Migratory Notes 163
20,000+ expelled, Chinatown devastation, coronavirus love story
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Pedro was in an immigration detention center. His wife Zoila was still working at the Mississippi chicken-processing plant where he had been picked up in a raid nine months ago. One hundred and fifty miles apart, they both got infected with coronavirus. “When the coronavirus started sweeping through ICE detention centers and meat-processing plants, Pedro and Zoila didn’t want to worry each other,” Mica Rosenberg writes in a deeply reported data-driven feature for Reuters, which is also a love story in the time of coronavirus. “I didn’t want to tell him how bad I feel,” Zoila said. “He is already in jail — I don’t want to make it worse for him in there. When you really love someone, you try to imply something positive to make them feel better.” Now they are both worried about who will take care of their young son if they don’t recover.
When pro-bono immigration attorney Joelle Eliza M. Lingat got coronavirus, she felt like she “was moving through razor-filled molasses,” her brain was a fog, and she woke up gasping for air in the night. When she tried to reschedule her court dates, she was told she must appear by phone like everyone else. But that was not the hardest part, she writes in an opinion piece for Newsweek. It was knowing what her clients face. “Every day I hear scared voices with uncontrollable coughing and feverish chatter. ‘Please tell my family if I die,’ they whisper to me, not wanting their fellow cellmates to hear,” she writes of calls with clients. “As we jump through bureaucratic hoops and submit motion after appeal after petition, people are getting sicker and more scared.”
As harvest season ramps up without any guidelines from the U.S. government to protect essential farmworkers, some companies and workers are taking safety into their own hands, reports Politico. Meanwhile, the Trump administration plans to publish a regulation to help businesses that rely on seasonal workers, allowing immigrant workers who are on seasonal H-2B visas, to remain in the country for longer, reports CNN.
Conditions for immigrant farm and meat plant workers throughout the country vary:
- In Iowa, the Tyson pork plant reopened after a Trump executive order deemed meat plants essential and shielded companies from certain liability, causing many to worry that the pressure to prevent meat shortages is taking precedence over the safety of its workers. More than 1,000 Tyson employees tested positive for the coronavirus and at least three died. (The New York Times)
- In New Jersey, about half of the farmworkers at a local farm tested positive for the coronavirus in early May, raising questions about just how many farmworkers have been affected by the state’s outbreak. The state is now preparing to test all farmworkers. (NJ Spotlight)
- In Arkansas, at least 64 workers in the poultry industry have tested positive for COVID-19 and one has died, but the state has not closed any of the plants. Workers fear production is valued more than their safety, despite assurances from companies that they will keep their workers safe. (Arkansas Times)
- In Texas, a poultry plant has reopened after a coronavirus outbreak of at least 40 workers. The company says it is taking precautions and allowing workers to take unpaid time off if they believe they have been exposed. (The Dallas Morning News)
Only two people have been granted refuge at the southern border since March when the U.S. began expelling migrants immediately after they were caught trying to illegally enter the U.S. under a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) directive, according to The Washington Post. The migrants received protections under Convention Against Torture, the only category of protection available under the new restrictions. These border crossers are not given the option to apply for other humanitarian protections, such as asylum. At least 20,000 migrants who crossed the U.S. southern border have been expelled to Mexico under the directive, reports CBS News.
The Mexican government has not provided many options for these migrants, one-third of whom are from Central America, reports The Intercept. With detention centers and shelters emptied by the Mexican government to prevent a coronavirus outbreak, migrants have to figure out how to house themselves while seeking asylum in Mexico or go home to their native countries. San Diego and Tijuana have formed a cross-border initiative to track coronavirus cases, reports the San Diego Union Tribune.
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf visited the Arizona border this week to view the progress of border wall construction projects, despite concerns of local residents of potential exposure to coronavirus, reports the Arizona Republic. During Wolf’s visit, he said officials would consider painting the wall to increase its longevity, reports the Arizona Daily Star. Doing so could cost $500 million to $3 billion. Meanwhile, conservation groups filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration this week for its transfer of military funds for border wall construction and illegal decisions to waive environmental protections, reports The Hill.
Deportations & Infections
ICE removed five migrants who tested positive for coronavirus from a deportation flight to Haiti this week after pressure from advocacy groups, reports the Miami Herald. The flight arrived in Haiti Monday with 50 people, only about half of the expected deportees. A panel of medical experts called on the Haitian government to halt all deportation flights until the end of the pandemic.
Another Guatemalan deportee tested positive for the coronavirus last week after the U.S. had agreed to test all deportees, reports AP. Deportation flights from the U.S. were previously suspended after dozens of migrants on an April 13 flight tested positive. The Guatemalan Health Ministry announced this week that even more deportees tested positive than they originally identified, raising the positive cases to 71 out of 76 on that one flight, reports AP.
