Migratory Notes 157
Covid-19 deported, DACA MDs in limbo, immigrant media boom
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ICE has continued moving immigrant detainees around the country even as the CDC has urged Americans to limit travel, reports ProPublica. One man from Iran with a history of lung infections was put on nine flights in 10 days, exposing him to the virus and highlighting the agency’s disregard for national guidelines.
María had waited a year to hug her 6-year-old niece who she had raised since an infant. They had been forced apart at the border, with the girl sent to foster care in New York. Now they were reunited in Arizona boarding a deportation flight to Guatemala, as COVID-19 hit. In a narrative feature for The Guardian, Jude Joffe-Block and Valeria Fernández provide a glimpse of María’s return to the Central American country she fled, facing new threats.
Infections at DHS
About 300 DHS employees have tested positive for coronavirus and more than 800 employees are in quarantine, according to an internal report from Monday obtained by the Los Angeles Times. “The numbers of sick, infected and exposed continue to increase at the federal government’s third-largest department, suggesting a mounting toll even as it is helping to manage the nationwide mobilization against the virus,” writes Molly O’Toole. The president of the Border Patrol union, who has been a strong supporter of the Trump administration in the past, told O’Toole, “I don’t think the agency is doing enough to protect agents or individuals we come in contact with, period.”
A 29-year-old deportee returned to Guatemala from Arizona last week tested positive for coronavirus, confirming Central American countries’ fears that the virus can be spread through deportations, report Al Jazeera and the LA Times. The Guatemalan Consul General said that the deportee most likely contracted the virus while in U.S. detention, reports The Dallas Morning News. Meanwhile, a group of deportees on a separate flight to Guatemala with three minors who showed COVID-19 symptoms are being held in a temporary shelter at the airport, reports Reuters. Now, the Guatemalan government is negotiating with the U.S. to stop deportations during this pandemic, an official source told The Wall Street Journal. The country had previously halted deportations, but resumed them quickly, likely because of pressure from the U.S.
U.S. border agents are returning Mexican and Central American migrants across the border in an average of 96 minutes, reports The Washington Post. Instead of detaining migrants in Border Patrol stations, CBP agents now send them directly back to Mexico without medical exams. The U.S. is also fast-tracking deportations of minors in violation of U.S. and international law, reports CBS News. In Guatemala, advocates worry that doing so is putting already vulnerable communities at risk because they are being released without testing and quarantine measures, reports BuzzFeed News.
Border & Border Wall
The U.S. is sending an additional 540 troops to the U.S. border to help Border Patrol during the pandemic, reports Military Times. Meanwhile, in border cities inextricably linked, residents worry about the Mexican president’s lax approach to the new coronavirus and how it will impact residents on both sides of the border, reports The Dallas Morning News. The unprecedented shutdown of nonessential border traffic has led sales for one small business owner to nearly dry up, reports NPR.
The Trump administration plans to continue a border wall construction project in Arizona even though it threatens to infect residents and spread COVID-19 after temporary workers return home, some to as far away as Alaska, reports The New York Times. A tunnel found by federal agents in March in San Diego used to bring drugs from Mexico highlights how the wall ignores the reality of drug smuggling across the border, reports The New York Times.
Detention & Minors
Four migrant children in U.S. custody tested positive for COVID-19, but the U.S. government still refuses to release them, reports The New York Times. A federal judge in California ordered the Trump administration to justify this decision given the risks of contracting and spreading coronavirus and the potential trauma to children detained during a pandemic, reports the LA Times. On Monday, a judge in Washington extended the ruling to parents. Lawyers argue that continuing to hold minors during a pandemic violates the Flores Agreement, which established in 1997 the minimum standards for detention of minors, reports CBS News. The administration has until April 6 to provide a report to a judge detailing how its detention practices follow CDC guidelines.
