Migratory Notes 198
Biden reviews; AZ record deaths; Workhorse congresswomen
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“For every Trump-era policy that Biden has reversed, hundreds of lesser-known measures remain,” Sarah Stillman writes in The New Yorker. Undoing all of these small rule changes and guideline adjustments may be essentially impossible. To preserve records of small but significant shifts that would otherwise be overlooked, the Immigration Policy Tracking Project meticulously documented them. Then Stillman and her team at the Global Migration Project at Columbia’s Journalism School spent years following stories of the human repercussions from Honduras to Somalia.
Decades after losing contact due to war and distance, social media is transforming how immigrant families are reconnecting. “In countries like El Salvador, where governments have been maddeningly slow to help locate thousands of citizens who disappeared both during the war and after, Facebook has become one of the few tools people can use to find family members who had been incommunicado for decades,” writes Maya Averbuch in a feature for OneZero.
Transfer of Power
Biden came out strong in his first days with actions on immigration, but the raft of executive orders and directives on immigration he signed Tuesday “primarily call for the review of, rather than an end to, Trump policies that the new administration has said it would get rid of,” Molly O’Toole writes in the LA Times. Among them:
- Remain in Mexico: DHS is required to review the policy that forces asylum seekers to await their court dates in dangerous Mexican border cities. The order does not require immediate action and the government has not said if it will allow the estimated 20,000 asylum seekers awaiting their court dates to enter the U.S., reports CBS News.
- Family Separations: A new interagency task force will reunite families separated under the Trump administration’s zero-tolerance policy. It is charged with:
- Identifying more than 500 parents still separated from their children
- Deciding whether to bring back an estimated 1,400 parents who were deported without their children
- Determining whether to expand restitution measures to the more than 5,500 families affected to include additional mental health services and pathways to legal residency for those in the U.S.
- Additional Orders
- An aid package to Central America to fight corruption and other drivers of migration
- Reinstating the Central American Minors (CAM) program
- A review of asylum agreements with Central American nations
Alejandro Mayorkas, who the Senate confirmed Tuesday mainly on party lines as Department of Homeland Security Secretary, will have to overcome internal resistance from those who preferred Trump’s harsh approach to immigration enforcement, reports The New York Times.
A last-minute agreement between the Trump administration and the ICE union that requires policy changes to be approved by the union could further complicate Mayorkas’ job, reports The New York Times. A whistleblower filed a complaint calling the agreement an abuse of power, but it remains unclear if the agreement can be annulled.
At least 12 Mexican police officers participated in the killings of 19 people near the Texas-Mexico border last month in a case that highlights the dangers migrants face from corrupt Mexican security forces, reports The Washington Post. They were part of an elite special forces unit trained and vetted by the U.S., reports InSight Crime. Families in Guatemala believe that at least 13 victims were migrants who left an indigenous town in Guatemala’s western highlands, although they are still waiting for DNA confirmation, reports the LA Times.
The Biden administration said Tuesday that it will stop the Trump-era policy of rapidly expelling migrant children citing public health grounds during the pandemic, reports BuzzFeed News. As of Wednesday, some Mexican government officials stopped accepting Central American families expelled under the rule, although neither the U.S. nor Mexico announced a formal change in policy, reports The Washington Post.
Meanwhile, other expulsions of adults have continued, including a group of Haitians in El Paso. “Generally, the quick returns to Mexico have applied only to single adults from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras and unaccompanied Mexican youths,” Lauren Villagran writes in El Paso Times. “Under the rule, migrants of other nationalities, including Haitians, are supposed to be returned to their countries of origin.”
Deportations resumed with a flight to Haiti Monday after a Trump-appointed Texas judge ruled to block the Biden administration’s suspension of some deportations, reports The Guardian. Another flight to deport Cameroonians, Angolans and other African migrants is scheduled for this week, and some of the asylum seekers allege torture by ICE agents to force them to agree to deportation, reports The Guardian. The actions raise questions about whether ICE will resist carrying out Biden’s immigration agency.
