Migratory Notes 142

Elizabeth Aguilera
Dec 5, 2019 · 12 min read

ICE advised, Utah refugees, African migrants stuck

For the 15th year in a row, Central American mothers traveled through Mexico in a caravan looking for their children who they lost contact with during the journey to the U.S. Photo by Félix Meléndez for Vice News /Courtesy of Félix Meléndez

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About 250 indigenous Guatemalan families have been displaced by the threat of an active volcano, leading many to migrate, reports The Washington Post. It’s not the first time they’ve been displaced, explains Kevin Sieff in a story that details the complex roots of migration from Guatemala. The residents were also victims of state-sponsored violence during the country’s 36-year civil war that ended in 1996. The story of La Trinidad is “the story of how Guatemala’s indigenous communities have been displaced and dispossessed for more than a century — sometimes fleeing U.S.-backed soldiers, sometimes ferried in caravans funded by U.S.-backed aid groups,” writes Sieff. Now, they are negotiating with the government for new land that they hope will stop the flow of young residents to the U.S. The LA Times’ Cindy Carcamo also visited recently and wrote about the community’s history of upheaval.

McKinsey consulting firm advised ICE to cut spending on food and medical care for migrants as part of a $20 million contract, reports The New York Times and ProPublica in an investigation based on interviews with employees and a review of 1,500 pages of documents. “The consultants…seemed focused solely on cutting costs and speeding up deportations — actions whose success could be measured in numbers — with little acknowledgment that these policies affected thousands of human beings,” writes Ian MacDougall. ICE employees raised concerns about these cuts, but they were adopted anyway. The firm has previously stated that it doesn’t develop or implement immigration policies, but the investigation shows the firm’s recommendations helped the Trump administration carry out its goals.

Asylum
This week, the first Salvadoran asylum seeker was sent back to Guatemala under a safe third country agreement, reports Reuters. In November, the first Honduran asylum seeker was sent to Guatemala under the agreement. He has since decided to return to his home country, reports AP. In an interview with AJ+, the 23-year-old migrant said officials didn’t tell him he was being sent to Guatemala until he was boarding the plane. The White House plans to send some asylum seekers to Honduras as soon as January, making it the second Central American country to receive asylum seekers under a controversial set of agreements, reports BuzzFeed News.

U.S.-bound African asylum seekers often have strong asylum claims, but many are now stuck at Mexico’s northern and southern borders because of an immigration crackdown in Mexico, reports Vice News. Some of these asylum seekers are fleeing conflict in Cameroon, where U.S. trained soldiers are fighting separatist groups, reports The Intercept. About 10,000 Cameroonians have fled to the U.S. since 2016. One of these was Nebane Abienwi, the ninth migrant to die in ICE custody in the past year.

Asylum seekers frustrated with waiting in Mexico through metering or Remain in Mexico have caused traffic delays at the Arizona-Mexico border after trying to enter through vehicle lanes — either by foot or car, reports AP.

Refugees
Utah’s Republican governor and legislators openly supported bringing more refugees to their state after Trump gave states the power to refuse refugees, reports The Washington Post. Refugee advocates believe this marks a shift towards the acceptance of refugees at a local level. In Minnesota, a board of county commissioners also decided to accept more refugees in a controversial vote, reports MPR News.

A mental health center for refugees in Chicago is closing this month after federal funding cuts, leaving a void in services for many who fled traumatic violence only to end up living in a U.S. city with one of the highest levels of gun violence in the country, reports Borderless Magazine.

In Denver, a non-profit, refugee-run coffee shop that catered to state legislators from the capitol building across the street is closing because it can’t find enough refugees to work there anymore, reports The Colorado Sun.

Remain in Mexico
Doctors say migrants in tent camps in the Mexican border city Matamoros are not receiving proper medical care, reports BuzzFeed News. Cramped conditions and a lack of clean water means they are more vulnerable to flu or chickenpox outbreaks. Acting CBP chief Mark Morgan has said that conditions in Mexico are adequate for migrants. Honduras and El Salvador announced plans to open consulates in Juarez to attend to their citizens sent there under Remain in Mexico, reports WRBL.

