Migratory Notes 205
Border Crisis? VP Harris leads on immigration; Asian American divide
Stuck in limbo in Ciudad Juárez, the 30 transgender women of Casa de Colores, most of them migrants from El Salvador, have built a community during the pandemic. Photo credit: Claudia Hernández for Borderless Magazine
Know someone who might like Migratory Notes? Please help us spread the word: Here’s the subscribe form and here’s an archive on Medium. Got a story or an immigration-related resource or opportunity we should know about? Send it on!
“As details about the employees emerged, so too did another narrative: the story of the wealth divide among people of Asian descent in America — a community often viewed by outsiders as monolithic and whose economic disparities have long been misunderstood,” writes a team from The New York Times in a beautifully woven investigative feature of immigrant striving and devastating, divergent outcomes in Atlanta.
Border apprehensions of Mexicans could soon reach a 10-year high after decades of decline as many young residents risk the journey north. “The pandemic hit just as many children of the first migrant generation came of age,” write Michael O’Boyle and Maya Averbuch in Bloomberg News.
Two immigration reform bills that passed the House last week face an uphill battle with the increase in border crossings and a divided Senate that is increasingly set on blocking Biden’s agenda. Former colleagues of new Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif), believe that the son of Mexican immigrants who got his start in organizing protests against California’s anti-immigrant Proposition 187, may just be able to break the gridlock and push immigration reform forward, reports the LA Times.
The first bill, which would give DACA and TPS recipients a way to legalize their status, passed with minimal Republican support. The second, which would grant legal status to farm workers, garnered 30 Republican votes, mainly from agricultural districts. However, some farmworker advocates say the process laid out in the bill is overly burdensome because of the strict requirements that include additional years of work, reports KIMA TV.
Major TV networks have called the situation at the border a “crisis” or “surge” at least 138 times since January, parroting a Republican talking point, reports Media Matters.
Border apprehensions rose to more than 100,000 in February and could reach a 20-year high in March, according to the LA Times. And border officials are expected to take in an all-time high of 17,000 unaccompanied minors this month, reports The Washington Post.
But do these numbers really merit being called a border surge or crisis? Political scientists from the University of California at San Diego say the increase follows a pattern of seasonal migration that increases around February and March of each year, reports The Washington Post. They say the trend is more prominent this year because some migrants could not leave during the pandemic due to border closures.
Here are some additional reasons being reported for why migrants, particularly minors, are arriving at the border:
- Rumors that migrants are able to stay in the U.S. if they cross with children, even though this isn’t fully true. (LA Times)
- Some minors hope to reunite with parents they haven’t seen for years. (Telemundo Investiga/NBC News)
- Smugglers are organizing minors-only trips and encouraging parents to send their children alone. (Reuters)
- Two devastating hurricanes in November. (Vox)
- Mexican men are looking for work. (Wall Street Journal)
- The economic fallout from the pandemic and ongoing violence. (The Washington Post)
Officials and community leaders working at the border say what they are facing is not yet a crisis, and they aren’t concerned so much with the language as with the impact on these migrants, reports Politico. They want a long-term solution from lawmakers in Washington, including immigration reform and more support to fix the root causes of migration from Central America.
More than 5,000 children and teens were were in short-term Border Patrol facilities unfit for long-term custody of minors, reports CBS News. Photos shared with Axios by Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) of a Border Patrol tent facility where minors are being held showed young children and teens crammed together in “pods” and sleeping on mats with mylar blankets. The photos offered a rare look into the conditions for migrant children after the Biden administration barred non-profits and journalists from visiting, reports AP. In response to criticism about the lack of transparency, the Biden administration allowed one news network into facilities during lawmakers’ visit to border facilities Wednesday, reports The Washington Post.
Approaches being taken or considered to house and process migrant youth include:
- The Biden administration has considered sending some of the minors to the northern border near Canada for processing. (The Washington Post)
- The Office of Refugee Resettlement issued new guidelines Monday to speed up the release of minors to sponsors in the U.S. (CBS News)
- San Diego will start housing unaccompanied minors in a convention center in a plan similar to one rolled out in Dallas last week. (San Diego Union-Tribune)
Biden named Vice President Kamala Harris to lead the administration’s efforts to work with Mexico and Central America to address the root causes of migration. The announcement comes as three high-level U.S. officials — lead advisor at the border Roberta Jacobson, Special Envoy for the Northern Triangle Ricardo Zúñiga and National Security Council’s senior director for the Western Hemisphere Juan González — met with the Mexican foreign minister this week to discuss bilateral cooperation to stem migration from Central America, reports AP.
