Migratory Notes 179

Louisiana detention boom; African migrants elected; Black diplomat deterred

Daniela Gerson
Sep 3, 2020 · 13 min read
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In the past few years, dozens of African immigrants to Minnesota have entered politics, propelled by Trump’s anti-immigrant and anti-Black policies, reports Sahan Journal. Somali American Hodan Hassan serves as a Minnesota State House Representative. Credit: Photo courtesy of Hodan Hassan.

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#MustRead / #MustListen
As a diplomat, Tianna Spears should have had no problems crossing the border into the U.S. But on short trips from Ciudad Juárez to El Paso she repeatedly was singled out for questioning. Spears believes that Customs and Border Protection officers targeted her because she was Black. “It wasn’t just the frequency of the delays and searches that was becoming a problem. CBP officers seemed to be escalating their harassment,” Spears writes in a searing personal piece for Politico Magazine. “CBP is the largest police force in the country, and one that I was learning operates with some autonomy — a lot of rules that apply to other law enforcement agencies don’t apply in their zone, including rules on searches and seizures.” The differential treatment led to a diagnosis of PTSD and eventually pushed Spears to leave the State Department.

COVID & Detention
A 50-year-old Honduran man detained in Conroe, Texas died after testing positive for COVID-19, reports BuzzFeed News. At least 19 immigrants have died in ICE custody this fiscal year, the highest since 2006. La Palma Correctional Center in Eloy, Arizona reported more than 230 active COVID-19 cases last week, the highest in any ICE detention center, reports AP. As the virus has spread, thousands of detained immigrants have protested via hunger strikes, reports In These Times. Since March, more than 2,500 immigrants have participated in hunger strikes, compared to 1,600 total from 2015 to 2019.

With no running water or electricity after Hurricane Laura hit Louisiana, toilets soon overflowed with feces and blood at one detention center and detainees said they slept outside to escape the heat because the air conditioning was not working, reports Mother Jones. Advocates accuse ICE of mistreatment of detainees in Louisiana after the hurricane, which has become a detention hub under Trump, reports AP. Complaints have increased since ICE began expanding for-profit detention centers in the South last year.

A Trump administration proposal would massively expand the biometric data the government collects from immigrants, including eye scans, voice prints, DNA, and photographs for facial recognition, reports BuzzFeed News. DHS claims the practice will prevent fraud in immigration cases, but critics say it violates immigrants’ privacy.

New Jersey passed a law that will allow immigrants without legal status to obtain professional and occupational licenses, in an effort to protect “essential workers” from hiring discrimination based on immigration status, reports NorthJersey.com. The state follows California, New Mexico and Nevada, which have passed similar laws.

Many young TikTok users, including children of farm workers and minors who do farm work themselves, have taken to the platform to expose the exploitive conditions in the industry, which have come under more scrutiny during the pandemic, reports Vice News.

Family Separation
Of the estimated 2,500 families separated at the border and eligible for government-funded mental health services, only about 200 have accepted the services, reports the Miami Herald. Seneca Family of Agencies, the nonprofit tasked with offering these services, has faced many challenges, including tracking people down, overcoming mental health stigma and carrying out telehealth services during the pandemic.

ICE announced Tuesday it had carried out more than 2,000 arrests during a six-week period in July and August in the biggest enforcement operation during the pandemic, reports CBS News. Most were convicted of crimes where there was a victim and are not eligible for release from detention during COVID-19. Overall, arrests have decreased during the pandemic. From October 2019 to August 2020, ICE arrested around 50,000 fewer people than in the same time period the year before. But even in areas with decreased ICE activity, Latino high school students still experience anxiety, PTSD and depression related to worries about immigration enforcement, according to a new study by the Migration Policy Institute.

Asylum & Refugees
A federal judge Monday blocked a Trump administration memorandum that would have allowed CBP agents to carry out asylum screenings, which have been conducted by USCIS asylum officers for the past 20 years, reports NPR. The judge said CBP officers lack sufficient training for these life-or-death interviews.

Border Wall
CBP announced plans to extend the border wall near San Diego into the Tijuana River, but experts worry stopping the river flow will cause environmental disaster, reports the Border Report. As of August, Trump had constructed 30 miles of new border barrier where there was none before and had secured funding for another 157 miles, reports Bloomberg. He is still short of reaching his campaign promise. Meanwhile, a new engineering report finds the privately built part of the wall will fail, reports ProPublica and Texas Tribune.

Border & Travel Restrictions
Democratic legislators sent a letter to the Canadian government asking them to allow entry of U.S. citizens living in northern border communities in Minnesota and Washington, reports Politico. The areas are geographically isolated from many other parts of the U.S., so residents have to travel through Canada by land to reach U.S. cities where more services are available. Canada barred non-essential travel in March and the decision has caused tension along the world’s longest border, where people have crossed freely for years, reports CNN. With high case numbers in the U.S., Canadian officials are unlikely to loosen restrictions soon.

Jose Palomar, a 27-year-old father, is among the many who left the U.S. to normalize their immigration status only to be stuck outside the country for months because of consulate and embassy closures, reports the OC Register. Palomar is still awaiting an appointment for an interview for a green card, which he is eligible for as the spouse of a U.S. citizen.

Months into the pandemic, experts are still trying to understand trends in money sent back to migrants’ families. In the first six months of 2020, remittances to Colombia, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala decreased compared to the same period the year before, but remittances to Mexico and Dominican Republic grew, reports AP.

Immigration is an International Issue
New research contradicts the common thinking that aid deters migration, reports The Economist. In fact, development can lead to an increase in migration as citizens have more money to spend on smugglers or travel fees. “Rather than trying to create programmes to deter migrants, aid agencies could instead spend on schemes to channel them towards legal pathways, which tend to be safer, and which give the host country more control over who comes,” writes The Economist.

Around the world, immigrants are being blamed for the spread of COVID-19 with little proof:

In contrast, because of early measures to prepare for COVID-19, many refugee camps from Greece to South Sudan to Syria have avoided outbreaks that were predicted at the start of the pandemic, reports The Washington Post.

Immigrant Communities & COVID-19
Loan company Oportun Inc. claims to be a lifeline for Latino immigrant communities, helping them to build credit, but an investigation by ProPublica and The Texas Tribune revealed a web of practices that exploit its mainly Latino customer base through high interest rates and lawsuits to intimidate them. The company also claimed to offer a special program for those facing economic hardship during the pandemic, but did not mention it to many customers.


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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

Daniela Gerson

Written by

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

Migratory Notes

A weekly informed and concise 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

A weekly informed and concise guide to immigration news.

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