Migratory Notes 170

Elizabeth Aguilera
Jul 2, 2020 · 14 min read

#Letusgohome, USCIS standstill, virtual border wall

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Cuban asylum seeker Dailin Tapia Muñoz miscarried a pregnancy while in Juarez under the Remain in Mexico program, possibly from the stress and trauma she experienced. The doctor now uses her medical skills to help other migrants, but risks exposing herself. “We are in ‘migratory limbo’ because we don’t belong here nor there,” she said. Photo by Emily Kinskey for The Texas Observer

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Marie Deus, a mother and kitchen worker in a Boston hospital, always carried hand sanitizer and masks in her purse, even before the pandemic. That’s why her friends and colleagues were so surprised when she collapsed from COVID-19 symptoms. At first, doctors suspected she had been exposed at work, but her job was only one risk factor. “The other part lay in the very air and architecture of the city, in the discrimination that has shaped who lives where, with how much,” writes Eric Boodman for Stat News. Data from the hospital and elsewhere revealed that where one lives increases risk more than profession. Many Haitian migrants like Deus live in multi-family homes in Mattapan, a section of the city with the second-highest rate of COVID infections.

Dailin Tapia Muñoz was in an El Paso holding cell when the first reports of the coronavirus arrived at the border in March, reports The Texas Observer. “Two other pregnant women shared her cell in March — one looked like she could give birth any minute,” write Acacia Coronado, Emily Kinskey, and Anna-Cat Brigida. “Tapia Muñoz, a physician as well as an asylum-seeker, examined their bulging bellies and worried: ‘Can you imagine being seven and nine months pregnant, sleeping on the floor and eating only a bag of juice and a bread with burger twice a day?’” Reported in Juárez, Matamoros, and Nuevo Laredo, the story is the first part of a Pulitzer Center-supported series on the impact of COVID-19 on immigrants along the detention to deportation pipeline. You can also read the story in Spanish here.

Coronavirus Immigration Closures
Legal immigration is set to hit an essential standstill: USCIS, which processes citizenship, green card and asylum applications, issued furlough notices to 13,000 employees this week that could last up to three months. The furloughs could be extended if Congress does not approve emergency funding by August 3, reports BuzzFeed News. In recent weeks, the agency has implemented drive-thru naturalization ceremonies to speed up the backlog caused by the pandemic, but the delays will only get worse with furloughs, reports AP.

American consul and embassy closures mean hundreds of thousands of people can’t receive visas or get them stamped to actually travel, including some U.S. residents, reports The Wall Street Journal. “Nearly every foreigner wishing to travel to the U.S. faces a simple but impassable hurdle: Most American embassies and consulates remain closed,” Michelle Hackman writes. “While a precise figure is difficult to estimate, hundreds of thousands of people worldwide may be stuck since March because they can’t get their visas stamped or attend the necessary interviews to have visas issued.”

Skilled Visa Ban
For some who were already stuck outside the country, the Trump administration ban on issuing new skilled worker visas now means they will be separated from their U.S.-based families indefinitely, Newsy reports. Thousands of families affected by new restrictions on temporary work visas have had to seek answers on social media after the relevant agencies failed to notify those affected about the changes, reports BuzzFeed News. “It’s a phenomenon that’s played out since the beginning of the Trump era: a broad order impacting thousands of people who are left confused, anxious, and seeking help or advice online,” writes Hamed Aleaziz.

The ban could backfire for Trump. His stated goal is to help American workers during the pandemic, but research shows these types of restrictions have not boosted jobs in the past, reports The Washington Post. In fact, they could actually lead to job losses if businesses close. There also may be election consequences, harming Trump’s chances of courting Indian American voters, a fast-growing voting bloc, reports Politico.

Temporary Visa Ban
In Idaho, stone mining companies that rely on Mexican guest workers are now facing hiring shortages after Trump’s order cutting these visas, reports Newsy. The companies say there are not enough local workers who want to take on these short-term positions.

Remain in Mexico, Asylum & Refugees
The Trump administration is preparing a new policy that would allow DHS or the Department of Justice to deny humanitarian refuge from countries with disease outbreaks, such as COVID-19 or Ebola, based on potential public health threats, reports The Washington Post.

A federal judge struck down a Trump administration rule restricting asylum for migrants from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. The judge, a Trump appointee, ruled that the administration illegally implemented the rule.

