Migratory Notes 171

Stranded students; luckless DV lottery; Greyhound losses

Daniela Gerson
Jul 9 · 15 min read
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Six-year-old Belén Martínez cried one recent morning for God to get rid of the coronavirus. She and her sisters’ flight to reunite with their dad in California under the restored Central American Minors program was canceled because of the pandemic. Photo by Fred Ramos for The Intercept.

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Rebecca Trimble, now a 30-year-old mother of two living in remote Alaska, never questioned growing up that she was American. But when it came time to plan her honeymoon to Canada with her high school sweetheart, she discovered her parents unknowingly had failed to fill out the required paperwork for her to become a citizen when they adopted her in Mexico. Trimble is one of an estimated 35,000 adoptees who lack U.S. citizenship because their parents did not follow the proper protocol, reports The New York Times. In the case of Trimble, even a spouse in the military hasn’t helped her case. “Ms. Trimble has found herself on a tangled journey through the immigration bureaucracy, where every appeal seems to end the same: She must return to a country she has not seen since she was 3 days old,” writes Miriam Jordan.

Student Visas
Harvard and MIT filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday seeking a temporary restraining order against an ICE policy announced Monday that would force international students at U.S. colleges and universities that have moved to online learning to leave the country unless they attend a program with in-person classes, reports Bloomberg. Many students are stranded, unable to return to their home countries because of travel restrictions or humanitarian crises. Nearly 100 universities have already announced a fully online model for the 2020–2021 school year and the decision likely affects tens of thousands of students. Harvard’s president criticized the policy for attempting to pressure universities to open campuses regardless of the health risks. These universities were also among those that filed a lawsuit opposing Trump’s travel ban in 2017 for hindering the institutions’ goals of educating a diverse student body.

Trump may refile paperwork this week to rescind DACA, reports The Hill. “Trump was initially expected to move to once again rescind the Obama-era program last week, but it was pushed back, according to one source,” writes Brett Samuels. “It’s unclear if the rescission would go into effect prior to Election Day, but Trump’s renewed focus on ending the program will likely make it a key election issue and could put the spotlight on Congress’s inability to reach an immigration deal.” The Supreme Court’s ruling last month that the administration illegally terminated the program did not ensure a future for DACA. Nor did not it order the administration to process new applications, leaving young, eligible undocumented immigrants like Owen Miralrio wondering if they’ll have the chance to become DREAMers too, reports The New York Times. Owen’s older brother Jack is now studying to become an engineer thanks to DACA, but the younger brother wasn’t old enough to apply at the same time.

Nearly half of the staff — 127 people — at Eloy Detention Center in Arizona have tested positive for the coronavirus, reports NBC News. In addition, 242 immigrants have contracted the virus out of a total population of about 1500 at the CoreCivic facility. A former guard provided a detailed report to the Arizona Republic of the deplorable safety conditions at the facility, already known as one of the deadliest in the nation, contributing to the outbreak.

DHS announced last week that it will temporarily suspend visits to immigration facilities because of the risk of the coronavirus, reports BuzzFeed News. Immigrant rights advocates worry the decision will lead to less oversight at a moment when immigrants’ safety is in peril. In Florida this week, a judge reversed an order to appoint an independent fact-finder to investigate conditions in South Florida immigration detention centers, another decision that undercuts oversight during the pandemic, reports the Miami Herald.

A federal judge in Washington D.C. ruled that ICE’s practice of routinely sending minors to adult jails when they turn 18 violates human trafficking laws meant to protect minors, reports The Washington Post. The agency should review each file and search for other options instead.

Family Separation
The U.S. government told a judge Tuesday that it is considering separating children from their parents in order to comply with a judge’s order to release minors from detention, reports The Washington Post. The order does not require parents to be released with their children and it would be up to the government’s discretion to do so. The statement came the same day a book was published by an NBC correspondent on the family separation crisis that revealed that Katie Miller, DHS spokesperson and wife of Trump aide Stephen Miller, said a trip to the border to witness the impact of family separation did not evoke compassion, reports Business Insider.

More than 2,700 Central American children were approved for resettlement in the U.S. under the Obama-era Central American Minors (CAM) program when the Trump administration ended it in 2017, reports Anna-Cat in The Intercept. A judge ordered the government to continue resettlement in 2019, but many like the Martínez family were still awaiting travel when the coronavirus deterred their plans once again.

Travel Bans
The 55,000 diversity visa lottery winners selected from 14 million applicants are supposed to be the lucky ones. But in the past year most of those selected are not getting visas to come to the U.S. due to consulate closures and the legal immigration ban, reports AP. “The administration’s latest step to reduce legal immigration has upended their lives, and many find themselves stuck in a worse situation than the one they were trying to escape,” write Samy Magdy and Julie Watson. Egyptian engineer Noha and her two children received visas in February. But her husband may not receive his visa by the strict Sept. 30 deadline because of consulate closures, forcing Noha to decide if she will migrate with her kids or keep the family together.

More than 2,000 Yemeni-Americans and residents have requested repatriation to the U.S. since coronavirus travel restrictions left them stranded in the war-torn country where the U.S. does not have a consular presence, reports DocumentedNY.

Border & Remain in Mexico
Migrants taken into custody along the Mexico border jumped 40 percent in June, in spite of Trump emergency orders to ‘expel’ border crossers, reports The Washington Post. “They appear to be a sign that the deterrent effects of the pandemic-related crackdown are beginning to wear off,” writes Nick Miroff. “Most of those taken into custody last month were single adults, not families and children, in contrast to last year’s surge.”

