Migratory Notes 185
Detention times triple, deported by Barrett, cocaine tunnels
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Gerson Alvarenga-Flores, who had been targeted by MS-13 for witnessing a murder, was deported to El Salvador in 2018 after Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett ruled that minor discrepancies in his case disqualified him for asylum even though she had the power to grant him protection. Now, he barely leaves his parents’ home, terrified he will be murdered, reports The Intercept. “Alvarenga’s story speaks not only to how Barrett might rule on such immigration cases, but to the systemic regulatory disaster of the U.S. asylum process itself: how it fails to protect the persecuted,” writes John Washington.
As the U.S. border wall has made it more difficult for drug traffickers to cross openly above ground, they have moved underground into tunnels. The 80-year-old Nogales drainage system connecting Mexico to Arizona has become a hotspot for drug cartels to move cocaine, reports The Washington Post in a story that takes readers on a journey into these labyrinths. “The cocaine travels north through the sewer. Sometimes the traffickers send it floating in bags on a river of wastewater. Sometimes they crawl with it through mud and human excrement until they hit U.S. soil,” writes Kevin Sieff.
Border Patrol told a Honduran mother she would be sent to Mexico without her newborn baby after agents found her in a field in Eagle Pass, Texas shortly after she gave birth, reports the LA Times. A lawyer said it was the second case of a mother temporarily separated from her newborn to be processed by Border Patrol. Officials deny that they planned to separate the family. The mother and child have since been reunited.
A 2017 family separation “pilot program” in Texas determined kids should be given a maturity test to confirm they could find their way back to parents on their own, according to a DOJ memo obtained by NBC News. The memo never reached high-level members of the Justice Department in Washington DC.
An ICU nurse says “she does not want more parades, fly-overs or signs. She wants the U.S. government to release her husband from immigration detention and allow him to stay in the U.S. with their children,” writes Camilo Montoya-Galvez for CBS News. Amir Ali has been fighting deportation for 15 years. But in the past Pakistan has refused to accept deportees like him. This time when he checked in with ICE authorities said they thought he could deport him and he was taken into custody where the 47-year-old cancer survivor may have gotten COVID. Meanwhile a campaign has been launched by the ACLU and Kamala Harris for a stay of removal.
The Federal Bureau of Land Management has interpreted a border wall as an important way to reach its goal of protecting wild spaces, reports Las Cruces Sun-News. “When it declares an area a wilderness, that means the land is supposed to be ‘untrammeled.’ That’s what the law says. It’s difficult to do that when you have illegal traffic going through, and smuggling in various forms,” said one official. On Indigenous People’s Day, members of the Kumeyaay Nation protested border wall construction in San Diego, where construction continues despite a court ruling that determined the Trump administration illegally transferred funds for construction, reports KPBS.
Asylum seekers from Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo were deported Tuesday, amidst national protests against the action. Two were pulled off the flight, part of an investigation into abuse they alleged they endured in U.S. custody, reports NBC News. The asylum seekers say they fear they could be arrested or killed upon return and some say they were coerced into signing deportation documents. “In the U.S. asylum system, a legitimate fear of death does not guarantee protection, reports The San Diego Union-Tribune in a separate series on asylum.
U.S. border agents in Guatemala violated State Department regulations when they detained and sent back Honduran migrants in January, according to a Senate Foreign Relations Committee report. The regulations prohibit agents from carrying out enforcement operations on foreign soil, reports The Wall Street Journal. The Guatemalan government plans to investigate the U.S. actions, reports Al Jazeera.
In many communities which have long held cooperation between ICE and law enforcement authorities, local elections could create new limits, reports The Appeal. Check out this map and handy guide to 12 elections where immigration policy is on the ballot.
A decision by former Attorney General Jeff Sessions to prohibit immigration judges from closing cases through what’s called “administrative closure” has ended the ability of many immigrants to remain in the U.S., reports LatinoUSA and Documented. The story is part of a series by Documented that investigated the changes and malfunctions of the immigration court system, from video conferencing issues to lost files.
The average time immigrants are held in detention has nearly tripled since Trump took office and extended detention times have put migrants at risk during the pandemic, reports Reuters. ICE has reported eight COVID-related deaths of detainees and more than 6,400 infections. Even after Congress ordered the agency to reduce the number of people detained in February, ICE invested more than $20 million in expanding detention, reports Citizens for Ethics.
African migrants say that racism plays a role in how they are treated in ICE detention, including more time in solitary confinement, higher bond rates and discrimination, reports In These Times. This has led to an increase in hunger strikes in detention centers. The Southern Poverty Law Center has filed a complaint on behalf of several African men held in detention in Louisiana alleging racism and studies from the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services backed up their claims about how migrants from majority Black countries are treated.
