Migratory Notes 160

Immigration canceled, Covid deportation spread, immigrant nurses on the line

Elizabeth Aguilera
Apr 23 · 13 min read
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#HappyImmigrantDocs hashtag trended this week. @DrAndreaKoko tweeted: ”Bosnian refugee-> Immigrant-> Proud Canadian-> MD-> Urologist-> Future urologic oncologist via @MDAndersonNews. Tnx mom & dad who made this happen with $5 to their name, and a relentless drive & determination to have their kids succeed. Can’t buy.”

Migratory Notes is Hosting a Virtual Town Hall for Journalists

Who: Speakers will include Maria Hinojosa (Latino USA/ Futuro Media), Bob Moore (El Paso Matters), Julia Preston (Marshall Project), Dianne Solis (Dallas Morning News) and Roberto Suro (USC).

When: Monday, April 27 at 5:30pm PT/ / 6:30pm MT / 7:30pm CT / 8:30pm ET.

Where: Fill out this form and we will send you a meeting link. (Note, this event is only for journalists. We also have limited Zoom space and may have to cut off registrations.)

Americas Quarterly, in its special Migration Report, highlights unprecedented immigration in Latin America, a region more often associated with emigration or restrictive policies. Stories include an interview with Colombia’s migration czar charged with integrating Venezuelans and a profile a Haitian singer in Chile suggesting a bicultural option, as well as broad investigations of policies across Latin America and how coronavirus is adding new urgency. “Many Latin American governments have granted temporary visas or work permits, put extra shifts in schools to accommodate new arrivals, and publicly urged tolerance,” write the editors. “Even so, the strains are clear, and growing.”

“For weeks, employees at the Executive Office of Immigration Review’s immigration courts and offices have noticed a trend: whenever someone exhibits coronavirus symptoms, the agency quietly shuts the facility down for a day or two, cleans the office, and then reopens,” writes Erich Wagner in an investigation for Government Executive into how keeping courts open puts deportation numbers over the safety of employees. (On Thursday the union for support staff and lawyers handling Justice Department immigration appeals filed an OSHA complaint, reports Politico).

Immigration & Coronavirus
Trump signed an executive order Wednesday that will suspend some immigration visas for 60 days, saying that it will protect American jobs and limit burdens to the health care system. While thousands outside of the U.S. will be impacted, he did not shut off green card applications as he had publicly stated he would do causing confusion and panic. Read the text here. Restrictive measures include:

  • Suspension of visa lottery
  • Suspension of family-visas for parents, adult children and siblings of siblings looking to immigrate
  • Suspension of employment-based immigration visas

Exemptions or immigrants not affected by order include:

  • Medical and other essential workers
  • Spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens
  • Temporary employment visas such as agricultural and high-skilled workers on H-1B visas

Julia Gelatt, senior policy analyst of the Migration Policy Institute, noted on Twitter that while temporary visas are not included, a review of them in the order could indicate changes ahead: “To date, the Trump administration has heightened scrutiny of H-1B temporary visa applications, but been open to more lower-skilled temporary workers on H-2A and H-2B. Will those trends continue during a period of record-high unemployment? We’ll see in May.”

Deportations & Infections
A Guatemalan immigrant living in California who was expelled without due process was allowed to return to the U.S., reports Telemundo. “We asked Border Patrol authorities for an explanation and they told us that, if we located the family, they could accept him back to continue with his immigration process in the United States.” The case appears to be an instance of CBP broadening its emergency powers to expel migrants quickly during the coronavirus pandemic to an immigrant who had lived in the U.S. for years and has an open case in immigration court.

The U.S. sent CDC officials to validate Guatemala’s coronavirus tests after the country’s health minister said last week that at least 70 deportees tested positive, reports the LA Times. The U.S. has deported more than 1,600 Guatemalans since March 13 when the small Central American country confirmed its first COVID-19 case, reports El Faro English. “The deportation of Guatemalans, many of whom come from poor rural communities where multiple generations can share a single home, has put communities with limited economic resources, and little access to the health care system, at grave risk,” writes Jeff Abbott.

In Nuevo Laredo, 16 migrants tested positive for COVID-19 after a man deported from Houston who had the coronavirus stayed at a migrant shelter, reports AP.

Three Haitians who were deported two weeks ago also tested positive, reports Reuters. The country only has 62 ventilators for 11 million people, reports The Washington Post. But the U.S. still refuses to test migrants before deportation.

In just one month, smugglers sawed nearly 20 holes in different parts of Trump’s newly constructed border wall, causing more than $11,000 of damage and shattering Trump’s claim that his border wall will stop immigration, reports The Washington Post. The official numbers could be an undercount because CBP officials have acknowledged even more cases of breaches.

