Migratory Notes 168
#DACA stays — for now, CA sanctuary stands, BLM at the border
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“Even in death, Nabunjo was kept waiting. Nine months,” write Alfredo Corchado and Marisol Chavez. That’s how long it took Mexican authorities to release the body of Ugandan migrant Jamila Nabunjo, who died in a Juarez hospital in September, reports The Dallas Morning News in a story documenting how the Black Lives Matter movement has gained traction beyond U.S. borders. Mexican authorities said they could not release her body because of a lack of paperwork and strained relations between the two countries. But friends and activists believe it was the George Floyd protests that made Mexican officials confront their anti-Black racism toward African migrants and release the body.
Raúl Luna González had been detained in Louisiana for more than a year when he started to feel coronavirus symptoms. Then he disappeared, reports Mother Jones. The Mexican immigrant was seeking asylum after fleeing a cartel that kidnapped him in Acapulco, Mexico. Colon cancer had left him with a colostomy bag and at risk of the coronavirus. “After Luna found himself trapped by President Trump’s detention regime, [his sister] marshaled her relative security, unusual tenacity, and all the financial resources she could muster to try to get him out,” writes Noah Lanard.
The Supreme Court ruled Thursday morning that the Trump administration could not immediately end the DACA program, which benefits more than 700,000 immigrants in the United States. Participants are parents to more than 250,000 U.S. citizen children, as CNN points out in a breakdown by the numbers.
“We do not decide whether DACA or its rescission are sound policies,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in his decision, in which he joined with the four liberal members of the court. “We address only whether the agency complied with the procedural requirement that it provide a reasoned explanation for its action.”
Trump’s response: “These horrible & politically charged decisions coming out of the Supreme Court are shotgun blasts into the face of people that are proud to call themselves Republicans or Conservatives.”
But most Republican voters, at 54%, support citizenship for DACA recipients, according to a 2019 Pew Research study.
Border Restrictions & COVID-19
Mexican officials and U.S. lawmakers worry that border restrictions, which have been extended until July 21, will continue through the fall as a way for Trump to blame Mexico for coronavirus deaths during election season even as the economies of U.S. border communities struggle, reports Politico. Along the U.S. northern border with Canada, where restrictions have also been extended, a park has emerged as a spot for couples separated by the restrictions to meet — and even hold small cross-border wedding ceremonies, reports The Washington Post.
Border apprehensions increased more than 35% from April to May in a possible indication that migrants have not been deterred by the Trump administration’s emergency order to rapidly expel all border crossers during the pandemic, reports The Washington Post. Since the measures were implemented in March, the U.S. has turned away more than 41,000 migrants, including asylum seekers, reports the Arizona Republic. These migrants are immediately expelled across the border or to their home country, as was the case for 17-year-old Honduran asylum seeker Imanol Luján, reports NBC News and Telemundo Investiga. An ACLU lawsuit claims that unaccompanied minors like Luján have the right to be transferred to a shelter. Nearly 1,000 youth have been rapidly expelled under the measures.
The Trump administration proposed a rule that would raise the standard of proof for asylum seekers when coronavirus border restrictions are lifted, a move that would cement restrictionist policies post-pandemic, reports The New York Times. The rule would allow judges to dismiss claims deemed too weak without a court hearing and limit who is considered part of a “particular social group,” reports The Washington Post.
Lawyers report immigration judges are requiring detained migrants, among them asylum seekers, to pay high bond fees from $10,000 to $30,000 to be released, a practice that was previously limited to immigrants with a criminal record or who had entered the country without authorization, reports NBC News. In one case, a DACA recipient awaiting renewal of his status was told he must report to ICE and pay a $12,000 bond to avoid being detained, a demand his lawyers equated to a ransom, reports the Arizona Daily Star. The 19-year-old also has an autoimmune disorder that would make him vulnerable in detention. He has since been released, reports the Arizona Republic.
The Trump administration has developed multiple proposals to limit special work visas, such as the H1-B visas for skilled workers and H2-B for temporary non-agricultural work, for up to 180 days, reports Bloomberg. Two groups affiliated with conservative donor Charles Koch asked top administration officials to reconsider the plan, citing the importance of immigrants for economic growth and recovery, reports The Hill.
