Migratory Notes 161

Transferring infected detainees, ventilators for presidents

Elizabeth Aguilera
Apr 30 · 13 min read
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A drummer at April 10’s #AZFreeThemAll/#AZLiberenATodxs protest in front of La Palma Prison’s ICE detention facility in Arizona. Photographer Ash Ponders is a member of Juntos Photo Coop, which has published resources and projects for journalists during Covid-19.

More than 80 journalists attended a Migratory Notes virtual town hall on 4.27.20. Featured speakers were Maria Hinojosa (Latino USA/ Futuro Media), Bob Moore (El Paso Matters), Julia Preston (Marshall Project), Dianne Solis (Dallas Morning News) and Roberto Suro (USC) with a cameo by Fernanda Santos (Arizona State University). You can watch the convening here.

What happened to the Honduran migrants whose caravans two years ago dominated headlines? National Geographic photographer Tomás Ayuso documents the struggles of three families in the shadow of the pandemic. “Some wait for asylum in the U.S. or in Mexico; many work on the fringes of the informal economy. The virus has frozen their asylum applications, and with it, their futures,” he writes. “The cramped camps where they live are said to be on the brink of humanitarian disaster as COVID-19 cases appear.”

Food shortages could soon make citizen consumers confront the vulnerability of a system that depends on low paid immigrants, reports Quartz. “The global food system as it operates today relies on immigrant labor to run smoothly, and the pandemic is emphasizing the risk of undervaluing that work,” writes Chase Purdy. Many states disregard the safety of these essential workers. In New York, the safety guidelines for farm workers deemed essential varies from other industries, raising concerns that the demand for food is being put before workers’ wellbeing, reports DocumentedNY.

On Tuesday, Trump signed an executive order requiring meat plants to stay open even when workers fall ill, reports Bloomberg. Several have closed temporarily in recent weeks when positive cases have been detected among their workforce. In Missouri, a judge ordered a Smithfield meatpacking plant, where most employees are immigrants, to comply with federal safety guidelines after reports that workers were not given masks or allowed to wash their hands, reports Politico.

Denied Coronavirus Stimulus Package & Support
Six U.S. citizens who were denied federal aid because they filed taxes with their non-citizen spouses sued the U.S. government for excluding them from the stimulus package on the grounds that it violated their constitutional rights, reports AP. The lawsuit estimates as many as 2 million U.S. citizens could be affected by the exclusion, reports The Dallas Morning News.

Trump is considering withholding coronavirus relief from states with sanctuary city policies that limit law enforcement cooperation with immigration agencies, reports the New York Daily News.

Growing Legal Immigration Ban?
Trump aide Stephen Miller said in an off-the-record call last week that he plans to make the 60-day ban on some legal immigration into a long-term policy, reports The Washington Post. This is exactly what U.S. citizens trying to bring their family to the U.S. feared, reports BuzzFeed News. Despite outcry from activists, about 65 percent of Americans support the temporary ban, reports The Washington Post. Support is higher among Republicans at 83 percent, but about half of Democrats also back it.

Deportations & Infections
ICE said it will test some immigrants before deportation after pressure from Guatemala and Haiti to ensure deportees are not infected, reports The Miami Herald. Although the agency said it did not have capacity to test all detainees, deportation flights to Guatemala apparently resumed Thursday, reports AP. Honduras and El Salvador, which also receive thousands of deportees a year, have not spoken out against deportations, reports the LA Times. For their cooperation on immigration issues, Trump has promised their presidents ventilators. Neither Guatemala nor Haiti has received the same promise.

About 20 percent of Guatemala’s confirmed coronavirus cases are deportees, reports CBS News. For some deportees, this has led to threats and stigmatization as communities worry about the spread of the coronavirus and blame deportees, reports Al Jazeera.

Some newspapers have taken a stance against the practice of deporting infected people. “It is callous and irresponsible that no systematic effort is underway to test those detainees,” writes The Washington Post Editorial Board. These deportations “show complete disregard for the health of millions of people in nations whose health care systems are already struggling,” writes The Boston Globe Editorial Board.

