Migratory Notes 166

DHS on the police line, vacation visa limbo, Somali youth join protests

Elizabeth Aguilera
Jun 4, 2020 · 13 min read
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Young Somali Americans are taking an active role in protests in Minnesota, despite many of their parents, similar to other immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean, often trying to distinguish themselves from African Americans, reports Sahan Journal. Photo by Jaida Grey Eagle for Sahan Journal

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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:

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.


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 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

*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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