Migratory Notes 175

Missing minors, leaderless ICE, asylum fees

Elizabeth Aguilera
Aug 6, 2020 · 13 min read
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A father, right, and his son, who was detained in an American hotel and faced expulsion to Honduras without being able to seek asylum, reports ProPublica and the Texas Tribune. Photo credit: Carolina Guerrero for The Texas Tribune/ProPublica

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Of nearly 3,400 unaccompanied minors apprehended by CBP between April and June, only 162 were transferred to shelters run by the Office of Refugee Resettlement. What happened to the rest of these minors is unknown, reports ProPublica and The Texas Tribune in a deep-dive on the Trump administration’s policy of expelling migrants during the pandemic. “Lawyers have fielded frantic calls from family members whose children suddenly went missing after crossing the U.S. border,” writes Lomi Kriel. Advocates have only found about three dozen of these cases, including a Guatemalan teenager who crossed with her baby and was put in a hotel before she was expelled. The process is illegal, lawyers say, because it does not allow minors to have their cases heard by a judge as the law requires.

In April 2019, Arri Woodson-Camara committed suicide after being separated from her detained husband for 265 days, reports The Atlantic in a heartbreaking story that reminds us that immigrant detention is family separation. Her husband, Issidra Camara, originally from Guinea, was detained at a routine check-in with ICE in 2018, a practice that has become more common under the Trump administration as enforcement priorities have expanded. “No one could have anticipated the trajectory of Camara’s life — his case and situation are distinctive — and yet his story is why immigration advocates are worried about a policy that encourages the detention of noncitizens anytime, anywhere, for any reason,” writes Chris Outcalt.

DHS Shakeup
After a scandal that revealed DHS compiled intelligence reports on journalists and protesters, the agency announced Friday that it reassigned the official responsible, reports The Washington Post. The official, Brian Murphy, was given an administrative role within the agency.

Acting ICE Director Matthew Albence announced his retirement this week, leaving the agency without a leader when he departs at the end of the month. Albence supported the Trump administration’s harsh immigration enforcement agenda, most notably comparing family detention to summer camp in 2018. But he recently advocated for a slowdown of operations during the pandemic, causing tensions with immigration hardliners who criticized him for prioritizing humanitarian concerns over aggressive enforcement, reports Politico.

Albence’s departure comes at a time when officials and politicians are raising concerns that DHS, ICE’s parent agency, lacks internal safeguards against abuse of power, reports The New York Times. Critics accuse current acting DHS head Chad Wolf of accelerating these problems by embracing Trump’s agenda. Other recent reports revealed that Wolf’s second-in-command, Ken Cuccinelli, approved a plan to decrease internal oversight of the agency, reports Politico.

Border Patrol agents in Arizona raided a migrant aid camp Friday run by volunteer group No More Deaths and arrested more than 30 immigrants, reports the Arizona Daily Star. This isn’t the first time the non-profit group has been targeted for its work with immigrants. Volunteer Scott Warren was acquitted in November 2019 for allegedly harboring migrants in a high-profile trial.

Mexican officials evacuated asylum seekers from the Matamoros tent camp after the Rio Grande rose during Hurricane Hanna and flooded the camp, reports Al Jazeera. Even though officials said it was for the migrants’ safety, some residents resisted relocation out of distrust for officials, who have tried to close the camp in the past against migrants’ wishes.

After Texas began to reopen its economy, cases shot up in the Rio Grande Valley, where 90 percent of residents are Hispanic and two-thirds are uninsured, reports the Houston Chronicle. Experts believe these structural inequalities are to blame for high case counts, rather than cultural reasons often cited such as Mexican families’ affinities for large parties.

Border Wall
A 33-year-old Mexican man died Saturday after falling off the border wall in Arizona, reports Newsweek. It is the second known death this year of a migrant who fell off the wall. Meanwhile, Fisher Sand & Gravel, a company whose CEO supports Trump, was awarded another border wall contract to build a 17-mile border wall in Laredo, Texas, reports The Border Report.

