Migratory Notes
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Migratory Notes

Migratory Notes 203

Who are the kids at the border? Why $$ to Central America falls short; Indians moving to Canada instead of US

Two high school students from American Falls, Idaho testify in favor of a bill providing driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants, identifying themselves as proud Future Farmers of America members and Hispanic citizens of the U.S. Despite support from agriculture, immigrant advocates, and faith groups, the measure failed to move forward, reports the Idaho Statesman. Photo by Nicole Foy.

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Who are the unaccompanied minors crossing the border? The Washington Post graphically breaks down the most recent influx (data and methodology available on GitHub). Among their findings based on HHS statistics:

  • About half are from Mexico, a shift from the previous trend when most were from Central America.
  • Most of the unaccompanied minors are teenagers ages 15 to 17.
  • About 70% are boys.

“The surge is similar to others that occurred in 2014, 2016 and 2019, but also potentially larger, because conditions in Central America and Mexico are more desperate as a result of the pandemic’s economic pain,” write Nick Miroff, Andrew Ba Tran and Leslie Shapiro.

The Trump administration appointed about two-thirds of judges in immigration courts, and these judges have deported immigrants at the highest rate in 20 years, reports Reuters in an investigation into the immigration court system. Biden plans to hire more judges to address the backlog, but it could be years before change can be seen. Many of the immigrants who went through this court system during the Trump administration had never committed a felony and posed no national security threat. Changing the mindset within a system that believes immigrants must be kept out will be the biggest challenge for Biden, writes Stephen Franklin in an op-ed for the Chicago Tribune.

Border Mass Collision
Yesenia Magali Melendrez Cardona, a 23-year-old Guatemalan migrant, perished in the car crash that killed at least 13 migrants, reports the LA Times. Horrific mass migrant deaths in California stretch back at least 100 years. The crash points to a larger problem with the US immigration deterrence apparatus, reports ProPublica. “If the point of border security is to make it as difficult and unappealing as possible to enter the United States, the only possible routes will be the most dangerous ones, and the people who are willing to take them will be the most desperate,” writes Dara Lind.

More than 100,000 people were apprehended after crossing the border in February, the most since mid-2019, reports Reuters. More than 9,500 were unaccompanied minors, the most in 21 months, reports CBS News.

Facing growing criticism from Republicans that the Biden administration is failing to handle a burgeoning crisis, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas visited the border over the weekend, reports Reuters. The rising number of unaccompanied minors detained at the border is causing a dilemma for the Biden administration since federal law states minors can’t be held at CBP facilities for more than 72 hours, reports The New York Times. As of Wednesday, nearly 3,500 minors were being held in these Border Patrol stations, the most on record, reports The Washington Post. The average wait time to be transferred is about a day and a half over the legal limit.

Unlike the Trump administration which focused on trying to stop crossings, the Biden administration is working on managing the increase in migrants by sending more border officials to the busiest crossings and finding more space for migrants in hotels or other detention centers, while also sending a message to migrants not to come, reports The Washington Post. The Biden administration will also start two daily flights from the Rio Grande Valley to El Paso to transfer detainees and make sure South Texas facilities don’t reach capacity, reports The Dallas Morning News.

Greyhound is also struggling to deal with the influx, reports Reuters. The bus company asked the government for emergency funding to respond and to ensure that all migrants arrive with a negative COVID test.

Remain In Mexico No More?
DHS said it completed registration over the weekend for all the migrants at the Matamoros tent camp for entry into the U.S. after many waited for years under the Remain in Mexico program, reports CNN. Now, the camp that became a symbol of the Migrant Protection Protocols, the official name for Remain in Mexico, has been cleared out. “If it hadn’t been for this camp, I don’t think they would have ever ended MPP,” one migrant told Reuters. As of Thursday of last week, more than 1,100 people in the program had been let into the U.S., reports BuzzFeed News. Processing of the estimated 25,000 active cases remains ongoing.

Even as the Matamoros camp emptied out, local immigrant rights organizations reported a small encampment sprung up in Tijuana as people seek information about when they can cross.

Enforcement & Detention
An ICE official said the agency will continue detaining families despite recent comments from Biden and DHS Secretary Mayorkas condemning the practice that began under Obama in 2014, reports NBC News. The clarification came after a court filing by ICE saying that it would turn family detention centers into short-term facilities that release everyone within 72 hours, suggesting long-term family detention would end, reports NBC News. ICE currently has three open detention centers for families with a capacity for 3,300 people, reports CBS News.

