Essential illegal workers, American kids sue for aid, migration to Israel
Know someone who might like Migratory Notes? Please help us spread the word: Here’s the subscribe form and here’s an archive on Medium. Got a story or an immigration-related resource or opportunity we should know about? Send it on!
As a young boy helping his parents in the California fields, journalist Alfredo Corchado watched loved ones scramble to hide from immigration authorities. Decades later, not much has changed. While farmworkers may have “essential worker” papers right now because of coronavirus, they are still “illegal workers.” “True to form, America still wants it both ways,” Corchado writes in a New York Times opinion piece featuring Max Whittaker’s stunning photography of Central Valley farmworkers. “It wants to be fed. And it wants to demonize the undocumented immigrants who make that happen.” Corchado argues this could be the time to legalize undocumented immigrants who make up 75 percent of essential farmworkers. In response USC professor Roberto Suro tweeted that “inimitably @ajcorchado makes the case for a food worker legalization with a vivid personal narrative. The proposal alone is a blow to the all-or-nothing logic of legalization.” But then Suro breaks down the barriers and unintended consequences that have previously challenged this approach.
More than three million Yemenis have been displaced by a conflict between pro-government forces and the rebel Houthi movement backed by Iran. Osamah Mahyoub and Emad Al-Azabi are among those who have fled the country, reports HuffPost in a long-form story that traces their journey across multiple continents fleeing a conflict that receives little coverage. They first met in Djibouti after leaving their home towns because Houthi rebels wanted to kill them for refusing to join. The threats continued. Then, they flew to Ecuador, but Houthi sympathizers beat and threatened them there, too. They traversed eight countries during the last four months of their journey to make it to the U.S., which has become increasingly hostile to asylum seekers. “If I knew that the trip was going to be what I had experienced, I would have never gone,” Mahyoub said. “I pray that no one ever experiences this.”
U.S. Detainees & Coronavirus
Carlos Ernesto Escobar Mejia, a 57-year-old Salvadoran immigrant, became the first immigrant detainee to die of the coronavirus, reports The San Diego Union-Tribune. In mid-April, a judge denied him parole because of a domestic violence charge his sister and former attorney says was a case of mistaken identity. “All of this anguish because of the judge,” his sister told Kate Morrissey, “because on April 15, my brother was still well.” Escobar Mejia was detained at the Otay Mesa Detention Center in San Diego, where lawyers say detainees are not properly isolated while they await their coronavirus test results, reports the LA Times. In some cases, lawyers found out about their client’s positive results before the client. The warden said he has taken all the necessary steps to protect inmates.
A clash between immigrant detainees and officials in a Massachusetts detention center last week is at least the 10th disturbance in immigrant detention since the Trump administration declared a national emergency for the coronavirus, reports CBS News. About 10 people barricaded themselves to avoid being transferred to the medical wing for COVID-19 testing, which they feared could expose them to the virus, reports AP. They ripped washing machines and pipes off the walls, causing an estimated $25,000 in damage. Family of the detainees told CBS that officials tried to get them to sign a paper approving of the conditions in the center, which they refused to sign.
The expansion of ICE detention into rural communities, especially in the South, has caused tensions during the coronavirus pandemic as local residents fear the spread of the virus in their community but also worry about speaking out against an industry they rely on for employment, reports Politico Magazine.
Coronavirus & Immigration Policy
The immigration restrictions labeled an “emergency response” to coronavirus actually came from previously drafted executive orders and policy discussions, reports The New York Times. Since at least 2018, Trump aide Stephen Miller has argued the administration should close borders and restrict immigration based on a public health justification, including the mumps, the flu and a series of migrant deaths in U.S. custody.
U.S. citizen children excluded from the coronavirus stimulus package because their parents are undocumented filed a lawsuit that alleges excluding them from the CARES Act is unconstitutional, reports NPR.
Lawmakers introduced the bipartisan Healthcare Workforce Resilience Act to allocate 40,000 immigrant visas to doctors and nurses to help with the coronavirus pandemic, reports The Hill.
Deportations & Infections
Guatemala said Monday that it will accept deportation flights after the U.S. promised all deportees will be tested for the coronavirus before boarding, reports the LA Times. The decision comes after protests in Guatemala in communities that fear deportees will spread the disease, reports Reuters.
The U.S. finalized an “Asylum Cooperation Agreement” with Honduras last week to deport asylum seekers from other countries to Honduras. The announcement came on the same day prosecutors in New York charged the former chief of the Honduran police with drug trafficking, which activists cited as evidence that the country is not safe for asylum seekers, reports Al Jazeera.