Detention
An investigation by Politico that reviewed 22 deaths in ICE custody between 2013 and 2018 revealed systematic problems with the process of documenting medical care of migrants. This points to “failures of meaningful oversight,” according to a lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The case of a 27-year-old immigrant from Sierra Leone who lost his eyesight after falling at a county jail further illustrates the inadequate medical care in detention, reports the Houston Chronicle. He needed surgery to save his eye, but getting the surgery took months. “I just wish they would have deported him in an OK condition. He’s all I have,” his mother said.

In Louisiana, asylum-seekers protested their prolonged detention by refusing to move into their cells, reports AP.

Patriot Act
Adham Amin Hassoun served 15 years in jail for writing checks to charities with extremist ties. Now, the Trump administration is using an obscure section of the Patriot Act to detain him indefinitely on the grounds that he is a threat to national security, reports The Daily Beast. He is a stateless Palestinian who can’t be deported because no country has agreed to repatriate him.

Border Wall
Trump has put his aide and son-in-law Jared Kushner in charge of coordinating construction of the border wall, reports The Washington Post. Some officials respect Kushner’s ability to expedite deals, but others criticize his lack of policy knowledge.

The Defense Department awarded a $400 million contract for border wall construction to Fisher Sand and Gravel, a company that Trump has urged officials to award projects to because of his fondness for the company’s president, reports The Washington Post.

Deportation
The U.S. deported a Honduran construction worker who reported safety concerns while working on the Hard Rock Hotel before it collapsed in New Orleans, reports The Guardian.

Several legal residents and citizens from Bangladesh are at risk of deportation after their family member was arrested in relation to a terrorist attack, reports The Guardian. The New York family believes their case is an example of anti-Muslim bias.

About 65 percent of undocumented immigrants who arrived in the U.S. between 2010 and 2017 came with a visa, reports The New York Times. Trump’s immigration policy has largely ignored this fact, instead deciding to focus its immigration crackdown at the southern border.

The Trump administration has denied a record number of H1-B visas and renewals, which are given to skilled workers, a decision that goes against his rhetoric of complaining about the difficulties of retaining top foreign talent within U.S. companies, reports Mother Jones and Reveal. About 50,000 people were denied these visas last year, including Samir from India whose life in the U.S. was uprooted when his visa renewal was rejected and he subsequently lost his job after 12 years.

Trump’s immigration crackdown is also impacting unlikely businesses like dance studios seeking foreign instructors, reports AP. Ballroom dance instructors are having trouble getting their visas approved to fill the demand for teachers in the U.S.

Family Separation
Guatemalan teen Deisi Arreces-Huitz was separated from her wheelchair-bound father after crossing the border hoping to access better medical care for him, reports CNN. She was released from detention on her 18th birthday and embarked on a solo journey to reunite with him in Chicago. Immigrant advocates say releasing young adults who don’t know where they are going is a punitive and calculated decision by immigration officials.

Trump’s Undocumented Workers
Nearly 50 undocumented workers who were employed at one of Trump’s businesses have come forward in the past year, reports The Washington Post. To date, no one has been deported for coming forward and there has been no legal action against the Trump Organization. But the first two women who spoke up “have endured the anger of friends and colleagues who say they have betrayed a code of silence that permeates the nation’s underground economy,” write Joshua Partlow and David A. Fahrenthold.

First-Person
When conflict began in Syria, Batool and her family thought life would soon go back to normal, reports The Nation in a series that allows migrants to tell their own stories. But instead, they fled and waited years in Jordan before being resettled in the Oakland. “We didn’t know anything about the country. We didn’t know where to find a store selling Arabic food. Or how to ride the bus. Or where to get basic pita! It was funny, but it wasn’t easy,” says Batool, now 21 and studying psychology at Berkeley City College.

Op-Ed
Immigrant detention has expanded in the U.S. under recent administrations, leading to dozens of in-custody deaths. “But what if we asked this instead: What good comes from locking up migrants?” writes law professor César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández in an op-ed for The New York Times. He proposes ending immigrant detention and redirecting billions of dollars toward lawyers, social workers and case managers.

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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 Med school free rides and loan repayments — California tries to boost its dwindling doctor supply. 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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