Border’s global impact, El Paso testing ground, Iranian-Americans on edge
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Migrants from more than 100 different countries were apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border in 2018. “Policies meant to address Guatemalan or Honduran migrants have also affected Jewish people fleeing persecution in Eastern Europe; Syrians escaping civil war in their home country; and LGBTQ people fleeing Vladimir Putin’s homophobic regime in Russia,” writes Jack Herrera in a deep dive for Politico Magazine into how U.S. border and asylum restrictions are reverberating around the world.
Twenty-five years after a civil war tore El Salvador — and their high school class — apart, the graduating class of 1978 returned for a reunion. In the LA Times, Brittny Mejia follows a reunion that spans a campus that became a battleground, relocations to Los Angeles in the 1980s and facing gang wars there in the 1990s. As they come back together they revisit the horrors they survived, but also remember their high school pranks and old flames. “It was a high school reunion, but the school they all remember is long gone. The revelers were home, but it wasn’t really home anymore,” writes Mejia.
El Paso has been a “policy testing ground” for harsh deterrence tactics since at least the 1990s. PBS Frontline investigates in a one-hour documentary examples such as zero tolerance and a crackdown on asylum. Decisions are often made in Washington D.C. by people who have never set foot in the border city. But it's El Paso residents who have to live with the unintended consequences, including an August 2019 hate-crime shooting that left more than 20 dead. [TRIGGER WARNING: This video contains graphic footage of the August 2019 El Paso shooting]
About 200 Iranians and Iranian-Americans, including many U.S. citizens, were held by border agents at the Canadian border when entering Washington state last weekend, with some questioned about their families and political views, reports The New York Times. One family reported being held for 11 hours after returning from vacation in Canada, reports The Intercept. The parents are dual citizens of the U.S. and Iran; their children are U.S. citizens. The questioning came after the U.S. killed Iranian general Qassim Suleimani in a drone strike Friday, escalating tensions between the two countries and inching closer to the brink of war. Civil liberties group Council on American-Islamic Relations said it received reports that CBP was given a directive from DHS to detain and deport anyone with Iranian heritage who seemed suspicious or adversarial, reports Politico. CBP denied any such directive exists.
In the aftermath of Suleimani’s assassination, Iranian Americans fear speaking out because it could endanger themselves or their family in the U.S. or in Iran, reports USA Today. This is a stark contrast to the Iranian student movement in the U.S. in the 1980s, reports Voice of America. Now, young Iranians worry protesting will jeopardize their immigration status or make them targets of hate crimes. Even before the escalation of the conflict, more Iranians have been seeking refuge in Canada, with applications nearly tripling in recent years, reports the Vancouver Sun. The current crisis is expected to exacerbate this trend. At the same time, many Iranian-Americans serve in the military and could be going to Iran to represent the U.S., including the captain of the Navy’s Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier, reports the New York Times.
North Dakota Refugees
About 30 refugees per year have been resettled in frigid Bismark, North Dakota. As Trump capped refugee admittance at a historic low of 18,000 and issued a new rule providing local jurisdiction to limit admissions, the state capital may soon distinguish itself as the first place to say, no more. “Deciding whether to be among the first places in the United States to deny additional refugees under Trump’s new rule narrowly divided this county on the banks of the Missouri River,” Maria Sacchetti writes in The Washington Post. The Bismark mayor became a leading proponent that argues North Dakota should shut the door and prioritize homeless veterans. “If we can’t meet the needs of people here, why bring new ones in?” he told the LA Times in an interview. While the number of refugees that settle in places like North Dakota may be smaller than immigration centers on the coasts, their impact should not be overlooked Jaweed Kaleem writes: “A disproportionately large share wind up in many smaller, redder regions, including North Dakota, which over the last decade has resettled 4,050 refugees. In several years, its total per capita was the highest in the nation.”
A controversial plan to send Mexican asylum seekers to Guatemala has been paused, according to BuzzFeed News. Unlike Salvadorans and Hondurans, Mexican asylum seekers never passed through Guatemala, so they should not be sent there under the principle of a “safe third country.” Mexico’s Foreign Affairs Ministry issued a statement against the policy, estimating if implemented it could affect 900 Mexicans, reports AP. “This decision was not consulted with us. It is a decision they made with Guatemala,” the Mexican ambassador to the United States, Martha Bárcena, told the LA Times. But the outgoing leader of Guatemala said he never agreed to the plan, Reuters reports.
At least 85 asylum seekers from El Salvador and Honduras have been sent to Guatemala since the U.S. began implementing the “safe third country” agreement in November, reports CBS News. Only six have decided to pursue asylum claims in Guatemala, where the government has limited resources.
Judges decided a record number of asylum cases in 2019, more than double the number from five years ago, according to recent data from TRAC. More Chinese residents were granted asylum than any other nationality, followed by El Salvador and India. Overall, almost 70% of asylum claims were rejected in fiscal year 2019, a 45% increase from the early 2000s, Washington Examiner reports.
Remain in Mexico
DHS announced last week that the Remain in Mexico program or Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), which has sent more than 50,000 mostly Central American asylum seekers to Mexico to await court hearings, expanded to the port of entry south of Tucson, Arizona, reports Reuters. Asylum seekers who entered through this port of entry will be sent to Nogales, Mexico, but they will still have to travel more than 300 miles through cartel territory to attend their hearings in El Paso, reports CBS News.
