Migratory Notes 217
Ghosts of family separation, dismantling Trump policies, legislation heats up
Cindy Carcamo, a veteran L.A. Times immigration reporter, has interviewed scores of immigrant families separated by U.S. policies. But she had never publicly shared her own separation story. For This American Life she bravely shifted the focus to the personal: interviewing her sister about the years when she was left behind in Guatemala, considering the wrenching decisions her parents had to make, and exploring their consequences and the trauma that passed to the next generation.
In the Rio Grande Valley, the Cartel del Golfo (CDG), one of the oldest organized crime syndicates in Mexico, runs most human smuggling, reports Rolling Stone. Seth Harp investigates the networks of coyotes connected to the CDG and lands an interview with El Comandante, a prolific coyote who claims to oversee human smuggling in the valley. “Everyone has their price,” says El Comandante. “Whether or not there’s a wall, we’re going to keep working.”
Victims fleeing domestic violence and some victims of gang violence once again have access to asylum, after Attorney General Merrick Garland on Wednesday reversed two controversial Trump administration legal rulings. Garland’s decision comes as scores of people fleeing domestic violence are crossing the southern border in an attempt to find refuge in the U.S., reports The Washington Post.
The Biden administration is allowing tens of thousands of Central Americans in the U.S. to petition for their children to join them legally through an Obama-era program that was previously shut down by Trump, reports CBS News. Through the Central American Minors program, parents from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador who have permanent residency, Temporary Protected Status, other legal status and some with pending applications for status are able to petition for their children to join them in the U.S. legally. It’s intended to prevent children from making the perilous journey from Central America. The Biden administration began re-processing closed applications in March, and opened up the program to new applications on Tuesday, expanding eligibility to parents with pending applications for asylum and U-Visas.
Despite a slight increase in the overall number of border apprehensions, the number of children and teenagers crossing the border decreased in May, reports The New York Times. Over 65,000 children and teenagers have arrived at the border alone since the beginning of the year, and over 16,000 children remain in government custody.
Many of the 2,500 migrant children sheltered in Fort Bliss Army Base in El Paso, Texas are suffering from stress and mental health issues, as paramedics are regularly called to help children suffering from panic attacks, reports AP. Some children are kept for nearly two months at a time and volunteers are urged to keep scissors, pencils and toothbrushes away from children to prevent them from harming each other. Advocates are urging the Biden administration to close the shelter as soon as possible, pointing to other underutilized shelters, such as the newly opened Pomona Convention Center in California, that have better track records and have higher rates of releasing children to family members.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced last Thursday the state would build its own wall along the southern border to stem migration, reports The Texas Tribune. Immigration advocates attacked the plan as “political theater” meant to set up a potential 2024 presidential run for Abbott, and state representatives expressed confusion as the border wall funding is not in the current state budget. On Wednesday, Abbott announced a $250 million “down payment” for the wall would come from Texas state funds, and that Texas will take private donations for construction through a new website. Florida’s governor said he will send law enforcement support to Texas and Arizona, calling it “a disaster and an emergency,” reports AP. And former President Trump will visit the existing Texas-Mexico border wall at the invitation of Abbott later this month, reports The Washington Post.
On Tuesday, the Government Accountability Office determined that Biden did not violate congressional spending rules by suspending construction on the border wall, reports CBS News. The decision comes amid Republican complaints that Biden is legally obligated to continue border wall construction. The Biden administration will also be returning over $2 billion in border wall funding that Trump had siphoned off from the Pentagon, reports CNN.
Since Biden’s inauguration, almost 10,000 Mexican children have been expelled under the Trump-era Title 42 policy, which closed the border to most migrant crossings, despite Biden’s promise to stop turning away unaccompanied children at the border, reports The Dallas Morning News. While children from other countries have been allowed into the U.S., 95% of unaccompanied Mexican children encountered at the border have been turned away, according to a report by Amnesty International.
While the expulsion program continues, families are increasingly being allowed to enter the U.S., with 80% of families encountered at the border admitted in May, reports The Washington Post.
Tuesday marked the 9th anniversary of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which temporarily grants work authorization and deportation protection for some undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, reports Mother Jones. More than 800,000 undocumented immigrants have benefited from the program over its lifespan, though it has been threatened by lawsuits and political changes since its inception. Yet, many DACA recipients remain frustrated with the program’s temporary nature. “We say that DACA is the floor, not the ceiling. Citizenship is the ultimate goal,” said Dylan Ruiz, whose DACA application is pending.
DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who helped implement the program during the Obama administration, wrote an opinion piece for USA Today touting the benefits of the program and urging Congress to pass legislation that offers “Dreamers” permanent protection.
Immigration reform legislation, however, is far from secure. During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the House-passed American Dream and Promise Act, which would provide a pathway to citizenship for immigrants brought to the U.S. as children, TPS recipients, and millions of other undocumented immigrants, Senate Republicans signaled they were gearing up for a fight on which groups of undocumented immigrants to include in potential immigration reform, reports Roll Call. While members from both parties agreed on legalizing “Dreamers,” Republicans expressed doubts on providing a pathway to citizenship to other undocumented immigrants, including TPS holders, and signaled that legislation must also include boosts to border security and immigration enforcement.
