Migratory Notes 167

Elizabeth Aguilera
Jun 11 · 14 min read

Stranded visa holders, refugees at a low, dead migrants can’t go home

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USCIS is hosting drive-by naturalization ceremonies. This week. USCIS tweeted, “Congrats to Daniela from #Colombia who became a #NewUSCitizen earlier today in #Orlando and is celebrating with her parents! We’re hosting small naturalization ceremonies to keep you and our staff safe and healthy.” Photo: USCIS Southeast Region Twitter

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The Filipino culinary grad paid thousands of dollars for a visa that would allow her to gain international experience, cooking in a high-end Virginia resort. But when coronavirus hit she was laid off, and trapped, reports ProPublica. The little-known J-1 visa program allows au pairs, kitchen staff, and other low-wage workers to come to the U.S. for cultural exchange — at a price. The graduate, identified only as L., took on thousands of dollars of debt, and she doesn’t have other job options in the U.S. or enough money to fly home. Her story exposes the long-standing problems with the program, which “receives little oversight and amounts to a privatized guest-worker program — one in which the worker pays to obtain a job — disguised as cultural exchange,” writes Bernice Yeung.

Migrant Children
The rapid expulsions of minors during the coronavirus pandemic faced its first legal challenge Tuesday. Lawyers for the ACLU and Texas Civil Rights argue the Trump administration policy violates anti-trafficking and asylum laws meant to protect unaccompanied minors, reports CBS News. In the case of one 16-year-old plaintiff from Honduras, a federal judge temporarily blocked his expulsion Tuesday night, reports Reuters. Another plaintiff, a 13-year-old Salvadoran girl who received gang threats, was sent back to El Salvador without a chance to seek asylum, even though her mother, who is in the U.S., fled related threats in 2013 and received legal protection, reports CBS News.

Immigrant Workers & COVID-19
As parts of the economy reopen with new social distancing restrictions, workers in the agriculture and meat industry are still at high risk because the immigrant workforces are vulnerable for other reasons. Many farmworkers in California live in cramped, overcrowded housing, increasing their risk, reports the LA Times. Infections of workers at meat processing company Tyson have reached 7,000 even though the company has enacted social distancing measures, showing how difficult it is to balance reopening with keeping workers safe, report The Washington Post.

A new study revealed that restrictions on foreign workers during the pandemic will negatively impact innovation, wages, and local investment, hurting workers in the long-term and canceling any potential benefit, reports Quartz.

Community groups protested the deportation of a 48-year-old Mexican immigrant Victoria Galindo Lopez, who works at a hotel housing the homeless during the pandemic, reports the Ventura County Star. Since 2011, ICE has offered her reprieve from deportation on humanitarian grounds, but recently ordered her deported, reports the LA Times. Galindo Lopez, her family and lawyer question why the agency decided to split up her family during a vulnerable time without providing a reason.

With refugee admissions suspended indefinitely, the U.S. is expected to receive the lowest number of refugees since the program began in 1980 at just 8,000 refugees accepted this year, reports CNN. Among those separated by the suspension are a Somali couple who left behind their 3-year-old daughter when they were approved for refugee resettlement that would allow the husband to receive urgent medical care, but their daughter was not.

A movement to disentangle sheriffs from ICE enforcement has propelled many new sheriffs into office, particularly in North Carolina, reports The Appeal. But a set of routine and informal policies has made separating local law enforcement from immigration enforcement a daunting task that will take more than just a new sheriff. It will require changes to state and county laws.

The Justice Department’s inspector general released a report showing that the decision to end in-person immigration court interpreters to save money was based on miscalculations of the cost, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. Lawyers and immigration advocates have criticized the decision for violating due process.

Nine members of the Board of Immigration Appeals who were appointed before the Trump administration were reassigned to new roles in the latest move that critics say is an attempt by the Trump administration to take away the board’s independence, reports Roll Call.

A federal judge ruled that ICE arrests at New York courthouses is illegal, becoming the second federal judge to block arrests, reports The New York Times. In 2019 a Massachusetts judge blocked immigration arrests at or around court houses; the government has appealed.

