Migratory Notes 196

Biden Admin starts boldly on immigration: Reform, Travel Ban revoked, Moratorium

Daniela Gerson
Jan 21 · 13 min read
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President Biden signed various immigration-related executive orders Wednesday with a bust of organizer Cesar Chavez behind him in the Oval Office. Chavez’s granddaughter, Julie Chávez Rodríguez, was a senior advisor to his campaign and one of the first people named to his administration. Chavez was an advocate for immigrant workers, though he did not support undocumented immigration, Miriam Pawel writes in her biography.

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Transfer of Power
The shift in diversity and immigrants’ role in the Biden administration was immediately apparent Wednesday. “On Day One of the Biden-Harris administration, 1 in 3 incoming appointees is an immigrant or a child of immigrants,” Deputy Director of the White House personnel office Gautam Raghavan tweeted. Vice President Kamala Harris, the daughter of Indian and Jamaican immigrants, was sworn in by the first Latina Supreme Court Justice, Sonia Sotomayor. In her rendition of America the Beautiful, Jennifer Lopez recited part of the Pledge of Allegiance in Spanish. “Seeing a Puerto Rican woman say those words at a presidential inauguration felt especially significant after the constant attacks on Latinx and immigrant communities by Trump’s White House,” writes Fernanda Echavarri in Mother Jones. (For more on Trump’s immigration legacy, Migratory Notes resurfaces stories that revealed how he attacked the already broken system — and what to expect now.)

Immigration Reform
Biden delivered on his campaign promise to make immigration a priority on Day 1. The sweeping bill he sent to Congress Wednesday would offer a path to legalization for 11 million undocumented immigrants. It consists of three pillars: 1) address the causes of migration 2) border management and 3) a path to citizenship.” Measures include:

  • Provide an 8-year pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S.
  • Enable DACA, TPS recipients, and eligible farm workers to apply for permanent legal residency immediately
  • Create a $4 billion aid package to Central America
  • Fund border security with a focus on technology
  • Raise the U visa cap to 30,000
  • Change all references in the statute from “alien” to “non-citizen”

(For a deeper breakdown of what is included, Reuters offers a Factbox and Vox an explainer.) Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Rep. Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.) are taking the lead in preparing the bill for introduction in their respective chambers, with promises of fast action. But with a 50–50 margin in the Senate, and Republicans having shifted more restrictionist on immigration under Trump, the bill faces significant barriers. Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), noting he had previously backed legislation in support of immigration, blasted the effort calling it “mass amnesty” and “far more radical” than previous failed efforts, reports Roll Call.

Executive Orders
Biden also issued a raft of immigration-related executive orders on his first day in office to:

  • End the Muslim travel ban, a decision that could affect tens of thousands of separated families
  • Revoke Trump’s 2018 declaration of a national emergency at the border that diverted billions of dollars to barrier construction
  • Extend DACA for another four years
  • Conduct a review of immigration enforcement priorities
  • Ensure undocumented immigrants are counted in the census

But Biden still has a lot to tackle if he plans to undo Trump’s immigration policy which was instituted with more than 400 executive orders. Biden has not yet committed to lifting the public health order to rapidly expel border crossers during the pandemic. And at 1.3 million pending cases, the immigration court backlog is 2.5 times larger than when Trump took office, reports TRAC.

Deportation Pause
The Biden administration put a 100-day pause on most deportations to establish a “review of policies and practices concerning immigration enforcement” so that they can focus the Department of Homeland Security “resources where they are most needed.”

It’s too late for those on the Trump administration’s final deportation flight carrying 25 people — including five infants — to Haiti the day before Biden took office, reports the Miami Herald. Onboard was a 40-year-old man born to Haitian parents in the French Caribbean territory San Martin who spent most of his life in the U.S., reports The Guardian. He had never been to Haiti and his family says he does not have Haitian citizenship.

In another one of his final acts, Trump granted deportation relief to Venezuelans through the Deferred Enforced Departure program, reports Politico. The status will last for 18 months and also grants recipients work permits. Biden also promised to grant the status to Venezuelans during his campaign, reports The Wall Street Journal. The new president also followed through on his promise to renew deportation relief for Liberians who fled civil war, which Trump refused to do, reports Vox.