Detention Legal Rulings
Around the country, judges have ruled in favor of releasing detainees, particularly those especially vulnerable to coronavirus. Judges say that authorities have not taken the proper measures to protect these detainees and that immigrants’ well-being should be taken into consideration. Here are some of the cases:
- In California, two men have been released following a lawsuit in which the judge argued that migrants should be treated with “compassion and not apathy” during this crisis. (The LA Times)
- In Pennsylvania, a judge ordered the release of 10 detained immigrants with underlying health conditions. The judge said their continued detention could lead to an “unconscionable and possibly barbaric result.” (The Philadelphia Inquirer and CBS News)
- In New Jersey, a judge granted a temporary restraining order on the detention of 10 immigrants in ICE custody in facilities where someone has tested positive. The judge determined that detention makes the spread of the coronavirus more likely. (NPR)
- In New York, a judge granted an order to release detainees from ICE custody because they had serious, unmet medical needs. (Legal Newsroom)
Pending Detention Cases
It is hard to keep up with all of the detention legal actions. Here are some of them:
- In California, ICE detainees are asking to be released from the Otay Mesa detention facility, where one worker has tested positive. Six detainees at the Adelanto ICE Processing Center filed a lawsuit for their release, and a separate ongoing case is seeking an injunction that would require ICE to release detainees with medical conditions. (San Diego Union-Tribune, Palm Springs Desert Sun and Southern Poverty Law Center)
- In Massachusetts, two detainees sued ICE for the release of all detainees from a facility where they allege inhumane and unsanitary conditions. (WBUR)
- In Louisiana, immigrant rights groups filed an emergency motion requesting the release of vulnerable detainees in the South with prior medical conditions including cancer and HIV. (Mother Jones)
Immigration advocates filed a lawsuit in a district court in Washington D.C. this week demanding that the government suspend in-person immigration hearings during the coronavirus pandemic, reports Newsweek. The lawsuit accuses the government of violating CDC guidelines. In Dallas, where immigration courts have not officially closed, some judges have moved to phone hearings while others are still requiring lawyers to come in person, only further adding to the already chaotic immigration court system, reports The Dallas Morning News.
In Mississippi, where nearly 700 undocumented workers were arrested in mass raids on chicken processing plants in August, undocumented immigrants face another crisis as they fear exposure to coronavirus and the economic toll of preventative measures, reports the Mississippi Clarion-Ledger. Nationwide, as undocumented workers have been hit hard by coronavirus measures, groups are stepping in to help these vulnerable workers:
- Immigrant rights organizations have started emergency funds and food pantries for undocumented workers in the service industry. (Salon)
- Farms and orchards are delivering groceries to workers to minimize exposure, putting newly arrived immigrants in quarantine, and funding local healthcare clinics. (The Wall Street Journal)
- Hospitals in California are working to translate important information about the new coronavirus in indigenous languages commonly spoken by farmworkers in the area. (PRI’s The World)
DACA & Special Visas
Lawyers filed a briefing last week in the ongoing Supreme Court case that will decide the fate of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program asking the court to consider the more than 27,000 DACA recipients working in healthcare during this pandemic. Many of these workers are on the frontlines of the COVID-19 response and ending the program now would be “catastrophic,” the letter argued.
Immigration is an International Issue
Portugal declared all foreigners with pending applications as temporary residents until at least July, a decision that the country’s ministers defended as a necessary public health measure, reports CNN. The move will help these otherwise vulnerable migrants be able to access healthcare and other social services, reports Reuters.
A Guatemalan migrant died at an immigrant detention center in southern Mexico in a riot that broke out to protest the conditions there and the potential spread of coronavirus, reports AP.
A woman who recently gave birth is believed to be the first case of a refugee in Greece who tested positive for coronavirus, reports Al Jazeera. It is unclear if she contracted the virus in the camp or in the hospital, but experts fear the spread of COVID-19 through cramped and often unsanitary refugee camps around the world.
