Migratory Notes 154

Coronavirus, thrice deported, Louisiana detention

Elizabeth Aguilera
Migratory Notes
Published in
12 min readMar 12, 2020


Social distancing is not always an option. In an LAist investigation, Yingjie Wang uncovers an epidemic of overcrowding in Chinese “boarding houses” with “toothless oversight.” Workers living in these conditions faced serious health risks long before coronavirus. (Dan Carino for LAist)

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In 2017, the U.S. selected the town of San Juan Atitán in Guatemala’s western highlands for funding to incentivize residents to stay in Central America. But the money never arrived. This helps explain why 22-year-old Griselda Domingo-Godínez desperately tried to cross the border three times between 2018 and 2019. Independent Guatemalan media outlet El Intercambio reported over many months on her failed journeys from Central America and through the U.S. criminal justice and immigration systems. Domingo’s “chatty” younger sister explained to writers Ximena Villagrán and Elsa Cabria why Griselda was so persistent: “She didn’t want to marry, because the men here are machistas. She doesn’t want anyone to hurt or cheat on her, or for anyone to say she lives off a man’s efforts.” The piece, which was produced in collaboration with Documented NY and supported by the Seattle International Foundation, also features stunning photography from Oliver de Ros of Griselda’s life in Guatemala and the smugglers who facilitate journeys like hers.

Coronavirus and Immigration
While President Trump declared Wednesday he will be “suspending all travel” for 30 days from continental Europe, there are various exemptions in addition to U.S. citizens and permanent residents, reports The Washington Post. These include:

  • Parents or legal guardians of U.S. citizens and green-card holders under age 21.
  • Children in the process of being adopted.
  • Family members of U.S. service members.

Immigration lawyer Greg Siskind has updated his app to help people determine how the travel ban impacts them.

Trump has repeatedly used coronavirus to rally his supporters around his immigration agenda, but the U.S. actually has more cases of coronavirus than Mexico, reports The Guardian. Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Robert Redfield contradicted Trump’s statement that a border wall would stop the spread of coronavirus in a hearing before lawmakers. Instead, Redfield pointed to increased funding and resources for prevention, testing and treatment as the way to fight the virus.

An increasing death toll could soon challenge attitudes towards immigrants, reports The Hill in an opinion piece. Some signs show they already are: many Asian American seniors are facing isolation, while Asian American kids are confronting discrimination, reports the L.A. Times and Chalkbeat.

The disease has already started to have an impact on immigration detention and enforcement:

Remain in Mexico
The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the Trump administration can continue to carry out the Remain in Mexico program while a legal challenge continues. Ahead of the decision, the U.S. sent 160 troops to San Ysidro, California and El Paso, Texas in case large groups of migrants showed up seeking entry. Thousands of soldiers are already stationed along the border.

A Guatemalan woman who was kidnapped, raped and chemically burned in Ciudad Juarez was returned there under Remain in Mexico in a case that shows how the U.S. is failing to meet its international obligation to avoid sending migrants to danger, reports BuzzFeed News.

El Salvador’s president Nayib Bukele met with Trump officials last week to finalize an agreement that will allow the U.S. to send asylum seekers to El Salvador, reports BuzzFeed News. The small Central American nation is expected to accept 2,000 asylum seekers this year despite a practically non-existent infrastructure for asylum seekers. Neighboring Guatemala, which has received nearly 800 people since November under a similar agreement, now seeks to limit how many asylum seekers it receives, citing an overburdened asylum system, reports Reuters.

Migrant Deaths & Injuries
A 22-year-old Guatemalan woman died in ICE custody from “autoimmune hepatitis, complicated by septic shock and acute liver failure” about a month after undergoing gallbladder surgery, reports BuzzFeed News. Eight people have died in ICE custody since October, the same number of ICE in-custody deaths during all of fiscal year 2019.

The death of Camila Díaz Cordova, a trans woman deported to El Salvador and one of 138 deportees murdered in the country since 2013, could now represent the first hate crime conviction in the country, reports Foreign Policy.

A lawyer for a man paralyzed in ICE detention because of an apparent medical mistake is seeking his release from custody while his asylum case is decided, reports The Dallas Morning News. ICE denies any responsibility for his inability to walk. The man’s lawyer says the case is unprecedented and the number of mistakes “insane.”

Louisiana Detention Boom
Since Trump took office, at least eight Louisiana prisons have been converted to detention centers. Among them is Richwood in the northeastern corner of the state where one immigrant wrote in a letter last year: “We only want our liberty to pursue our cases freely and to leave this hell, because Louisiana is a cemetery of living men.” Surveillance footage shows a Cuban asylum seeker died there by suicide in October and no one opened the door of his cell where he was held in solitary confinement for at least an hour before he died, reports AP. ICE requires a visual check-in every 30 minutes for migrants in solitary confinement.

Immigrant advocates believe a group of women who were moved to another Louisiana detention center, Taylor, after protesting detention conditions in Texas will actually have a tougher time winning their cases there because of barriers to access to legal counsel and a higher asylum denial rate, reports The Texas Observer. The women, mainly from Cameroon, denounced medical neglect, extended detention without parole, and forced signatures for deportation orders before they were transferred, reports Prism. ICE denied the accusations that it has forced anyone to sign a deportation order and said it could not comment on cases of medical neglect without specifics on the cases.

Trump’s son-in-law and aide Jared Kushner is pushing a new immigration plan that might signal a softer stance on DACA recipients leading up to the 2020 election, reports The New York Times. After a recent meeting, Republican senator Lindsey Graham said the Trump administration may consider shielding DREAMers from deportation even if the Supreme Court rules in June that the administration’s decision to end DACA was legal, reports Fox News. The rest of the plan is similar to a previous proposal by Kushner to increase legal immigration.

A single mother of two who worked as a U.S. interpreter in Afghanistan will likely be relieved of her citizenship after a court found she lied on her asylum application in 2001, reports The Dallas Morning News. The woman is part of a growing number of naturalized citizens being investigated for fraud dating back to the Obama administration. Her defense lawyers said the lies on her application, including a false name, were necessary to leave the country as an unmarried woman.

A blind man who failed his citizenship test because it was not offered in Braille as he requested will be offered another chance to take the test after he went public with his case, reports The New York Times. His lawyer worries countless other people with unknown cases will never get a second chance. USCIS says it offers tests in Braille to anyone who asks for it but has also admitted deficiencies in accommodating these requests.


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



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