Remain in Mexico
DHS announced Wednesday it will suspend new enrollments in the Remain in Mexico program, also known as the Migrant Protection Protocols. However, the administration still has not made an announcement about its plans for the 70,000 people already in the program, many who are still waiting in Mexico despite their high hopes for a quick reform, reports The Guardian. Meanwhile, lawsuits against the program continue. A group of legal organizations filed a lawsuit against ICE for putting children in MPP who crossed the border a second time into deportation proceedings in violation of special child protections under U.S. law, reports Arizona Public Media.

Biden Admin
Biden’s pick for DHS secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, faced questions about his record on immigration and his approach to border security at a Senate confirmation hearing Tuesday. He said he would not abolish ICE as many activists have demanded and that he would review pandemic-era restrictions on immigration at the border, reports Reuters. Democrats hoped to fast track the confirmation process for the agency’s first Latino candidate, but cannot do so because of objections from Missouri Republican Josh Hawley over concerns of Mayorkas’ approach to border security, reports Politico. Mayorkas’ supporters say he will bring a much-needed moral compass to the agency that he proved in 2015 when he adamantly opposed separating families at the border under the Obama administration, reports The Washington Post.

Biden is expected to tap former U.S. ambassador to Mexico and State Department old-timer Roberta Jacobson as coordinator of the southwest border for the National Security Council, reports Foreign Policy. The new role will focus on implementing Biden’s immigration and asylum reforms and improving relations with Mexico and Central America.

Caravan
A migrant caravan making its way through Central America this week posed the first major challenge for Biden, who has promised to take a more humane approach to migration than his predecessor, reports VICE News. Unnamed Biden administration officials told NBC News that asylum seekers should not come to the border now because they won’t be let in right away.

On Monday, Guatemalan security forces violently dispersed a caravan of an estimated 8,000–9,000 migrants, after a two days standstill near the Honduran border, following the pattern of repression of recent caravans, reports Al Jazeera. Most Honduran migrants left after two back-to-back hurricanes displaced thousands and exacerbated an already desperate situation, reports LA Times.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador urged Biden to pass immigration reform in response to the current migration crisis, reports BBC. AMLO claimed to respect the rights of migrants, but his government continues to crack down on them. The Mexican Foreign Ministry asked Guatemala Saturday to prevent the caravan from reaching Mexico, citing health concerns during the pandemic, reports Reuters.

Asylum
Not one of the 945 asylum seekers the U.S. sent to Guatemala to seek refuge there won relief, according to a report Democratic Senators published Monday. Only 34 even applied, of which 18 are still pending. “The truth is I don’t feel safe here. There’s nothing for me and my family here,” said one Honduran asylum seeker in Guatemala. Democratic Senators called on Biden to end Asylum Cooperation Agreements that send asylum seekers to Central American countries.

Border Wall
Former Trump aide Steve Bannon was among the Trump allies who received a pardon during the president’s last hours in office, meaning that his trial for allegedly diverting millions of dollars meant for a border wall project will not move forward, reports AP. His co-defendants were not pardoned.

COVID Vaccination & Immigrant Communities
ICE detainees are contracting the coronavirus at a rate estimated to be 13 times higher than the general population, but the agency has yet to release a plan or a timeline for vaccinating detainees, reports CBS News.

Follows

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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

  • Routed Magazine curates a bi-monthly newsletter on news in migration and mobility.
  • 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

Daniela Gerson

Written by

Ass’t Prof @CSUNJournalism and Co-creator #MigratoryNotes. Subscribe for free: https://bit.ly/2tkethJ @dhgerson

Migratory Notes

A weekly informed and concise guide to immigration news.

Daniela Gerson

Written by

Ass’t Prof @CSUNJournalism and Co-creator #MigratoryNotes. Subscribe for free: https://bit.ly/2tkethJ @dhgerson

Migratory Notes

A weekly informed and concise guide to immigration news.

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