Migratory Notes 218

Asylum soars in Mexico; Harris & Trump to the border; Expulsions ease

Daniela Gerson
Migratory Notes
Published in
16 min readJun 24, 2021


This photo of protests at LAX accompanied the first Migratory Notes “Introducing a pop-up immigration coverage newsletter,” sent out in January of 2017. This newsletter, #218, will be our last. Photo by Konrad Fielder/ AFP

We are incredibly moved by the outpouring of support we have received from across the United States, Mexico, and beyond since announcing that we are stopping publication of Migratory Notes. We have never before so deeply felt our impact. Readers who are journalists, geographers, priests, rabbis, lawyers, data specialists, academics, activists, government representatives, and more wrote about how Migratory Notes has shaped their work.

THANK YOU for sharing and being part of this community.

Join us one more time tonight for the Town Hall on Covering Haitian Migration, and stay for a toast at its conclusion.

-Daniela and Elizabeth

The rapper known as MF DOOM died late last year, at the age of 49, barred from returning to the U.S., reports Pitchfork. Piecing together documents acquired from USCIS, Noah Yoo traces DOOM’s complicated immigration history from his birth in West London to his early life in New York and decades long failed struggle for permanent residency. It’s a fascinating and unique portrait, but also a story, Yoo writes, “familiar to any immigrant who’s ever wondered about whether they will one day be forced out of or kept away from the place they call home because of obsolete laws, brushes with law enforcement, or unlucky and inequitable circumstances.”

A record number of migrants from Central America are stopping short of the U.S. and applying for asylum in Mexico, reports The Economist. While Trump’s Remain in Mexico policy explains some of the increase in recent years, 2021 is set to break new records in the number of asylum seekers in Mexico with nearly 42,000 applications in the first five months of the year. “You can spend years trying to get into the United States, or spend those years building a life in Mexico,” says Rafael Alonso Hernández from Colef, a Mexican think-tank.

Remain in Mexico No More
The Biden administration is giving nearly 28,000 migrants another shot at asylum. They were enrolled in Trump’s Remain in Mexico policy and ordered deported after failing to show up to U.S. court dates, reports BuzzFeed News. Many of the migrants were deported “in absentia” after missing their last asylum hearing for a variety of reasons, such as dangerous conditions preventing them from crossing the border, kidnappings by cartels, or because they were denied entry for being pregnant. The Biden administration previously allowed in over 11,000 migrants with open Remain in Mexico cases; the new announcement allows migrants with closed cases a chance to enter the U.S.

Title 42
The Biden administration is considering ending for migrant families the controversial Title 42 policy, which expels most asylum seekers caught at the border, reports Axios. Currently, there are no plans to end Title 42 for single adults, though officials admitted that ending it for families could increase pressure to terminate the policy altogether. A report by Human Rights First found that since January, nearly 3,300 migrants expelled under Title 42 or blocked from entering by the policy have been killed, raped, or kidnapped in Mexico, reports Reuters.

Meanwhile, the administration has restarted “lateral flights,” in which migrants subjected to Title 42 are flown to and released in a different section of the border than where they were caught, after suspending such flights in mid-May, reports NBC News. Critics of the tactic argue that migrants often think they are being allowed into the U.S., only to be walked across the border into an area of Mexico they are unfamiliar with and where they lack connections.

Migrant Children
Over 55,000 migrant children have come to the U.S. since Biden’s inauguration, and about 1 in 3 is from Honduras, reports KERA News and the Dallas Morning News in a collaboration. This includes kids like Oscar Sanchez, who left Honduras in late March after the pandemic and two hurricanes decimated the country’s economy and local gangs attempted to recruit him. After arriving in the U.S., Sanchez spent weeks in an emergency shelter for children in Texas, where he says children were sometimes treated like “animals” and many suffered from depression — he often entertained people using a borrowed guitar.

Sanchez’s experiences in the emergency shelter mirror other reports from children held in emergency facilities. According to 17 testimonials filed in a court case on Monday, children in emergency shelters across the United States endure crowded living areas, sometimes rotting food, and depression, reports Reuters.

COVID cases in detention centers skyrocketed by about 340% between March and May, with outbreaks centered in Mississippi, Louisiana and Arizona. The spike in Covid-19 cases in ICE detention centers coincides with a decision to transfer detainees through a Mississippi facility experiencing an outbreak, reports The Intercept. Some advocates are also blaming ICE’s slow vaccination rollout for the increase in infections, though detainees were offered vaccines in some facilities.

