Migratory Notes 147

Elizabeth Aguilera
Jan 23 · 12 min read

Scattered caravan, one million cases, #AmericanDirt

The latest migrant caravan is facing much more difficulty making its way north as a group and has already scattered. Photo by Jeff Abbott, who has been covering the caravan for Al Jazeera.

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The Border Patrol Explorers promises to teach life skills to teenagers, with the northern and southern border as their classroom. In a piece for The Nation, Morley Musick investigates this Boy Scouts affiliate, whose activities include simulated migrant chases and vehicle stops, and its role in Trump’s America. “The age-old children’s games of cowboys and Indians or cops and robbers have simply been harnessed for a modern, state-run, militarized equivalent: border guards and immigrants,” writes Musick. (USA Today reports on another program Border Patrol supports: Professional Bull Riders.)

A backlog of one million immigration cases has led to chaos in the system. AP reporters visited 11 courtrooms across the country over a 10-day period in November to understand the scope of the problem. They witnessed “scores of hearings that illustrated how crushing caseloads and shifting policies have landed the courts in unprecedented turmoil,” write Kate Brumback, Deepti Hajela and Amy Taxin. On any given day, courts are double- and triple-booked for hearings, packed with immigrants without representation and crying children sitting on the floor. There is no end in sight. The Trump administration’s policies to address the problem have caused tension and mayhem — and a bigger backlog, as The Marshall Project reported last summer.

A caravan of about 3,500 Central American migrants has broken down into smaller groups at the Mexico-Guatemala border after harsh enforcement from authorities from both countries. The initial group set off from San Pedro Sula, Honduras last week, with Guatemalan and Salvadoran migrants joining in. They quickly met resistance.

Thursday, after facing harsh enforcement in Guatemala and Mexico and a days long standoff at the border, a caravan of hundreds of Central American migrants walked into Mexico.

Despite the cold reception from Mexican authorities, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador says the migrants are welcome to work. The country has thousands of jobs in the south open to Central American migrants, he said, reports Bloomberg.

Visas & Travel Ban
At the Davos World Economic Forum this week, Trump confirmed that he plans to add more countries to the travel ban. He did not specify which ones, but inside sources say citizens of Belarus, Eritrea, Kyrgyzstan, Myanmar, Nigeria, Sudan and Tanzania could all be affected by additional travel restrictions, reports The Wall Street Journal and Politico. The policy won’t be a blanket ban on all citizens, but will likely focus on restricting certain visas, reports CNN. The ban could cause political tensions with these countries, some of which cooperate with the U.S. on counter-terrorism efforts.

In an effort to crackdown on “birth tourism.” the Trump administration introduced a rule Thursday that pregnant women have to prove they have a reason to travel to the United States. “The final rule says consular officers must scrutinize female travelers to determine whether they might be pregnant, but does not explain how officers will make such determinations,” Ted Hesson writes in Reuters. “The State Department official said U.S. officials will not ask all female visa applicants if they are pregnant, or intend to become pregnant, but instead will only raise the issue if they have ‘a specific articulable reason’ to believe the sole purpose of the U.S. visit is to give birth.”

Remain in Mexico
Illegal border crossings have dropped since May and the Yuma sector has seen the most drastic decrease, from nearly 14,000 in May to less than 800 in October, reports AP. Yuma Sector Border Patrol chief Anthony Porvaznik attributes the drop to the Remain in Mexico program, which he says has deterred migrants from crossing.

A 6-year-old with Down Syndrome and a heart condition was allowed into the U.S. last week after previously being sent to Mexico under the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), reports HuffPost. The girl had been in Matamoros, Mexico for three months awaiting her court date with her mother and 8-year-old brother, but a doctor requested she be allowed in the U.S. because she risked catching a deadly infection in Mexico. She was escorted to the border by members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus who visited Matamoros last week. They called for the end of the program after witnessing conditions: lack of medical care, no potable water and an overall precarious security situation, reports CBS News.

A Honduran mother and her two young daughters were deported to Guatemala this week after a judge denied lawyers’ request to stop the deportation, reports AP. Lawyers said the daughters — ages 6 and 18-months — needed further medical care, but the government disagreed with this assessment, reports CBS News. The family fled gang threats in Honduras.

An Iranian student was deported this week despite a federal court order to delay his removal, reports WBUR. The 24-year-old student was detained for questioning by CBP when he arrived at the airport, even though he had a student visa. CBP was accused of acting “above the law”, reports Newsweek but the agency said in a statement that it has the authority to revoke visas.

Migrant Deaths
Since 2014, at least 1,750 migrants have died at the U.S-Mexico border, reports The Dallas Morning News. A group of forensic anthropologists is working to identify the dead. “Dignity is giving a person an identity so that the information on the remains can be given to their families,” the group’s leader told Dianne Solis.


Sanctuary Policies
The case of a 92-year-old woman who was raped and murdered in New York City has reignited the heated debate between law enforcement and immigration officials about sanctuary policies after an undocumented Guyanese man was arrested in the case, reports The New York Times. The man, Reeaz Khan, had been arrested in November for beating his father. ICE accused New York law enforcement of failing to comply with a detainer request, but the police department said they did not receive the request at that time. ICE and the woman’s family say she might still be alive if immigration officials had cooperated with law enforcement. After the arrest, ICE subpoenaed the New York Department of Corrections for information on the suspect and three other immigrants who have been arrested in the state, reports CNN. The subpoenas are a new tactic that is part of a larger effort to circumvent sanctuary policies that prohibit law enforcement from sharing certain information that ICE could use to detain and deport non-citizens, reports AP.

Climate Migration
A United Nations human rights committee ruled that immigrants can’t be sent back to countries where their lives are at risk because of climate change, reports The Guardian. The ruling is non-binding but provides a potential legal framework for future claims for protection for migrants affected by the climate crisis.

The Census Bureau has paid more than $500 million for more than 1,000 ads to increase participation of immigrants in the census, reports PRI’s The World. Some try to address fears about information possibly being used against immigrants, but advocates worry the ads don’t provide enough information to assuage fears.

Caribbean immigrants will be able to specify their country of origin in the Census for the first time, an important change that will allow them to self-identify rather than be lumped into a broader race category, reports Caribbean National Weekly.

The author said she was trying to humanize the “faceless brown mass at the border.” While some celebrities have embraced Jeanine Cumming’s novel American Dirt, Latino Twitter has expressed outrage with vocal critics including LA Times reporter Esmeralda Bermudez, cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz and Latino Rebels founder Julio Ricardo Varela. “You know what the industry needs most right now? For @jeaninecummins to sit down with a Latinx journalist and really do a deep dive on all the stereotypes she created for Latinos in #AmericanDirt,” tweeted Bermudez. The book is sensationalist, plays into stereotypes and is a form of trauma porn, writes author David Bowles in an essay. At the same time, stars including Gina Rodriguez and Yalitza Aparicio have tweeted pictures of themselves with the book. Oprah has selected it for her book club. “Such reception is especially harmful because authentic stories by Mexicanas and Chicanas are either passed over or published to significantly less fanfare (and for much less money),” writes Myriam Gurba in a sharp essay cross-published in Tropics of Meta and Wear Your Voice. One problem, among many, is this “you can’t appreciate the stories of fictional immigrants and ignore the words of real ones,” writes Washington Post columnist Theresa Vargas. In response to the #AmericanDirt book release, Latinos have tweeted out their own “Latino novels” that point out the stereotypes often portrayed in art about Latino communities for white consumption.

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 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

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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