Migratory Notes 204

Is it a border crisis? Asian Americans speak up; Boise’s refugee secret sauce

Daniela Gerson
Mar 18 · 13 min read
“I felt it in my gut: Some of this is happening because the evil-doers think there will be little reaction in the broader society. Because Asian Americans don’t always speak up,” writes Tim Kawakami in a poignant essay for TheAthletic.com on the rise of anti-Asian crime and lessons learned from his mother who was in a Japanese American incarceration camp during World War II. Photo Source: NYC Commission for Human Rights

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#MustReads/ #MustSee
Why did the 17-year-old with her back swaddled on her back leave home in Guatemala to try and walk across the border? Why have so many other unaccompanied youth and families taken this treacherous journey in recent days? Reuters reporter Mimi Dwyer weaves a lucid profile to illuminate the larger phenomenon.

They left with hopes of a new future and returned in coffins draped with the Guatemalan flag. In a devastating photo essay in The Washington Post Nicolò Filippo Rosso and Kevin Sieff capture the communal loss.

Boise, Idaho’s food scene is booming. It’s secret? “Boise’s role as a certified “Welcoming City” for both immigrants and refugees,” writes Laura Kiniry in Atlas Obscura. Since the 1970s, the U.S. has settled refugees in small cities like Boise. Programs created to support resettlement have also spurred culinary entrepreneurship: the Idaho Office of Refugees organizes Refugee Restaurant Week and cross-culinary cooking classes while other organizations support launching small businesses.

Immigration Reform
House Democrats are expected to move forward with two immigration reform bills this week that would fulfill elements of Biden’s broader proposal. The separate bills would:

Democrats are focusing on the parts of Biden’s immigration overhaul that have the most bipartisan support at a moment when Republicans are ramping up anti-immigration rhetoric, reports The New York Times. But the current political tensions over how the Biden administration is handling border crossers has made legislators of both parties pessimistic about the chance for bipartisan support, reports AP.

A group of Republicans introduced their own immigration reform bill Wednesday which included a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers and more funds for border security. The proposal comes at a moment when supporters of the Republican party are growing more hostile towards undocumented immigrants, reports Reuters.

Meanwhile some Democratic legislators are calling for more ambitious reform. California’s first Latino senator, Alex Padilla, wants to include a path to citizenship for the estimated 5 million undocumented essential workers, reports The New York Times.

U.S. Border
DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Tuesday that the U.S. is on track to apprehend the most migrants crossing the U.S. border in two decades, reports NBC News. Lawmakers and policy analysts debate what this number means, whether it constitutes a “crisis,” and if Biden’s policies are driving this migration, reports CNN. As ProPublica reporter Dara Lind points out, a new statistic on record border apprehensions may say more about U.S. border security and its increased capacity to turn back migrants, rather than a border crisis.

Meanwhile, for those living on the border it feels more closed than open, reports The Washington Post. Crossings on international bridges in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley are down more than 50%. Many local residents never see the migrants and asylum seekers who make it across the border because they are immediately expelled or transferred to Border Patrol processing centers.

Migrant Children
Unaccompanied minors in short-term CBP facilities soared to 4,200 over the weekend, a 31% increase from the week before, reports CBS News. Most were held longer than the 72-hour legal limit. Conditions the children and teens are reporting include:

Starting Wednesday, the administration began sending unaccompanied minors to a convention center that can house up to 3,000 boys. It also called on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to safely shelter and process unaccompanied minors who arrive at the southern border, reports AP.

Three private detention companies — Caliburn International, Serco Group, and Pacific Architects and Engineers — could soon be profiting off the influx of migrant children at the border, and the Biden administration’s need to house them, reports The Intercept. Critics say for-profit companies should not be in charge of a humanitarian crisis, and urge the Biden administration to end the use of these companies for child detention.

Despite a promise to vaccinate all adults in the U.S. by May, ICE has no nation-wide plan to vaccinate immigrants held in its custody, reports The Washington Post. Instead, the agency is relying on state and local health departments to get vaccines on a case-by-case basis, unlike the Bureau of Prisons that is working with manufacturers directly to procure vaccines and streamline the process for this vulnerable group.

Border Crash
Eight immigrants were killed in a crash in Texas when a pickup truck slammed head-on into another car during a police chase. The deaths come just two weeks after another crash in California killed at least 13 people, raising questions about the role of immigration enforcement in these deaths.

The Biden administration’s decision to end the Remain in Mexico program and prioritize the processing of these asylum seekers carried out a key campaign promise, but it has left out many asylum seekers stuck at the border who were not part of the program, reports Reuters. “The issue highlights the challenges facing the Biden administration as it seeks to reform immigration policies, while also emphasizing that not everyone who comes to the border will be granted asylum,” writes Mimi Dwyer.

Criminals continue to prey on vulnerable migrants in Mexican border cities and Vice News obtained footage of the kidnapping of two Cuban asylum seekers that shows the brutality these migrants are subjected to in the hopes of finding safety in the U.S.

Mexican Borders
The U.S. continues to expel migrants across the border to Mexico, overwhelming shelters and services in Mexican border cities, reports The New York Times. Seven hundred minors are being held a Mexican government detention center in Reynosa, just south of McAllen, Texas, reports The Washington Post. Meanwhile, the Biden administration is urging the Mexican government to do more to stop migration, reports The New York Times.

Immigration agents have also ramped up raids on migrants in transit, reports Reuters. Mexican officials plan to increase this enforcement at the country’s southern border with Guatemala by expanding the operations of the National Guard in the area, reports Reuters.

Anti-Asian Violence
The murder of six Asian women in Atlanta highlighted the increase in hate crimes against Asian Americans, and Asian women in particular, NBC reports. For many the mass shooting resurfaced traumatic memories of the country’s history of anti-Asian xenophobia, reports USA Today.

Some advocates argue that the “model minority myth” also means immigration issues facing Asian Americans are ignored. The same day of the shooting, more than 30 deportees were sent to Vietnam, but the deportation flight received little coverage from national media, reports The American Independent.

Racism targeting Asians has historically extended to housing policy. Discriminatory language still exists in many housing deeds in New Mexico even though it can’t be enforced under the 1968 Fair Housing Act. Local advocates and policy makers say removing this language is important to making sure Asian Americans and other groups who have been discriminated against feel welcome, reports High Country News.

The Biden administration risked repeating the errors of the past when it extended TPS to Venezuelan and Burmese immigrants last week, reports ProPublica. Legislators are trying to fix the uncertainty that began when the designation was created 30 years ago without providing a pathway to citizenship. But the new immigrants applying for TPS would not be included in the current legislative fix being proposed. (Anh Do wrote a fantastic glimpse into a Burmese American newspaper at a time of crisis for the Los Angeles Times.)

COVID Vaccinations
The case of a schoolworker from Mexico who was turned away at a vaccine site in Minnesota because she could not provide a U.S.-issued ID shows the difficulties of getting vaccinated as an undocumented immigrant, despite CDC guidelines that say pharmacies should not require this type of ID, reports Sahan Journal. In California, another Mexican immigrant experienced a similar experience, reports CNN. Rite-Aid later apologized and said employees are instructed not to turn anyone away just because they don’t have a US-issued ID.

Immigration Journalism
If you are a journalist assigned to cover the border, El Paso Times reporter Lauren Villagran has some advice: #1 respect your Mexican colleagues who cannot cross.


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

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