- ICE denied parole to Cameroonian asylum seekers who were previously relocated after protesting detention center conditions. (The Intercept)
- Hearings for migrants in the Remain in Mexico program have been further postponed until at least May 1. (KJZZ Fronteras Desk)
- Facing a backlash, ICE canceled a request for 45,000 medical masks. (BorderReport)
Immigration Resources & Opportunities
Recently released immigration books (got one, send it over)
- America for Americans: A History of Xenophobia in the United States by Erika Lee. The University of Minnesota professor provides a timely history of the roots and ongoing threats of hatred of immigrants. (Pub date 11/19)
- Separated: Family and Community in the Aftermath of an Immigration Raid by William D. Lopez. The University of Michigan professor follows the story of the lasting damage of a raid in Michigan in 2013. (Pub date 9/19)
- Migrating to Prison: America’s Obsession with Locking Up Immigrants by César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández. The law professor and crimmigration.com blog author explores how the U.S. came to lock up almost half a million migrants annually.
- Border Wars: Inside Trump’s Assault on Immigration by Julie Hirschfield Davis and Michael Shear. The New York Times reporters probe Trump’s rise and its connection to the country’s attitudes toward foreigners.
- Here We Are: American Dreams, American Nightmares by Aarti Namdev Shahani. The NPR correspondent and co-founder of Families for Freedom’s memoir of her family’s battles with the immigration system.
- A Good Provider Is One Who Leaves: One Family and Immigration in the 21st Century by Jason DeParle. A chronicle of the age of global migration, told through the multi-generational saga of a Filipino family
- This Land Is Our Land: An Immigrant’s Manifesto by Suketu Mehta. An argument for why the United States and the West would benefit from accepting more immigrants
- Immigration Reform: The Corpse That Will Not Die by Charles Kamasaki. An insider’s history and memoir of the battle for The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986: its evolution, passage, impact, and its legacies for the future of immigration reform
- Migration as a (Geo-)Political Challenge in the Post-Soviet Space by Olga R. Gulina, about how migration policy in post-USSR states can be used to gain geopolitical power or destabilize an area
- Cruz: A Cross-border Memoir by Jean Guerrero, about a daughter’s journey to understand her father
- The Death and Life of Aida Hernandez: A Border Story by Aaron Bobrow-Strain
- Refuge Beyond Reach, by David Scott FitzGerald, details how wealthy countries in the Global North systematically deny asylum seekers.
- A Nation of Nations: A Great American Immigration Story, by Tom Gjelten, reports on how the US has changed since the 1965 immigration laws.
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
- Doctors for Immigrants released a toolkit to welcome and protect immigrants within the healthcare system.
- We Have Rights is a campaign to educate immigrants about rights in encounters with ICE
- Ecologies of Migrant Care has collected nearly 100 interviews with migrants, activists, academics and other immigration experts to shed light on the reasons why Central Americans flee and detail the networks that have developed to help them along their journey.
- Moving Stories is an app and curriculum to capture and share immigrant stories.
- Re-imagining Migration has resources and lessons to teach about migration, immigration, refugees, and civic empowerment through history, literature, and the sciences
- The Advocates for Human Rights and the Immigration History Research Center at UMN free curriculum that helps students learn about U.S. immigration through personal narratives: Teaching Immigration with the Immigrant Stories Project
- Freedom for Immigrants publishes an Immigration Detention Syllabus
Reporting resources, tools and tips
- Journalists who have been targeted for their work can send incident reports through the online platform of Press Freedom Tracker.
- No Refuge from Council on Foreign Relations’ InfoGuide series, includes an interactive map of origin and destination countries for refugees, and policy options that can help refugees and support host states.
- Covering Immigration Enforcement webinar from Poynter with Marshall Project contributing writer Julia Preston.
- The Pew Research Center offers a mini-email course on immigration to the U.S.
- Tools for covering ICE from the Columbia Journalism Review
- Migration Reporting Resources (Global Investigative Journalism Network)
- Resources for Investigating Visas (Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting)
- Reporting on Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Immigrants (90 Days, 90 Voices)
- Immigration Data Resources: An extensive, and growing, list of immigration resources curated by PRI’s Angilee Shah and shared as part of her presentation on finding immigration stories at NICAR 2018.
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 Coronavirus stretches California’s special education system to the brink. 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