is working to send money to his wife or “he’s in his basement, where the glow from his phone, his lifeline to his family in Mexico, provides a little extra light,” write Nikita Stewart, Ryan Christopher Jones, Sergio Peçanha, Jeffrey Furticella and Josh Williams.

Federal anti-drug money is being used to build Trump’s border wall, but it will fail to prevent hard drugs from entering, a multimedia investigation by the Arizona Daily Star reveals. Analysis of 750 federal drug smuggling cases showed that seizures of marijuana — usually smuggled through the desert — are decreasing, while seizures of meth, cocaine and opioids — often taken through legal ports of entry — are increasing. Nevertheless, DHS requested $1.2 billion in anti-narcotics funding for the border wall, which would only affect already decreasing marijuana smuggling.

Criminal misconduct by Border Patrol officers hit a five-year high in 2018, according to internal documents obtained by Quartz. It had been on a decline from 2014 to 2017, before leaping11% from 2017 to 2018.

Since the early 2000s, Border Patrol and smugglers have created more than 8,000 miles of roads in the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge in the Arizona desert, reports Sierra Magazine. These roads have had severe environmental impacts, disrupting water flows in the region and causing many animals and birds to disappear from the area.

Migrant Deaths

Asylum & Refugees
Identical twin brothers entered the U.S. days apart — one with the mother and one with the father — but received drastically different treatment in a case that shows how the U.S. asylum system arbitrarily makes decisions that impact immigrants’ lives, reports the LA Times. The mother and one son were sent back to Mexico under MPP while the father and other twin were released to family in the U.S.

In July, the Trump administration issued a regulation stating that migrants are ineligible for asylum in the U.S. if they passed through another country without seeking asylum there. The administration said the change would not affect asylum seekers who had already been sent back to Mexico under the Migrant Protection Protocols, also known as Remain in Mexico. But this may not be true. A judge in El Paso recently asked immigration lawyers to submit briefs explaining why their clients who were returned to Mexico under MPP are eligible for asylum despite the new rule issued in July, reports ProPublica.

LGBT Asylum Seekers
Margaret fled Uganda because of persecution related to her sexual orientation, becoming part of a growing number of African asylum seekers trying to make it to the U.S., reports Rolling Stone. But she got caught up in the “random and arbitrary” process of seeking asylum under the Trump administration. Despite widely documented persecution of LGBT people in Uganda, a U.S. official told her in September she had no “credible fear.”

Five transgender women from Mexico sued the government for making them wait three years for an interview in their asylum cases instead of conducting them within 45 days according to USCIS policy, reports Staten Island Live.

Enforcement and Detention

Citizenship and Special Visas
As grounds for terminating Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitians in April 2017, USCIS cited a statistic that says 96 percent of Haitians living in camps after the earthquake have left. But an investigation by The Intercept and Type Investigations found that the majority of Haitians displaced by the earthquake still do not have adequate housing in safe conditions. At least 32 Haitians died in the camps and most did not leave willingly but were forcibly evicted.

Immigration is an International Issue
Mexico deported 300 Indian nationals last week in an unprecedented move that is part of the country’s crackdown on immigration spurred by pressure from the U.S., reports Reuters. One migrant rights group in Mexico has documented more than 600 migrants detained in a crackdown of a caravan that left Tapachula last week and plans to file a complaint on their behalf, reports Al Jazeera. Many of the migrants were registered with the Mexican government, meaning the Mexican government had no grounds to hold them.

Supreme Court
On November 12, the Supreme Court will hear the case of the University of California System suing the Trump administration for unlawfully ending the DACA program. One of the 11 plaintiffs is a DACA recipient and PhD candidate in clinical psychology. PRI’s The World profiles her unlikely road to higher education, and the nation’s top court.

The Supreme Court announced last week that it will review a lower court decision which ruled that a man facing expedited removal has the right to see a federal judge, reports The Washington Post. The case is part of an effort by the Trump administration to expand expedited removal.

Trump Administration
Two of Trump’s rumored top picks to fill the role of acting DHS secretary — acting head of USCIS Ken Cuccinelli and acting CBP chief Mark Morgan — are ineligible because of a federal law that determines who can be named without Senate confirmation, reports Politico. Another top contender is DHS official Chad Wolf, who has been criticized by immigration hardliners for not being tough enough, but NBC News obtained an email showing he was one of the first officials to suggest separating parents from children at the border as an official policy.

At the FORTUNE Most Powerful Women Summit, former DHS secretary Kirstjen Nielsen defended signing a memo to allow the family separation at the border, saying the memo was to “enforce the law, not to separate families,” reports CNN. She said she left the administration because saying “no” was not enough. Critics say the comments are an attempt to revise history. In a tweet, Congressman Joaquin Castro wrote: “It’s hard to accept that someone who lied about separating kids….gets uplifted and celebrated.”

Democratic Race 2020
In the race for the Democratic nomination, all candidates have staunchly opposed Trump’s immigration policy. But what do they propose instead? From DACA to deportations to restructuring ICE, Reuters provides a handy guide breaking down each candidate’s positions on immigration.

Chart of the Week

More than 275,000 immigration cases were completed in fiscal year 2019, the second-highest on record for the Executive Office of Immigration Review, reports Newsweek. The backlog of immigration cases is still at an all-time high with nearly one million pending cases.


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

At a time of rapidly shifting policies, we publish a weekly…

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