DACA on the line, 8 miles of fence, border cam
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In a moving essay for The Atlantic that blends the personal and the political, author and former Silicon Valley NPR correspondent Aarti Shahani traces the deportation of hundreds of thousands of immigrants, including her father, to two laws President Bill Clinton signed in 1996. Shahani recounts that upon signing the second of the laws Clinton proclaimed, “It strengthens the rule of law by cracking down on illegal immigration at the border, in the workplace, and in the criminal justice system — without punishing those living in the United States legally.”
“But my father was a legal resident,” she writes. “I was 16 when Dad was first arrested, and 30 when the battle ended. At that point, I had lived nearly half my life in the shadow of that case.” Shahani, who recently published the memoir Here We Are: American Dreams, American Nightmares, explores how the Democratic president created laws that deported legal residents for minor offenses, like her father selling electronics to the “wrong” people, and how that upended her family’s life.
Immigration hardliners in Arizona like former sheriff Joe Arpaio and former governor Jan Brewer never imagined the result of their anti-immigration policies: a surge in Latinos running for office. Politico Magazine profiles some of these local Arizona politicians who started as pro-immigrant organizers. “They’re building on their activism — protests, civil disobedience, grassroots organizing — to enter the halls of political power, and doing so largely without help from the Democratic Party,” writes Fernanda Santos (a Migratory Notes board member). Their rise has not come without challenges — anti-immigration Trump supporters maintain a strong base in the state. But they are having an important impact on local politics. “Now we have the numbers and the organization in place to be able to turn the tables in our favor exactly because we have a seat at the table,” said Phoenix Councilman Carlos Garcia. It’s a trend that mirrors how California’s anti-immigrant Prop. 187 in the early 1990’s inspired a generation of Latinos who are now leading the state.
The Supreme Court seems unlikely to rule against the Trump administration’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program after hearing arguments Tuesday. The two main issues are whether the government followed the proper procedure to shut down the Obama-era program and whether it provided sufficient reasoning to do so. The government’s justification for ending the program was laid out in a memo written by Elaine Duke, acting secretary of Homeland Security at the time. She reluctantly signed the memo in September 2017 but refused to cite anti-immigrant policy rationale. The lack of depth of her justification for ending the program could now be a major weakness in the government’s case. The outcome of the case will likely be determined by Chief Justice John Roberts, the only conservative judge who has occasionally sided with his liberal colleagues. A decision in the case is not expected until next year.
The fate of an estimated 700,000 DACA recipients ages 25 to 37 is in limbo. So, who are these “dreamers”? News outlets focused on the success DACA enabled, as well as some of the ongoing challenges of an uncertain future. A few examples:
- Two sisters, living in different countries: Angela, who was born in Guatemala, is studying in California, while her sister Karen decided to move to Canada where she works as a data analyst. (PRI’s The World)
- A lawyer in the chamber: Luis Cortes, a DACA recipient from Mexico, attended the Supreme Court hearing as co-counsel. (CNN)
- Homeowners and the American Dream: Jorge and Evelyn are both from Mexico and grew up in trailer parks in Indiana. The couple now lives and works in Tennessee after both graduated from college thanks to DACA. (The New York Times)
Asylum & Refugees
Border Patrol agents have approved fewer than half of the 2,000 credible fear screenings they have conducted since a controversial pilot program was implemented in June that allows them to carry out interviews normally done by a trained USCIS asylum officer, reports BuzzFeed News. At Dilley Detention Center in Texas, the approval rate for credible fear interviews for women and children is even lower, at 10 percent, reports The Guardian. It is unclear if this pilot program or another policy change is contributing to this drop but the Los Angeles Times reported in September that CBP agents were deployed to Dilley in September to conduct screenings. The national average for USCIS is typically around 80 percent and lawyers believe the decrease in approval rates is part of a coordinated effort by the Trump administration to end asylum. Other recent Trump administration attempts to restrict or streamline the asylum process include:
- Fees on asylum applications, which would make the U.S. one of four countries to charge those seeking refuge. The proposal also includes fee hikes for citizenship and DACA applications, reports The Wall Street Journal. If approved, the cost of naturalization would increase by 83 percent, reports CNN. Acting USCIS director Ken Cuccinelli cited the cost of processing applications as justification for the decision.
