Migratory Notes 165

Border activists & bankers unite, Brazil ban, refugee docs

Elizabeth Aguilera
May 28, 2020 · 12 min read
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“Do we have to say goodbye?” A Southern California mother of four and essential worker is scheduled to be deported June 11, reports The Desert Sun. (Photo: Courtesy of Keri Gross Nesbitt)

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Detainees who were with Carlos Ernesto Escobar Mejia, the first immigrant in detention to die of the coronavirus, said that officials did not take them seriously when they alerted them of his dire condition, reports The Intercept. “This could have been avoided,” detainee Oscar Navarez said. The for-profit Otay Mesa facility where Escobar Mejia was held is home to the largest COVID-19 outbreak in the country. “I need people to know what happened here,” Navarez said in a recording obtained by The Intercept. “He was our friend.”

In a Matamoros tent camp health clinic, asylum seekers who trained as doctors and nurses in their home countries are working together to care for fellow migrants, and stop the spread of the coronavirus, reports the LA Times. Most are Cubans, but they also include a nurse from Colombia and a pharmacist from Nicaragua. So far it seems to be working: The clinic has yet to confirm a case of COVID-19 at the camp. Meanwhile, although visits to the clinic are down as residents self-isolate, high levels of trust remain.“They know we are migrants, the training we have and the sacrifices we made,” said one Cuban nurse.

Detainees & Coronavirus
A 34-year-old immigrant in Georgia who died in ICE custody Sunday was the second confirmed coronavirus detainee death, reports BuzzFeed News. He was waiting to voluntarily return to Guatemala, reports CBS News.

More than 1,200 ICE detainees have tested positive for the coronavirus.

A recently opened detention center in Texas now has the second-highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases of any ICE facility with 111 positive cases as of May 22, reports the El Paso Times. The small number of cases in the surrounding community suggests ICE transfers could be spreading the virus. But U.S. immigration officials argued before a judge this week that transfers are not contributing to the spread of the coronavirus and that the agency has the authority to continue the practice, reports the Miami Herald. ICE says that it is following CDC guidelines to isolate detainees, but many of the practices it is using are recommended as a last resort, such as grouping people in cohorts, reports KJZZ Fronteras Desk.

After a series of wins for immigrant advocates opposing detention at a state or local level, ICE has begun bypassing state and local governments to contract private prison companies directly, reports The Appeal.

In Louisiana, ICE detainees in a privately contracted facility report that local law enforcement entered the center and used pepper spray and fired projectiles at them during a protest, reports The Lens. The local sheriff said he was there but that deputies did not enter the facility.

Asylum & Refugees
More than 10,000 refugees approved for resettlement around the world through the International Organization for Migration have had the process put on hold because of the coronavirus, reports The Washington Post. For LGBT refugees awaiting resettlement in Kenya, this means continued harassment and discrimination in a country where sexual diversity is criminalized.

Coronavirus Travel Bans
On Sunday, the Trump administration announced that it will bar entry for non-U.S. citizens from Brazil, reports Bloomberg News. The country has confirmed more than 360,000 cases, second only to the U.S.


Border Wall
In Laredo, Texas, activists and bankers have formed an unlikely partnership to protest a 69-mile border wall project that they say would ruin the city’s historic downtown and riverfront, reports NPR. And in Arizona, protests against a 7-mile stretch of border wall that would have cut through tribal land proved successful, reports Arizona Public Media. Federal attorneys submitted court documents last week to eliminate funding for the section of the wall.

Although Trump has banned non-essential border traffic from Mexico in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus, residents and doctors in Tijuana and other Mexican border cities worry that their U.S. sister cities are spreading the coronavirus, not the other way around, reports AP. Many Mexican border cities have fewer cases than their U.S. counterparts. Meanwhile, in some hospitals in border counties in California as many as half the patients are U.S. citizens or residents who recently arrived from Mexico seeking healthcare, reports The Washington Post. Most are retirees or Americans with family in Mexico. These cases show how difficult it is to control the cross-border spread of a pandemic in a region where many residents are used to moving freely across.

A Guatemalan citizen with an open case in immigration court was deported to Tijuana after being stopped at a previously dormant border checkpoint in San Diego County, reports the Voice of San Diego. His case is one of many in the area that has raised questions about the unchecked powers of Border Patrol during this public health crisis. The man has since been allowed to return to the U.S.

Health & Immigrants
In the hardest hit county in Mississippi, immigrants with COVID-19 symptoms are avoiding the doctor for fear of immigration enforcement in a community recently hit by raids, reports The Tennessean. A legal aid group reported a spike in calls from immigrants in the Bronx with COVID-19 symptoms asking if seeking medical care could affect their future immigration status under the public charge rule, reports DocumentedNY. The Chinese American Planning Council, an organization serving Asian Americans in New York, has reported a similar fear regarding the policy in the communities it serves, reports Next City.

COVID-19 & Immigrant Communities
Even before the coronavirus, isolation has been the norm for many undocumented immigrants who have limited their movements to avoid immigration enforcement, reports The Atlantic. One of these men was Antonio, who left his village in Guatemala for Queens six years ago. “In time, Antonio began to get to know other Central American men who were far from family, friends, and everything they’d ever known. He came to understand that his experience — defined by disorientation, loneliness, and anxiety — was common,” writes Emily Kaplan. Antonio died of COVID-19 in April.

The coronavirus pandemic has exacerbated the housing crisis in New York City, which disproportionately affects Latinos, reports Curbed New York. Undocumented New Yorkers worry landlords may take advantage of their vulnerability to harass or illegally evict them.

In California, non-citizen women have suffered job losses more than any other demographic, with nearly one in three losing their job from mid-February to mid-April, reports CalMatters.

Immigrant Businesses & Industries
An expansion of H-2B temporary worker visas for the meatpacking industry could help offset a worker shortage in an industry that relies on undocumented labor and has had a high number of coronavirus cases, reports AP.

Immigration restrictions during the coronavirus will likely harm the home health care industry, which disproportionately relies on immigrant labor and often sponsors immigrants to come work in the U.S., reports Home Health Care News.

In Minnesota, many businesses in the Little Mekong district of St. Paul have temporarily shuttered, reports The Sahan Journal. Some fear a permanent loss of culture if they are unable to reopen.

Esmeralda Tovar has been working to make sure patients at the Alzheimer’s ward in Hutchinson, Kansas, keep their spirits up since a lockdown was announced in March, she writes in a first-person essay published in Cosmopolitan. But on top of the stress of her center being short-staffed and potentially becoming infected, she worries about the U.S. government canceling the deportation protection she relies on under DACA.


Immigration Resources & Opportunities

Coronavirus Resources

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 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

*Migratory Notes Advisory Board: Daniel Connolly, Maria Kari, Dan Kowalski, Paola Marizán, Mirta Ojito, Roberto Suro, Phuong Ly, Fernanda Santos

Migratory Notes

A weekly informed and concise 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

A weekly informed and concise 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

A weekly informed and concise guide to immigration news.

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