Migratory Notes 166
DHS on the police line, vacation visa limbo, Somali youth join protests
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“On her last legal day in the United States, Tatiana Angulo awoke before sunrise in her attic bedroom and listened for a few moments to the sounds of what her life had become,” begins Hannah Dreier’s gripping narrative for The Washington Post on a Colombian immigrant who thought she could make it in the U.S. But when the coronavirus hit, all her plans came crashing down. She lost her job and the attic felt more like the sick ward of a hospital, with her housemates coughing all around her. And time is running out on her visa. “Because of the virus, [Latinos] have been disproportionately losing their health, livelihoods and immigration status, all of which Tatiana could feel slipping away a year after coming to the United States legally on a visa with the intention of doing everything right.”
Detained immigrant men in a Georgia detention center were demanding protections against the coronavirus. Nothing was changing. Then a note showed up in a laundry cart. Women in the facility were calling for strikes. “The Irwin County Detention Center was about to erupt,” Seth Freed Wessler writes in Type Investigations and The New York Times Magazine. Wessler’s months of reporting via the GettingOut app provides a detailed inside perspective of conditions in detention and the growth of a protest movement.
Immigration Enforcement & George Floyd Protests
Trump sent nearly a dozen federal agencies, including CBP and ICE, to crack down on protests against police brutality in Washington D.C. and other cities, reports The New York Times. While CBP’s duties are usually limited to border enforcement, the agency has assisted law enforcement in the past, including during the 1960s Civil Rights movement and Hurricane Katrina. ICE usually refrains from conducting enforcement at protests because they are considered a “sensitive location” along with hospitals and schools. In Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti assured Angelenos that ICE will not carry out enforcement at the protests, reports ABC7.
The Justice Department closed immigration courts in 15 cities, including Los Angeles, Boston and Philadelphia because of protests, reports Law360.
Immigrant Communities & George Floyd Protests
Members of the Minnesota Hmong community, most of whom are refugees from Laos, report threats and discrimination against Asian Americans because officer Tou Thao ordered people to back up as his partner Derek Chauvin kneeled on George Floyd’s neck, reports Sahan Journal. Asian American community leaders have expressed their solidarity with protesters. Thao and two other officers involved have now been arrested. The charges against Chauvin have been elevated to second-degree murder.
In Minneapolis, where the protests began, immigrant-owned businesses were among those looted on commercial Lake Street, reports AP. The owner of a Somali restaurant questioned why small, family businesses were not spared the looting, which he said reminded him of his youth in Somalia, reports the LA Times. Others, like the Bangladeshi owner of the Gandhi Mahal restaurant, expressed solidarity with the protesters despite extensive damage.
An ICE official confirmed that the agency does not routinely test immigrants in its custody before deportation or transfer, reports Law360. One Democratic Senator called this “willful ignorance.” At least four Salvadoran deportees told El Faro that they tested positive for the coronavirus after arriving on a flight from Houston on April 7, but the Salvadoran government did not report their cases. More than 1,700 Salvadorans have been deported since the Salvadoran government declared a national quarantine in March, but the government has not confirmed any positive coronavirus cases.
Detainees & Coronavirus
A doctor contracted by DHS to advise on the conditions in detention centers during the coronavirus criticized the administration for its handling of the pandemic in ICE facilities in a congressional hearing Tuesday, reports ABC News. He said the agency has not conducted enough testing and has not made adequate steps to reduce the detainee population.
Confirmed coronavirus cases of detainees in ICE custody have continued to grow, with more than 1,400 cases as of this week:
- In Arizona, at least 76 immigrant detainees at the La Palma Correctional Center near Eloy have tested positive for the coronavirus, making it one of the largest outbreaks at an ICE facility in the country. (Arizona Republic)
- In New Mexico, 92 positive cases have been reported at the Otero County Processing Center, which houses ICE detainees. (Las Cruces Sun-News)
- In Washington State, federal officials will test all inmates at a Tacoma detention center after criticism from immigrant advocates. (AP)
Border & Remain in Mexico
Immigrant advocates worry that asylum seekers in the Remain in Mexico program will give up on their cases because of delays during the coronavirus pandemic to an already excruciating and drawn out process, reports The San Diego Union-Tribune.
Twelve migrants at a government-run shelter in the Mexican border city Ciudad Juarez tested positive for the coronavirus this week, reports Reuters. The Mexican government said it is isolating the positive cases to contain the spread.
Border Closures & Travel Restrictions
Tight restrictions on repatriation flights for vacationing Colombians who ended up stranded in the U.S. after the pandemic began has left them in New York indefinitely with their tourist visas soon to expire, reports DocumentedNY. They say the Colombian consulate has not provided them with information on when they will be able to return. “It’s a flagrant violation of human rights,” said a woman who is stuck in New York with dwindling resources. “I’m Colombian, I deserve to return to my country.”