- Denying work permits to asylum seekers while their claims are being processed, reports BuzzFeed News. About a dozen companies, including Airbnb, Chobani, and Western Union, sent a letter to USCIS opposing the proposal, which they say would affect the companies’ ability to attract and retain talent, reports Reuters.
- A pilot program in El Paso, Texas, to process Mexican asylum seekers within 10 days, reports BuzzFeed News. A similar pilot program at the same port of entry in El Paso was previously reported by The Washington Post. Critics say both programs aim to deport people quickly instead of allowing migrants an opportunity to build their asylum case.
Remain in Mexico
More migrants are crossing illegally into Arizona after hearing that it improves their chances of being released into the U.S., reports The Wall Street Journal. DHS said in September that nearly all migrants would be quickly deported or sent to Mexico under the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), but shelters in Arizona report hundreds of migrants are released each week whereas in other border states migrants seem to be returned to Mexico quickly.
This week, a federal judge ruled that a Guatemalan family must be granted access to a lawyer before being returned to Mexico, reports AP. A hearing in December will determine if the ruling will apply to other migrants as well. A former asylum officer also joined those who criticize the Remain in Mexico program in a previously unpublished letter obtained by Sen. Jeff Merkley, a Democrat of Oregon, and published by The Washington Post. “Implementation of a program for which there is no legal authority violates my oath to office,” the officer writes.
The U.S. government has expanded detention of migrant children even though it recognizes the psychological impacts of doing so, reports AP. Nearly 70,000 migrant children were detained in FY 2019, up 42 percent from the year before. Caliburn International announced Friday that a new child detention facility is under construction in El Paso, reports KFOX14. The increased detention of minors is a result of strategic Trump administration policies that make it more difficult for unaccompanied minors to be released to family members, reports The Washington Post. The administration has said the policies protect minors from being released to criminals but critics call the policies deterrence tactics.
Construction of the first new border wall under the Trump administration — eight miles long and costing $167 million — began in Donna, Texas in October, reports The New York Times. Trump continues to stick to his promise of building 500 miles of border barrier by the end of 2020, which construction executives say is difficult but possible. Senior Trump officials say they plan to set up a webcam to live-stream border wall construction even though CBP, construction contractors and The Army Corps disapprove of the idea, reports The Washington Post.
In Arizona, a border wall project to replace 19 miles of barrier threatens local water supplies including the San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge, reports the Arizona Daily Star.
Enforcement & Surveillance
The ICE raids on Mississippi chicken processing plants cost $1.3 million from the start of the investigation to date, reports the Mississippi Clarion-Ledger. At least two single mothers have been prosecuted after the raids in a violation of ICE policy of making sure children are left with at least one parent, reports HuffPost.
An internal Pentagon document obtained by The Intercept and The Young Turks revealed that U.S. military at the southern border are monitoring peaceful protest groups. A lawyer called this new information “disturbing.” The Defense Department said law enforcement agencies along the border share information within the limits of the law. A federal judge in Boston ruled in favor of 11 plaintiffs who accused the government of violating their Fourth Amendment rights by conducting warrantless searches of their devices at airports and ports of entry, reports AP.
A September executive order that requires cities and states to agree in writing to refugee resettlement has left advocates lobbying for letters of support for resettlement by the Dec.25 deadline, reports PRI’s The World. The order gives unprecedented power to cities and states to decide if they will accept refugees and is causing an array of logistical problems.
Researchers at Syracuse University found “gross irregularities” in immigration court records published by the Trump administration, reports Bloomberg. A union representing immigration judges believes the records have been intentionally deleted or tampered with. A government spokesperson told the El Paso Times that the records have not been deleted but were withheld from the researchers under a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) exemption.
Chad Wolf was officially sworn in as the acting DHS secretary on Wednesday. Current USCIS head Ken Cuccinelli became second in command at DHS when he was named acting deputy secretary Wednesday. Inside sources told The Washington Post Cuccinelli was Trump’s first pick, but Senate Republicans have indicated they would not confirm him for the position.
Trump’s senior advisor and point person on immigration, Stephen Miller, promoted white nationalist rhetoric and anti-immigrant racist stories, feeding it to conservative website Breibart News in the lead up to the 2016 election, according to a report released Tuesday by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The Washington Post reports that Miller, who is Jewish, refused to comment on the accusations.
Trump’s immigration campaign promises helped elevate him to the presidency, but infighting and an inability to carry out these promises could now spell his downfall in 2020, reports Politico.
