Migratory Notes 188

What Latino vote? Samosa Caucus and Hindu politics, young Michigan Muslims

Daniela Gerson
Nov 5, 2020 · 15 min read
Mariachis serenade first-time immigrant voters at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, also known as CHIRLA, brought the mariachis. Photo by Marguerite de Bourgoing.

Immigrants and the Elections
The big reveal on election night seemed to be that Latino voters are not homogenous, and many vote Republican. But since you read Migratory Notes, we assume you already knew that. “None of this is new, and I’m frankly getting bored of having to explain Latino conservatives every election cycle,” Gustavo Arellano writes in a column in the LA Times in which he describes Democrats as “an ossified institution that continuously banks on Latinos running to it for protection from the mean GOP, then does little to keep us.” (Roberto Suro has a round up of tweet threads on journalists extensive election coverage on the diversity within the Latino electorate.)

Here are early results from exit polls and reporting on the different roles Latino and immigrant communities played in select swing states:

Nationwide, the lack of campaigning around immigration seemed to match voters’ attitudes: immigration was not in the top five issues determining vote for president according to exit polls, reports The New York Times. Topping the list for Democrats was racial inequality and for Republicans the economy.

For many immigrants without permanent legal status, this election may determine their future. The waiting has been agony for DACA participants, reports BuzzFeed News. Some found comfort in numbers. A message from a D.C. college student: “Illegals, do y’all want to watch the election together?” resulted in dozens of undocumented strangers watching the election together, and planned for what comes next, reports The Washington Post.

Meanwhile, in Ciudad Juarez, Cuban asylum seekers watched with dismay as their compatriots boosted Trump in Florida reports Reuters. And a Guatemalan mother and her teenage son living at a church in Austin, Texas to avoid immigration enforcement hoped a Biden win would mean she would never be forcefully separated from her son, reports NPR.

For others, the election meant an opportunity to represent their immigrant communities. Here is a selection of state and local wins from from around the country:


Sergio Garcia was a public defender in El Paso, when he stumbled on family separation cases under a 2017 pilot program in El Paso, becoming the first lawyer to try to figure out why children were being taken from parents and grandparents. He didn’t know then that the pilot plan, which was about to be expanded border-wide, was being carried out by Border Patrol and the Justice Department without telling other institutions, making it more difficult to track the separations.

The secondary trauma of immigration lawyers’ work during the Trump administration has caused some to cut back cases or leave the profession altogether. “Four years into this migration crisis, there’s a parallel migration underway — of immigration lawyers out of the profession,” writes Marcia Brown in the American Prospect. “It’s a system designed to add hours and expenses to every case, creating uncertainty about the law itself, injustice in the courts, and the ever-present risk and emotional fear that a client might get deported and killed.”

Public Charge
A federal judge ruled against the Trump administration’s public charge rule, which denies green cards to immigrants who use public benefits. The judge called the rule “arbitrary and capricious” and ruled it exceeded the authority of the executive branch. But a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday to allow it to remain in effect while it considers the case. The case could go all the way to the Supreme Court.

Judges Union
The Trump administration won its bid Tuesday to dismantle the immigration judges union, which represents more than 450 U.S. immigration judges and has been a vocal critic of the Trump administration’s policies, reports Law360.

Remain in Mexico & Asylum
DHS and CBP took deliberate steps in 2018 to limit the number of asylum seekers processed along the U.S.-Mexico border, according to a new Office of the Inspector General report. The report confirms what many immigrant advocates have been saying: the U.S. has been intentionally limiting the number of asylum seekers who can enter under false claims about lack of processing capacity.

A class-action lawsuit filed Monday alleges the U.S. violated laws that protect people with disabilities from discrimination by placing them in the Remain in Mexico program, reports TIME. Lawyers say the lawsuit could allow hundreds of immigrants with disabilities or mental health conditions to wait in the U.S. while their cases are decided.

Rapid Expulsions & Deportations
The U.S. has sent unaccompanied minors from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras to Mexico under a pandemic-era rule to rapidly expel border crossers and these expulsions violate its own policies and an agreement with Mexico that specified the country would not receive unaccompanied minors who were not from Mexico, reports The New York Times. At least 8,800 unaccompanied minors have been rapidly expelled without a hearing or asylum screening during the pandemic, reports CBS News.

The government is now transporting families and children marked for rapid expulsion more than 100 miles from the border to a detention center in Texas with active COVID-19 before they are expelled, reports CBS News. “The twisted irony is that the alleged purpose of the CDC’s authority under Title 42 is to promote public health and avoid COVID-19 outbreaks in prisons. Yet, by concentrating the detention of families in Title 42 at the Karnes family prison, where there have been multiple confirmed cases of COVID-19, ICE increases the risk of transmission,” said attorney Andrea Meza.

The Trump administration has quietly deported more than 250 Venezuelans this year in possible violation of U.S. and international asylum law, reports Vice News.

A BuzzFeed News investigation of deaths in ICE custody uncovered 5,000 documents that reveal a pattern of inadequate care. Findings include:

  • Guards falsely reported welfare checks of detainees in solitary confinement.
  • A consulting firm hired by ICE to review one death offered to exclude troublesome information in its report.
  • Medical staff did not always use an interpreter to communicate with migrants who were not fully fluent in English

Guards at a Maryland jail, which rents bed space to ICE, strip-searched immigrant detainees after they went anywhere outside their dormitory in violation of detention policy, an internal watchdog report revealed, reports The Washington Post.

A witness in an ongoing investigation into allegations of medical neglect and unnecessary, invasive medical procedures that led to sterilization at Georgia’s Irwin County Detention Center was scheduled for deportation Monday, reports The Intercept. A lawyer says she can’t be deported because she is a U.S. citizen. Her deportation has been halted for now.

New research revealed that COVID-19 cases rose more rapidly in detention centers from April to August compared to the general population, reports KJZZ Fronteras Desk. Advocates are calling for an investigation into ICE’s mitigation strategies.

ICE chief Tony Pham has said that he followed a “lawful path to citizenship” as a refugee who fled Vietnam with his family as a toddler. But details about his family’s immigration story show that immigration stories are not always black and white, writes his cousin for Medium’s GEN. A close family friend known as Mr. Edwards who worked at the U.S. embassy provided a letter in support of Pham’s father, who he wrote was his brother-in-law. That detail was not true, but it could have helped the family get out of any trouble if their paperwork was questioned. “[Mr. Edwards’] courage shows the hollow protestations of many conservative immigrants like my cousin who say they “did it the right way” when they came to America, while those seeking refuge here today are shameful and inferior,” writes Philippa PB Hughes.

The Immigrant Rights Clinic at New York University Law School documented more than 1,000 cases of alleged retaliation against immigration activists by ICE, the first project to show these cases are part of a larger pattern, rather than isolated incidents, reports The Intercept.

Border Wall
To some, the border wall represents a fulfilled campaign promise, but to others it was a reason to vote Trump out of office, reports The New York Times. Here’s a look at how border wall construction has affected different communities:

Cameroonian writer Nkiacha Atemnkeng finally got the opportunity of his dreams: the chance at an international writing residency. But tightening immigration restrictions under the Trump administration meant a visa rejection kept him from the opportunity, and then another and another. “Embassies make a lot of money off visa applications. (In fact, Africans are estimated to lose at least $50m in rejected visa applications to the west each year.) The default mode at the US embassy is: reject,” he writes in a personal essay for The Guardian on the mental toll these rejections can have.


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

*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

A weekly informed and concise guide to immigration news.

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