Migratory Notes 173

Canada wants US border closed, DHS vs protesters, Climate refugees modeled

Elizabeth Aguilera
Jul 23, 2020 · 14 min read
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For Karla Avelar, a trans woman from El Salvador, organizing to protect trans women’s rights only put her in more danger, reports Longreads. When she won an international prize for her work, gangs threatened to kill her and her mother if she didn’t give them the prize money upon return. So she stayed in Switzerland to seek asylum. Photo by Alice Driver.

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#MustRead/ #MustWatch
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.

Rapid Expulsions
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:

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.

Family Separation
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.

Border Wall
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.

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.

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.


Immigration Resources & Opportunities

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 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

*Migratory Notes Advisory Board: Daniel Connolly, Maria Kari, Dan Kowalski, Paola Marizán, Mirta Ojito, Roberto Suro, Phuong Ly, Fernanda Santos

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.

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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