Migratory Notes 182

Cleaning Covid; Undoc TV Takeover; Ginsburg’s passing

Daniela Gerson
Sep 24, 2020 · 15 min read
An Oregon vineyard worker, Maricela, took this photo on a day when air quality hit hazardous levels because of unprecedented fires. Still, Maricela kept carefully picking grapes for merlot wine because she could not afford to miss a day. The World’s Monica Campbell says more workers and administrators are contacting her after the story ran about lack of PPE protection, and she is interested in connecting these sources to local reporters in the area. You can contact Campbell here. Photo courtesy of Monica Campbell/Maricela

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When Marta, who suffers from lupus and asthma, was flown between detention facilities she feared she would catch COVID. Months later, infected with the virus, she worried she would make other detainees sick when she was shuttled yet again between facilities. “Marta’s story isn’t an anomaly of the current crisis — it exemplifies a broader pattern of medical negligence on ICE flights,” Angelika Albaladejo reported in a Capital & Main investigation published in The Guardian. “Heart attacks, miscarriages and even a death have all occurred on ICE flights since 2012, according to complaints filed with the agency.”

The professors at the University of Pennsylvania didn’t tell their housekeeper they tested positive for coronavirus. They simply asked Maria, who was increasingly desperate for work as the pandemic spread, to clean their home. Housekeepers, who since the 1980s have shifted from being predominantly Black Americans to immigrants, have been placed in a particularly precarious situation with the coronavirus, reports The New York Times. “Because most of these people are undocumented, they have not received any kind of government relief,” Ai-jen Poo, executive director of the Domestic Workers Alliance, told the Times. “We’re talking about a full-blown humanitarian crisis, a Depression-level situation for this workforce.”

Marco Antonio Galvan Gomez started showing COVID-19 symptoms while working at a potato factory in the Texas Panhandle in July. But he kept going to work for fear he would lose his job which he relied upon for his visa, reports The Texas Observer. He died about a week later, a tragic example of the dire situations for workers at these farms that rely on legal temporary migrant labor even during the pandemic.

Detention & COVID-19
A 61-year-old Mexican man held at Stewart Detention Center in Georgia died of COVID-related complications Monday, becoming the third at that facility reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. A judge had previously ordered the man released because of a chronic illness that left him vulnerable to COVID-19, but ICE failed to release him, reports BuzzFeed News.

In South Florida, detainees who have tested positive for the virus have been taken out of isolation and required to attend with other migrants virtual and in person court hearings, the Miami Herald reports. A spokesperson with the National Association of Immigration Judges said they had heard similar reports elsewhere and that “ICE has failed to develop a consistent and transparent protocol to inform the judges and the stakeholders about the presence of COVID-positive individuals in the courthouse.”

Among detention centers, Jackson Parish in Louisiana has the highest number of active COVID cases, at 84 active cases as of Sept. 22, according to ICE. Second highest is Adelanto in California, where more than 50 detainees have tested positive for COVID-19 during the detention center’s latest outbreak, and 20 could be at high risk, reports the Palm Springs Desert Sun.

Sterilizations in Detention
An AP investigation did not find evidence of mass hysterectomies of detained women in Georgia, but it did reveal more details on at least eight gynecological procedures Dr. Mahendra Amin performed on women in ICE custody since 2017. Some women did not consent or did not understand the procedures, according to a review of medical records and interviews with lawyers. Another investigation in Prison revealed other questionable procedures. “It was a daily battle to get basic care, so it was just odd to hear from women about all of the gynecological care,” Rev. Leeann Culbreath, a member of the South Georgia Immigrant Support Network, told Prism.

Democratic members of congress allege that ICE tried to deport for speaking out one of the patients who says she suffered the unwanted removal of a fallopian tube, 30-year-old Pauline Binam from Cameroon, reports NPR. ICE removed her from a deportation flight last week but denied her deportation was related to the allegations.

ICE announced Tuesday it will no longer send detained immigrant women to Amin.

Sick in Detention
The problems of healthcare in detention extend beyond COVID. A year-long investigation by the House Homeland Security Committee based on more than 400 interviews revealed medical care in ICE custody does not meet the guidelines the agency has set out for itself. In response, ICE said it takes the recommendations seriously and will further investigate. But the fact that 70 percent of ICE facilities are run by private corporations means calls for change often fall on deaf ears because private companies have no incentive to improve care, reports The New Yorker.

The allegations against ICE include:

  • Downplaying the seriousness of suicide attempts
  • Unanswered sick calls
  • Overuse of solitary confinement that affects mental health of detainees
  • Retaliation for submitting too many medical requests or participating in hunger strikes.

Judge Amy Coney Barrett, who legal analysts believe is the leading candidate to replace Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, has a history of rulings that harm vulnerable groups, reports Slate. For instance, a decision allowed an immigrant to be deported to El Salvador even though he feared torture. Barrett, a mother of seven with two adopted children from Haiti, has more recently as an appellate judge authored opinions supporting public charge and consular rights to deny visas, reports ScotusBlog.