Meanwhile, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who visited the border with a group of Senators last week, reiterated the administration’s message to migrants: Don’t come. The Biden administration has worked to spread this message through 17,000 ads on the radio and 500 on social media in Latin America, reports NBC News. In addition, in response to U.S. pressure Mexico sent immigration agents to its southern border with Guatemala, reports AP.
After Remain in Mexico
The end of the Remain in Mexico program that forced asylum seekers to wait in Mexico has created a challenge for the Biden administration as it has had to decide who to let enter the U.S. first, reports The Texas Tribune/ProPublica.
In Matamoros, officials prioritized migrants in the tent camp first for humanitarian reasons. Now, asylum seekers who left the camp seeking safety question why they are being forced to wait and lawyers call the process arbitrary. Some LGBT asylum seekers in the program have been able to enter, but advocates worry about the others who haven’t and who face violence and discrimination in Mexico, reports the Washington Blade.
In Tijuana, disinformation is spreading rapidly among asylum seekers camped at the border who are confused by Biden’s immigration policies and don’t understand why they haven’t been let in, reports The San Diego Union-Tribune.
While some Republicans like Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) falsely claim the border is “wide open,” the framing is misleading tweets Politico reporter Sabrina Rodríguez, because most migrants are still being expelled across the border.
Less than 1% of border crossers have been able to seek protection since the Trump administration began expelling them under the Title 42 public health statute invoked to stop the spread of COVID-19, reports The LA Times. Despite promising to restore the asylum system, the Biden administration has quietly continued the policy, confusing migrants who thought they would have the chance to enter the U.S. A group of nearly 150 migrants who were flown 600 miles from south Texas to El Paso only to be dropped off in Ciudad Juarez say U.S. officials never told them where they were going, reports The New York Times.
One group that is no longer subject to expulsion are minors. CBS News Reporter Camilo Montoya-Galvez goes into detail on the cost of renewing youth expulsions: children’s lives.
A byproduct of admitting minors has led to a new form of family separation as families decide whether to stay together or send minors across alone who have a better chance of being released to relatives, reports Politico Magazine.
That may be changing: Axios reports that the Biden administration expelled just 13% of migrant families in past week.
In the aftermath of a shooting in Atlanta that targeted Asian massage parlors, many politicians and officials have rushed to claim that the shooting was not racially motivated, falling in line with a trend throughout American history of erasing anti-Asian violence, reports GEN Magazine. Many Asian Americans have grown frustrated with having to justify their experiences. “While my adoptive family saw me as almost raceless and therefore safe from racists, I lived every day from the age of 7, when I heard my first slur from a classmate, understanding that my Korean face made me hypervisible where we lived — and that it could also make me a target,” writes Nicole Chung in TIME.
The pandemic disrupted a form of work that was often invisible: Mexican women crossing the border for informal domestic labor caring for children and elderly people, reports KTEP. Border restrictions have made it difficult for these women to cross, exposing the vulnerability of their working conditions. Meanwhile, Mexican women filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government for failing to enforce gender discrimination laws in its temporary migrant labor programs, reports Thomson Reuters Foundation.
The Biden administration will launch a new program to house migrant families at hotels run by non-profits in an attempt to move away from long-criticized for-profit detention centers, reports Reuters. The $86.9 million contract will provide more than 1,200-bed spaces and other necessary services.
A detainee who tested positive for COVID was released from ICE custody and died three days later, raising questions about whether ICE is releasing sick migrants to undercount in-custody deaths during the pandemic, reports the LA Times.
State legislators in Maryland took a major step to end for-profit detention in the state by passing a bill that requires three counties to end their agreements with ICE to hold detainees in local jails, reports The Baltimore Sun.
Immigrant advocates called on the Biden administration to issue a new Temporary Protected Status to Haitians in the U.S. given how the political turmoil and increase in violence has made it unsafe to return, reports the Miami Herald. The U.S. Embassy in Haiti tweeted an apparent response:
A man sent a message to his sister before she crossed the U.S.-Mexico border: “Cuidate mucho” or “take care of yourself.” His sister Carolina Ramírez Pérez, a mother of four who was running away from her abusive husband in Mexico, never read the message, reports the LA Times. She was killed when a car filled with too many people crashed on the highway in California.
Immigration Resources & Opportunities
- 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)
- The Shadow of El Centro: A History of Migrant Incarceration and Solidarity by Jessica Ordaz (January 2021)
- 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
- Higher Ed Immigration Portal: A new digital platform that integrates data, policies, and resources about DACA and undocumented, other immigrants, international, and refugee students.
- Frequently Requested Statistics on Immigrants and Immigration in the United States (Migration Policy Institute)
- 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 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