The Trump administration announced plans last week to stop issuing visas for Chinese graduate students and researchers with ties to the Chinese military in retaliation for a new law cracking down on protest in Hong Kong, reports The New York Times. Chinese students are the largest foreign student population in the U.S. and American universities are expected to oppose the rule.
African, Cuban and Haitian migrants in Honduras whose journey to the U.S. was halted because of coronavirus travel restrictions started walking north this week, reports Reuters. But Honduran police are stopping them from entering Guatemala, reports Al Jazeera. In Panama, the government wants to send about 2,500 migrants waiting in a migrant station near the Darien Gap to Costa Rica, but the Costa Rican government objects, reports PRI’s The World.
COVID-19 & Immigrant Communities
For doctors on H-1B visas treating COVID-19 patients, the risk of infection is even more high-stakes for their families who could be deported if they die, become seriously ill or lose their jobs, reports The Wall Street Journal. It can take decades for some H-1B holders to become permanent residents and during that time they are at risk of deportation if they cannot work. “For those of us on the front line, this is like a war,” said Anupam Kumar, a doctor who specializes in lung problems and sees about a dozen extremely sick patients with COVID-19 on a typical shift. “It is not just our lives, but the lives of our spouses and kids.” One immigration lawyer said he is representing two families of medical professionals who have died, leaving them without status.
The families of undocumented immigrants who have died of the coronavirus have experienced difficulties claiming their bodies because of a language barrier, reports AM NY. They are also vulnerable to predatory price gouging for funeral costs.
Starting on June 20, renters in New York will have to prove financial hardship to qualify for a rent moratorium, and undocumented immigrants are unlikely to have the documentation to argue their cases in court, reports Curbed New York.
As the deadline approaches for the Supreme Court to decide the fate of DACA, recipients are filing extensions ahead of the deadline in the hopes that they will at least get one more extension even if the program is terminated, reports WNYC/Gothamist. If the court rules that the termination of the program by the Trump administration was legal, Trump will have to decide whether to immediately end the program, phase it out or seek a solution in Congress, reports Reuters. His decision could affect votes in key states like Arizona and Florida. The decision is expected by the end of July at the latest, reports CNN.
- Remittances to Mexico remain unchanged, despite those to Guatemala and El Salvador falling sharply. (La Reforma)
- The continued transfers of ICE detainees during the coronavirus has led to outbreaks in detention centers in Texas, Mississippi, and Louisiana. (NBC News)
- The Trump administration has increased litigation against landowners in South Texas during the pandemic in order to follow through on his border wall promise. (The New York Times)
- The Supreme Court ruled that immigrants who are denied relief under the Convention Against Torture (CAT) have the right to challenge their deportations in federal appeals court. (The Hill)
- The Trump administration wants to loosen coronavirus restrictions for businesses, but has shown no indication it will change restrictive immigration policies at the border that rapidly expel migrants and asylum seekers. (CBS News)
- The family of a Mexican immigrant deported to Nuevo Laredo in May says he is missing. ICE deported him even though a judge had halted his deportation while a lawsuit against the agency was ongoing. (BuzzFeed News)
- A leaked government report found that 40 children were separated from their families at U.S. ports of entry in 2018 despite DHS claims that it did not separate asylum seeking families that showed up at ports of entry. (BuzzFeed News)
Immigration Resources & Opportunities
- Map of detention centers tracking coronavirus outbreaks (Freedom for Immigrants)
- COVID-19 resources for undocumented immigrants (UndocuScholars)
- Database of deportation flights during the pandemic
Recently released immigration books (got one, send it over)
- The Deportation Machine: America’s Long History of Expelling Immigrants 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.” (June 2020)
- One Mighty and Irresistible Tide: The Epic Struggle Over American Immigration, 1924–1965 by Jia Lynn Yang, chronicles the major changes in U.S. immigration policy in the 20th century and their profound impact on immigrant families including her own. (May 2020)
- The Dispossessed: A Story of Asylum at the US-Mexican Border and Beyond 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. (May 2020)
- Migranthood: Youth in a New Era of Deportation, by anthropologist Lauren Heidbrink, chronicles deportation from the perspectives of Indigenous youth who migrate unaccompanied from Guatemala. (April 2020)
- 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. (November 2019)
- 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. (September 2019)
- 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
- Legal Passing: Navigating Undocumented Life and Local Immigration Law by Angela S. García (May 2019)
- 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
- Informed Immigrant is an online resource that provides information for undocumented immigrant communities in the U.S. during the coronavirus.
- 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 Covid and kids: a new inflammatory syndrome poses safety challenges for school and day care. 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