Global Detention Releases
Meanwhile, many countries — from Indonesia to France to Peru — have moved to release immigrants from detention, reports EuroNews. In Spain, most immigrants have been released. In Mexico, only about 100 people remain in government centers or shelters after the country sent more than 3,600 detained Central Americans to their home countries since mid-March, reports Reuters.

U.S. Detainees & Coronavirus
A failure to properly identify and isolate COVID-19 cases has led to the largest detention center coronavirus outbreak at The Otay Mesa Detention Center in California, where nearly 100 detainees have tested positive, reports The Wall Street Journal.

ICE’s apparent attempt to reduce the spread of the virus in crowded facilities has backfired instead spreading the virus to facilities across the country with 21 transferred detainees testing positive for the coronavirus, reports BuzzFeed News. Infected detainees from Pennsylvania transferred to Texas appear to have triggered an outbreak of more than three dozen cases at Prairieland Detention Center, reports The Dallas Morning News.

Deaths of ICE employees and detainees are raising questions about the agency’s ability to protect those in its care and provide proper medical care. In Louisiana, the family of two ICE detention center guards who died of the coronavirus say they were not allowed to wear masks, reports AP. In New Jersey, recently released documents of a case of a detainee death in 2017 found he was denied proper medical care, reports NPR. The new details of the case come at a time when the same detention center is struggling to treat and contain a coronavirus outbreak.

Here’s what’s happening around the country:

Remain in Mexico
An estimated 20,000 migrants in Mexican border cities under the Remain in Mexico program have cases pending, and coronavirus border closures mean they have no way of knowing when their cases will be resolved, reports The Wall Street Journal. Some, like mother Alejandra and her 13-year-old daughter from Guatemala, planned to ask to stay in the U.S. during the asylum process under the international law principle of non-refoulment, which prohibits countries from sending asylum seekers to a place where they could face persecution, reports KERA. But now, CBP says these interviews are done on a case-by-case basis. The UN said the new Trump administration policy to immediately expel asylum seekers violates this principle of non-refoulment, reports Vox.

Border Wall
The Trump administration has ramped up lawsuits to claim private land and sped up the approval of construction projects, reports Texas Public Radio. On Tuesday, a federal appeals court heard arguments in a case that challenges the Trump administration’s decision to reallocate part of the defense budget to build the border wall, reports The Hill. The legal issue at the heart of the case is whether the courts have the authority to determine a dispute between the legislative and executive branches, reports The New York Times. The Justice Department said Congress has other options for democratic checks and balances on the executive branch, but the House general counsel argued Trump has refused to cooperate with the usual process of House investigations, reports The Wall Street Journal.

The Department of Defense announced Monday the restoration of $500 million in funding for domestic military construction projects that were put on hold to fund the border wall, reports Politico. The decision immediately drew criticism from Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee who said the Trump administration is again bypassing Congress on important funding decisions. About one-third of the 34 projects on hold still have not been restored with no explanation, reports McClatchy.

Citizenship & Special Visas
Six U.S. troops filed a class-action lawsuit last week for unlawful delays in their citizenship cases, reports The Hill. Non-citizens who serve in the military should be eligible for expedited citizenship under a 1952 law, but the Trump administration added new requirements in 2017 that have slowed down the process.

Immigrant Youth
Hundreds of thousands of Central Americans have fled violence in hopes of a safer future in the U.S., but many have encountered dangers they didn’t expect in the communities where they settled, reports The Guardian. In Oakland, where Latinos are 3.5 times more likely to be fatally shot than white residents, 13-year-old Anibal became the youngest murder victim in 2017, less than two years after he left Guatemala to reunite with his dad. After his death, the community created violence prevention programs educating immigrants on the clothes or expressions that could get them in trouble.


Immigration Resources & Opportunities

Recently released immigration books (got one, send it over)

Newsletters, Podcasts, & Facebook Groups

  • In The Thick podcast covers the coronavirus impact on immigrant communities from Chelsea, MA to the Bronx, New York.
  • 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

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