Migratory Notes 174
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Nearly a third of Guatemalan Mayans tested for coronavirus in Palm Beach County are positive, three times Florida’s average, reports The Washington Post. “In South Florida, where the tropical summer sends nearly everything with roots into bloom, and where another housing boom is underway, it was the Guatemalans who were asked to keep working,” writes Kevin Sieff in an intimate portrait of the lives of these workers who supported the state’s construction boom and tend the lawns of golf courses and gated housing communities. Now they are facing the consequences in illness and death: “In some cases, their bodies have been frozen, so they can be sent back to Guatemala for burial when the border reopens.”
ICE officers illegally picked locks, lied to immigrants and mocked them — and it was all caught on film. For two-and-a-half years, a pair of filmmakers were granted a rare peek inside the Trump administration’s immigration enforcement tactics. “The couple filmed a sweeping look at the federal immigration enforcement system, discovering many inherent contradictions,” writes Caitlin Dickerson in The New York Times. But when the release date neared, the government threatened to sue if the filmmakers didn’t remove scenes and wait until after the November election to release the film. The filmmakers didn’t back down: The documentary, Immigration Nation, is scheduled to air on Netflix in August.
A federal judge ruled Wednesday that the Trump administration cannot enforce the public charge rule to deny residency to immigrants who receive public benefits during the pandemic because it would force immigrants to make an impossible choice between health and immigration status. There are already many signs immigrants are afraid to come forward to the government for support at this time. For example, in Texas, undocumented immigrants who can’t pay rent have left their homes rather than go to court to fight for their right to stay under a state-wide eviction moratorium, reports The Texas Tribune.
The Trump administration said Monday that a group of immigrants being held in hotels at the border will have the chance to seek asylum instead of being sent back to their countries under a rapid expulsion policy during the pandemic, reports BuzzFeed News. The hotels were a site of protest last week after AP revealed the government was holding migrants there through a shadow network of private contractors. Among the migrants was a 16-year-old boy from Honduras who fled death threats. His lawyers fought his removal and won, in a case that is an important legal challenge to the policy of rapid expulsions, reports BuzzFeed News. He will now have a chance to stay in the U.S. during his asylum case.
Remain in Mexico
NGOs prepared an evacuation plan for asylum seekers living in the Matamoros tent camp as the region experienced heavy rains and flooding from Hurricane Hanna, reports Texas Public Radio. Advocates say the storm is one of many examples of ways the Remain in Mexico program puts migrants in danger. In response to the disaster and the loss of housing for asylum seekers during the pandemic, the UN announced Monday that it will construct temporary housing units in affected Mexican border cities, reports AP.
DHS announced Tuesday it will not process new DACA applications and will issue renewals for one year instead of two while it reviews the program. The announcement is likely to meet legal challenges since it could be a violation of a district judge’s recent ruling that the program be restored after the Supreme Court decided the 2017 termination of the program was illegal.
The government’s failure to fully reinstate the program has already been challenged in court. In response to a case filed in Maryland that demands USCIS accept new applications, a government lawyer argued Friday that the agency is accepting applications but marking them as pending, reports NBC News. A separate case filed in Texas, where more than 86,000 immigrants are eligible, is suing the government to accept their applications, reports the Houston Chronicle.
Attorney General William Barr sent a “chilling message” to immigrants when he reopened the case of a former military officer from Bangladesh who won asylum in 2004, reports Politico. The case signals that immigrants in the U.S. can have their protections questioned or revoked at any time. Barr’s reasoning for reopening the case is still unclear, but for years Bangladesh has pressured the U.S. government to extradite the man based on his role in a coup.
China’s Muslim Uighurs, a persecuted group that lives in western China, have experienced years-long delays in their asylum cases even as the Trump administration has taken steps to punish China for its ill-treatment of this ethnic and religious minority, reports The Wall Street Journal.
The government failed to release detained children by the July 27 deadline given by a judge, reports AP. The main issue still to be resolved is whether parents will be released with their children, reports Vox. ICE has said it will not release parents, although it has the authority to do so. Under the current terms of the court order, parents like Claudia, who is from El Salvador and detained in Texas with her 8-year-old son, would have to consent to the release of their children to sponsors, reports CBS News.
Immigrant Workers & COVID-19
Some immigrants and refugees are finding new labor opportunities due to the pandemic. Visa restrictions shifted the power dynamic for foreign au pairs in an industry that has been rife with exploitation, reports The New York Times. Young workers, from Brazil, Colombia, and Germany, are now receiving up to 50 offers a day from families looking for child care, giving them the chance to demand better working conditions. And when the pandemic made it nearly impossible for newly arrived refugees to find a job, a New Jersey organization gave them sewing machines and they got to work making masks, reports Gothamist and WNYC. From Canada to Greece to Uganda, refugees have used their sewing skills to help their new communities.
But for many immigrant workers, labor dynamics and the economic downturn due to the coronavirus are putting them in precarious positions:
- In California, farm workers were fired after protesting the unsafe conditions that led a quarter of the company’s 400-person workforce getting sick. (PRI’s The World)
- In Colorado, undocumented immigrants are disproportionately affected by the closure of ski resorts and travel restrictions that have devastated the tourism industry. (AP)
- In Arizona, two nonprofits sued the city of Phoenix for excluding undocumented immigrants from rental and mortgage assistance programs. (Arizona Republic)
- In California, communities where many Latino essential workers live have some of the highest positive testing rates: the Central Valley, the Eastside and South and Central Los Angeles and San Francisco’s Mission District. (LA Times)
California’s Attorney General filed a lawsuit to block a Trump administration order to exclude undocumented immigrants from the population count used to determine congressional representation, reports Politico. The lawsuit challenges the order on constitutional grounds. Civil rights and immigrant rights groups in Massachusetts also launched a legal challenge to the order Monday on similar grounds, reports AP.
A poll found that most undecided voters in swing states support a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, an end to family separation at the border, and stopping funding for the border wall, suggesting that pro-immigrant messaging could help the Biden campaign, reports Politico.
Immigration Agency Cuts & Support
Furloughs for more than 13,000 USCIS employees will be postponed until the end of August, reports The Monitor. The announcement came as a relief to many in the state of Vermont, where USCIS is the largest employer in some towns near the Canadian border, reports AP.
On Monday, Senate Republicans announced an economic aid package that would include $3 billion to USCIS and CBP to help the immigration agencies recover from a lack of revenues because of fewer applications during the pandemic, reports Roll Call. The aid package still would not provide assistance for mixed-status families, a major issue with the first package.
Immigration is an International Issue
ICE has deported nearly 200 immigrants to African countries since March, despite border closures, reports Quartz. Most are put on commercial flights, which means the U.S. government has to make special arrangements for deportations now that commercial flights are grounded.
The pandemic has damaged the earning potential of an estimated 164 million migrant workers around the world, forcing some to rely on their families back home to keep them afloat financially, instead of the other way around, reports The New York Times.
The highly visible use of force and intimidation by DHS in Portland and Washington DC calls into question the role of the agency, which was created after September 11 and granted broad powers to protect the country from threats, reports The New Yorker. Immigration lawyers, activists and journalists have experienced targeted harassment and surveillance by DHS for years, reports The Intercept.
- A judge ruled Monday that a case against a Massachusetts judge and court officer who helped an immigrant evade ICE officers for obstruction of justice could proceed. (WBUR)
- New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the state will seek damages for incorrect statements made by the federal government in a case regarding the Trump administration’s decision to cut off New Yorkers from a program that allows travelers to use expedited lanes at airports. (Reuters)
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
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