Migratory Notes 212
Harris’ silence on border; shadowy new wave of caravan organizers; opaque network of shelters
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Since 2018, “shadowy figures who traffic in disinformation and exploit social media to take advantage of migrants” have organized more than a dozens caravans, advertising on WhatsApp and Facebook, reports Rest of World. Over six months, Jeff Ernst followed two migrant caravans. “No one ever asked the organizers to identify themselves,” Ernst writes. “Migrants, worried about kidnapping or extortion, advise their peers to avoid sharing personal information. This anonymity creates a climate of suspicion and lawlessness that is easily exploited. Xenophobes pop in and out of WhatsApp groups to insult and disparage Hondurans.” Both caravans failed within a few days — the organizers led migrants astray, TV crews followed them day and night, and ultimately Guatemalan security forces stopped them.
The 2020 Census results revealed the slowest U.S. population growth since the Great Depression, and some policy experts are advocating immigration reform to combat the long-term socioeconomic impacts of a slow growth rate, reports Roll Call. Without changes, the U.S. could face “devastating consequences,” including a depletion of Social Security funds, decreased tax revenue from working-age adults, and labor shortages. Immigration responses include increasing the number of H-1B visas available and creating geographically tied “heartland visas” to target rural areas.
Migrant Children Facilities
The Biden administration is housing about 21,000 children and teens in an “opaque network” of 200 facilities that spans two dozen states and includes five shelters with more than 1,000 children each, according to confidential documents, reports AP. Several practices at the facilities are similar to those that Biden criticized under the Trump administration, including insufficient vetting of caregivers and the use of facilities facing abuse lawsuits. At two California sites more than 60 migrant youth have tested positive for COVID, including 55 at the Long Beach Convention Center, reports ABC News.
Despite these problems, “the migrant children are far better cared for at the new facilities, operated by the Department of Health and Human Services, than they were at crammed jails run by the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection, according to administration officials,” reports The New York Times. Health and Human Services projections obtained by the Times predict the agency will need more than $8 billion for the 2021 fiscal year to house migrant youth. Meanwhile, it is taking about a month on average to move to transfer them from government facilities to family members or sponsors in the U.S.
Since Biden took office, Border Patrol agents have encountered more than 2,100 migrant children who were previously expelled from the United States with their families under Title 42, a public health policy that sends most migrants back to Mexico but currently exempts unaccompanied minors, reports CBS News. The children are believed to have voluntarily left their families to seek asylum by themselves.
Vice President Kamala Harris has remained silent on opening the border, despite before the election accusing Trump of violating federal law for citing the pandemic to effectively seal the border, reports Politico. Harris’s silence illuminates the bind that the Biden administration has faced upon taking office: Quickly reversing Trump’s policies “can create an abundance of political headaches and contribute to a host of other problems, including trying to process and house a record number of unaccompanied children crossing the southern border.”
Migrants are taking more dangerous paths to get into the U.S., partially as a result of the border wall, stepped up enforcement and the U.S.’s policy of quickly expelling immigrants to Mexico, reports The Wall Street Journal. Mostly single adults are turning to remote desert and mountain crossings, or traveling on overcrowded boats or railcars. At least 16 migrants have been killed in accidents near the border since March, officials say. The number of single adults apprehended crossing the border soared to over 111,000 in April, the highest monthly total in over a decade, reports The Washington Post.
Representative Henry Cuellar (D-TX) of Laredo, Texas, a border town, has become one of Biden’s harshest critics from within his party on his handling of the border, reports USA Today. “Listen to the people. Listen to the ranchers. Listen to the NGOs. It’s not only the immigration activist, but you got to listen to border communities,” says Cuellar.
DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas faces the daunting task of “managing a broken immigration system through a mix of empathy and law enforcement,” and striking the right balance has proven challenging so far, reports TIME in a profile. His actions to date have mixed his background as a prosecutor with a “humanitarian streak.”
A recent poll showed that 70% of respondents think the U.S. immigration system is not working, providing some Democrats with the confidence to push forward with immigration reforms, reports The Hill. Yet much of the criticism for the current situation is being placed on the Biden administration. A Hill-HarrisX poll found that 51% of registered voters disapproved of Biden’s immigration strategy, including 83% of Republicans, 22% of Democrats and 50% of independent voters, reports The Hill. Meanwhile, thwarting bipartisan talks on immigration reform, Republican lawmakers are demanding first action at the border, reports Roll Call.
Support for refugees is increasing in largely rural, conservative states where Trump was popular, reports NPR. Before Trump drastically reduced the refugee cap at the beginning of his first term, Idaho, Nebraska and North Dakota often ranked at the top of the nation in per capita refugee resettlements and employers now say the cuts in refugee resettlement are contributing to a labor shortage.
The Biden administration hired a slate of immigration judges originally chosen by the Trump team, several of whom were former prosecutors and counselors for ICE, reports The Hill. The Justice Department issued a statement saying the 17 hired judges all received conditional offers under the previous administration, though critics are saying the Biden administration has an obligation to fully vet the judges they hire and rebalance the court system that’s been shaped by Trump.