Immigration arrests by ICE dropped by 60% in February after the Biden administration issued new guidelines on enforcement priorities, reports The Washington Post. ICE announced it is launching a new program known as the ICE Case Review Process to allow immigrants, lawyers or advocates to challenge arrests, detentions or deportations that do not fit into the new enforcement priorities laid out by the Biden administration, reports BuzzFeed News. Cases could previously be challenged on a local level, but the new process is meant to carry out Biden’s promise of reforming the system.

In an effort to block new enforcement priorities, the Florida attorney general filed a lawsuit, on the grounds that it will endanger public safety, reports the Miami Herald.

New research shows that increased immigration enforcement can have negative impacts on public health, reports CityLab. In one county in North Carolina, birth weights decreased after local law enforcement started participating in immigration enforcement, and researchers believe stress and fear of getting picked up by ICE at the doctor contributed to this.

Biden Admin Transition of Power
Biden has yet to name nominees to lead ICE, CBP and USCIS and the lack of leadership could make it more difficult for him to make meaningful changes to the immigration system as he has promised, reports Politico.

Migrant Youth
The Biden administration announced Wednesday it’s restarting the Central American Minors (CAM) program that enables immigrant parents from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala with legal status in the U.S. to apply for children who remain in home countries to join them in the U.S., reports BuzzFeed News. The program started during the Obama administration and 3,000 cases were approved but the children hadn’t yet traveled when Trump ended the program in 2017, reports the LA Times. These cases will be processed and then the government will open the program up to new applicants.

The Biden administration revoked a Trump-era rule that made it more difficult for minors to seek asylum by requiring ICE officers to review their classification as “unaccompanied minors” at every point in the process and thus limiting their options for protection, reports BuzzFeed News.

Public Charge Dropped
The Trump administration’s public charge rule, often referred to as the wealth test, is no longer official, after the Biden administration dropped legal challenges supporting its implementation, including before the Supreme Court. “The 2019 public charge rule was not in keeping with our nation’s values,” DHS Secretary Mayorkas said in a statement. “It penalized those who access health benefits and other government services available to them.”

But the public charge debate is likely not over. A group of states, including Arizona and Texas, want to argue the case in support of public charge in front of the 9th Circuit, Suzanne Monyak tweets.

TPS & Special Visas
The Biden administration granted Temporary Protected Status Monday to Venezuelans who have fled the political and humanitarian crisis, reports the LA Times. In his last days in office, Trump issued an order to defer the removal of Venezuelans for 18 months, but he did not grant them more lasting protections or work permits, despite constantly railing against the government of Nicolas Maduro. The decision will allow an estimated 320,000 undocumented Venezuelans living in the U.S. as of March 8 to receive temporary legal status, reports CBS News.

Entrepreneurs and venture capital firms are urging the Biden administration to invest resources to support a program that allows start-up founders to stay in the U.S. without a visa, reports The Wall Street Journal. The current program is not well-known and does not have enough staff dedicated to judging applications, they say.

Immigration is an International Issue
The Biden administration announced that it plans to put in place guardrails that will ensure a $4 billion aid package to Central America won’t end up in the hands of corrupt governments or security forces, reports the LA Times. Governments will have to show proof of transparency, free elections and respect for human rights to receive aid. The announcement comes as a trial that implicates the Honduran president in drug trafficking kicks off in New York this week, reports Reuters. El Salvador also poses a challenge for the administration’s goals in the region as President Nayib Bukele has ramped up attacks against the press and other opposition, reports Catholic News Service.

Using aid to improve democracy and security in Central America is not a new idea, but the Biden administration will have to learn from past mistakes if it wants the aid package to show results, writes former Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solís in Americas Quarterly. Understanding of Central American institutions and their challenges, better mechanisms to measure impact, and cutting through the bureaucracy to make sure funds are disbursed are all keys to success.

As perceptions of the U.S. as a country welcoming to immigrants has shifted, Indian immigrants have looked to Canada as another option. As a result, in 2019, Indian immigrants became the largest group of foreigners to be granted skilled immigrant visas in Canada, reports The Times of India. In Canada, medium to small cities outside the hubs of Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver are also seeing an increase in migration. From 2013 to 2019, the number of immigrants settling in these cities increased by 45%, reports CIC News.

Family Separation
The Biden administration is taking steps to reunite families separated by Trump’s zero-tolerance policy and make reparations for the harm done, but many families are still struggling to deal with the trauma of separation, reports The Nation.


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, 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

*Migratory Notes Advisory Board: Daniel Connolly, Maria Kari, Dan Kowalski, Paola Marizán, Mirta Ojito, Roberto Suro, Phuong Ly, Fernanda Santos




A weekly informed and concise guide to immigration news.

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Daniela Gerson

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