Migratory Notes 141

Elizabeth Aguilera
Nov 21, 2019 · 13 min read

Pressured asylum officers, destination Guatemala, northern border slow down

Immigrant detainees facing deportation in Washington State painted America themed murals including this one at the northwest ICE center, reports the Washington Examiner. The migrant artists received $1 an hour through a volunteer program. Previously the state sued GEO, the private prison company that runs the detention center, alleging the company was taking advantage of detainees and not compensating them fairly for their work. Photos from ICE.

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Shelters in Arizona have seen an increase in asylum seekers from India, the former Soviet Union and China, reports the Arizona Republic. “Some of the non-Spanish speaking arrivals have raised eyebrows among local pastors whose churches have been assisting migrant families released by Immigration and Customs Enforcement,” writes Daniel Gonzalez. “Not only are the non-Spanish speaking families from countries far from the United States, they carry their own cash and credit cards and appear much better educated than the mostly poor Central American families that federal immigration authorities had been dropping off earlier this year.”

When Dulce Gutiérrez was elected to Yakima City Council in Washington, she became a symbol of how the demographics of this farming community — and in many American cities — have become younger and more Latino, reports The New York Times. “In nearly 100 U.S. metropolitan areas — from Santa Fe to New York and dozens of cities in between — whites comprise the majority of residents over the age of 45, and the minority of adults younger than that,” write Dionne Searcey and Robert Gebeloff, in a piece that narrates the challenges that come when young, diverse leadership steps in. These demographics have made Gutiérrez a target for racists and those who don’t want their communities to change. The shifts are “defining a political moment in America where the president stokes tension along racial lines with immigration crackdowns, plans to build a wall along the Mexican border and disparaging comments, like telling four Democratic congresswomen of color to “go back” to their “home” countries.”

Asylum & Refugees
The Trump administration began sending adult asylum seekers from El Salvador and Honduras back to Guatemala Wednesday to seek asylum there, reports BuzzFeed News. Only a few days before there was still confusion about the plan. As of last week, Guatemala still had not confirmed it would provide shelter, transportation and food for asylum seekers sent there, reports BuzzFeed News. Last week, The Washington Post reported that a plan was floated to fly asylum seekers to remote parts of the jungle along major drug trafficking routes. On Saturday, the U.S. said it decided against the plan, reports Reuters.

Remain in Mexico
Border officials pressured asylum officers to send asylum seekers to wait in Mexico, reports BuzzFeed News. Asylum officers told This American Life that migrants were held to an impossibly high standard and that almost all were sent back to Mexico, even when the officers advised against this. Asylum officer Doug Stevens said immigrants don’t know how to accurately say what is happening to them. “They threatened me because I’m Honduran, but that’s all they had to say. But they don’t know that, right?” said Stephens, who has since resigned in protest. Molly O’Toole reported the piece in collaboration with the LA Times for a special report on the Remain in Mexico program.

Michael Knowles, a former asylum officer who now leads a union of USCIS officers told lawmakers that the policy is illegal and immoral, reports Roll Call. After his testimony, Knowles told Newsy he believes many asylum officers are quietly leaving USCIS to work in other agencies where they aren’t pressured to make decisions they feel are immoral. “They live in hopes that Congress and the courts will prevail and put an end to these injustices,” he said.

A senior executive for the nation’s largest private prison company GEO Group stayed at Trump International Hotel in Washington D.C. at least 10 times since Trump became a presidential candidate, reports The Daily Beast. GEO Group, which runs many immigrant detention centers, spent hundreds of thousands of dollars supporting Trump’s campaign after the Obama administration signaled it would stop approving new federal private prison contracts. As the 2020 election heats up, the CEO of CoreCivic, another private prison company with ICE contracts, assured shareholders that it will continue to make profits no matter who is in office, reports AP.

Immigrant detention is highest in North Texas where the economy is strong, showing the “bipolar nature” of immigration policies that target workers that help America thrive, reports The Dallas Morning News. These arrests are tearing apart families like that of roofer Maximiliano Trejo, a Mexican migrant and father of two sons. “The boys were worried that the day the government men came knocking, the day the house with the cheery red door felt more like a military bunker under siege, would mark the end of their time as a normal family,” writes Dianne Solis.