While legislation stalls, a federal judge in Texas who previously ruled against the Obama administration’s attempts to expand DACA is weighing whether the program is legal. Some analysts contend that if the program is struck down in court, Congress may be pushed to act on immigration reform.
A new DHS policy will expand work permits to immigrant victims of crimes with pending U-Visa applications, reports Reuters. Every year, 10,000 U-Visas are made available to victims of crimes who assist law enforcement, and successful petitioners receive work authorization and the ability to apply for permanent residency after three years. High demand has created a backlog of nearly 269,000 applications, with some applicants waiting five years before receiving work permits. The new rule will allow applicants who have filed the proper forms, including biometric data and their statement of “victimization,” to receive work permits before their cases have been fully reviewed, reports The Hill.
Coronavirus-related visa backlogs and travel bans have exacerbated labor shortages and negatively impacted U.S. companies that rely on foreign professionals and seasonal employees, reports The Wall Street Journal. Citizens from the 33 countries under a U.S. travel ban have been unable to get work visas even if they’re vaccinated, and backlogs for work visas have gotten worse as only 160 out of the 233 U.S. consulates that process work visas are accepting appointments. Many summer recreation employers, such as amusement parks or summer camps, that normally hire thousands of foreign workers to staff their locations during the summer have been forced to reduce their services or close altogether due to labor shortages caused by a lack of foreign workers.
After being notified of a potential tuberculosis exposure, six women in a privately-run ICE detention facility in Louisiana protested a lack of proper medical care and poor communication about their immigration cases by refusing to enter quarantine in the cells, reports The Intercept. The women say that staff responded by taking away phone and TV access, measures that staff at the same facility took last year against detained women who published videos of their Covid-19 fears. Neither ICE officials nor representatives from GEO group, which runs the facility, have commented on the incident. In Georgia, at a contentious immigration detention center, ICE has been monitoring activity of immigrant organizers and considering retaliatory measures, The Intercept reports.
Two important cases await decisions that will affect immigration detention in multiple states:
- In Washington, a federal jury is deciding whether the private prison company GEO Group must pay immigration detainees the state minimum wage instead of the current $1-a-day for performing tasks in its immigration facility. (AP)
- In California, GEO Group and lawyers from the Biden administration are urging judges on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to repeal a 2019 law that bans new for-profit detention contracts and phases out existing facilities by 2028. (LA Times)
With a backlog of 1.3 million cases and rising, immigration judges around the country are saying they are overworked, understaffed, and under political pressure from the Justice Department, reports NBC News. Unlike other federal judges, the approximately 500 immigration judges in the U.S. are employees of the Justice Department and answer to the attorney general, meaning they are more susceptible to political pressure, which came in the form of more deportations under Trump. Though the judges have been represented by a union since 1979, a move to decertify their union by former Attorney General William Barr has some worried they will lose judicial independence.
Advocates are warning that the expansion of TPS for 100,000 Haitian immigrants has been followed by an increase in immigration scams targeting TPS applicants, reports The Haitian Times. Scammers posing as attorneys or pastors are charging undocumented Haitian immigrants upwards of $5,000 to file TPS applications, despite the fact that the new application process for TPS hasn’t been opened yet. The Haitian Bridge Alliance has received over 100 reports of TPS scams since last month’s expansion.
- Immigrants crucial to vaccinations, but concerns over legal status and access barriers are creating obstacles (The Hill)
- A report by the Center for American Progress shows that providing a pathway to citizenship for all undocumented immigrants would boost the GDP by $1.7 trillion and create 438,800 new jobs over the next decade. (The Hill)
- Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Tx.) sent a letter to Vice President Harris urging her to visit the U.S.-Mexico border with him to meet with the “people on the ground” who must deal with the impact of the increase in migration at the border. (Washington Post)
- A new poll by the International Rescue Committee shows that the majority of Americans support resettling 95,000 refugees per year in the U.S. (Forbes)
- New Mexico reopened applications for a $5 million program that provides cash assistance to immigrants who were ineligible to receive federal stimulus funds. (AP)
- On Friday, the Biden administration closed the Victim Of Immigration Crime Engagement Office, a Trump-era office that aimed to help victims of crimes committed by immigrants. (AP)
Jobs, Fellowships & Awards
Producer/Reporter — Race & Culture, ABC News — ABC News Washington is looking for a Producer/Reporter to join the Race and Culture team “to develop coverage with a deeper reporting at the intersection of race, politics, and culture, with a specific focus on immigration.”
Radicle Anthology Call for Submission — A new multi-media anthology for and by undocumented im/migrant voices is accepting submissions until July 16, 2021
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)
- 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 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
*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
*Anna-Cat Brigida is a contributing editor 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