A judge in Los Angeles ordered last week the release of migrant children in the country’s three ICE detention centers by July 17 after at least 11 children and parents at these facilities have tested positive for COVID-19. The judge cited the 1997 Flores settlement agreement that limits the time minors can spend in U.S. custody in the ruling, but the agreement does not apply to parents. Democratic lawmakers sent a letter to DHS demanding that these children be released with their parents, rather than separating them. ICE previously denied parole to children in these facilities because parents did not consent to being separated.

At least three people who tested positive for COVID-19 in a state prison in California were transferred to the ICE detention center in Adelanto in June, reports the Palm Springs Desert Sun. The detainees were immediately tested and isolated, according to ICE. The agency has been criticized for continuing transfers during the pandemic.

A judge ordered ICE to release this week a Palestinian man accused of supporting terrorists who already served a 15-year sentence, reports The New York Times. When the government could not deport him because he is a stateless Palestinian, it sought to detain him indefinitely under the Patriot Act.

The U.S. has sent more than 350 deportation flights to Latin America and the Caribbean since February, often failing to properly test for COVID-19 before the flights, reports The Intercept. These policies have had devastating public health impacts on countries including Haiti and Guatemala and caused diplomatic tensions. Guatemala is now only receiving two deportation flights a week with a maximum of 50 passengers in each flight, reports The Miami Herald.

This week, advocates protested these pending deportations::

COVID-19 and Immigrant Communities
In the early days of the pandemic, the media failed to recognize the disproportionate impact COVID-19 would have on immigrants and communities of color, writes Michelle García in The Nation. Looking ahead, she writes, journalists risks making the same mistakes when covering climate change, which will cause millions to migrate, if it continues to cover news based on a white, elite worldview.

Playing five sports — football, volleyball, soccer, softball and boxing — has helped Dalia Hurtado cope with the separation from her parents and siblings who live in Mexico, reports the LA Times. She has been a trailblazer at her East Los Angeles high school as the first of eight girls to try out and make it on the football team. But now that outlet is gone, as is the ability to visit her family in Mexico. “I’m laughing with my teammates and all that, then when I get home it’s like, damn. Realidad. I try my best not to think about it,” Dalia said.

Border Wall
Since the pandemic began, the Trump administration has constructed or replaced 95 miles of border wall in an attempt to carry out the campaign promise of building 500 miles by the end of the year, reports the LA Times. Landowners who oppose construction on their land must still show up in court even if they have fears of the coronavirus. Meanwhile, the administration contracted California tech startup Anduril Industries to build a virtual wall, reports The Washington Post. “The administration’s deepening commitment to the technology, raises an obvious — if awkward — question for homeland security officials as Trump spends billions of taxpayer dollars to speed up his border wall project,” writes Nick Miroff. “If the Anduril system can spot migrants and smugglers from miles away and guide U.S. agents right to them, what is the point of building a costly physical barrier in isolated border areas where there are few crossings?”

Opponents of the wall scored a legal win last week when the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that diverting military funding to pay for the border wall is unconstitutional because it uses funds without authorization, reports NBC News. But they also faced a legal setback. On Monday, the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from environmental groups opposing border wall construction on the grounds that a 1996 law that waives environmental protections for border construction is unconstitutional because it gives too much power to the executive branch, reports Reuters.

Immigration is an International Issue
The drop in remittances during the pandemic has been devastating to Venezuelans who rely on money sent home from migrants working in the U.S., reports The New Humanitarian. Some Venezuelan migrants have decided to go home because of the lack of work, but more mouths to feed and less income from abroad is only expected to exacerbate the country’s humanitarian crisis.

Courts & Justice
Hearings in immigration courts in Boston, Dallas, Las Vegas, and a few other cities resumed this week, despite concerns from lawyers, judges and elected officials that doing so still poses a public health risk, reports WBUR. The Executive Office of Immigration Review announced the Boston court would be closed again as of July 2.

Immigration judges filed a lawsuit Wednesday against the Justice Department for violating their First Amendment rights through a policy that bans them from speaking publicly about immigration law, reports Reuters.

A recent spotlight on national policing brought on by Black Lives Matter protests has also led to questions about the role of Latino officers in ICE and Border Patrol, reports KTSM.

Businesses that legally grow and distribute cannabis in California say they often have their product confiscated by Border Patrol as they move from county to county, reports the Voice of San Diego. The seizures are a result of incongruent state and federal cannabis law.


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 For some California teens, school closures led to work in the fields. 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

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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