Migratory Notes 151

Special Forces vs Sanctuary, No to GEO, Matamoros cuisine

Elizabeth Aguilera
Feb 20 · 15 min read
A farm community in California’s Central Valley denied private company GEO Group’s proposal to convert prisons into immigration detention centers, reports the Desert Sun. The next day the mayor announced his resignation, reports The New York Times. Photo by Rebecca Plevin.

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As a child, Kevin Euceda, confided in the psychologist at the Office of Refugee Resettlement about his abusive grandmother, how gangs took over his house when she died, and what they made him do. The Honduran immigrant didn’t realize that the information would be used to hold him in U.S. custody for more than 900 days and potentially deny his asylum case, reports The Washington Post. Now 19, his is among a growing number of cases under the Trump administration in which notes from mandatory counseling are being used by ICE against them. “Intimate confessions, early traumas, half-remembered nightmares — all have been turned into prosecutorial weapons, often without the consent of the therapists involved, and always without the consent of the minors themselves, in hearings where the stakes can be life and death,” writes Hannah Dreier. The practice is technically legal, but most psychologists agree it is unethical. After the article was published, the American Psychological Association called for an end to the practice of sharing confidential notes with ICE.

One girl from Honduras has been held in U.S. custody for at least six years while her family heard nothing, reports Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting. She “is one of an unknown number of kids who have simply disappeared into the U.S. immigration system — specifically, into the bowels of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, or ORR, the federal agency charged with the care and reunification of unaccompanied minors,” writes Aura Bogada. “I’ve found evidence that at least seven kids were in the system for at least two years — far longer than the two or three months ORR’s director has told Congress is the average length of stay.” Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting is currently suing the government under the Freedom of Information Act for more information.

Sanctuary Policies
About 100 elite Border Patrol special forces agents will be sent to sanctuary cities, including New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, to work with ICE from February to May, reports The New York Times. The Trump administration said the agents will aid in immigration enforcement that has become more difficult because of sanctuary policies. But advocates worry the heavily militarized squad, the equivalent of Border Patrol’s SWAT team, could intimidate immigrants and escalate already volatile situations — if it happens at all. “Other recent attempts at aggressive enforcement by ICE have faltered, such as a series of raids targeting more than 2,000 migrant families that were planned during the summer of 2019,” write Caitlin Dickerson and Zolan Kanno-Youngs.

Family Separation
More than 1,500 cases of parents separated from their children occurred before the U.S. government admitted to the practice, reports The Washington Post. Two-and-a-half years later, in one case the daughter, now in Florida, still is not with her mother, who is in Guatemala. Since these cases haven’t been recorded, parents who were deported have limited — if any — legal means to reunite with their children. But after a U.S. district court in San Diego set a precedent in September by ruling to allow some parents to return to the U.S., lawyers believe hundreds of other parents could also be reunited with their kids in the U.S., reports CBS News.

Remain in Mexico
As the Remain in Mexico program has expanded, the Matamoros tent camp has evolved into its own mini-society.

A Venezuelan political activist was separated from his 18-year-old daughter after he was granted protection in the U.S., and she was sent to Matamoros alone under MPP, reports BuzzFeed News. Another case, of a Cuban woman at risk of losing her eyesight because of a parasite, shows how the Remain in Mexico policy can have grave health outcomes for migrants already suffering from medical problems. CBP has yet to comment on either case.

In Nogales, Mexico, across the border from Nogales, Arizona, shelters are at capacity because of the influx of migrants sent back under Remain in Mexico, so migrant aid groups will add 700 more beds, reports The Arizona Republic.

Border Patrol
An Arizona judge ruled in favor of detained migrants in a case regarding the conditions in Border Patrol custody, reports AP. The ruling requires the Tucson Border Patrol sector to provide mats, allow migrants to wash themselves if held for more than 12 hours, and keep migrants from sleeping in the bathrooms.

In a deposition in Nov. 2019, a CBP officer said that the agency often had space to process asylum seekers, but he was instructed to lie and say there was no space in an effort to justify the practice of sending asylum seekers to Mexico to wait, reports BuzzFeed News. The testimony contradicts the Trump administration’s narrative about the border “crisis.” CBP said it does not comment on pending litigation.

Greyhound allowed border agents to board its buses even though it didn’t have to, according to an internal CBP memo. The memo says that agents can only board commercial busses with a warrant or the consent of the company, contradicting Greyhound’s claim that the company is required by federal law to allow agents to board, reports AP.