The sprawling tent camp in Matamoros, in one of Mexico’s most dangerous states, shows how inaccessible asylum has become — and the great risks that migrants take to try to win protections, reports The Dallas Morning News. “This is one of the worst situations I have been in, merely for the fact there are so few resources and security is so bad,” said one NGO worker. “We know people are trafficked out of the camps, and kidnapped … It goes back to not having formal camp management.”
Guatemalan father Miguel is part of an unknown number of parents who have been separated from their children through MPP when they are sent to Mexico and their children remain in U.S. custody, reports BuzzFeed News. “Both MPP and family separations are inflicting enormous damage on families and in particular children, but when the government combines the two, it’s particularly brutal,” said a representative from the ACLU.
In Ciudad Juarez, Mexican police threatened to separate parents at an encampment for Mexican asylum seekers from their children if they did not leave the camp to go live in shelters, reports Reuters. About 100 asylum seekers left the camp.
A senior employee at an ICE detention center in Nevada run by CoreCivic was part of a Neo-Nazi website and tried to establish a white nationalist chapter in his area, reports Vice News. ICE said the person in question was never a federal employee; CoreCivic placed him on administrative leave following the publication of the story.
The leader of the United Constitutional Patriots, a border militia group considered an extremist group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, pleaded guilty to a federal weapons charge and could face up to 10 years in prison, reports The Washington Post.
New documents show that Boston Public Schools shared more than 100 student incident reports with immigration authorities since 2014, reports WBUR. Lawyers and activists are asking the school system to stop the practice. The superintendent said that the documents were from 2014 to 2017 and the school system does not share information with federal authorities but city and school district officials defended the schools saying they share information with local law enforcement.
A Massachusetts court issued a ruling that requires ICE to justify detention of immigrants in New England, reports The Intercept. In most other courts, the burden of proof falls on the immigrant, but this ruling shifts that burden from immigrants to ICE and could set a precedent for other courts.
In Oregon, ICE courthouse arrests have been banned since November, but new documents reveal the broad extent of ICE operations in the state, reports the Salem Reporter. Arrests were made at or around at least 10 state circuit courts. ICE agents often arrived in plain clothes, refused to cooperate with security, and may have been misleading when identifying themselves to get into juvenile facilities.
House Republicans in the Arizona state legislature proposed a new law that would allow owners of private property to carry out border wall construction without any city or county permits, reports the Phoenix New Times. The proposal did not specifically mention We Build the Wall, a group that has raised more than $25 million from crowdfunding to independently build a border barrier, but appears to pave the way for the group to continue construction. Critics of the bill fear a lack of regulation could lead to environmental damage or shoddy construction, reports the Arizona Republic. The legislature will reconvene next week.
Data & Surveillance
DHS announced that it will share government records with the Census Bureau to help it produce data about the citizenship status of the U.S. population, reports NPR. The information shared will include names, addresses and Social Security numbers of noncitizens as well as records of travelers who have overstayed their visas. The Trump administration promised to use other means like these to quantify citizenship when the Supreme Court blocked a citizenship question from being included in the 2020 census.
After the deaths of migrant children in U.S. custody, House Democrat Laura Underwood introduced a bill that she said would improve care of migrants by creating a health database available to all immigration agencies, reports The Intercept. But critics say the bill would not improve care, and could instead be used against migrants in their cases or to find them for deportation.
On Monday, the Trump administration began to collect DNA from immigrants in U.S. custody under the first phase of a controversial plan, reports CBS News. Detroit and Eagle Pass will be the first places to collect this data under the 90-day pilot program. Critics say that compiling this sensitive data violates privacy and sets a dangerous precedent for data collection of vulnerable populations.
Immigration is an International Issue
Canada’s welcoming of immigrants could help it beat out the U.S. for the top spot for economic growth in the Group of Seven countries in 2020, reports Bloomberg. Last year, the country added more than 437,000 immigrants to the net population, boosting the labor force and supporting the housing market. In contrast, net migration to the U.S. was at a decade low in 2019.
As the 10-year anniversary of the Haiti earthquake approaches, Haitians with temporary protected status (TPS) fear deportation to a country that is still rebuilding (even the presidential palace is still under construction), reports the LA Times. Back in Haiti, deportees report difficulties finding work and often end up homeless. So a group is traveling to D.C. to ask lawmakers to extend TPS.
Deportations from the U.S. to Guatemala have doubled in the past decade, reports Reuters. In 2019, more than 54,000 Guatemalans were deported, the highest since 2007.
A federal judge in New York ruled against removing a nationwide injunction against the Trump administration’s public charge rule that would make it harder for immigrants who need public benefits to come to or remain in the U.S., reports Reuters. Oral arguments for the ongoing case will be heard in mid-February.
Coming Up This Year
What will happen to Mexican asylum seekers, DREAMers, and the Remain in Mexico program? 2020 might have the answers. PRI’s The World lists these immigration stories among their top 10 stories to watch in the upcoming year.
- Seven more undocumented employees at Trump Organization properties were fired in December because of their immigration status, adding to the number of fired workers since the company’s reliance on undocumented workers was revealed. (The Washington Post).
- Mexican Foreign Minister said Tuesday that Mexico and the U.S. are getting closer to agreement regarding plans to promote development in Central America. (Reuters)
Immigration Resources & Opportunities
Recently released immigration books (got one, send it over)
- Separated: Family and Community in the Aftermath of an Immigration Raid by William D. Lopez. The University of Michigan professor follows the story of the lasting damage of a raid in Michigan in 2013.
- 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 ‘Troubling’ audit reveals state failure to test millions of babies for toxic lead. 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