The Trump administration announced Friday it will charge immigrants to seek asylum, becoming one of only four countries to charge fees for seeking protection, reports the Miami Herald. The rule published by USCIS includes fee increases for other basic immigration procedures, including an 81% increase for naturalization, the final step to becoming a citizen.

Immigrant Workers & COVID-19
At least 1,500 workers at meatpacking and food processing plants in Milwaukee have tested positive for COVID-19 and eight have died, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. An investigation revealed some companies took weeks to implement protective measures and government agencies tasked with overseeing workplace conditions failed to act. Across the country, these industries have seen some of the highest rates of infection among their mainly immigrant workforce.

Clive Thompson Jr., a DACA recipient from Jamaica, has lived for the past two years with his parents in a Philadelphia church where they sought sanctuary. Then his life was about to radically change: He was accepted to Columbia University. But like other DACA recipients, he does not qualify for most financial aid for universities, reports The Inquirer. “DACA authorizes us to work, but keeps us in a place of work where we can’t really improve ourselves,” he said.

Tens of thousands of other immigrant youth have been kept out of DACA due to the Trump administration not accepting new applicants. “Their lack of DACA status has altered relationships, bred resentment and sparked awkward silences between family members who have legal status and those who don’t,” write Cindy Carcamo and Molly O’Toole in The LA Times.

Stephen Miller
During the family separation crisis, the Trump administration pressured Commander Jonathan White of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps to downplay the impact of separations on children’s health and development, reports The Daily Beast in an excerpt from Separated: Inside an American Tragedy by Jacob Soboroff. When he refused to lie to a congressional committee, he drew the ire of Trump aide Stephen Miller.

Who is David Horowitz? One of Stephen Miller’s greatest influences, reports Politico in a profile adapted from Jean Guerrero’s new book on Stephen Miller, Hatemonger. Horowitz, an 81-year-old think tank founder and immigration opponent, “is Jewish like Miller, argues that Protestant Christian doctrines are fundamental to America and are under direct assault by Muslims, progressives and anyone who argues with his ideology,” Guerrero writes. In 2012, Horowitz encouraged Miller to circulate among Senate Republicans a strategy paper. In it he argued that Obama had used hope to get elected, but “fear is a much stronger and more compelling emotion” and urged Republicans to tap into its voter base’s hostile feelings to achieve its political goals.

Immigration is an International Issue
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights will hear the case of Anastasio Hernandez Rojas, a Mexican man beaten to death by border patrol officers in 2010. It will be the first known case of a killing by U.S. law enforcement to be heard by the international body, reports the San Diego Union-Tribune. Three police officers in El Salvador were sentenced to 20 years for the murder of Camila Diaz Cordova, a trans woman deported in 2018 after seeking asylum in the U.S., in the first conviction for the murder of a trans woman in El Salvador, reports NBC News.

Canada announced last week that it will start cracking down on Americans entering the country during the pandemic to supposedly travel to Alaska, a legal loophole that allows U.S. citizens to enter, reports NPR. Many plan to hike or boat with no intention of reaching Alaska. It’s not the only policy change towards the U.S. from its “friendly” northern neighbor. After a Canadian court ruled a Safe Third Country Agreement with the U.S. was unlawful, the country now has six months to decide whether to discontinue or rewrite the agreement, reports Voice of America.

Public Charge
Two federal appeals courts this week issued different rulings on public charge:

For now, public charge remains on hold nationwide due to an injunction from a New York federal judge last week, who found evidence that it would prevent immigrants from pursuing coronavirus tests and treatment, reports Courthouse News Service.

Immigration Restrictions & COVID-19
A recent poll showed the majority of Americans support restrictions on immigration and border crossings during the pandemic, reports NPR. However, the Trump administration’s immigration policies are unpopular when they are not related to stopping the spread of the virus.


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

  • Detention Dispatches by Capital & Main follows the conditions in ICE detention centers during the pandemic.
  • 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

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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