A survivor of the El Paso Walmart shooting was deported last week, reports KTSM. The woman was cooperating with law enforcement and was in the process of applying for a U Visa based on her status as a victim of a crime, reports KERA.
For a growing number of families, it feels like a second family separation. “Parents and children emerged from the zero-tolerance policy with separate immigration cases — often with pending removal orders and no attorneys,” Kevin Sieff writes in The Washington Post. “In hundreds of those cases, parents have been ordered deported while their children’s asylum or visa applications were being processed.”
Seven congresswomen have emerged as the leaders of the immigration reform bill and they are determined to be the “workhorses” who finally get this bill passed, reports USA Today. They call themselves the “Closers” and most have immigrant roots or represent districts with large immigrant communities. They are considering splitting a comprehensive bill into smaller legislation, but promise results no matter their approach.
Twenty years after first introducing the DREAM Act, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin introduced a new bipartisan bill Thursday to provide permanent residency to undocumented immigrants who arrive as children. It is an attempt to pass partial immigration reform on an issue with the most support across party lines before aiming for more ambitious proposals, reports The Hill.
House Democrats decided not to include a pathway to citizenship for undocumented essential workers and other immigrants in a COVID relief bill after an initial push from the National Hispanic Caucus to use the relief package as a way to pass immigration reform, reports Politico.
COVID & Immigrant Communities
The Biden administration promised it would not conduct immigration enforcement at vaccination sites and expressed its commitment to ensuring all undocumented immigrants can get vaccinated, reports CNN.
A 57-year-old Mexican man died in ICE custody in Georgia over the weekend after testing positive for COVID, reports BuzzFeed News. He is the second to die in ICE custody this fiscal year. Last year, 21 detainees died in ICE custody, the most since 2005.
Biden is expected to lift a cap on refugee admissions that the Trump administration had set at 15,000 for fiscal year 2021, but just how many more will be let in is still undetermined, reports The New York Times. After years of cutting back services under Trump, the refugee system has been gutted and may not be equipped to meet Biden’s campaign promise of raising the cap to 125,000 per year.
When Trump halted legal immigration during the pandemic, he created a backlog of 380,000 people waiting to legally migrate, mainly spouses, children, and parents of U.S. citizens and residents, reports The New York Times. Biden has signaled he plans to open the pathways for these people once again, but experts warn the backlog could stress the system for years to come.
- 2020 was the deadliest year on record for migrants crossing the border into Arizona, with more than 220 deaths. (The Guardian)
- The crackdown on the most recent migrant caravan was the result of years of regional militarization of immigration enforcement that expanded under Trump, but began before he took office. (The Intercept)
- Two farm groups filed a lawsuit Tuesday against the state of Washington for failing to revise emergency regulations in place since the pandemic that they say causes unworkable conditions. The United Farm Workers Union continues to defend the rules as necessary to protect migrant farmworkers. (AP)
- Immigrant rights groups are pressuring the Biden administration to end the use of private prison companies to detain immigrants because they say it incentivizes holding immigrants without a criminal record. (NBC News)
- More than 2,500 people have applied for DACA in the past few months since the government began accepting new applications. (Arizona Republic)
- The Justice Department asked the Supreme Court to cancel arguments over two cases dealing with Trump’s immigration policy, one on the border wall and another on Remain in Mexico. Both cases will likely be dismissed because the Biden administration plans on reversing the policies. (NBC News)
Immigration Resources & Opportunities
For four years, we tracked Trump’s attack on immigration and migrants. Here’s a look back at the biggest stories of the administration.
- Immigrants in COVID America documents the health, economic and social impact of COVID-19. (Immigrant History Research Center)
- Database of more than 200 COVID relief funds that are accessible to refugees and other immigrants, including without legal status. (IRAP)
- Updates on immigration developments during COVID-19 (Center for Migration Studies)
- Map of detention centers tracking coronavirus outbreaks (Freedom for Immigrants)
- COVID-19 resources for undocumented immigrants (UndocuScholars)
- Database of likely deportation flights during the pandemic (Center for Economic and Policy Research)
- Informed Immigrant is an online resource that provides information for undocumented immigrant communities in the U.S. during the coronavirus.
