Migratory Notes 187

Who really built the cages? The Hmong vote? Anonymous no more

Elizabeth Aguilera
Oct 29, 2020 · 14 min read
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Rohingya refugees, unable to vote in their native Myanmar, voted for the first time in Chicago. Photo by Michelle Kanaar for Borderless Magazine.

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#MustReads / #MustListens
For the first time in modern asylum history, the U.S. is sending political dissidents back to the countries they fled, without ever allowing them to present their case for protection from persecution. This riveting and devastating love story produced with This American Life starts in an attic where a couple famous for their opposition to Nicaragua’s government is in hiding. Kevin Sieff’s audio version of the story he originally reported for The Washington Post then traces how Jessica and Moisés got there: They listened to Republicans supporting their position, and wrongly assumed after being brutally tortured and jailed by their government that they would find support in the United States.

Other asylum seekers live in “effectively a refugee camp on the doorstep of the United States, one of several that have sprung up along the border for the first time in the country’s history,” writes New York Times reporter Caitlin Dickerson. Along with photographer Ilana Panich-Linsman, she captures the desperation of migrants at the Matamoros tent camp. When the Trump administration began sending asylum seekers back to Mexico in 2019, the camp across the border from Brownsville, Texas made frequent headlines. But during the elections, these migrants have largely been forgotten until the final debate. About 600 migrants remain. “They are bound together by the one thing they share in common — having nowhere else to go.”

Elections 2020
Immigration has been largely ignored for most of the campaign cycle, reports The Wall Street Journal. But it finally got its moment in the last debate and in the days following it. The LA Times created a handy immigration fact check. By the issue:

Did Trump actually carry out his campaign promises on immigration while in office? Check out this handy guide from the Arizona Republic on his policies on the border wall, “catch and release,” DACA and more. If Biden wins, he says he would completely change immigration policy, but even his campaign advisers are unclear on how far he’d go to undo Trump’s policies, reports ProPublica.

Experts predict a Biden victory could spark a renewed surge from Central America, reports the LA Times. The Biden administration has come up with a plan that would mark a departure from Trump’s “bullying” methods and a return to Obama’s approach of trying to address root causes of migration, reports The New York Times. Biden’s 2016 trip to Guatemala to attend the inauguration of President Jimmy Morales offers a glimpse into the potential for restoration of strong US-Latin American relations under the Biden administration, reports The Atlantic.

Immigrant Voters

Anonymous No More
Former DHS chief of staff Miles Taylor admitted he was the anonymous author who wrote a 2018 New York Times op-ed calling Trump “impetuous, adversarial, petty and ineffective” that sent shockwaves through Washington’s political circles, reports The New York Times. Taylor has since endorsed Biden and said he regrets not speaking out about family separation sooner. The former DHS official also wrote a book railing against Trump but did not reveal his identity until now.

Border Wall
Border wall construction under the Trump administration costs five times as much per mile as it did under the Obama administration, reports ProPublica/The Texas Tribune. This is due to major changes to border wall construction contracts that drive up the price after the competitive bidding process has ended. These costs have exceeded the budget allocated by Congress and funds are coming from military counter-narcotics funding.

The number of women who allege they were pressured into or did not consent to surgery at a Georgia detention center has nearly tripled to 57, reports The Intercept. The new cases related to previous allegations of forced sterilizations at the Irwin County Detention Center were included in a report by lawyers and advocates submitted to Senators in a closed-door meeting. Another report by experts who reviewed more than 3,000 pages of documents identified at least 19 cases of women who received unnecessary surgeries by Dr. Mahendra Amin, reports the LA Times. Amin’s lawyer denied the allegations and said the panel did not review all the necessary records, reports The Wall Street Journal.

On Tuesday, DHS named Luke Bellocchi as its first immigration detention ombudsman who will handle complaints of mistreatment and abuse in detention centers, reports The Washington Post. Bellochi is an immigration attorney who previously worked for CBP and as deputy ombudsman for USCIS under George W. Bush. Meanwhile, ICE is looking to expand its detention centers in New York and New Jersey, even as the overall population has declined during the pandemic, reports NorthJersey.com.

Deportation & Forced Repatriation

Eight Cameroonian migrants filed a civil rights complaint alleging brutal abuse in detention in Mississippi. Five are believed to have been put on a plane back to Cameroon. C.A. is one who who is still detained at Prairieland Detention Center in Texas. “His dramatic story raises questions about what happens to people in the sprawling and secretive civil justice system that governs immigrants,” Dianne Solis writes in the Dallas Morning News.

ICE has stepped up deportations to Haiti, with 12 flights in October, including many asylum seekers, reports the Guardian.

In an interview with AP last week, Trump aide Stephen Miller said the administration will focus on signing agreements that require other countries to accept more asylum seekers. Policies pushed by Miller during the Trump administration have led the U.S. to fall behind Canada as the top country for resettling refugees, reports AP.

While current asylum and refugee restrictions are unprecedented, the U.S. government making callous and self-interested decisions regarding who should be protected from persecution are not new, reports Mother Jones in a deep-dive on the U.S. asylum system. “In sealing off the country completely, the Trump administration has told the world that it wants everyone else to just shut the hell up and leave it alone. Our country is full,” writes Ian Gordon. “Come November, we’ll find out if that’s the story Americans want to keep telling.”

Border Patrol & CBP
The FBI is investigating the death of a man who was shot by Border Patrol Friday after allegedly putting the car in reverse and backing up into an agent, reports the Corpus Christi Caller-Times. Border Patrol said the man was dropping off undocumented immigrants in Laredo, Texas who were then picked up by another car. Two others were injured in the shooting.

CBP refused to explain to Congress the legal grounds for using commercially bought location data to track Americans without a warrant, reports Vice. Companies regularly sell data to law enforcement agencies, but CBP would need a warrant to use this data.

COVID-19 and Borders
Hospitals in sister cities El Paso and Ciudad Juárez are now on the brink of collapse, reports AP. Experts blame large family gatherings and continued non-essential travel despite restrictions. But many Americans say they still need to cross the border for affordable healthcare or medications, reports Borderless Magazine.

Labor and Violence
The death of undocumented Mexican farmworker Jorge Gonzalez in Texas after police officers allegedly beat, tripped and tased him sent shockwaves through the Rio Grande Valley, where undocumented immigrants usually fear deportation more than police brutality, reports The New York Times.

Many immigrants from Laos end up working in California’s illegal marijuana industry when they first arrive, reports the LA Times. The industry can be deadly, as evidenced by the September deaths of seven workers in Aguanga in rural Riverside County. The fact that many of the immigrants recently arrived and had little documentation of their time in the U.S. has made it more difficult for law enforcement to investigate.


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 co-hosts the new political podcast California State of Mind and covers the health and welfare of California’s next generation. Previously she covered health care and social services, including immigration for the digital outlet. Before joining CalMatters Aguilera 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. 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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