Migratory Notes 173
Canada wants US border closed, DHS vs protesters, Climate refugees modeled
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In a visually stunning and multifaceted story, ProPublica and The New York Times Magazine modeled how climate refugees might move across international borders in the future, with a focus on Central American migrants to the U.S. “Our model projects that migration will rise every year regardless of climate, but that the amount of migration increases substantially as the climate changes,” Abrahm Lustgarten writes. “In the most extreme climate scenarios, more than 30 million migrants would head toward the U.S. border over the course of the next 30 years.” The modeling, for which they hired a geographer who previously worked for the World Bank, should be viewed as “showing possible general pathways for the future, rather than as concrete predictions.” The project received support from the Pulitzer Center and is the first of a series on climate migration, including an upcoming webinar for educators: Exploring Climate Migration in the Classroom.
“It doesn’t feel like we’re essential. It feels like we’re slaves,” says one of many farmworkers PBS Frontline follows in a gripping look into food production in the U.S. during COVID-19. “All of us farmworkers are making a big sacrifice out of necessity. Above all else, out of necessity, because of hunger, to be able to feed our families and to have a place to live,” says Sinthia Hernández, who continues to pick broccoli in California’s Salinas Valley even though she has cancer and diabetes. Advocates blame the high death toll among farmworkers on a lack of government action. The federal government can issue an emergency regulation at any time to require employers to protect workers, but still has not done so.
The Trump administration is detaining children in hotels along the U.S-Mexico border for days, or even weeks, before rapidly expelling them to their home countries under a public health declaration, reports AP. Lawyers accuse the government of setting up a shadow system to detain unaccompanied minors to avoid accountability.
The private company that manages Otay Mesa Detention Center made many errors that led to a coronavirus outbreak: the warden prohibited guards from wearing protective gear because he said it could scare detainees, hand sanitizer was not available, and cleaning supplies were missing, reports AP in a deep investigation into what went wrong at the San Diego area center. At Richwood Correctional Center, officials from private prison company LaSalle Corrections also banned employees from wearing masks, according to a whistleblower account shared with Mother Jones. An officer was also instructed to blast the AC so sick detainees would pass a medical check and be deported. The irresponsible handling of the pandemic led to dozens of sick inmates and the deaths of two guards.
ICE carried out more than 260 transfers of immigrant detainees in April, May and June despite reports of COVID-19 in its facilities and warnings from public health specialists, reports Reuters. Among them:
- Seven immigrants with pending legal cases against ICE were transferred to a notorious Alabama prison during the pandemic. The transfers fit into a pattern of sending immigrants to the prison in retaliation for suing the agency. (Mother Jones)
- ICE transferred a group of immigrants from Arizona to Virginia in the midst of an ongoing case demanding detainees’ release, leading to a coronavirus outbreak. (The Daily Beast)
Meanwhile, the release of some immigrant detainees during the pandemic has shown the growing strength of the Abolish ICE movement, but 22,000 people remain in the agency’s custody, reports TIME.
The Trump administration is close to making a deal with lawyers for detained children that would give parents a choice between releasing their children to a relative or to foster care or remaining together in detention, reports The Wall Street Journal. Legal aid groups filed a motion against co-counsel Peter Schey for working with the government to allow what they call a “binary choice,” reports CBS News. They believe parents and children should be released together. ICE officials previously tried to convince mothers in family detention to sign paperwork to release their children to sponsors while they remained detained, reports This American Life. But thanks to quick-thinking moms who contacted their lawyers instead of signing, that didn’t happen.
A federal court ruled in Maryland last week that the Trump administration must fully restore the DACA program nationwide, including renewals and new applicants, after the Supreme Court decided the termination of the program in 2017 was illegal, reports AP. DACA-eligible immigrants have started mailing in applications, but it’s unclear if the Trump administration plans to process them even though it is legally required to do so, reports CNN. Trump has sent mixed messages about his plans for DACA after the Supreme Court ruling. He has promised to sign a bill that would provide a path to citizenship for DACA recipients, even though Congress has not passed any such bill. Others claim Trump will end the program again. So far, he has done neither.
Trump Census Memo and Executive Orders
Trump signed a memorandum Tuesday to exclude undocumented immigrants from the census count when determining how many seats in Congress will be given to each state, reports CNN. The rule requires Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to provide data on undocumented immigrants so they can be subtracted from the numbers provided by the Census committee, reports NBC News. The memo is the latest attempt by Trump to change the way the population is counted to help his party and advance his immigration agenda. The Supreme Court previously rejected the inclusion of a citizenship question on the 2020 census on constitutional grounds. The ACLU and other groups are expected to oppose the memo for the same reason.
The Trump administration has been consulting John Yoo, a former government lawyer under the George W. Bush administration who justified waterboarding, on how to use executive orders to carry out his immigration agenda, reports The Guardian.
DHS is planning to send 150 agents to Chicago to assist law enforcement, reports The Chicago Tribune. An anonymous ICE official said the agents will not be involved in immigration enforcement, despite being part of the agency. The decision has caused criticism from Trump’s own party, including George W. Bush’s DHS head Michael Chertoff, who said the move oversteps the agency’s mission, reports The Washington Post.