- The Supreme Court heard arguments in a case that will determine if the parents of a Mexican teen shot by a Border Patrol agent in 2010 through the border fence can seek damages even though the boy was killed on Mexican territory. (Reuters)
- Border apprehensions dropped in October for the fifth month in a row to about 36,300 people. (The Wall Street Journal)
- A retrial of No More Deaths volunteer Scott Warren for harboring and conspiracy charges for giving migrants food and water began Tuesday. Prosecutors have asked a judge to bar any mention of Trump and his immigration policies for fear that the case will become a referendum on these policies (AP, The Intercept)
- The ACLU of Colorado sued GEO Group for the wrongful death of 64-year-old Iranian immigrant Kamyar Samimi in December 2017 after the facility stopped giving him prescribed medication. (Colorado Independent)
- In recent months, a surge of Mexican asylum-seekers has shown up in border cities fleeing cartel violence. This could strain the cooperation between the U.S. and Mexico on immigration issues. (The San Diego Union-Tribune)
Immigration Resources & Opportunities
Recently released immigration books (got one, send it over)
- Migrating to Prison: America’s Obsession with Locking Up Immigrants by César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández. The law professor and crimmigration.com blog author explores how the U.S. came to lock up almost half a million migrants annually.
- Border Wars: Inside Trump’s Assault on Immigration by Julie Hirschfield Davis and Michael Shear. The New York Times reporters probe Trump’s rise and its connection to the country’s attitudes toward foreigners.
- Here We Are: American Dreams, American Nightmares by Aarti Namdev Shahani. The NPR correspondent and co-founder of Families for Freedom’s memoir of her family’s battles with the immigration system.
- A Good Provider Is One Who Leaves: One Family and Immigration in the 21st Century by Jason DeParle. A chronicle of the age of global migration, told through the multi-generational saga of a Filipino family
- This Land Is Our Land: An Immigrant’s Manifesto by Suketu Mehta. An argument for why the United States and the West would benefit from accepting more immigrants
- Immigration Reform: The Corpse That Will Not Die by Charles Kamasaki. An insider’s history and memoir of the battle for The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986: its evolution, passage, impact, and its legacies for the future of immigration reform
- Migration as a (Geo-)Political Challenge in the Post-Soviet Space by Olga R. Gulina, about how migration policy in post-USSR states can be used to gain geopolitical power or destabilize an area
- Cruz: A Cross-border Memoir by Jean Guerrero, about a daughter’s journey to understand her father
- The Death and Life of Aida Hernandez: A Border Story by Aaron Bobrow-Strain
- Refuge Beyond Reach, by David Scott FitzGerald, details how wealthy countries in the Global North systematically deny asylum seekers.
- A Nation of Nations: A Great American Immigration Story, by Tom Gjelten, reports on how the US has changed since the 1965 immigration laws.
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
- We Have Rights is a campaign to educate immigrants about rights in encounters with ICE
- Ecologies of Migrant Care has collected nearly 100 interviews with migrants, activists, academics and other immigration experts to shed light on the reasons why Central Americans flee and detail the networks that have developed to help them along their journey.
- Moving Stories is an app and curriculum to capture and share immigrant stories.
- Re-imagining Migration has resources and lessons to teach about migration, immigration, refugees, and civic empowerment through history, literature, and the sciences
- The Advocates for Human Rights and the Immigration History Research Center at UMN free curriculum that helps students learn about U.S. immigration through personal narratives: Teaching Immigration with the Immigrant Stories Project
- Freedom for Immigrants publishes an Immigration Detention Syllabus
Reporting resources, tools and tips
- Journalists who have been targeted for their work can send incident reports through the online platform of Press Freedom Tracker.
- No Refuge from Council on Foreign Relations’ InfoGuide series, includes an interactive map of origin and destination countries for refugees, and policy options that can help refugees and support host states.
- Covering Immigration Enforcement webinar from Poynter with Marshall Project contributing writer Julia Preston.
- The Pew Research Center offers a mini email course on immigration to the U.S.
- Tools for covering ICE from the Columbia Journalism Review
- Migration Reporting Resources (Global Investigative Journalism Network)
- Resources for Investigating Visas (Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting)
- Reporting on Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Immigrants (90 Days, 90 Voices)
- Immigration Data Resources: An extensive, and growing, list of immigration resources curated by PRI’s Angilee Shah and shared as part of her presentation on finding immigration stories at NICAR 2018.
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