The Army Corps of Engineers awarded a $569-million contract to Montana construction firm BFBC for a 17-mile stretch of the border wall in California, reports The Daily Beast. The firm, which regularly contributes to Republican politicians, has received more than $1 billion in border wall contracts that one independent watchdog organization is urging be closely monitored.

The Department of Defense sent 60 surveillance cameras and 540 troops to the border this month in a move to quietly increase border surveillance during the coronavirus pandemic, even though border crossings have dipped, reports AP. A CBP spokesman said the cameras will be removed after the pandemic ends.

More than one-third of the 300 ICE detainees tested for coronavirus were positive, raising concern that the number of inmates with the virus is much higher than reported, reports Roll Call.

A federal judge in Los Angeles ordered ICE to consider releasing more detainees at risk of COVID-19, reports The Washington Post. The ruling said immigration authorities have shown “callous indifference” and ordered the agency to maintain “minimum acceptable conditions” in detention centers. Some other updates from around the country:

Chicago is home to one of the immigration courts in the country still holding hearings. The Chicago Reader, in partnership with a journalism class from Northwestern’s Medill School, dug deep into how coronavirus is impacting the already beleaguered immigration court system, and what to expect moving forward.

A 26-year-old immigrant from Guatemala who tested positive for COVID-19 while in detention in Louisiana was required to call in to a court hearing even though he was too weak to talk, reports AP. After a two-hour call, the judge agreed to delay his final asylum hearing.

Judges ordered the U.S. Marshals Service to detain 120 witnesses in smuggling cases in March, most of them immigrants who could face deportation if released, reports The Texas Observer. Activists are asking to end this common practice during COVID-19 because it puts immigrants who should be eligible for bond at risk of contracting the coronavirus in a jail.

Immigrant Communities & COVID-19
Immigrant nurses from the Philippines, India, Jamaica, Nigeria and Mexico are among the front-line health care workers battling the coronavirus pandemic. Araceli Buendia Ilagan is one of many nurses who have moved to wealthier countries to fill the worldwide shortage of 6 million nurses, reports The New York Times. She died of the coronavirus in March.

New York City launched a team to respond to anti-Asian discrimination reports during the coronavirus pandemic, reports Gothamist. A government commission has already collected nearly 105 complaints since February, compared to five in the same time period the year before.

The ACLU of Arizona reported at least one case of a Border Patrol vehicle at a COVID-19 testing site, which they say can intimidate immigrants into not seeking care, reports ABC 15 Arizona. CBP denies that it is carrying out enforcement in sensitive areas such as hospitals.

Coronavirus Stimulus Package
U.S. citizens who jointly file taxes with their immigrant spouses who do not have a Social Security number have been excluded from a federal stimulus package, reports The Dallas Morning News. Democratic legislators are calling for the next package to include these mixed-status families and taxpayers with individual taxpayer identification numbers (ITIN), a change that could affect up to 10 million people.

An economic rescue law that gives colleges $6 billion to help students who have been financially affected by coronavirus cancellations excludes undocumented students and DACA recipients, reports Politico.

Immigration is an International Issue
Three in four countries have used the coronavirus pandemic to justify restricting entry, but in many cases experts say these hardline immigration policies are not justified, reports The New Humanitarian. Refugees fleeing civil wars or other conflicts cannot stay in place, and these restrictions have had deadly outcomes, including a group of Rohingya refugees who reportedly starved to death after the Malaysian government denied them entry.

A judge in Mexico ordered the release of all detained migrants over the age of 60 or with a health condition that makes them vulnerable to the coronavirus, reports Al Jazeera.

Around the world remittances are expected to decrease 20% this year as coronavirus job losses make it more difficult for immigrants to send money home to their families, reports AP. Families in Europe and Central Asia receiving remittances are expected to see the biggest drop at 27.5%. Western European countries that relied on seasonal farmworkers from poorer countries in Central and Eastern Europe are now trying to shift towards local labor, reports The Wall Street Journal.

DACA, TPS & Special Visas
ICE has access to a database with DACA recipients’ personal information and home addresses despite promises from both the Obama and Trump administrations that immigration enforcement would not be able to access this information, reports ProPublica.

The Supreme Court agreed to consider the contributions of DACA recipients who are healthcare workers during the coronavirus pandemic in its decision on whether the Trump administration can end DACA, reports USA Today. Lawyers filed the briefing in March, but it was unclear until now whether the justices would consider it.


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
  • 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.
  • ¿Qué Pasa, Midwest? Podcast tells stories of Latino life “from the homeland to the heartland.”
  • Frontera Dispatch is a weekly newsletter by the Hope Border Institute on news and analysis from the border.
  • 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).
  • 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.
  • Politico’s Morning Shift newsletter: a daily read on employment and immigration.
  • 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 Media (CCM) 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 published Digital First Responders: How innovative news outlets are meeting the needs of immigrant communities, a report for the Center for Community Media. 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

*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

*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

*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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