Migratory Notes 209

Could US lead on climate asylum? Coyotes on FB; Just 32 refugees sent to Columbus

Daniela Gerson
Apr 23 · 16 min read
More than 50 people have migrated from Campur, Guatemala after intense flooding from November hurricanes. Photo credit: Jeff Abbott for Al Jazeera

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#MustReads
U.S. money wiring companies are “profiting from kidnapping” reports VICE World News in an investigation into ransoms and the migrant smuggling economy. “By our rough estimate, criminal organizations in Mexico have made around $800 million on migrant kidnappings alone over the past decade, and money-transfer companies received a cut on nearly every transaction through fees and exchange rates,” write Emily Green and Keegan Hamilton. (Facebook is also profiting from illicit migration as coyotes are advertising their services smuggling migrants to the U.S. and critics say the platform has not done enough to take down these pages, which violate the company’s content moderation policy, reports CNN.)

After 6-year-old Juan crossed the border with his grandmother, he became one of the record number of minors in U.S. custody, reports The Washington Post in an investigation into the often lengthy process of reuniting these children with their families, many of whom are already in the U.S. It takes 25 days on average for HHS to release children to their parents in the U.S. and 33 days to release them to other family members. More on the topic → One shelter director in Arizona reports that about 30% of the migrants who pass through the shelter say they have been separated from a family member and don’t know where they are, reports The Intercept.

US Leading on Climate Refugees?
The Biden administration is looking into offering asylum to migrants displaced by climate change, and is likely to discuss climate migration at the administration’s first climate summit Thursday and Friday, reports AP. “No nation offers asylum or other legal protections to people displaced specifically because of climate change,” Julie Watson writes. Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) intends to reintroduce legislation Thursday that offers protections for people displaced by climate change who otherwise don’t fit the current legal definition of refugee. “We have a greater chance now than ever before to get this done,” Markey said.

That said, chances are still slim, and “US immigration policy is totally unprepared for the coming climate migrations,” Zoe Carpenter writes in The Nation.

Border
Arizona became the first state to declare a state of emergency at the border in response to an increase of migrants this year when Republican Gov. Doug Ducey made the announcement Tuesday to deploy 250 National Guard troops to the border, reports the Arizona Republic.

Border Patrol is facing the largest spring increase in migration in 15 years, reports The New York Times. On any given night, hundreds of migrants — mainly young families and teenage boys traveling alone — cross the Rio Grande in inflatable boats. They step onto the rocks with only a flashlight from a smuggler to guide them and then make their way to Border Patrol to turn themselves in. The rescue of two young Honduran migrants, ages seven and 13, who were clinging to a small island in the Rio Grande highlights the dangers of this journey, reports CNN.

As Biden aims to find a more humane response to the increase in migrants at the border, the billion-dollar global border-industrial complex may be the biggest hurdle, reports The Guardian.

Migrant Children
The number of minors in CBP custody dropped by about 50% since late March to about 2,800 this week, reports NPR. About 400 minors continue to arrive at the border daily, but they are being transferred into HHS custody more quickly after the agency added more bed space in convention centers and military bases. The agency now houses about 19,000 minors and more than half are in these temporary shelters since space in long-term facilities filled up quickly.

HHS abruptly shut down one of these sites housing 450 girls in Texas after a medical incident involving a worker but did not say why it closed the facility, reports ABC 13.

Border Wall
A federal judge ruled last week to allow the federal government to seize 6.5 acres of land in Texas from a family that has been fighting against construction of border barriers on their property since the Bush administration, reports KVEO. Landowners in south Texas are now worried and confused by Biden’s promises, reports ABC News. Biden launched a 60-day review of border wall projects when he reached office, but the deadline has come and gone without new guidance from the government. Meanwhile, the Department of Justice continues seizing land even though it could withdraw from or ask to dismiss cases of eminent domain, reports Politico. The Biden administration says the cases continue because it is still reviewing its border wall policy.

Immigration is an International Issue
Detentions of Central Americans in Mexico grew by more than 30% from February to March and deportations rose more than 60% since Mexico increased enforcement to help the Biden administration deal with the increase in migrants crossing the southern border, reports The Wall Street Journal. Mexico has also sent 9,000 National Guard troops to patrol its southern border with Guatemala. Human rights groups are now worried about the conditions at migrant shelters in Mexico as the number of migrant children in shelters has increased from 380 to 3,500 since the start of the year, reports Al Jazeera.

As the Biden administration focuses on solving the root causes of migration, it is overlooking one major issue: “an iron river of illegal guns,” writes journalist Ioan Grillo in The Guardian. More than 179,000 firearms captured in Mexico and Central America from 2007 and 2019 can be traced to gun sales in the U.S., and controlling the flow of guns could help stem homicides in these countries.

Refugee Cap
On Saturday, Biden told reporters that dealing with the influx of migrant children at the border has compromised his administration’s abilities to focus on other immigration issues, such as refugees, reports TIME. “Problem was, the refugee part was working on the crisis that ended up at the border with young people. We couldn’t do two things at once, so now we are going to raise the number,” said Biden. Other top officials have shared that criticism of Biden’s approach to the influx of migrants at the Southwest border made Biden reluctant to raise the refugee cap, reports The Washington Post.