In Colorado, immigrant detainees allege in a class-action lawsuit that guards at a detention center there owned by private prison company GEO Group punished them by putting them in solitary confinement for refusing to clean the facility without pay, reports Roll Call.
In stark contrast to four years ago, immigration has taken a backseat during this campaign, with only 15% of voters considering it a top issue, reports CNBC. But it deserves voters’ attention given that Trump has enacted more than 400 immigration actions during his time in office and the election will determine if this agenda continues or is reversed, writes The New York Times Editorial Board.
Latinos tend to support Democratic candidates, but 30% prefer Trump, reports The New York Times. Here’s one possible explanation of Trump’s popularity among Latino men: “The macho allure of Mr. Trump is undeniable,” writes Jenny Medina. “He is forceful, wealthy and, most important, unapologetic.” As the presidential elections near, Latino immigrant voters could have a major impact on the results in some key states:
- In North Carolina, Latinos make up just 4% of the electorate, but they represent a slow demographic shift happening in many parts of the country that could swing the state in favor of Biden. Only 14% percent of Latinos in North Carolina are registered as Republicans. (LA Times)
- In Pennsylvania, Latino voters concerned about access to affordable healthcare could flip the state back to blue after voting for Trump in the last election. (The Guardian)
- In Arizona, at least one-fourth of eligible voters are Latino and Trump’s handling of immigration, the pandemic and the economy are all factors that could turn this Republican stronghold blue. But not all Latino voters agree on who to support and evangelicals are torn during this election. Many support Trump’s views on issues like religious liberty and abortion, but not immigration. (Al Jazeera and The New York Times)
Activists allege that Border Patrol has been dropping off hundreds of migrants in the remote Mexican border town of Sasabe along the border with Arizona, where limited resources and no migrant shelter means they are at risk of being targeted by criminal groups, reports The Intercept. Both Mexican and Central Americans are being left there under a pandemic-era rule to rapidly expel border crossers.
Immigration is an International Issue
In Venezuela, migrants once again are setting out on the dangerous trek to Colombia, Ecuador and Peru but closed shelters because of pandemic restrictions make the journey even more arduous, reports BBC. In the early months of the pandemic, many Venezuelans abroad had returned to their home country.
In Germany, a decrease in new immigrants during the pandemic has led the population to shrink for the first time in a decade, which experts say can cause economic problems in the future for Europe’s second-largest economy, reports the Financial Times.
In France, an apprenticeship program for asylum seekers after they turn 18 has been one of the few options for integration for unaccompanied minors otherwise rejected by the system, reports The New Humanitarian. The pandemic has threatened the future of the program as fewer companies are hiring.
In Pennsylvania, sanctuary in churches appears on the decline, reports The Philadelphia Inquirer. “Call it sanctuary fatigue: Desperate migrants, churches, and supporters joyfully join in protective alliance, only to find a year or so later that all are tired, stressed, and frustrated,” writes Jeff Gammage.
- A Human Rights Watch report denounced the governments of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras for failing to protect LGBT citizens from violence and criticized the U.S. government for restricting asylum for LGBT Central Americans. (Reuters)
- The Mexican government identified two women in ICE custody in Georgia who may have received gynecological surgery without consent or proper translation of what would happen in the procedure. (Reuters)
- Massachusetts politicians sent a letter to ICE asking for more information about a case of a Black jogger in Boston who was questioned by ICE officers who did not identify themselves as law enforcement. (WBUR)
- For immigrants who work as maintenance and cleaning staff, companies’ decisions to continue working from home mean they are still without a job months into the pandemic. (The Boston Globe)
- Los Angeles County agreed to pay $14 million in a payout in a class-action lawsuit for the Sheriff’s Department illegally denying bail to immigrants in order to hold them unconstitutionally to comply with ICE detainers. (NBC Los Angeles)
Jobs, Fellowships & Awards
*Communications Director (Define America)
*Director of Entertainment Partnerships and Advocacy (Define America)
*Senior Manager, Journalism Partnerships and Advocacy (Define America)
Immigration Resources & Opportunities
- Immigrants in COVID America documents the health, economic and social impact of COVID-19. (Immigrant History Research Center)
- 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)
- After the Last Border: Two Families and the Story of Refuge in America by Jessica Goudeau (September 2020)
- Next Migration: The Beauty and Terror of Life on the Move by Sonia Shah argues climate change migration is a solution rather than a crisis. (August 2020)
- Unforgetting: A Memoir of Family, Migration, Gangs, and Revolution in the Americas by Roberto Lovato. (September 2020)
- Hatemonger: Stephen Miller, Donald Trump, and the White Nationalist Agenda by Jean Guerrero (August 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
- 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
- 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