Immigration is an International Issue
Some undocumented immigrants have taken a “U-turn” during the coronavirus, opting to return to often dangerous home countries because of their vulnerability as informal workers, reports The New York Times. Meanwhile, many migrants en route are stuck in deadly situations, stranded at sea or in the desert because governments won’t let them in, reports AP with The Pulitzer Center. In Panama, government regulations require migrants to stay in a dangerous area known as the Darién Gap so as not to spread the coronavirus, but migrants say they are scared because they don’t have access to medical care, reports The World.
After the World Bank predicted a 20% drop in global remittances this year, remittances sent to Mexico increased 36% in March reaching a record $4 billion, reports Bloomberg. One economist says Mexican migrants in the U.S. may be choosing to empty their savings at a moment when the dollar is strong against the peso in preparation of returning.
Other immigrants, however, like Nicaraguan Sergio Armas, are struggling to send money due to lay-offs and shuttered businesses in the U.S. Armas can’t send the $300 a month his parents need for food and medicine, reports The World.
Last week, undocumented workers organized car caravans in at least six states in protest against the unsafe working conditions and lack of protections for immigrant workers, reports NPR. Could these new forms of organizing, some of which were done using the app Telegraph, lead to societal change? Activists see the pandemic as an opportunity to “seize the moment,” one sociologist tells High Country News.
A new report by the Economic Policy Institute revealed that 60 percent of workers on H-1B visas are paid below industry standard, reports Press Trust of India. Many work for top tech companies, including Amazon, Facebook and Google. The Department of Labor can change regulations to ensure companies do not undercut wages, but has not done so.
The president’s latest decision to paint a section of the wall black could drive costs up to at least $500 million and as much as $3 billion, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post.
Construction of an 11-mile stretch of border wall in South Texas advanced over the weekend despite calls to halt construction during the coronavirus pandemic, reports the Border Report. Residents complying with stay-at-home orders have reported seeing more border construction and surveying activity recently, reports Texas Public Radio. Some believe it is an attempt to take advantage of the pandemic to secure more private land, which usually draws protests and is contested by lawyers.
Documents obtained by Roll Call reveal how changes in the hiring process for the Board of Immigration Appeals favored judges with high asylum denial ratings. An official from the Executive Office for Immigration Review said the hiring process is neutral.
COVID-19 & Immigrant Communities
Immigrants in New York feel exceptionally isolated during the coronavirus pandemic, reports ProPublica. They are scared to seek medical care, and are torn between working to survive or staying home to protect their health. Since undocumented immigrants don’t qualify for public funds, the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, a nonprofit operated by the city, announced it will provide privately funded grants to undocumented immigrants and their families seeking help for burial costs, reports The Wall Street Journal.
Laura C. Morel, immigration reporter for the Reveal Center for Investigative Reporting, explained how she connected with detained immigrants to document immigrant detention center conditions during COVID-19, reports The Center for Public Integrity. Dallas Morning News reporter Dianne Solis also shared her tips on reporting on immigrant detention, including using the GettingOut app, during the Migratory Notes Town Hall.
- Negotiations in Congress for a new coronavirus relief package that began this week could be slow if the Trump administration tries to withhold aid to states and cities with sanctuary policies. (The Guardian)
- Democratic legislators disputed the claim by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos that the coronavirus stimulus package passed in March explicitly excluded DACA recipients. (Inside Higher Ed)
- DACA recipients in Pennsylvania worry about their immigration status as they help the state control its coronavirus outbreak, which has led to more than 2,400 deaths. (The Philadelphia Inquirer)
- The Trump administration postponed all hearings for asylum seekers in Mexico under the Remain in Mexico program until June 1. Migrants with court dates scheduled for May still need to appear at the border crossing to get their new date. (AP)
Immigration Resources & Opportunities
Recently released immigration books (got one, send it over)
- The Dispossessed: A Story of Asylum at the US-Mexican Border and Beyond (May 2020) by John Washington. The book takes an in-depth look at the Trump administration’s attack on asylum, told through the story of one Salvadoran dad, Arnovis.
- The Deportation Machine: America’s Long History of Expelling Immigrants (June 2020) by Adam Goodman. The book examines how public officials have used different forms of deportations and expulsion “to purge immigrants from the country and exert control over those who remain.”
- The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio. A series of “memoir-infused reported essays” provides a more nuanced picture of being undocumented in the U.S. that breaks with the trope of the perfect, grateful immigrant.
- 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.
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
- 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 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 where she covers the health and welfare of California’s next generation after covering health care and social services, including immigration, for several years for the digital outlet. 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 Home is a perilous place for some Californians during Coronavirus pandemic. 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