Border Wall
CBP has asked federal contractors to submit proposals to prevent breaches in the border wall after reports that a basic saw can cut through the barrier, reports KJZZ Fronteras Desk. Officials deny that the announcement is a recognition of the weaknesses of Trump’s border wall, reports The Washington Post. CBP also announced the possibility of allowing private contractors to build their own border wall projects if they acquire the land rights, but government watchdog organizations warn this will weaken oversight, reports the Arizona Republic.

Immigration is an International Issue
Remittances to El Salvador fell 40 percent in April compared to the same month last year after many Salvadorans in the U.S. lost their jobs during the pandemic, reports The Wall Street Journal. The country’s reliance on remittances, which make up about 20 percent of GDP, is second in the region only to Haiti and experts predict the decrease will have a disastrous effect on access to health care, education and food security.

The State Department certified Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador to receive $500 million between the three countries in 2019 and 2020, despite a failure to meet human rights goals, reports the LA Times. The report praised the countries for their cooperation on immigration enforcement, suggesting that the Trump administration values his short-term immigration agenda over long-held State Department human rights standards.

More than 1,000 Mexican immigrants have died of COVID-19 in the U.S., but their families can’t fulfill their final wishes of burying them in Mexico because of bureaucracy in both countries, reports AP. In New Jersey, brothers Javier and Martin — one a naturalized citizen and one undocumented — from a small town in Oaxaca, Mexico died of COVID-19 within hours of each other, chronicles The Daily. The family has raised $30,000 to fulfill their wishes of being sent to Mexico, but the ashes are still at a church in New Jersey. (The LA Times, Mother Jones and other outlets have previously covered this issue.)

Naturalization and Voting
USCIS offices have begun to reopen, incorporating changes such as naturalization ceremonies without guests, asylum interviews conducted via video and with telephone interpreters, reports the Miami Herald. Immigrant rights groups say the new regulations fail to address the backlog of 100,000 people waiting to be naturalized before the elections in November, reports AP. One known field office in Charlotte has addressed this concern by announcing that it will prioritize naturalization ceremonies in the first weeks after reopening over green card and asylum applications, reports WFAE.

Latinos could be the largest minority group voting in this election — if young Latinos show up. PRI’s The World teamed up with eight reporters to follow young voters and four of them shared insight from the process in a Facebook Live this week.

Public Sentiment
More than three quarters of Americans think undocumented immigrants take jobs U.S. citizens do not want, according to a survey released by Pew Research Center on Tuesday. The poll revealed divisions between Democrats and Republicans: More than 87% of Democrats believe undocumented immigrants take jobs U.S. citizens do not want compared with 66% of Republicans.

Immigration Enforcement & George Floyd Protests
The Justice Department ordered ICE and CBP to withdraw most of the 400 agents deployed to work George Floyd protests across the country, reports NBC News. The decision came after criticism from activists, lawmakers, and politicians, including the mayor of D.C, reports USA Today. House Democrats requested additional information from DHS about the agency’s role in responding to the protests after a drone flying over Minneapolis raised concerns, reports CNN.

Immigrant Communities & George Floyd Protests
The immigrant-owned businesses on commercial Lake Street in Minneapolis have organized night patrols to prevent damage after they say police didn’t respond to their calls, reports Sahan Journal. Many have been issued citations for breaking curfew.

At least four undocumented immigrants, including three DACA recipients, were arrested during protests in Phoenix last week, turned over to ICE and now face possible deportation, reports The Intercept. At least one says he was not protesting, but was in the area on a date with his girlfriend.

DACA & Election 2020
Trump aides are working to focus the campaign on key issues of immigration, crime and China in an attempt to try to recreate the successful 2016 campaign strategy and convince swing voters that Biden is too far left, reports Politico. One suggestion from aides is a potential with Democrats that would benefit immigrants in the DACA program if the Supreme Court rules in favor of the Trump administration’s termination of the program, reports Politico. They believe doing so could help him win Latino support in the election, but a deal is unlikely in a split Congress.


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 news 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 challenge for schools, 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

At a time of rapidly shifting policies, we publish a weekly…

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

At a time of rapidly shifting policies, we publish a weekly concise and insightful guide to immigration news.

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