The Eloy Detention Center in Arizona has become a focal point for COVID-19 cases, which increased nearly six-fold over the weekend to 122 detainees, reports The Guardian. Among those who tested positive is Marisol Mendoza, a 47-year-old Mexican immigrant with diabetes who sued for her release in March based on her pre-existing condition. A judge ordered that ICE improve her conditions in May. She tested positive two weeks later. At least one employee has died from possible coronavirus complications, a guard who died on Sunday, reports the Arizona Republic.
In California, ICE blocked the phone number of an activist group that had been in contact with detainees at the Otay Mesa Detention Center, citing safety concerns, reports The San Diego Union-Tribune. Activists say the phone line offers hope to immigrants when they feel desperate and ensures their rights are protected.
An audit by the Government Accountability Office found that CBP broke the law when it spent money allocated for food and medicine on equipment such as dirt bikes, ATVs and speaker systems, reports KJZZ Fronteras Desk.
Black Lives Matter
After Microsoft-owned GitHub announced it would not sell facial recognition software to police in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, employees also asked the company to reconsider its contracts with ICE, reports the LA Times. The company’s chief executive said it would continue the contracts, saying it does not pick and choose customers.
ICE took undocumented immigrant Johan Montes Cuevas into custody after he was arrested for rioting in Phoenix, a charge he and his friends dispute, reports Mother Jones. His case shows that the fear of immigration enforcement at the George Floyd protests was not unfounded, reports local New York City news site Bedford + Bowery.
Immigrant Communities & COVID-19
In Immokalee, Florida, a small, remote town home to many migrant workers who pick tomatoes, infections are increasing at a rate much higher than the urban hubs of Orlando and Miami, reports AP.
In Corona, Queens, one of the hardest-hit neighborhoods in New York, teacher Cathy Rojas has become a social worker as well, helping students’ families access health care, rental assistance, and food, reports The Guardian. The neighborhood shows how the pandemic is compounding existing problems for Latino communities and interrupting the education of many students. A local newspaper, Queens Latino, has become a lifeline for Latinos in Queens during the pandemic, reporting on issues important to Latinos and connecting them with resources, even as the paper has struggled to find contributors willing to report during a public health crisis, reports NACLA.
Supreme Court justices declined to hear a Trump administration challenge to California’s sanctuary law that alleged the state was unconstitutionally interfering with immigration enforcement. Lawyers for the state of California argued the policy does not restrict federal law enforcement, but rather declines to help. The law, which limits the police from sharing information about immigrants, will stay in place.
Immigration is an International Issue
In Portugal, a campaign to treat immigrants like citizens appears to be helping stem the spread of COVID-19, stopping the infection in a Lisbon hostel crowded with asylum seekers, reports Newsweek.
In rural Ireland, when 25 asylum seekers tested positive for the coronavirus while living in a cramped hotel, they alleged the outbreak exposed structural issues with the government refugee program, reports CNN. Asylum seekers, mainly from African countries, say the Direct Provision program is a form of institutionalized racism because it provides substandard housing and a meager weekly allowance of $43. Meanwhile, businesses profit off lucrative government contracts.
And as infections increase in Latin America, public health officials said this week that they are focusing coronavirus prevention efforts on rural border regions, such as borders between Haiti and the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua and Costa Rica and the Amazon region of Brazil, where migrants are constantly on the move and lack access to proper health care, reports The New York Times.
Naturalization and Voting
A federal lawsuit filed in Philadelphia last week asks for immediate citizenship for their clients who are awaiting the citizenship oath, the final process in the naturalization process, reports AP. The lawsuit cited federal law that allows courts to expedite the process under extraordinary circumstances.
- Communication with asylum seekers in the Remain in Mexico program has only worsened during the pandemic, leaving many unsure of their next court date or if they will even be able to seek asylum. (Arizona Daily Star)
- Local authorities in Virginia will vote this week on whether to continue to allow police to ask about immigration status in a case study of the shifting power dynamics spurred by grassroots organizing against law enforcement cooperation with ICE. (The Appeal)
Immigration Resources & Opportunities
- Database of more than 200 COVID relief funds that are accessible to refugees and other immigrants, including without legal status. (IRAP)
- Updates on immigration developments during COVID-19 (Center for Migration Studies)
- Map of detention centers tracking coronavirus outbreaks (Freedom for Immigrants)
- COVID-19 resources for undocumented immigrants (UndocuScholars)
- Database of likely deportation flights during the pandemic (Center for Economic and Policy Research)
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 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