Migratory Notes 150

Elizabeth Aguilera
Feb 13 · 13 min read

Douglas mafia, location data, Bloomberg’s plan

As Venezuela’s crumbling economy has fueled a refugee crisis, a woman on the Colombian border has started to bury migrants who would otherwise be forgotten. Photo courtesy of Erika Piñeros for PRI’s The World with funding from The International Women’s Media Foundation.

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Known as Border Patrol’s “Douglas mafia,” “for better or worse, they’d had a hand in shaping virtually every aspect of the agency’s leadership and culture,” writes Melissa del Bosque in a deep dive for ProPublica into this group that took off after 9/11. “In the beginning, they were just a bunch of young, mostly novice agents shunted off to a small outpost two hours southeast of Tucson, Arizona.” But their remote Douglas station would go on to become the country’s busiest, and this group rose to power on the border and in Washington. Now many are retiring and “some senior agents said they can’t help but blame the current state of the Border Patrol on the Douglas agents for fostering a culture that favored loyalty over competency.”

It’s a family separation crisis that long predates “zero tolerance.” From 2013 to 2017, the U.S. deported more than 150,000 parents of U.S. citizens. Young children are particularly vulnerable in these situations, so an ICE directive instructs officers to accommodate parents’ requests to make arrangements for care. But that doesn’t always happen. “The immigration legal system sees family separation as a ‘common result’ of deportation,” Clarissa Donnelly-DeRoven writes in The Chicago Reader. “It’s considered the same as the separation a child might experience in divorce, or if one parent moves to a different state. Sad, sure, but ordinary.”

Enforcement & Detention
The federal government bought a commercial database of location data from cell phone apps, including games, that it is using to track potential illegal border crossings and groups of undocumented immigrants, reports The Wall Street Journal. The database provides general location data that can be used to spot patterns and irregularities, but it does not include information about specific users, which is protected by a Supreme Court ruling. Experts say the use of this data is legal, but it has yet to be tested in court. DHS confirmed the purchase of this data, but did not say how it uses it for law enforcement.

At a Louisiana ICE detention center an Indian migrant had been on a hunger strike for more than 100 days. The Nation investigates how this strike fits into a long history and current “epidemic” of hunger strikes in immigrant detention centers.

Sanctuary Policies
The Trump administration further escalated its attacks against sanctuary policies Monday when the Justice Department sued New Jersey and a county in Washington for their sanctuary policies on the grounds that they violate a federal law against aiding undocumented immigrants.

The administration has also considered retaliating against states, particularly New York state, for refusing to share driving records with DHS, reports BuzzFeed News. In response, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the Trump administration “is once again knowingly abusing power by using government to extort states for political purposes.” Cuomo will meet with President Trump Thursday to discuss allowing federal officials access to some state driver’s license records for vetting of Global Entry and other traveler programs, reports The Wall Street Journal.

Further fueling the New York vs. Trump fight over sanctuary policies, last week an ICE officer shot an immigrant with a stun gun and shot a second man in the face with a gun while trying to detain the first man, reports The New York Times. The man shot in the face was visiting from Mexico and works for a government agency in Veracuz, Mexico.

Other so-called sanctuary state policy news:

Border Wall
As of mid-January, the Trump administration had built 110 new miles of border wall, paying an average of $30 million per mile in taxpayers’ money, reports The Washington Post. This is short of the 138 miles needed at that time to be on track to complete 500 miles by the end of the year. The new wall destroyed Native American sacred sites in Arizona and threatened the work of a group of ranchers who have worked to conserve the environment along the border for decades, report The Washington Post and High Country News. To speed up the construction, a privately funded group, We Build The Wall, plans to construct the wall on government land and donate it to the government, reports CNN. The group’s founder has been in contact with DHS since October to negotiate, but the plan is legally dubious. The group is currently constructing 3.5 miles of border wall on private land.

Trump plans to ask Congress for an additional $2 billion to fund his border wall as part of a $4.8 trillion budget that includes cuts to Medicaid, housing assistance and other social welfare programs, reports The New York Times. But lawmakers will likely reject his request as they have in the past.