Indigenous immigrants who speak neither English nor Spanish often find themselves invisible if they make it into immigration courts, reports El Paso Times. Despite a Clinton-era executive order obligating federal agencies to have a system in place to offer meaningful language access to asylum seekers, inter-agency discrepancies in tracking language populations means courts are sometimes unable to provide language accommodation for people who only speak Indigenous languages.
Prosecutors in Georgia are seeking the death penalty and hate-crime charges against Robert Aaron Long, who killed eight people, six of whom were Asian women, reports The Washington Post. On Tuesday, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis said she thinks her office will be the first to use Georgia’s new hate-crime law, passed last year in the wake of the fatal shooting of Ahmaud Arbery.
More than 6,600 hate incidents have targeted Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders since the pandemic began in the United States, with nearly a third reported in March 2021, according to Stop AAPI Hate, reports USA Today. A separate report from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, found a more than 164% increase in anti-Asian hate crime reports to police in 16 major cities and jurisdictions in the first quarter of 2021 compared with last year.
DACA & Undocumented Students
A group of more than 80 DACA recipients is suing the Biden administration to respond to their applications requesting permission to leave the country to study abroad under a special provision, reports the LA Times. The case could pave the way to citizenship for DACA recipients.
On Tuesday, the Biden administration reversed a Trump-era guidance that declined federal pandemic assistance to undocumented college students, reports CBS News. Undocumented students, including those with and without DACA, refugees, international students and asylum-seekers will now be eligible to receive federal aid allocated by Congress to Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund — approximately $74.8 billion has been allocated since March 2020.
The Biden administration is restarting an Obama-era program that allows foreign entrepreneurs to work for five years in the United States without a visa, so long as their startups attract $250,000 in U.S. venture capital, hire 10 employees, or reach other benchmarks, reports The Wall Street Journal. Obama proposed the International Entrepreneur rule three days before he left office. The Trump administration released a notice opposing the program, but never officially terminated it.
On Saturday, the State Department announced the winners of the 2022 Diversity Immigrant Visa Program, which benefits up to 55,000 people per year and allows immigrants from countries with lower levels of immigration to the U.S. to apply for visas, reports CNN. Also known as the “Green Card Lottery,” this year, the program removed Trump-era restrictions on immigration from eight countries, including Iran, North Korea, and Syria.
Roma, Texas, a community of 11,000 people, has become known as an “epicenter” of migrant crossings in recent years, reports the New Yorker. Stephania Taladrid visited the town to follow the journey of some recently migrated Central Americans, and spoke to town residents about their relationship to border crossers. While some, like Sister Norma Pimentel, attempt to help newly arrived migrants and find hope in Biden’s vision of a safe and prosperous Central America, others, like constable Jayson Rivera, feel that Trump did a better job handling the border. In 2018, Molly Hennessy-Fiske of the Los Angeles Times produced a series on Roma.
Immigration was one of the top five issues that received the most media coverage in the first 100 days of the Biden administration, particularly in outlets that skew conservative, according to a Pew Research Center study. About 20% of stories for right-leaning audience focused on immigration or the border, compared to 8% for left-leaning audiences.
- The U.S. is stopping a policy of transporting migrant families by plane from Texas to California in order to rapidly expel them. (CBS News)
- As of last Sunday, 1,906 detainees have tested positive for COVID out of the approximately 16,700 total people detained by ICE. (Mother Jones)
- Nineteen advocacy, immigration rights and healthcare groups are teaming up to pressure Congress to pass the recently reintroduced HEAL for Immigrant Families Act, which would grant lawful immigrants access to federal healthcare programs. (The Hill)
- The border wall in Calexico is being reinforced with new sheets of metal mesh, despite Biden’s halt to new border wall construction. (KPBS)
- On Friday, the Biden administration withdrew a Trump-era proposal to expand the amount and type of biometric data collected by immigration authorities. (AP)
- New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced a $40 million fund for undocumented immigrants and other essential workers left out of federal pandemic relief. (NJ.com)
- Freedom for Immigrants details how ICE agents haven’t been following the immigration policies enacted by the Biden administration. (The Intercept)
- A combination of Covid and restrictive Trump-era policies has slowed visa processing to a crawl, placing many immigrants who have applied for marriage-based visas in limbo. (BuzzFeed News)
Immigration Resources & Opportunities
Jobs/ Calls for Submissions
- Producer/Reporter — Race & Culture, ABC News
- Radicle Anthology Call for Submission — A new multi-media anthology for and by undocumented im/migrant voices is accepting submissions until July 16, 2021
- 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)
- Driving while Brown: Sheriff Joe Arpaio versus the Latino Resistance by Terry Greene Sterling and Jude Joffe-Block (April 2021)
- A Nation of Immigrants, second edition, by Susan F. Martin (March 2021)
- Faces of Courage: Ten Years of Building Sanctuary photography by Harvey Finkle (2021)
- 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
- 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
- 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 immigrant, 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 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
*Paco Alvarez is a staff writer for Migratory Notes. He is a writer based in Chicago. Previously, he was a Fall 2020 Civic Reporting Fellow for City Bureau where he covered the 2020 elections and political participation in immigrant communities. His work has appeared in the Chicago Reader, Block Club Chicago and South Side Weekly. You can find him on Twitter @pacvarez
*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