Migratory Notes 144

Elizabeth Aguilera
Dec 19, 2019 · 12 min read

Japan’s select refugees, Brazilians at the border, Canadian immigration boom

Daniela’s father, Allan Gerson (right), passed away on December 1. In this photo, his family is en route to the United States from a German displaced persons camp where they lived as refugees for five years after the Holocaust. In 2017, he wrote about his illicit immigration story in The Washington Post, “I was brought here illegally in 1950. I’m lucky I wasn’t deported.”

We will be off the next two weeks for the holidays. Thank you for reading Migratory Notes in 2019, and see you in 2020!

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#MustRead/ #MustListen/ #MustWatch
The strictest asylum process in the industrialized world is in Japan. WNYC’s Matt Katz traveled there to look at how a stable, developed country denies refuge — and to get a glimpse of where the United States may be headed. In a series of audio stories and a print piece in Gothamist, Katz introduces people affected by these policies: a teacher from the Democratic Republic of Congo who used a fake passport to flee his country, an Argentine mom who hopes a potentially cancerous cyst will allow her children to gain humanitarian visas, and the first Rohingya Muslim to receive asylum in Japan. The project was made possible with support from the Abe Fellowship for Journalists.

In an interview with 60 Minutes, recently elected Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele was blunt about why 90,000 Salvadorans fled in the last year: “The reality is that our whole economy is in shatters. Nothing works.” On gangs, Bukele, the youngest president in Latin America at 38, said, “they have a de facto power, a real one.” Given this reality, Bukele admitted the country does not currently have the capacity to take in asylum seekers under a safe third country deal he signed in September. But, he says, they can build it. The segment also covered how plummeting coffee prices, a rust plague, and climate change have devastated El Salvador’s coffee farmers in recent years, leading many to migrate inside and outside of El Salvador.

Asylum & Safe Third Countries?
The U.S. will soon begin sending asylum seekers to Honduras under an agreement that the two countries signed in September. Among Central American countries creating these “safe third country” agreements, it is the “first to explicitly state that if Honduras or another country rejects the individuals’ asylum claims, they won’t get another chance to apply in the United States,” according to documents obtained by the Los Angeles Times. Just two months ago, Honduras’ president was named as a conspirator in a drug trafficking scheme, reports Mother Jones.

Trump praised Guatemala for taking in asylum seekers during Guatemalan president Jimmy Morales’ trip to the White House Tuesday. Two dozen asylum seekers have been sent to Guatemala under the “safe third country” agreement, but only two have sought asylum there, reports Reuters.

The Trump administration further limited the path to asylum Wednesday, issuing an executive order which would exclude people convicted of certain crimes such as DUIs, driving without a license, and being found by an adjudicator guilty of domestic violence even if there was no conviction, reports NBC News.

Remain in Mexico
Only 0.1% of the completed asylum cases have been successful under the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), reports The San Diego Union-Tribune. Tens of thousands of cases are still pending. Many of these migrants pass through tent courts set up in Brownsville and Laredo, Texas, which immigration advocates say violate due process by denying immigrants face-to-face access to judges and lawyers, reports The Wall Street Journal. Only about 2% of these cases have legal representation.

The Trump administration has issued travel warnings for U.S. citizens to avoid visiting northern Mexican border towns, but continues to deny that sending migrants there under MPP exposes them to risks of kidnapping, extortion and other violent crime, reports The Texas Tribune.

A 19-year-old Honduran migrant who gave birth in San Diego after approaching border agents was allowed to stay in the U.S. with her newborn after activists and lawyers protested the possible separation of the pair through MPP, reports The San Diego Union-Tribune.

Immigration is an International Issue
In Canada, immigration hit the fastest rate of growth in five decades, reports Bloomberg. “Immigration has become one of the main drivers supporting Canada’s economic expansion over the past several years, driving robust gains in the housing and labor markets,” writes Christ Fournier. “The inflows have countered some of the effects of an otherwise aging demographic.”

The Trump administration’s crackdown has stunted the local economy of a Guatemalan town just a five-minute boat ride from Mexico, reports The Texas Tribune. Businesses have shuttered as fewer migrants have passed through the town in the past year because of Mexico’s increased immigration enforcement and the Remain in Mexico policy.

Border Wall
As of this month, 93 miles of border wall have been built, reports Reuters. But 90 of those miles were replacements of existing structures. The Trump administration had promised to complete 450 miles by the end of this year. Advances to border wall construction are facing various challenges:

The number of Brazilians apprehended at the border jumped 600 percent in the 2019 fiscal year to about 18,000 people, reports AP. While many are seeking asylum, a deep recession is likely the driving force. But even those fleeing gang violence or domestic violence have little chance of receiving asylum under the Trump administration, according to one immigration lawyer.

The U.S. military has changed its policy to classify documents related to operations at the southern border in order to limit press coverage and information leaks, reports Newsweek. Many of these orders and daily briefings were previously unclassified.

Enforcement & Protest

Negligent medical care in ICE custody led to four deaths, reports BuzzFeed News, after receiving access to an internal complaint from a whistleblower. The memo alleges that detainees were given incorrect medications, treatment was delayed and at least two people had to have preventable surgeries.

A new lawsuit alleges that ICE is refusing to release hundreds of DACA-eligible detainees so they can reapply for the status, reports Newsy. The main plaintiff is Jesús López Gutiérrez, who has been detained for seven months after being taken into custody for marijuana possession. The charges were eventually dropped.

Trump Administration
Ken Cuccinelli now has two jobs within the Trump administration: acting deputy secretary of DHS and acting director of USCIS, reports The Washington Post. He had previously told staffers in an email that he would no longer be acting director of USCIS. Shortly after, he quietly returned to the position without an announcement. The Senate has not confirmed him for either position and is not expected to.

Elections 2020
Nearly 30 percent of Gen Z are immigrants or children of immigrants, compared to 23 percent of millennials, reports Axios. This could shift political influence as these young voters — born after 1996 — reject many of the anti-immigrant views of the GOP.

Licenses for the Undocumented
Hundreds of people lined up Monday in New York to apply for a drivers licenses after the state’s Green Light Law to allow undocumented residents to legally drive went into effect, reports The New York Times. Activists consider the hard-won policy a major success during a time when immigrant rights are being attacked nationally. New Jersey passed a similar law the same day, becoming the 15th state to allow undocumented immigrants to apply for a license, reports Vox.

A Decade in Review
The Wall Street Journal summed up the biggest changes in immigration globally this decade:

  • Central Americans surpassed Mexicans in border apprehensions
  • A 2015 federal court ruling that parents could only be detained with their children for 20 days changed the asylum and detention system
  • Two million refugees to Europe incited anti-immigrant rhetoric in Greece, Germany, Denmark and many other European countries

Family separation, Remain in Mexico and caravans all received extensive media coverage. But what about other immigration policies? Quartz takes a look at under-reported changes:

  • The push to strip naturalized citizens of their citizenship and deport them
  • Monitoring of social media accounts for visa and citizenship applicants
  • Changes to the credible fear interviews and other unpublished rules

It’s not all bad news for immigrants. Forbes published a round-up of inspiring immigration stories, including:

  • Immigrant business owners from Somalia, the Soviet Union and Pakistan who have overcome the odds and founded successful businesses that give back to their communities
  • Research that shows support for immigration is at a record-high


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 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

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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