Migratory Notes 206

Overwhelmed and underprepared at CBP; New migrant kids shelters at military bases, convention centers, Christian camps; Borderless, Borderland love

Daniela Gerson
Migratory Notes
Published in
15 min readApr 1, 2021


While many Punjabi immigrants are essential workers, particularly truck drivers, there is little COVID information in their native language. In response community groups and news outlets have activated to get Punjabi-speakers vaccinated, reports Valley Public Radio. Illustration is part of a campaign from the nonprofit organization Jakara Movement.

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!

Love in the Borderland knows no borders. At least that was the case for El Paso Times reporter Lauren Villagran. “For so many of us, home is here and there,” she writes in a powerful reflection on her relationship with her partner Omar, who is Mexican and lives in Ciudad Juarez, and the strain of a partial forced separation lasting more than a year paired with the communal grief the binational community has endured.

Birth certificates. Scribbled phone numbers. Prized belongings hauled for weeks over hundreds of miles. These, too, are scattered along the trail by migrants, their footsteps quiet in the night after they’ve crossed the river,” Molly Hennesy-Fiske writes in The Los Angeles Times. She tracked down personal stories connected to these remnants, identifying loved ones via phone numbers and WhatsApp, and wove the recollections into a story humanizing objects left behind.

Migrant Families at the Border
President Biden announced in his first press conference: “We’re sending back the vast majority of the families that are coming.” But that has not been the case since February, reports Politifact. Last Thursday, about 86% of the families Customs and Border Patrol encountered were processed and not expelled, CBS News reports.

Meanwhile, an increasing number of families are attempting the dangerous journey, among them a 9-year-old girl who drowned this week. While Biden’s more lenient stance on immigration is broadly being blamed for the shifts, at the Texas border the Washington Post interviewed dozens of migrants recently who said the “decision to migrate is influenced but does not hinge on a particular president or message,” Arelis Hernández writes. Meanwhile, smugglers are also taking advantage of the political confusion and are applying creative messaging via social media and “slick, new tourism-style tactics,” reports the Dallas Morning News.

As the U.S. admits more families, some “overwhelmed and underprepared” Customs and Border Patrol officers are releasing migrant families with no paper work or notice to appear in court, sowing confusion and shifting responsibilities to ICE, reports AP. Local communities are feeling the strain.

  • In Gila Bend, a small border town in Arizona, the mayor declared a state of emergency after federal officials dropped migrant families in a park, reports A.P. “I’ve got nothing here, I’ve got no shelter, nowhere to put them,” Mayor Chris Riggs said. “Literally, they’d be sleeping at the park, and I’m not going to do that to little children.”
  • Near McAllen, Texas, CBP is having families sleep under a bridge, and local officials and business owners worry about the effects in surrounding towns, reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • In Phoenix, an immigration service center is predicting its busiest month in 35 years as migrant families come in at the same time as tax season, reports AZfamily.com.

Migrant Children at the Border
The Biden administration anticipates an increase in April and May of unaccompanied minors crossing the border, estimating as many as 47,000 kids could arrive in those two months, reports The Wall Street Journal. In response, the government plans to speed up releasing children to their U.S. sponsors before their background checks have been completed. The Biden administration also projects at least 34,100 additional beds will be needed to shelter unaccompanied minors arriving until September, reports CNN.

More than 80% of unaccompanied children who are taken into custody of Health and Human Services have a family member in the United States; more than 40% have a parent or a legal guardian, reports the Miami Herald. One South Florida advocate has been working for years as a dispatcher to reconnect families, reports the Miami Herald. Last week she received 500 calls: “The volume of calls that I’m getting is reminiscent of Trump’s first year in office — if not more, a lot more.”

Among those children who arrived without a parent or legal guardian is a 5-year-old Honduran who was one of more than 11,000 minors in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, an office of the HHS, reports the LA Times. The boy stayed there for a month before he was reunited with his mother, who was already in the U.S.

Border Crisis?
Most Americans, including a quarter of Democrats, disapprove of Biden’s handling of immigration, according to an NPR/Marist poll released this week.

Obama and Trump also faced influxes of Central American migrants at the border.

What is different this time? Three immigration writers reflect:

Immigration is an International Issue
Vice President Kamala Harris, who is leading the Biden administration on efforts to quell immigration by working with sending countries, talked with the Guatemalan president this week, reports U.S. News & World Report. The discussion centered around job creation, crime and safety and improving conditions for Guatemalans in their home country. Harris also thanked the Guatemalan president for protecting his country’s southern border from incoming migrants, who presumably would be heading to the U.S.

