Migratory Notes 192

Daniela Gerson
Dec 10, 2020 · 14 min read

DACA back for good? More kids risking it at border; Ghana Go Bag fashion

Looks like a fashion shoot, but these are plastic bags. New York-based artist Obinna Obioma’s project “Anyi N’Aga” — or “We Are Going” in Igbo — is an exploration of migration focusing on the iconic Ghana Must Go bag, reports The World.

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#MustReads
The caller was gasping for air. “It was someone whose story I’d been following for almost two years, someone whose life I couldn’t imagine could get any harder. Now sick with COVID in the ICU,” opens KQED reporter Sasha Khokha’s intimate audio documentary. Luna Guzman attempts, and fails, three times to reach a California where she will be free of the threats she faces as a trans woman in Guatemala. With voice overs from trans actress Zoey Luna, extensive audio from court trials, WhatsApp messages recorded crossing the border, and video of a concert at a Central Valley drag bar, this meticulously reported story brings alive how the U.S. asylum system often fails LGBTQ migrants who flee violence. Khokha reported with Erin Siegal McIntyre and with support from the International Women’s Media Foundation.

Under the Trump administration, ICE has become the least popular of 10 federal agencies according to one study, and promoted a political agenda that will be hard to shake, reports Buzzfeed in an investigation featuring interviews with more than a dozen past and current ICE officials. “ICE put their MAGA hat on. They’re gonna try to take it off come January, but I don’t know how successful that will be,” one former official told Hamed Aleaziz. (Apparently DHS is not happy with Aleaziz’s access to inside sources: ICE issued a subpoena to BuzzFeed News to reveal sources related to a story on a fast-track deportation program, the department’s latest attempt to erode freedom of the press.)

Biden Administration
Biden tapped California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who is the son of Mexican immigrants, to lead Health and Human Services, a key agency that will deal with the pandemic. Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus said the decision to appoint a Latino to the role signals that the president-elect understands that their communities have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. The caucus members also told the Biden transition team they hope a Latino heads one of the “Big Four” positions as the head of the departments of State, Treasury, Defense or Justice.

DACA
The Trump administration announced Monday it will start receiving new DACA applications for the first time in three years in compliance with a court order to reinstate the program. Many DACA recipients celebrated, while also recognizing they remain in a precarious situation without permanent legislation, reports The New York Times. An estimated 1.3 million people are hoping the Biden administration will keep its promise to fully reinstate DACA, reports the Miami Herald. But the fate of DACA remains uncertain, even in these next few weeks. DHS said it may seek to appeal the court’s decision and 10 state Attorneys general asked a federal judge in Texas to hear a case on the legality of DACA on Dec. 22, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Immigration is an International Issue
DHS extended TPS for citizens of El Salvador, Honduras, Haiti, Nepal, Nicaragua, and Sudan for nine months because of an ongoing dispute in the courts over whether the Trump administration can legally end the programs, reports the Miami Herald. The decision came after more than five million people across Central America were affected by back-to-back hurricanes, and experts say it could take decades for the region to recover, possibly spurring another wave of migration, reports The New York Times.

Last week, Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernández spoke to The Washington Post about his decision to seek TPS extension for Honduran citizens in the U.S. “If they are returned to Honduras, it would have a double negative effect. The United States would lose a labor force and a very important tax contribution, but also in Honduras we would see the impact of their not being able to send remittances,” Hernández said. The announcement Monday was not a new TPS for Hondurans, but rather an extension for TPS granted after Hurricane Mitch in 1998.

Caravans
A caravan set off from Honduras and plans for other caravans spread through social media, likely spurred by the worsening economic situation caused by the pandemic and the devastation from the hurricanes, reports Reuters and Bloomberg. Cubans in Uruguay, Chile, Guyana and other South American countries are also organizing caravans to seek asylum in the U.S. after the pandemic made it more difficult for them to re-establish their lives in South American countries, reports El Nuevo Herald.

Border Crossings
A new border crisis of young children being smuggled via risky tactics could be emerging and may create problems for the Biden administration. October saw the start of a spurt in unaccompanied minors crossing that could overwhelm Border Patrol stations as in 2014 and 2018, reports The Wall Street Journal. Officials worry about their young age, most being under 12 and some who are infants, reports USA Today. Instead of turning themselves in at ports of entry as most have in recent years, smugglers are taking different routes to ensure the minors aren’t rapidly expelled under a COVID-19 rule. These tactics are riskier and include crossing remote areas of South Texas in rafts or trailer trucks and staying in stash houses.

Border Wall
Two whistleblowers allege contractors building the border wall illegally smuggled Mexican security guards across the border to guard construction, according to court documents unsealed Friday, reports The New York Times. The allegations came to light as The New York Times also revealed that migrants have repeatedly been able to cross the supposedly impenetrable wall.

President-elect Biden has promised to end border wall construction, but some indigenous tribes along the border say the administration must also take steps to repair the damage done to the environment and cultural sites and traditions, reports PRI’s The World. In Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona, construction has reduced the flow of a natural spring and disrupted the habitats of jaguars and other rare species, but this damage can still be reversed if the wall is taken down, reports Audubon.

Family Separation
Yovany was the last remaining child in custody who the federal government considered eligible to be released. It’s now been more than two years since he has reunited with his mother, but the transition to living together again has not been smooth, reports The New York Times in a profile of the aftermath of the family separation policy. “The bonds broken during their 26 months apart — when Ms. Peren was a voice on the phone more than 1,500 miles away, as Yovany made new friends, went to a new school, learned to live without her — have been slow to regrow,” writes Caitlin Dickerson.

Enforcement
Immigrant advocates worry local leaders will be more likely to renew contracts with ICE under the assumption that detention will be cleaned up during Biden’s presidency, reports The Appeal. For example, a New Jersey jail renewed its contract with ICE shortly after Biden won the election, even though officials had previously promised to end the relationship.

More than a year after the arrests of eight recruiters for a fake university helping students get visas, immigrant advocates and politicians question whether the ICE sting operation known as “Operation Paper Chase” was a proper use of resources, reports The Guardian. One expert said the charges served a symbolic purpose of justifying a threat of visa fraud and showing the power of ICE as an agency.

COVID-19 & Immigrant Communities
Latinos make up 24% of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S., although they are 17% of the population. In Los Angeles, Latinos’ rate of infection is more than double that of whites, reports the LA Times. Here are how some communities are containing the spread:

Detention
An estimated 5.5% of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. can be attributed to ICE detention centers, including cases of spread in the communities surrounding ICE facilities, according to a new report by Detention Watch Network, reports The Intercept.

Public Charge & Hunger
The public charge rule has strained food pantries and relief services during the pandemic as undocumented immigrants fear enrolling for public benefits, it’s another challenge Biden will face in his early days in office, reports The New York Times. In New York, a Pakistani group responded by creating their own food pantry serving an immigrant community that, in many cases, did not qualify for or was scared to apply for government aid, reports The Daily in a moving account of one day in line.

Crime Rates
Between 2012 and 2018, undocumented immigrants in Texas were half as likely to be arrested for violent crimes and drug offenses than U.S.-born citizens, reports Scientific American. The new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA is the first to link immigration status to crime rates for specific crimes and builds on previous research that shows immigrants are less likely to carry out crimes contradicting what Trump has claimed many times.

Courts
Nearly 20 minors in the Houston area received last-minute notices in November to appear in immigration court as part of accelerated court proceedings, reports the Houston Chronicle. The cases appear to be part of a nation-wide initiative the Executive Office for Immigration Review to move along an overloaded immigration docket.

Follows

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

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