Migratory Notes 18
A solar-paneled border wall; Ellis Island of the South
New York City is home to the nation’s busiest immigration court, with a backlog of 80,000 cases. Yet, judges recently started disappearing. WNYC’s Beth Fertig tracked down eight of 29 of the judges and found them reassigned to border areas, even though there does not appear to be a greater need there as crossing numbers decline. In addition, the backlog is smaller with waits only a couple of months versus about two years in New York.
Meanwhile, at the remote LaSalle detention facility in Georgia, judges from around the country are being flown in to fast-track immigration hearings far from legal aid. “The new setup is part of Donald Trump’s attempts to ramp up deportations by vastly expanding the arrest powers of federal immigration enforcement and prioritizing more vulnerable groups of detained migrants in new court locations around the country,” The Guardian’s Oliver Loaugland writes.
Previous efforts have by and large failed to reduce the backlog. Reveal’s Andrew Becker reports that in the past 10 years, despite doubling the annual budget for the nation’s 58 immigration courts, the backlog is now approaching 600,000 and courts are taking longer to rule, according to a new Government Accountability Office report.
Travel Ban Tweetstorm
Trump’s pre-dawn tweetstorm on June 5 may have ramifications for the Supreme Court decision on the travel ban, such as this clarification: “People, the lawyers and the courts can call it whatever they want, but I am calling it what we need and what it is, a TRAVEL BAN!” In case you need a refresher on who said what on whether this is, or is this not, a travel ban, The Washington Post created a video timeline.
Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick breaks down how tweets like this are turning DOJ into more of a mockery. And Kellyanne Conway’s husband, conservative lawyer George Conway tweeted that Trump’s actions “won’t help” get five votes from the Supreme Court.
Who says Trump’s policies are not good for the environment? The president pitched Republican leaders on a solar-paneled border wall. The electricity generated would help cover the cost of a massive 40- to 50-foot high wall. “I’m glad he’s being innovative and I’m fully supportive of helping him build the wall however we can legislatively,” House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La) told The Hill. “He is continuing to pursue every option to make sure it happens.”
The number of temporary farm laborers has been steadily increasing in California, and so far show a 25% increase over last year. But while the strawberries farmworkers harvest are highly coveted, this influx of workers is not always welcome. The Los Angeles Times reports they can’t find a place to live except “seedy roadside hotels and crowded housing in cities where affordable shelter is already limited.” Tensions are so high that one development was burned to the ground before workers could move in.
Obama hired ICE officers to do community outreach. But under Trump they have been re-assigned to field calls from people trying to deport immigrants, Foreign Policy reports. They have been transferred to the office of Victims of Immigrant Crime Engagement or VOICE.
The battle to halt Texas’ sanctuary cities ban, SB4, which will allow police to question the immigration status of anyone being detained, is gaining steam with at least three counter lawsuits filed. Lawyers who helped stop the travel ban are being sent to Texas, Texas Tribune reports.
Tiny El Cenizo — population 3,300 — was the first city to file suit. The Washington Post reports that its young mayor is symbolic of a battle playing out in Texas between progressive, mostly Hispanic younger activists and the conservative, white power establishment.
A movement to boycott Texas is percolating. The American Immigration Lawyers Association is relocating its 2018 conference, Texas Tribune reports. And two senators are calling on South by Southwest to do the same with its festival, according to NBC News.
Ellis Island — past and present
A small town in Georgia has taken in more than 40,000 refugees over the past quarter century from across the globe, write the Guardian. The self-proclaimed “Ellis Island of the south” is also now seeing its population rise because of middle-class professionals “who — in the words of the city’s 34-year-old mayor, Ted Terry — are “in search of all the trappings of diversity.””
Follow up: Slaves, Lie Detectors
The Atlantic built on its recent cover story “My Family’s Slave,” to use it as an example of a problem in the visa system where people become vulnerable because of their immigration status. Domestic workers, hotel housekeepers and construction workers are most susceptible to trafficking, with the State Department estimating 14,500 to 17,500 immigrants trafficked each year.
Customs and Border Patrol, an agency where more than 60 percent of applicants fail the lie detector test, just took a step toward waiving that check for some applicants in an effort to expand hiring under Trump. A similar bill is making its way through the Senate.
That’s all for Migratory Notes 19. We’re both based in LA, so help us out by letting us know what’s going on elsewhere. We realize this is in no way a complete list. If there’s a story you think we should consider, please send us an email.
Thank you to those who helped this week, knowingly or unknowingly: The extraordinary Jacque Boltik gets a special thank you for creating our new template. Dalia Espinoza, Madeleine Bair, Jesse Hardman, Sue Cross, Jason Alcorn, Cindy Carcamo’s FB posts, Voice of San Diego Border Report, Global Nation Exchange FB group, Marshall Project newsletter, Xavier Maciel’s Sanctuary Schools newsletter, Migration Information Source, and countless tweeters.
*Daniela Gerson is an assistant professor at California State University, Northridge with a focus on community, ethnic, and participatory media. She is also a senior fellow at the Democracy Fund. Before that she was a community engagement editor at the LA Times; founding 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. You can find her on Twitter @dhgerson
*Elizabeth Aguilera is a multimedia reporter for CALmatters covering health and social services, including immigration. 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 before that she covered a variety of beats and issues for the Denver Post including urban affairs and immigration. Her latest story looks at how Democrats eye health care for California’s undocumented young adults. You can find her on Twitter @1eaguilera