After saying the cap would not be lifted, the Biden administration said it will announce the new refugee cap on May 15, reports The New York Times. In February, Biden promised to increase the refugee cap to 62,500 from the historically low 15,000 set by the Trump administration. Press Secretary Jen Psaki noted that it was “unlikely” the new refugee cap will be as high as the February promise. The initial announcement included changes to the Trump administration’s regional allocation of refugees, which disqualified most Muslim and African refugees. Biden’s new regional allotment will create more slots for refugees from African, East and Southeast Asian, and Latin American countries.

Only 32 refugees have been resettled in Columbus, and only 2,050 nationwide, since the fiscal year began on October 1, reports The Columbus Dispatch. The Biden administration’s reluctance to rebuild the refugee system gutted by the Trump administration means tens of thousands of refugees cleared for admittance into the United States are waiting for the go-ahead to enter the country.

Immigration Reform
During a meeting with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, lawmakers say Biden supported enacting immigration reform through the budget reconciliation process if the two bills providing pathways to citizenship for undocumented immigrants are unable to reach a 60-vote majority in the Senate, reports Politico. Biden also suggested he would push for immigration reform by touting its potential economic benefits during the upcoming address to a joint session of Congress.

Former President George W. Bush called on lawmakers to enact bipartisan immigration reform, in a Sunday opinion piece for The Washington Post. To make the United States “a lawful and welcoming nation at the same time,” Bush suggested providing “necessary resources” to create a “secure and efficient border,” and creating a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients. The former president also wrote about the need to modernize the asylum system, increase legal immigration, and bring undocumented immigrants “out of the shadows” through a “process in which legal residency and citizenship must be earned.” Immigration reform was a priority of Bush’s second-term agenda, and he led an unsuccessful attempt to overhaul the immigration system in 2007.

Detention
Privately run detention facilities are facing mounting opposition from state legislatures, grassroots organizations and even major banks, reports NPR. The population of detained immigrants has fallen from a record high of 56,000 during the Trump administration to about 15,000 due to the pandemic and expulsions under Title 42.

Democrats from the House and Senate sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas urging him to improve oversight of detention centers, establish human rights standards and discontinue the use of private facilities and county jails for immigration detention, reports The Hill. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) sent the letter the same day he re-introduced the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act, which would “increase oversight of [detention] facilities to eliminate abuse, and better protect the civil rights of immigrant detainees,” according to a press release published by Insider NJ.

Enforcement
The Biden administration ordered ICE and CBP to replace terms such as “alien,” “illegal alien,” and “assimilation” with “noncitizen or migrant,” “undocumented,” and “integration” in a memo sent to agency department heads Monday, reports The Washington Post. The memo is part of the administration’s attempts to create a more humane immigration system, though Republican critics see it as a move to deprioritize immigration enforcement.

Visas
The Biden administration announced it is setting aside 6,000 H-2B guest worker visas for non-agricultural temporary jobs, such as landscaping, food processing and hotel work, for people from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, reports Reuters. The allotment is part of an additional 22,000 H-2B visas being made available to employers this fiscal year, a move that’s been praised by businesses but criticized by labor unions worried about high unemployment.

Thousands of spouses of immigrants who are legally employed in the United States are unable to work due to delays processing visa renewals and work permits, after the Trump administration changed the visa process and the pandemic caused a backlog, reports The Wall Street Journal. Lawyers filed a class-action lawsuit on the spouses’ behalf last month. International students experiencing delays with temporary work permits after graduation filed a similar lawsuit.

Anti-Asian Violence
The Illinois House of Representatives voted last week in favor of a bill that would require public schools to teach Asian-American history, reports Reuters. Advocates say this type of curriculum is necessary to educate students at a moment when anti-Asian hate is soaring, reports Sahan Journal. They hope it will help Asian-American students feel seen and create more empathetic citizens ready to confront the challenge of systematic racism. The bill still needs to pass a vote in the Illinois Senate.

As a mom in Korea, Suncha Kim dreamed about moving to America and she followed her dream. “The land was vast — and so too, it seemed, were the opportunities,” writes Michelle Ye Hee Lee in The Washington Post. Kim, 69, was one of eight victims in the recent Atlanta-area spa shootings, and her family asked that she be remembered for her love of her family and the country she called home.

Immigration Journalism
Border restrictions during the pandemic spurred one of the first bilingual, binational journalism collaborations of seven news outlets in El Paso and Ciudad Juárez called Puente or “Bridge,” reports The Guardian. “National media covers the border badly, with a distorted view that comes from what it means in the context of current political views,” said Bob Moore, who has covered El Paso for more than two decades and is one of the editors for the Microsoft-funded project. The tech company is also funding collaborations covering immigrant communities in the Central Valley of California and the Yakima Valley of Washington.

Follows

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

  • Port of Entry is a podcast about cross-border stories that connect us. Border people often inhabit this in-between place. From KPBS and PRX, “Port of Entry” tells personal stories from this place.
  • 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.
  • 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

Migratory Notes

A weekly informed and concise guide to immigration news.

Daniela Gerson

Written by

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

Migratory Notes

A weekly informed and concise guide to immigration news.