CBP officer Raul Rodriguez always enforced the law, even if it meant turning in people he knew, reports The Atlantic. But “as the uproar over family separations engulfed the Trump administration, Rodriguez sat before a pair of investigators in a dim room with a one-way mirror, facing a crisis of his own,” writes Jeremy Raff. Rodriguez’s father later admitted that his son’s birth certificate was fraudulently written by a midwife in a scheme believed to be used by up to 15,000 people. In October, USCIS denied his green-card application based on marriage to a U.S. citizen. He still holds hope for an appeal, but lawyers say it is unlikely.

Border Wall
DHS announced this week that it would waive 10 federal contracting laws to speed up more than 175 miles of border wall construction, reports AP. The Pentagon approved $3.8 billion of military funding for the border wall last week, a decision Defense Secretary Mark Esper defended as necessary for “national security,” reports AP.

A Chicago-based steel company whose founder donated $1.75 million to a pro-Trump Super PAC and lobbied for increased tariffs on steel received an $891 million contract to build a steel barrier in Arizona, reports the Arizona Daily Star. Near the border in El Paso, smugglers have built a ladder that costs about $5 to blend in with the border wall and climb over, reports the El Paso Times.

Cases of fraud against immigrants are skyrocketing, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer in an investigation into a legal scam. “At a time when undocumented workers are increasingly terrified they will be deported, their desperation to stay here legally has fueled an already burgeoning industry of fraudulent immigration services providers,” writes a team of reporters. “Complaints against them in Pennsylvania skyrocketed last year, jumping to 129 from 22 in 2018, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Even so, this type of crime is grossly underreported, experts say.”

Central America
Central American scholars have pushed for the region and its history to get more attention in academia for years, even before El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala made headlines on a daily basis, reports the LA Times. They are finally getting their due. Academic programs and associations for Central American studies are growing. Remezcla reported five years ago on California State University, Northridge forming the first Department of Central American Studies in the United States.

A Brazilian rowing coach has trained working-class students in Los Angeles to become rowers accepted to elite universities and helped an underfunded sports program compete against wealthy teams, reports The New York Times. Now, he can only stay in the U.S. if he can prove he has the “extraordinary ability” to do a job a U.S. citizen couldn’t do. His peers and students say his work falls into this category, but the U.S. government will make the final decision.

A Chinese couple who traveled to China to renew their U.S. work visas with their U.S. citizen children fear they won’t be able to return to the U.S. because of the coronavirus, reports PRI’s The World. The U.S. embassy in Beijing where they needed to start the visa process closed in February.

Trump Administration
The Trump administration’s immigration policy has focused on finding “hidden weapons” in previous immigration law, such as the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, to exploit them to restrict immigration in ways that were never imaginable at the time, Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, the policy counsel at the American Immigration Council, told The New Yorker. Experts predict Trump’s wide-ranging restrictive immigration policy will have long-term effects for years to come, even if he is not re-elected, reports KQED.

The White House is failing to garner support for its merit-based immigration plan unveiled in May 2019, even from Republicans who would seem likely supporters, reports Politico. The plan would admit more highly-skilled workers, restrict asylum, and restructure DHS. But in trying to do too much, it appeals to no one. Trump’s son-in-law and aide Jared Kushner is trying to salvage the immigration plan in the lead-up to the 2020 election, reports NPR. The plan is unlikely to get approval from the Democrat-led House.

Election 2020
In the two-hour Democratic debate Wednesday night, immigration only came up in the final 20 minutes, reports BuzzFeed. It was a question from a Univision reporter about DACA. Later, when former Vice President Joe Biden presented his closing remarks, protesters interrupted him, shouting “You deported three million people.” Earlier in the week Biden called the Obama administration decision to deport hundreds of thousands of immigrants without criminal records a “big mistake,” in an interview with Univision’s Jorge Ramos.

Limiting immigration is not going to change or stop the racial diversification of the U.S., according to a new report from the U.S. Census. But cracking down will have a negative effect, pushing the U.S. into population decline. “We desperately need immigration to keep our country growing and prosperous,” William H. Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution who analyzed Census numbers, told The Washington Post. “The reason we have a good growth rate in comparison to other developed countries in the world is because we’ve had robust immigration for the last 30 to 40 years.”

First Person
Journalist Sonia Nazario’s family fled the Holocaust, political persecution in Syria, and later torture and the threat of being “disappeared” by Argentina’s military dictatorship, Nazario writes in The New York Times Opinion. But as she reflects on her own experience seeking refuge in the U.S., she wonders if her family would be welcomed today. “Among the American values I am most proud of are freedom, the rule of law and the right to dissent,” Nazario writes. “Right now, the rule of law is being quietly massacred in the name of keeping asylum-seekers out — a policy most Americans don’t even agree with.”


Jobs, Fellowships & Awards


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.

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

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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