Migratory Notes 149

Elizabeth Aguilera
Migratory Notes
Published in
14 min readFeb 6, 2020


Erasing history, SOTU attacks, immigrant plays

Filipinos living abroad send home love in care packages. California Sunday Magazine traces the packages from Hong Kong to the Philippines. Photos by Xyza Cruz Bacani.

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The National Archives, rather than preserving immigration-related documents for history, is eliminating them, reports The New York Times in an opinion piece by Columbia history professor Matthew Connelly. Recently, the archives agreed to allow ICE to destroy records on complaints of civil rights violations and in-custody deaths. “Now, even the court of history will be closed,” writes Connelly, arguing that it is one of many ways that the Trump administration is working to erase inconvenient truths from the public record.

A third of this Southwest Texas cheerleading squad lives in Mexico. “For politicians, journalists and much of the country, this border is the epicenter of a crisis. For Ashley, it’s a morning commute,” writes Nina Strochlic in a Marshall Project and National Geographic multimedia project. “An estimated 40,000 children cross the U.S. border each day for school, not just into Texas, but also California, New Mexico and Arizona.” Photographer Sara Naomi Lewkowicz spent nearly a year with the Bowie High School cheerleaders, capturing their normal teenage girl moments, but with the El Paso/ Ciudad Juarez border as a backdrop, meaning a walk to school across international boundaries with asylum seekers clogging the way, and the occasional migrant chase through the schoolyard.

Trump Administration & SOTU
On Wednesday evening the Trump administration announced on Fox News that it would suspend Global Entry for New Yorkers citing the state’s new “sanctuary” policies. “They can’t enroll or re-enroll in these Trusted Travel Programs that Customs and Border Protection offers because we no longer have access to make sure that they meet those program requirements,” said acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf. The decision will affect up to 175,000 people participating in the Global Entry, FAST and NEXUS programs. Current enrollment will be honored but no new applications or renewals will be accepted.

The move followed Trump’s final State of the Union speech where he bashed municipalities for not cooperating with federal immigration authorities. “In Sanctuary Cities, local officials order police to release dangerous criminal aliens to prey upon the public, instead of handing them over to ICE to be safely removed,” he said. “Just 29 days ago, a criminal alien freed by the Sanctuary City of New York was charged with the brutal rape and murder of a 92-year-old woman.” Trump also portrayed immigrants as criminals who don’t pay taxes (research shows otherwise), reports The Daily Beast.

In response, Congresswoman Veronica Escobar from El Paso delivered a pre-recorded speech in Spanish. “From attacks against Dreamers, family separation, the deaths of migrant children, to the Remain in Mexico policy that sends asylum seekers into dangerous situations, these are policies none of us ever imagined would happen in America in our lifetime,” she said.

Iowa Caucus & Elections
Although about 85 percent of Iowans identify as white, immigration was still a major caucus issue. Immigrant rights organization RAICES installed cages with the message #DontLookAway outside voting sites, reports Teen Vogue. One of Iowa’s most diverse communities, Denison, mobilized to vote against what they say has been a growing anti-immigrant sentiment during the Trump administration, reports NPR. Latino immigrants said they were supporting Sanders or Biden based on their immigration records. In the small town of Ottumwa, where many Ethiopian immigrants work in a pork-packing plant, residents put their support behind Sanders, reports The Intercept.

Every 30 seconds a Latino young person turns 18, reports The World. These young people are shifting the electorate, and could shift this election. “A record 32 million people who identify as Latino will be eligible to vote in the 2020 presidential election, according to Pew Research Center,” Tania Karas writes. “That’s just over 13% of the electorate — surpassing eligible black voters for the first time and making Latinos the nation’s largest voter group after whites.”

Travel Ban
The Trump administration expanded the travel ban to include six new countries. Citizens of Nigeria, Eritrea, Myanmar and Kyrgyzstan will be barred from receiving visas that can lead to permanent residence and citizens of Tanzania and Sudan will not be allowed to enter the visa lottery. The White House said it chose the countries because they don’t follow identity-verification and information-sharing rules and some are at risk of harboring terrorists.

Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, will be the most affected. More than 300,000 Nigerians live in the U.S., the biggest immigrant group from Africa, and their family members will no longer be able to travel to the U.S. to settle there, reports Vox. Nigerians are more likely than the average American to work in education or healthcare and their average income is slightly higher than the national average, reports Bloomberg in an opinion piece. The ban goes into effect February 22.

Asylum Seekers
Women and children make up about 75 percent of the nearly 400 Honduran and Salvadoran seeking asylum in the U.S. who were deported to Guatemala under an agreement between the U.S. and Guatemala, reports CBS News. Among those impacted are 144 children. Most of them are sent with at least one parent because unaccompanied minors are exempt from the program.

El Salvador said it will not accept U.S. asylum seekers at this time, reports AP. “We are not going to admit anyone seeking asylum until we as a country have the conditions and technical, financial and human capacity to be able to give these people who are seeking asylum and sent to another country the best treatment,” Foreign Minister Alexandra Hill Tinoco said.