Recently released immigration books and films (got one, send it over)
- Futbol in the Park: Immigrants, Soccer, and the Creation of Social Ties by David Trouille (January 2021)
- After the Last Border: Two Families and the Story of Refuge in America by Jessica Goudeau (September 2020)
- Next Migration: The Beauty and Terror of Life on the Move by Sonia Shah argues climate change migration is a solution rather than a crisis. (August 2020)
- Unforgetting: A Memoir of Family, Migration, Gangs, and Revolution in the Americas by Roberto Lovato. (September 2020)
- Hatemonger: Stephen Miller, Donald Trump, and the White Nationalist Agenda by Jean Guerrero (August 2020)
- Separated: Inside an American Tragedy by NBC correspondent Jacob Soboroff tells the story of the long-term impact of the family separation policy on families. (July 2020)
- 14 Miles: Building the Border Wall by DW Gibson covers the repercussions of the wall in San Diego. (July 2020)
- “USA V Scott” a documentary that depicts the moral dilemma facing Arizona residents, who must decide whether or not to help desperate migrants they come across, using the case of activist Scott Warren as a case study.
- The Deportation Machine: America’s Long History of Expelling Immigrants by Adam Goodman. The book examines how public officials have used different forms of deportations and expulsion “to purge immigrants from the country and exert control over those who remain.” (June 2020)
- One Mighty and Irresistible Tide: The Epic Struggle Over American Immigration, 1924–1965 by Jia Lynn Yang, chronicles the major changes in U.S. immigration policy in the 20th century and their profound impact on immigrant families including her own. (May 2020)
- The Dispossessed: A Story of Asylum at the US-Mexican Border and Beyond by John Washington. The book takes an in-depth look at the Trump administration’s attack on asylum, told through the story of one Salvadoran dad, Arnovis. (May 2020)
- Migranthood: Youth in a New Era of Deportation, by anthropologist Lauren Heidbrink, chronicles deportation from the perspectives of Indigenous youth who migrate unaccompanied from Guatemala. (April 2020)
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
- Doctors for Immigrants released a toolkit to welcome and protect immigrants within the healthcare system.
- We Have Rights is a campaign to educate immigrants about rights in encounters with ICE
- Ecologies of Migrant Care has collected nearly 100 interviews with migrants, activists, academics and other immigration experts to shed light on the reasons why Central Americans flee and detail the networks that have developed to help them along their journey.
- Moving Stories is an app and curriculum to capture and share immigrant stories.
- Re-imagining Migration has resources and lessons to teach about migration, immigration, refugees, and civic empowerment through history, literature, and the sciences
- The Advocates for Human Rights and the Immigration History Research Center at UMN free curriculum that helps students learn about U.S. immigration through personal narratives: Teaching Immigration with the Immigrant Stories Project
- Freedom for Immigrants publishes an Immigration Detention Syllabus
Reporting resources, tools and tips
- The Immigrant Defense project created a style guide for journalists reporting on immigration.
- Digital First Responders: A database, report, and case study of how immigrant news outlets are innovating to serve their communities. (Center for Community Media).
- Journalists who have been targeted for their work can send incident reports through the online platform of Press Freedom Tracker.
- No Refuge from Council on Foreign Relations’ InfoGuide series, includes an interactive map of origin and destination countries for refugees, and policy options that can help refugees and support host states.
- Covering Immigration Enforcement webinar from Poynter with Marshall Project contributing writer Julia Preston.
- Tools for covering ICE from the Columbia Journalism Review
- Migration Reporting Resources (Global Investigative Journalism Network)
- Resources for Investigating Visas (Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting)
- Reporting on Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Immigrants (90 Days, 90 Voices)
- Immigration Data Resources: An extensive, and growing, list of immigration resources curated by PRI’s Angilee Shah.
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, Previously she was a senior fellow at the Center for Community Media (CCM); community engagement editor at the LA Times; editor of the trilingual Alhambra Source; and immigration reporter for the New York Sun. She has reported for WNYC: New York Public Radio, The World, Der Spiegel, Financial Times, CNN, The New York Times, among other outlets. 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