Meanwhile, Greyhound reports that its budget fell by $156 million, which it blames on declines in the past year of immigration across the Southwest border. “At the back end of 2019 into the start of 2020, the immigration flows coming out of Mexico into the U.S. were incredibly strong,” Ryan Mangold, Greyhound’s parent group’s finance director told MarketWatch. “Donald Trump’s rhetoric then on anti-immigration and the wall that he wants to build across the across the border of Mexico had meant that a huge number of those immigration flows…coming out of the south and going into the U.S. almost evaporated over a very short period of time based on U.S. policy.”

In a reversal of roles, governors of Mexican border states, who have watched the U.S. ramp up border protections for years, called on the Mexican federal government to better regulate essential border traffic, reports The Washington Post. They believe hundreds of thousands of Americans crossing for family visits or shopping are putting their communities at risk because of the high rates of infection in the U.S. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who has helped Trump facilitate his immigration crackdown, visited the White House Wednesday to discuss trade and immigration. The Mexican leader emphasized the respect and understanding between the two countries rather than the tensions Trump has ignited with his anti-immigrant rhetoric. Trump concluded the bilateral relationship “has never been closer.”

A Honduran asylum seeker who was 8-months pregnant was immediately expelled after crossing the border and sent back to Mexico, in a case that shows the “tragic truth” of the current immigration system under coronavirus executive actions, reports the El Paso Times.

NGOs have worked swiftly to isolate and contain the first coronavirus case at the Matamoros tent camp where thousands of asylum seekers in the Remain in Mexico program live. But this achievement should not overshadow the fact that the migrants should not be living in such squalid conditions because the program “is contrary to our laws and the dictates of humanity,” writes Sister Normal Pimental, executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, in an op-ed in The Washington Post.

Border Wall
Experts say portions of the privately funded border wall built by Trump supporter Tommy Fisher in South Texas are in danger of falling into the Rio Grande as the sand at the foundation erodes, reports The Texas Tribune and ProPublica. A company attorney said the erosion was normal and does not compromise the structure. Privately funded border wall construction has aimed to help Trump meet his goal of building 450 miles of wall by the end of 2020. Reaching the goal will require building more than a mile a day from now until the end of the year, reports Newsweek.

Landowners in South Texas filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration for border wall construction that they say is unconstitutional because it is driven by hatred towards immigrants, reports The Texas Tribune. The lawsuit is one of many filed by landowners, environmental groups and other activist groups that have attempted to halt construction. And House Democrats introduced multiple spending bills this week that would limit funding for the border wall, reports The Hill. The bills are legislators’ response to Trump’s 2019 use of emergency powers to reallocate funds. The Republican controlled Senate is expected to reject the proposals.

Migrant Workers
Seven migrant workers from Mexico filed a lawsuit in Detroit Tuesday against a recruiter and company that hired them on temporary H-2A agricultural visas because they say they were cheated out of wages and tricked into a deportation raid when they complained, reports the Detroit Free Press. Lawyers say the case showcases broader problems of abuse against employees with these visas. In a separate lawsuit Tuesday, immigrant advocates opposed a change made by the Department of Labor last year that require immigrants to report workplace abuse to law enforcement to qualify for special U or T visas, reports AP. They allege the new requirements will deter immigrants from coming forward out of fear.

Courts & Justice
The Trump administration selected former lead ICE prosecutor Tracy Short to serve as chief immigration judge, reports BuzzFeed News. The decision came on the same day that another leading judge stepped down and sent a message to court employees about the importance of impartiality and asylum protections.

The National Association of Immigration Judges criticized the Trump administration for putting immigrants and court employees at risk by reopening immigration courts without putting in place national standards for protection, reports USA Today. It is one of many policy decisions that the judge’s union has denounced during the Trump administration.


Coronavirus Resources

Recently released immigration books and films (Got one? Send it over)

Reporting Initiatives about Immigrant Communities

  • Borderless: a non-profit online magazine reimagining coverage of the immigration system.
  • Documented: a non-profit news site covering immigrants in New York.
  • Ethnic Media Services: organization that works with ethnic media organizations to improve coverage and reach.
  • Feet In Two Worlds: project that tells immigrant stories and provides fellowships for immigrant journalists.
  • Finding American: a collaboration between documentary photographer Colin Boyd Shafer and immigrants to feature their stories.
  • The Immigrant Story: a project between journalists, photographers, graphic designers and developers to document and archive immigrants’ stories.
  • ImmPrint: an online publication by and for people affected by immigrant detention.
  • New Michigan Media: a network of ethnic and minority media across the state of Michigan.
  • Newest Americans: a multimedia collaboration between journalists, media-makers, artists, faculty and students telling the stories of the immigrant and immigrant communities in Newark, NJ.
  • Refugees (Santa Fe Dreamers Project): a collection of testimonies from asylum seekers in partnership with the New Mexico Immigrant Law Center.

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. Previously she was a senior fellow at the Center for Community Media (CCM), 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

Migratory Notes

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

Daniela Gerson

Written by

Ass’t Prof @CSUNJournalism and Co-creator #MigratoryNotes. Subscribe for free: https://bit.ly/2tkethJ @dhgerson

Migratory Notes

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

Daniela Gerson

Written by

Ass’t Prof @CSUNJournalism and Co-creator #MigratoryNotes. Subscribe for free: https://bit.ly/2tkethJ @dhgerson

Migratory Notes

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

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