Migratory Notes 156

Foreign docs blocked, first detainee Covid-19 case, citizen babies separated

Elizabeth Aguilera
Mar 26 · 13 min read
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Signs that say “invent a new greeting” and have been put up at the migrant camp in Matamoros, MX. (Reynaldo Leaños Jr.)

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Visa regulations are stopping health care professionals in the U.S. from serving some of the communities that need help the most, reports Bloomberg Law. “The H-1B program’s fine print is complicating coronavirus-response efforts in rural America, where physician shortages were the most dire in the country prior to the outbreak of Covid-19,” write Jacquie Lee and Genevieve Douglas. Congress could relax restrictions so they can move so freely, but the move does not seem likely.

More than 1,000 U.S. citizen children have been separated from their asylum-seeking parents in San Diego county, reports The San Diego Union-Tribune. “The children who have been separated include newborns who’ve been taken from their migrant mothers shortly after being born in U.S. hospitals,” writes Wendy Fry. “Others are children born in the U.S. who end up living in other countries with their non-citizen parents, only to return to the U.S. later so a parent can claim asylum.” The Child Welfare Services began tracking numbers in 2014 after noticing an increase in cases the agency was called in to manage.

Border & Remain in Mexico
DHS said Sunday that border crossings dropped by half after Trump’s decision to immediately deport anyone crossing the border illegally, reports AP and The New York Times. Despite the dip in migration, the Pentagon said Monday that it does not plan to pull the more than 5,000 troops stationed at the U.S. border who were sent there in February 2019 to respond to the “border crisis,” reports the LA Times.

Coronavirus arrived in Mexico mainly through wealthy residents who traveled abroad, but it will likely have the biggest impact on migrants and asylum seekers in Mexican border cities where crowded and unsanitary migrant camps are hot spots for the disease, reports The Dallas Morning News.

Humanitarian groups are reevaluating their programs as they try to balance the need for aid with concerns of spreading coronavirus to a vulnerable population. Tijuana’s Casa del Migrante, its oldest and largest shelter, is preparing to temporarily close its doors, reports Jorge Nieto. World Central Kitchen, has stopped volunteers from crossing the border from Brownsville, TX to Matamoros, Mexico to serve dinner to migrants in tent camps there because of fear of spreading COVID-19, reports the Border Report.

El Salvador joined Guatemala and Honduras in reopening its doors to accept deportees, after being warned by the U.S. of consequences, reports El Faro. Deportees on a flight arriving March 24 were transferred to a containment center and will be isolated for 30 days.

Two deportees from the U.S. were hospitalized in Guatemala after showing symptoms of coronavirus this week, reports Prensa Libre. The country temporarily halted deportations last week, only to start accepting deportation flights again two days later. Now, lawyers are fighting for stays of removal for their clients that they worry could be deported to Central America and spread the disease there, reports The Nation.

The State Department has started using deportation airplanes to return American citizens who have been stranded in foreign countries, reports the LA Times. A group of Americans stuck in Honduras boarded a flight Sunday that had arrived full of deportees earlier in the day, reports BORDER/LINES. It is unclear if the airplanes are being properly cleaned and if passengers are being adequately screened.

Asylum & Refugees
Globally, doors are being shut on refugees, placing them in close quarters that lack adequate health care where the coronavirus will likely rapidly spread, Foreign Policy reports from Beirut’s refugee camps.

Confirmed COVID-19 Cases in Immigrants and Detention Centers
Confirmed and suspected cases of coronavirus of detainees and immigration workers grew this week:

ICE has repeated failed to contain infectious diseases, according to a ProPublica investigation of more than 70 reports of deaths in custody. “As guards and nurses leave facilities and go home, those outbreaks can spread,” writes J. David McSwane. Around the country, immigration advocates, lawyers and detainees continue to call for the release of immigrant detainees:

Last week, ICE said it does not plan to release any of the more than 37,000 detainees in its custody in response to the coronavirus pandemic, reports Mother Jones.

California farmworkers continue to pick fruit and vegetables despite California’s shelter in place order, reports PRI’s The World. Some even say they have not received instructions from their employers about coronavirus protections. And since many are undocumented, it’s unlikely they’ll receive government aid during the coronavirus crisis. Undocumented immigrants tend to work in other industries hit hard by coronavirus shutdowns, like the service industry, making them more vulnerable during this time, reports The Nation. “What about rent, food, paying my cell phone bill? What about my family in Mexico?” said Raúl, a restaurant worker from Mexico who was recently told to self-quarantine for 14 days because he felt sick.

Court Closures and Restrictions
The Trump administration rescheduled all hearings between now and April 22 for migrants in the Remain in Mexico program, reports CNN. Only 4% of closed cases for migrants in the Remain in Mexico program have ended in asylum, compared to 29% nationwide, reports AP. A lack of access to lawyers could be the problem and it is only expected to get worse as COVID-19 spreads.

The Department of Justice backtracked on an email announcing the closure of immigration courts in San Francisco and told its staff in a conference call that they must come into the office despite a shelter-in-place order, reports ProPublica. The DOJ said that the local law did not apply to federal employees despite the protest of judges and attorneys, reports CBS News. And giving attorneys less than a week to prepare filings, on Tuesday the Justice Department announced that six courts in other major cities that had been closed would be partially reopened, reports Law 360.

Immigration judges and lawyers called an ICE rule announced over the weekend that requires lawyers to wear protective gear to visit their clients in detention unconstitutional because it violates due process, reports the Miami Herald. They also complained that the directive was irresponsible because it could worsen shortages in protective gear needed by medical professionals, reports The Texas Tribune. Instead, they say the only responsible decision would be to close all immigration courts.

Enforcement, Public Charge & Healthcare
Healthcare workers are accusing ICE of being irresponsible and taking already scarce resources needed by doctors because the agency has ordered 45,000 N95 masks to be used by agents and personnel as it continues immigration enforcement during the coronavirus pandemic, reports VICE News.

Fear of risking their immigration status under the public charge rule could exacerbate the public health crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, reports The Wall Street Journal. “If you’re fearful, you’re not likely to come in for something you think is a routine sore throat or cough,” said the head of a clinic in Washington state. “Why would you risk it?” Trump said Sunday that undocumented immigrants who seek coronavirus tests or care will not be targeted by immigration enforcement at hospitals, reports The Hill.

Safe Third-Country Agreements?
Only 20 of 900 Salvadoran and Honduran migrants sent to Guatemala have decided to seek asylum there. The rest have returned to their home countries where their lives could be in danger, reports The New York Times. Many Central American migrants flee gang violence that has been exacerbated by rapid growth, reports Thomson Reuters Foundation. “The municipalities that have had the fastest urbanization are the ones with the most critical levels of violence. Why? Because it’s precarious urbanization,” said one urban planning expert.

Migrant Deaths
A 42-year-old Mexican man died at a Texas hospital Saturday after being in ICE custody, reports BuzzFeed News. He is the 10th death in ICE custody since October. The cause of death is unknown.


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

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.

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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