ICE now holds immigrants who do not have criminal records for an average of 60 days, nearly double the average length of stay 10 years ago, reports The Washington Post. ICE says immigrant detention has increased because of the border crisis but immigrant advocates say it is because of the administration’s focus on deterrence tactics.

Border Wall
We Build The Wall — a group started by an Air Force veteran that has collected millions of dollars via GoFundMe to help Trump complete his border wall — was issued a cease and desist to stop construction of a three-mile stretch of border wall in south Texas, reports the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The group did not have the proper permits to begin construction, reports BuzzFeed News.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration prepared court filings to seize private land in Texas for the border wall, reports NBC News. To date, Trump has achieved little progress on his border wall promise and construction of the first eight miles of new border wall just started this month.

The House passed a short-term spending bill Tuesday that could avoid another government shutdown over border wall funding, reports The Washington Post. It must pass the Senate and receive Trump’s signature by the end of the day Thursday to temporarily avoid a government shutdown. Lawmakers still have to make a long-term compromise about border wall funding to pass a full-year spending bill.

Along the U.S. northern border, towns whose economies were boosted by Canadian dollars are now struggling after border crossings decreased by nearly a quarter since 2014, reports The New York Times. Business owners blame tighter border controls aimed at the southern border.

When Massachusetts Judge Shelley Joseph helped an immigrant evade detention by allowing him to leave court through a back door, she unknowingly thrust herself into the national spotlight, reports The New York Times. She is now facing charges of obstruction of justice in a case that could set a precedent about the use of federal power to intimidate judges. After refusing to take a plea deal, it could be years before a court reaches a decision. In Oregon, a Supreme Court justice issued a new rule last week that requires ICE officers to have a judicial warrant to enter a courthouse, making it more difficult to carry out immigration enforcement in courts, reports Oregon Public Broadcasting.

The Supreme Court agreed to hear a case that could criminalize immigration advocacy, reports Slate. The case will test the justices’ interpretation of the First Amendment, reviewing a provision that appears to criminalize any pro-immigration speech.

No More Deaths Volunteer Scott Warren was found not guilty Wednesday for harboring migrants in a case that sought to criminalize his work helping migrants in the Arizona desert, reports BuzzFeed News.

Trump Administration
DHS and DOJ officials, who remained anonymous, called for the resignation of White House adviser Stephen Miller after racist emails written by Miller to right-wing outlet Breitbart were released, reports BuzzFeed News. But Miller continues to have a strong influence in the White House and many of his allies continue to climb the ranks. Kathy Nuebel Kovarik, a Miller ally who recommended USCIS stop shielding immigrants undergoing serious medical treatment from deportation, has been promoted to acting deputy director of USCIS, reports Mother Jones. Two people with ties to anti-immigrant hate group FAIR were also promoted within USCIS this week.


A new study revealed that low-income legal immigrants don’t move to access public or affordable healthcare, reports Vox. The findings contradict Trump’s comments that immigrants take advantage of the social safety net and instead could encourage states to expand healthcare coverage for immigrants.

José worries that his son with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder will be deported because of his run-ins with the law and he is not alone, reports NPR. Mental health advocates say that undocumented people with untreated mental illness are at high risk of having problems with the law that could lead to deportation.

The Supreme Court appears poised to end DACA, but the American public overwhelmingly supports the program, reports The New York Times. A poll shows that DACA enjoys more support than almost any other immigration policy, with 84 percent of Americans supporting it. More than 100 cities, counties and local governments have come out in support of DACA because they say ending it will harm their local economies, reports Newsy. This public support for DACA is one of the reasons activist and “Dreamer” Astrid Silva has become an important player in the Democratic race in Nevada, reports AP. Candidates are competing for her endorsement because they believe it represents approval from many immigrants. But she has not yet decided whether to endorse or who she would support.

Immigration is an International Issue
In 2000, when young men started migrating from a town in southern Mexico family dynamics started to shift. While the remittances helped the families escape the cycle of poverty, the absence of young men also led many women to break the mold of traditional gender roles. KJZZ spoke to cultural anthropologist Nora Haenn about her book that explores how migration affects mothers and wives.


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

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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