Citizenship & Special Visas
The Trump administration is drafting an executive order to restrict visas for skilled workers, seasonal workers and students during the coronavirus pandemic, reports The Wall Street Journal. Like previous immigration restrictions during the pandemic, the restrictions would be temporary, but Trump’s advisors are pushing to turn them into long-term policies.
For laid-off foreign skilled workers, the 60-day window to find new employment is quickly closing, possibly forcing some to give up on the years-long process of gaining permanent legal status, reports The New York Times. But some workers who now cannot stay legally in the U.S. are finding they have nowhere to go. Indian nationals on these visas cannot leave the country after losing their job, as legally required, due to travel restrictions from the Indian government, reports Hindustan Times.
A new coronavirus relief package proposed by House Democrats includes some key provisions for immigrants, including expedited processing for health care worker visas and green cards, and remote naturalization ceremonies so immigrants can become citizens during the pandemic, reports Roll Call. It is unclear if these provisions will remain after negotiations with House Republicans.
The U.S. tightened visa restrictions for Chinese journalists in response to China’s decision to expel three Wall Street Journal correspondents, reports Reuters. The decision comes as tensions between the two countries have flared during the coronavirus pandemic.
Release of migrant youth in U.S. custody has stalled during the pandemic, even though many already have a sponsor waiting for their release, reports the LA Times. Activists and lawyers allege the Trump administration is holding off for their 18th birthdays to deport them more easily, including in the case of one 17-year-old Guatemalan immigrant. As a victim of human trafficking, he would be eligible for a special visa, but only if he is released to a sponsor, reports Reveal Center for Investigative Reporting. A family in Minnesota is ready to take him in and a new lawsuit could make his release possible. The Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees unaccompanied minors in detention, told the LA Times it has not changed its policy and any delays are public health related.
U.S. Detainees & Coronavirus
The advocacy group Freedom for Immigrants published this map tracking coronavirus cases in detention centers, reporting as of Thursday morning 50 facilities with cases. Calls to release vulnerable detainees are growing as more cases of immigrant detainees with the coronavirus have been confirmed.
- In California, ICE released 65 detainees from the Otay Mesa Detention Center this week, only about half of the people listed by the ACLU as medically vulnerable. Last week, a Salvadoran detainee at Otay Mesa became the first confirmed coronavirus death of an immigrant in ICE custody. (San Diego Union-Tribune)
- In Washington, immigrant rights groups filed a lawsuit demanding the release of at-risk detainees at a detention center in Tacoma. ICE confirmed the first coronavirus case there that same day. (AP)
- In Texas, an increase in confirmed cases among detainees has ignited tensions between town residents and private prison companies over the lack of information about preventative measures inside detention centers. (The Texas Tribune)
- In Georgia, officers have used force against detainees at least two times in response to protests over the conditions and medical care in the Stewart Detention Center. (The Intercept)
COVID-19 & Immigrant Communities
The more than 700,000 Latino-owned businesses in Texas face extra struggles to avoid eviction and bankruptcy after closing because of the pandemic due to language barriers and lack of access to loans, reports The Texas Tribune and LatinoUSA.
A clinic in Oregon found that Latinos were 20 times more likely to test positive for the coronavirus than other ethnic groups, a trend seen across the country to varying degrees, reports The New York Times. Public health experts attribute this to the fact that many work in the service industry and few have access to health insurance. Some states are ramping up testing of Latinos in light of this data.
As Asian Americans face discrimination related to the coronavirus, a five-hour PBS series explores the mark that Asian Americans have made in the U.S. at a time when immigration is an intensely divisive issue.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions made changes to the asylum system that have had an impact on hundreds of thousands of immigrants long after he left office in 2018, reports LatinoUSA and Documented in an investigation about the immigration court system. After observing immigration courts in New York every day for three months, they found a system in disarray. Files were lost, teleconferencing systems broke down, and notices to appear in court never arrived. Judges no longer had as much discretion to determine cases on a humanitarian basis, impacting the lives of hundreds of migrants. One of these immigrants was Elvis, who fled Guatemala with his pregnant wife when they started receiving extortion calls. After a series of missteps, including a lawyer who was suspended from practicing law while representing Elvis, the process culminated in a final hearing in which he represented himself. This “maddening and punishing” immigration court system is “now the norm for immigrants seeking safety.”
- Last year, a Massachusetts judge was accused of obstruction of justice for allegedly allowing an undocumented immigrant to evade ICE when leaving a courthouse. Now, her lawyer says the judge was targeted by the Trump administration in retaliation for failing to comply with its immigration agenda. (The Boston Globe)
- The Trump administration further extended all court dates for asylum seekers in the Remain in Mexico program until June 19. (KJZZ Fronteras Desk)
- Trump aide Stephen Miller is using the administration’s immigration crackdown to drum up support during the election year at a moment when the president can’t deliver on his other key issue: a strong economy. (CNN)
- The family of a Guatemalan woman killed by Border Patrol in 2018 sued the agency and the U.S. government. (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.
- 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.
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