Meanwhile, Mexico is cracking down even further on migrants trying to enter its southern border incentivized by a U.S. promise for millions of doses of Covid-19 vaccine, reports The Daily Beast. Federal agents and surveillance drones have been dispatched to the border to join the 9,000 soldiers already there. Advocates are pushing back and say the increased forces only push migrants into the hands of smugglers and more dangerous routes as they attempt to get to the U.S.

In video footage reminiscent of the killing of American George Floyd by police officers the death of a Salvadoran refugee in Mexico whose neck was broken by police is raising concerns among advocates and has been condemned by presidents in both Mexico and El Salvador, reports The Associated Press. The woman had left her home in El Salvador to seek out a better life for herself and her daughters and had been living and working in Mexico for some years on a humanitarian visa before she was killed. Now, El Salvadoran President Bukele is calling for the “full force of the law” on the officers involved in the death, reports U.S. News & World Report.

Biden Administration
Who is running immigration reform efforts? Forbes highlights four Women over 50 at the forefront, among them Veronica Escobar, 51; Cecilia Munoz, 58; Penny Pritzker, 61; and Shifra Rubin, 71.

Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas gutted the Homeland Security Advisory Council Friday, firing 32 of its members, Politico reports. The bipartisan unpaid board was set up to provide the DHS secretary with advice and expertise. Apparently, Mayorkas did not want that advice or expertise from most of the members, particularly those who served the Trump administration.

Anti-Asian Racism
A 65-year-old Filipino woman was kicked in the stomach Monday evening in midtown Manhattan in broad daylight while she was lying on the ground while her attacker yelled “You don’t belong here.” A homeless man convicted of killing his mother two decades ago was charged with a hate crime on Wednesday. (Manila-based The Inquirer provides a breakdown of Fil-Ams who have been attacked recently.)

The $1 million dollars donated after a 75-year-old Chinese grandmother in San Francisco was attacked on March 17 will be donated to fight racism.

Immigrant Outcomes & George Floyd’s Murder
With the growth of the Black Lives Matter movement “activists hope that the time is right for the broader public to finally recognize the impact the country’s immigration system has on Black migrants,” Jack Herrera writes in The Nation. Organizations are working together — such as UndocuBlack Network, the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, and smaller groups like Haitian Bridge Alliance — to advocate that in immigration, like policing, Black migrants are unfairly targeted.

Lake Street in Minneapolis, the focus of much of the rage and protest after George Floyd’s murder, is a historic beacon of local immigrant life. A year later, which also coincided with the pandemic, “the heart of the miles-long commercial and cultural corridor is struggling to recover,” Tim Sullivan writes in a feature for A.P.

Visas for Tech Workers, Seasonal Tourism Jobs
The H-1B visa, about three-quarters of which go to workers in technology, will be allowed to renew after the Trump administration froze it during the pandemic, Bloomberg reports. The Biden administration is reportedly considering renewing other types of temporary visas, such as au pairs and seasonal tourism jobs.

Immigration Restriction Movement
Why won’t the University of Michigan unseal files from nativist John Tanton? ““What’s in those boxes they don’t want us to see?” asks attorney Hassan Ahmad who has worked tirelessly to get them released in a profile of his efforts in Mother Jones.

Immigration detention beds across the U.S. are empty, but taxpayers are still paying for them, NPR reports. Due to COVID-19 release policies and a shift in priorities for interior enforcement, the number immigrant detainees decreased. But the government is still paying because of how contracts are structured with locally and privately-run detention centers.

An immigration facility in Eloy, Arizona, abused migrants and neglected their medical needs, according to a report released Thursday by the US Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general, reports CNN.

Immigrant Entrepreneurship
The average American farmer is white and 58-years-old, but up-and-coming Latino farmers aim to change that as traditional farmers age up and out, reports Sahan Journal. In Minnesota, a handful of Latino farmers, led by a pioneering Mexican farmer who crisscrosses the state helping others, have started their own organic farms and say it’s a growth area they can focus on while working together to expand a network of small farms run by people of color throughout the state.


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

  • Self Evident: A podcast telling Asian America’s Stories
  • 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



Daniela Gerson
Migratory Notes

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