Election 2020
The Trump administration’s 2021 budget proposal is also his 2020 campaign promise. In addition to border wall funding, the budget calls for an increase in funding for Remain in Mexico, border enforcement, and detention, particularly of unaccompanied minors, reports Vox. The budget marks the end of any possibility of returning to Reagan’s vision of the U.S. as a “city on the hill” that welcomes immigrants, reports The Washington Post.

Former New York City Mayor and Democratic candidate Mike Bloomberg released an immigration plan with tenets similar to other moderate plans: reversing the travel ban and MPP, restoring DACA and TPS, and providing a pathway to citizenship for an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants. Where Bloomberg differs is his plan is to allow visas in certain hotspots where the labor market needs immigrant workers, reports Vox.

Remain in Mexico
A Guatemalan family separated for seven months by the Remain in Mexico policy was reunited last week after the federal government settled a case filed by the ACLU in a Massachusetts court contesting the constitutionality of the program, reports AP. The case is one of a handful of legal challenges to the Migrant Protection Protocols, or MPP, and could set a precedent.

Many of the migrants sent to Mexico to wait for asylum are arriving with serious mental health issues due to violence during their journey or in their home countries, according to a new report by Doctors Without Borders. Meanwhile cities on the border, such as Nogales, are struggling to manage the influx.

Asylum
They sought asylum in the U.S. for discrimination they faced as gay men in El Salvador. Instead, they were sent to Guatemala where they now fear death, reports BuzzFeed News. Their cases raise additional questions about the Trump administration’s program and whether it knowingly puts migrants in danger. “DHS officials say the asylum-seekers are fine with going to Guatemala: ‘All asylum-seekers who are sent to Guatemala have chosen to go,’” an agency spokesman told Hamed Aleaziz. But he reports that is false: “Asylum applicants are told they can either be deported back to the country they fled or go to Guatemala.”

Deportations
A Peruvian immigrant was deported after she mistakenly registered to vote when she got a license and later unknowingly cast an illegal ballot, reports AP. A glitch in Illinois’ automatic voter registration system means there could be hundreds of cases like hers. Illegal voting by non-citizens has become a political issue after Trump alleged it is common, but data does not support his claim.

Sok Khoeun Loeun became the third Cambodian returned to the U.S. after being wrongfully targeted for deportation by the U.S. government, reports KQED. Loeun returned to Cambodia willingly in 2015 after learning he was in deportation proceedings because of a marijuana conviction, but discovered at a legal clinic in Cambodia that he was actually a citizen. As deportations of Cambodians have increased, families have struggled to understand immigration law, leading some like Loeun to be wrongfully targeted.

Labor
A group of businessmen is lobbying against a Florida bill that will require employees to use E-verify, a government screening program to prevent hiring of undocumented workers, because they say it will worsen a labor shortage in industries like tourism and agriculture, reports AP. “I think illegal immigration is one of the worst things that has happened to this country. But we don’t have a good immigration policy. And what are we going to do to replace those people?” said one businessman. A new survey also showed the construction industry is facing a labor shortage and that 80 percent of construction firms are struggling to fill positions because of Trump’s immigration crackdown, reports Fox News.

Trump Administration
Stephen Miller ally Chad Mizelle, who has less than 10 years legal experience, including representing New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in “Deflategate,” has been nominated to head the DHS office of the General Counsel. He will oversee 2,500 lawyers responsible for the agency’s legal challenges, reports CNN.

Immigration Journalism
What are immigration journalists not reporting on enough? BuzzFeed News immigration reporter Hamed Aleaziz told Columbia Journalism Review the public needs to know more about: “Detention issues…the care provided in ICE custody, the businesses involved, the companies involved, the private prisons involved.”

Follows

Immigration Resources & Opportunities

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

Newsletters, Podcasts, & Facebook Groups

  • Only Here is a podcast about the “subcultures, creativity and struggles” at the US-Mexico border from KPBS
  • 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.

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Reporting resources, tools and tips

Job opportunities

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. 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

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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