Other possible candidates, such as Republican Senator Tom Cotton and former solicitor general Noel Francisco, also have conservative views on immigration, reports New York Magazine. Ginsburg, the daughter of Russian immigrants, voted in favor of immigrant rights in many key cases, including those about DACA, the census, and immigrant detention, reports Law360.

The oversaturated and underfunded immigration courts have grown much more chaotic under the Trump administration. Why? Because these courts are where “two conflicting imperatives meet,” writes Gabriel Thompson in an in depth look at tumult in the San Francisco courts for Longreads. “The first is Constitutional: the right to due process — for an immigrant to receive a full hearing in front of an impartial judge. The second is political: Trump wants to deport asylum seekers quickly.”

Public Charge
The Trump administration announced Tuesday it will reinstate the public charge rule that allows the government to limit green cards for immigrants who have used or might use public benefits, reports CBS News. The rule was temporarily blocked by a judge during the pandemic until two court orders suspended the ruling last month.

USCIS plans to furlough 800 private contractors because of budget shortfalls, a move that will likely further delay immigration applications, reports the Michigan Advance, part of the States Newsroom collaboration. The agency rolled back a plan to furlough more than 13,000 workers after Congress approved a bailout plan.

Border Wall
Border Patrol agents broke up a protest by the O’odham Anti Border Collective in Arizona by forcibly separating protesters forming a human chain in the latest of an ongoing dispute over border wall construction on the O’odham people’s sacred land, reports the Arizona Republic. In a separate dispute last week, a woman attacked protesters from the Kumeyaay tribe who had set up tents along the California-Mexico border, reports the Border Report.

Rapid Expulsions
On Monday, a U.S. judge denied the Trump administration’s request to continue detaining minors in hotels pending an ongoing appeal, reports the Arizona Republic. More than 660 children, most without a parent and some as young as 3, were held in hotels between April and July by ICE before they were rapidly expelled under a coronavirus-era rule. The administration has until September 28 to end the practice. In a congressional hearing Wednesday, DHS head Chad Wolf said the agency has detained minors in hotels for years.

Immigrant advocates fear Border Patrol plans to rapidly expel dozens of undocumented immigrants arrested Wednesday at a Phoenix “drop house” where smugglers hold immigrants, reports the Arizona Republic. ICE usually handles these arrests, and would have to process these migrants.

ICE plans to start a nation-wide program to swab immigrants who are arrested and fingerprinted for DNA in October, expanding on a pilot program active in Dallas since May, reports BuzzFeed News. The agency is considering prosecution of the detained immigrants who refuse DNA collection.

Kao Saelee, an immigrant from Laos who fought wildfires as an incarcerated firefighter in California while serving a 22-year sentence for robbery, was transferred to ICE custody upon his release, reports The Guardian. In California, the controversial practice is not required by law but the state has sent hundreds of released inmates to ICE custody this year.

Elections 2020
The U.S. election will likely determine if the U.S. will continue the trend of declining foreign student enrollment at universities, as immigration policies under Trump have made them feel less welcome, reports The Atlantic. “The effect of these moves on America’s economic dynamism and geopolitical power would likely be profound,” writes Peter Beinhart. “But, more intimately, they would also make America’s campuses less able to foster the kind of cosmopolitan, multicultural climates that produced the first Black president and perhaps the first Black (and female) vice president.”

Two dozen scientists signed a letter supporting Joe Biden for president last week because they believe Trump’s restrictive immigration policies have damaged computer research and the tech industry, reports The New York Times.

Immigrant Communities & COVID-19
More than 36,500 Latinos in the U.S. have died of COVID-19 and the long-term psychological, social and economic impacts are still unknown, reports The Washington Post. “You know, sometimes it feels like we’re just another number, another statistic. I’ve seen on social media how people say, it’s just the 1 percent of the population that it’s affecting,” said Monica Muñoz, a San Antonio resident whose father and grandfather died of COVID-19. “But it happened to us. Two heads of households. Two fathers.”

Immigration Journalism & Television
Immigrants on television are three times more likely to be undocumented than in reality. People who watch shows with immigrants are more likely to support their rights. These are some of the findings from an extensive USC and Define America research initiative on how immigrants are represented on television, and its impact on audiences.

Two new books document the deportation and enforcement machine that has expanded under the Trump administration to exclude as many immigrants as possible, Julia Preston writes in the New York Review of Books. The Deportation Machine by Adam Goodman traces the long history of policing, intimidation and scare tactics to force millions of people out of the U.S. since the 1880s. The Battle to Stay in America by Michael Kagan explains how immigration law has been designed to “perpetuate an excluded immigrant underclass with diminished rights” and the human impact of these policies.


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

  • Immigrant & Democracy from Harvard University’s immigration initiative.
  • 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

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