The announcement comes as DHS and other agencies are facing a federal lawsuit for civil rights abuses for seizing and detaining protesters in Portland without probable cause, reports Oregon Public Broadcasting. An internal DHS memo published last week stated that agents did not have proper training to respond to riots or civil unrest, reports The New York Times. The memo recommended training if DHS is going to continue to be involved in protest response.
A report by the DHS Office of the Inspector General found government plans to build a border wall relied on outdated information and lacks a clear strategy to secure the border, reports KJZZ’s Fronteras Desk. One thing is clear: A wall is not stopping diseases. An investigation by the Arizona Daily Star found that Trump’s claims the border wall would protect U.S. citizens from the spread of the coronavirus were unfounded.
Yet, border wall construction continues.
- The Bureau of Land Management transferred 65 acres of public land in Arizona and New Mexico to the Army for border wall construction. (AP)
- CBP began widening an Arizona road in a federally owned national park where part of the border wall will be constructed. (Arizona Republic)
- Contractors have also dug a trench in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in preparation of border wall constructions that experts worry will dry up a spring that provides water to many endangered species. (National Geographic)
- Some Laredo residents hope to buy enough time to delay construction until 2021 when Trump could be out of the White House. (The Texas Observer)
Remain in Mexico
Hearings for asylum seekers in the Remain in Mexico program have been postponed repeatedly during the pandemic, leading the Matamoros tent camp to shrink in size as some migrants lost hope and moved to other parts of Mexico or returned home, reports the San Antonio Express-News. DHS and the Department of Justice announced that hearings will resume when Texas reaches stage three of its reopening and the CDC reduces the travel advisory to level two, reports The Texas Tribune. This is likely weeks away.
The U.S. Board of Immigration Appeals ruled last week that Remain in Mexico can be applied to asylum seekers who cross between ports of entry in addition to those who present themselves to officials at ports of entry, reports Reuters.
Immigration is an International Issue
A Canadian court ruled that a safe-third country agreement between the U.S. and Canada, which requires immigrants to seek asylum in the first country they enter, violates their rights because sending them to the U.S puts them at risk, reports CBC. The Canadian government has six months to take action.
Recent surveys show Canadians overwhelmingly support keeping the border with the U.S. closed because of the high rate of infections, reports Voice of America. Officials of both countries have agreed to extend border closures for at least a month.
Immigrant Communities & COVID-19
Around the country, immigrant communities continue to be disproportionately affected by the pandemic.
- In L.A. county, Pacific Islanders have the highest rate of COVID-19 infections of any racial or ethnic group. Community leaders say the failure of public health officials to consider cultural factors, such as traditional large gatherings and the importance of in-person church services, has contributed to these high rates. (LA Times)
- In Maine, Black residents have tested positive for COVID-19 at disproportionate rates, and many are immigrants who pack meat, pick blueberries and work at factories. (The Washington Post)
- In Houston, infections of Hispanic residents are rapidly outpacing other ethnic groups, leading officials to wonder if public health messaging has failed. (Houston Chronicle)
The high rate of infection in immigrant communities has presented challenges for officials trying to stop the spread. In California, contact tracers who can’t reach people who may have been exposed send law enforcement to their homes, but this could scare undocumented immigrants, reports CalMatters. In San Francisco, a community organization called the Latino Task Force has developed culturally sensitive solutions to the high infection rates among Latinos, including setting up testing at a cultural hub and advocating for pay so sick employees can stay home, reports the LA Times.
- More than 3,500 ICE detainees have tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic began and more than 1,000 of those remain in ICE custody. (CBS News)
- Fewer than 4% of the 1,650 unaccompanied minors who crossed the border in June were transferred to U.S. custody. The rest were expelled under a Trump directive. (CBS News)
- Trump’s visa ban is causing delays in approvals for doctors to travel and leading to a shortage of medical workers at a moment when the country needs to prepare for a second wave. (ProPublica)
- Despite receiving the highest rate of deportees in El Salvador, the Salvadoran government did not allocate any funds to Nueva Trinidad, Chalatenango through an aid program started under the Obama administration that required El Salvador to invest aid as well. (El Intercambio and DocumentedNY)
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)
- Informed Immigrant is an online resource that provides information for undocumented immigrant communities in the U.S. during the coronavirus.
Recently released immigration books and films(got one, send it over)
- Unforgetting: A Memoir of Family, Migration, Gangs, and Revolution in the Americas by Roberto Lavato. (September 2020)
- Separated: Inside an American Tragedy by NBC correspondent Jacob Soboroff tells the story of the long-term impact of the family separation policy on families. (July 2020)
- 14 Miles: Building the Border Wall by DW Gibson covers the repercussions of the wall in San Diego. (July 2020)
- “USA V Scott” a documentary that depicts the moral dilemma facing Arizona residents, who must decide whether or not to help desperate migrants they come across, using the case of activist Scott Warren as a case study.
- 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)
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
- 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
- The Immigrant Defense project created a style guide for journalists reporting on immigration.
- Digital First Responders: A database, report, and case study of how immigrant news outlets are innovating to serve their communities. (Center for Community Media).
- 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 The virus and the vulnerable: Latino children suffer high rates of COVID-19. 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