Migrant Deaths
At least 138 Salvadorans have been killed and 70 more suffered sexual abuse or other harm after being deported from the U.S. to El Salvador since 2013, according to a new Human Rights Watch report. “The United States has to have known this was happening,” Elizabeth Kennedy, co-author of the report, told The Guardian.

A U.S. citizen arrested by Border Patrol in a “smuggling incident” died in U.S. custody, reports BuzzFeed News. The 32-year-old man began showing signs of distress and was transported to a local hospital where he died. The cause of his death is unknown.

A Ugandan asylum seeker died in Ciudad Juarez in September in a case that lawyers and activists fear is just the tip of the iceberg as more African asylum seekers have arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border, reports Anna-Cat for The New Humanitarian. Africans on the metering lists are doubly vulnerable because of racism and a language barrier, according to activists and migrants.

Border Patrol
Border Patrol policy states that parents should be kept with their children whenever possible, but the case of a Honduran couple and their two children shows that is not the case, reports ProPublica. Father David and 6-year-old son Sebastian were sent to Mexico under MPP. Mom Mirza and 19-month-old Lia were sent to San Jose, California. “The family’s well-being was threatened by their four-month split across an international border. Furthermore, the separation set off a chain of consequences that threaten their chances of ultimately winning asylum,” writes Dara Lind.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration designated Customs and Border Protection a “security agency” last week, putting it into the same category as the FBI and Secret Service and exempting it from making certain records open to the public, reports The Nation.

Border Wall
In some areas, the border wall will likely require open storm gates during the summer months to allow the passage of water and sediment and to prevent the structure from falling over, reports The Washington Post. In remote areas, open gates provide easy passage for smugglers who know how to exploit the weaknesses of the wall. The Trump administration has not said how it will address this engineering challenge. It also has not commented on how the government plans to pay for upkeep of the wall once it is finished, which could be billions of taxpayer dollars per year, reports The Washington Post.

A previously unreported shoot out at a border wall construction site near San Diego in July has brought up questions about safety protocols and use of force for security personnel on both sides of the border, reports The Washington Post. Armed men began shooting at two Mexican security guards, who returned fire. Both were wounded. The FBI is investigating the case.

Border Stats
Border apprehensions dropped for the eighth month in a row to about 29,200 in January. Apprehensions of non-Mexican nationals decreased by more than 28 percent, but the number of Mexicans apprehended actually increased. The Trump administration has credited the Migrant Protection Protocols, or MPP, for the drop in crossings, reports The San Diego Union-Tribune. But one year after the program began, advocates say the program has caused a crisis at the border rather than solve one. The number of border crossings this January is still more than crossings in the same month during most years of the Obama administration.

A growing number of Indian immigrants are seeking refuge in the U.S. via the U.S.-Mexico border from sectarian violence and religious persecution, reports The Guardian. More than 9,000 Indian nationals were apprehended at the border in 2018, the most on record.

A 42-year-old Yemeni man was deported to the war-torn country after more than 20 years in the U.S., reports HuffPost. The case shows how the Trump administration has increased deportations of immigrants who could face harm in their countries because it ended prosecutorial discretion policies.

Courts & Civil Liberties
A new rule by the Trump administration to collect DNA samples from detained migrants could lead to the DNA collection of more than 700,000 immigrants a year, reports The Center for Public Integrity in a deep dive. In December, the White House said it would only collect DNA of parents or sponsors who arrive to pick up minors in government facilities. But a new directive now allows ICE to take DNA from minors as young as 14, reports BuzzFeed News. CBP says doing so will help identify criminals, but civil liberty groups say the plan violates immigrants’ privacy and mischaracterizes immigrants as a danger to society.

Of the 28 new immigration judges recently sworn in by the Executive Office for Immigration Review, 11 had no previous immigration law experience, reports The Hill. The lack of relevant experience of many judges may be the biggest threat these courts pose to due process, writes immigration law expert Nolan Rappaport in an opinion piece.

Reporter Fernanda Echavarri spent two days at the San Diego immigration courts, expecting to find a logistical mess. What she found was immigration judges “fed up” with the influx of cases from asylum seekers made to wait in Mexico, and their lack of discretion, she writes in Mother Jones.

Immigrants on Stage
Plays and musicals on the immigrant are taking the stage nationwide.


Immigration Resources & Opportunities

Recently released immigration books (got one, send it over)

Newsletters, Podcasts, & Facebook Groups

  • Frontera Dispatch is a weekly newsletter by the Hope Border Institute on news and analysis from the border.
  • Nuestro South is a podcast exploring the experiences of Latinx people in the U.S. south.
  • Salvadoran investigative media outlet El Faro has launched an English-language newsletter with reporting from Central America.
  • 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 lawmakers have refused to restrict flavored vaping — is that about to change? 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



Elizabeth Aguilera
Migratory Notes

Health/Social Services reporter @CALmatters, co-founder of #MigratoryNotes. I carry a mic & a pen. Prev: @KPCC @SDUT, @DenverPost. elizabeth@calmatters.org