A new report shows that ICE force-fed hunger striking detainees protesting poor conditions several times between 2015 and 2017, reports BuzzFeed News. The joint ACLU and Physicians for Human Rights report shows that ICE acquired at least 15 court orders to force-feed or use other involuntary medical procedures, such as forced urinary catheterization, on detainees, though the report was unable to verify if every court order was executed or if hunger-strikers voluntarily ate after being threatened with force-feeding.

Texas Border Crisis?
Texas officials emptied out a prison in preparation for an increase in migrant arrests under Gov. Greg Abbott’s Operation Lone Star, which aims to use state law enforcement to crack down on the increase in migration at the border, reports The Texas Tribune. The prison has the capacity to hold up to 1,000 people.

The prison preparations come as Abbott attempts to finish the border wall Trump started. Abbott’s office claims about $400,000 has been donated by the public towards the border wall so far, reports Newsweek. Some local officials and business leaders say that the state is ignoring the actual needs of communities near the border, which were hit particularly hard during the pandemic, reports The Texas Tribune. Many locals are more concerned with boosting the local economy than stopping migration, and some business and property owners are pushing for more legal means of migration because their sales and tax revenues depend on Mexican shoppers.

Residents in border towns like El Paso fear that Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s rhetoric about immigration, which has likened migration to an “invasion,” will incite violence, reports The Dallas Morning News. The state leaders’ rhetoric has drawn comparisons to both former President Trump and the El Paso shooter, who targeted Mexicans and warned of a “Hispanic Invasion of Texas.”

Border Visit
After months of criticism by Republicans, Vice President Kamala Harris is visiting the U.S.-Mexico border in El Paso on Friday with DHS Secretary Mayorkas, reports the LA Times. Harris’ spokeswoman has stated the border trip will be part of her ongoing efforts to address the “root causes of migration” from Central America. Her trip will come a few days before former President Trump visits the existing border wall with Gov. Greg Abbott and a group of congressional Republicans, reports Politico.

Immigration is an International Issue
Foreign investment in Central America from U.S. companies is only a starting point to affect migration from the region, reports Vox. Vice President Kamala Harris’s announcement that a dozen private companies would support “inclusive economic development” in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador is promising. But experts say that more substantial investments in education and other quality-of-life improvements, such as medical care, will be necessary to improve people’s lives and curb migration from the region.

Immigration Reform
Senate Democrats are planning on including a pathway to citizenship for some immigrants in the upcoming infrastructure bill they hope to pass through budget reconciliation, reports the LA Times. An early draft of the bill includes $150 billion for immigration policies, including some funds for border security, though Democrats are debating which immigrants will be included in a pathway to citizenship. Using the budget reconciliation process, Senate Democrats would be able to pass the bill using a simple majority instead of trying to convince 10 Republicans to sign onto their plans to overcome the filibuster. The process can only be used if the legislation will have a direct impact on the budget.

Senator Alex Padilla (D-Ca.) is advocating for the Citizenship for Essential Workers Act, which would provide a pathway to citizenship for the 5 million undocumented immigrants who work essential jobs during the pandemic, to be included in the infrastructure bill, reports LA Times. In an op-ed supporting the bill, Jean Guerrero argues that the debate around immigration reform is “about workers in the U.S. who have been here, on average, for 18 years, and who saved our economy last year. They have kids, homes and jobs here.” She notes that about 74% of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. work jobs in healthcare, agriculture, childcare, and other essential occupations, and that thousands died due to the pandemic.

Several advocacy events around the country aim to push government officials to enact immigration reform:

Black Immigrants
As Congress passed legislation to make Juneteenth a federal holiday, immigration advocates held events across the country to push for protections for Black immigrants, reports Roll Call. Immigration advocates called on the Biden administration to create Temporary Protected Status designations from Black-majority countries like Cameroon and Mauritania, and to redesignate TPS for Somalia and Sudan to allow undocumented immigrants who entered the United States after the previous designations in 2012 and 2013, respectively, to apply for protection. Black immigrants are detained disproportionately compared to immigrants of other races, often have to pay higher bonds, and some report discrimination while in detention, reports HuffPost.

Immigration and Pandemic
In areas with limited access to health care, undocumented immigrants are resorting to unproven medications to treat Covid with sometimes deadly consequences, reports The New York Times. Cultural and language barriers, high prices for medicine, and a widespread lack of insurance have pushed some undocumented immigrants to flea markets and wellness centers to purchase scientifically unsupported and unregulated Covid treatments like “vitamin infusions” and hydroxychloroquine, many of which are peddled on social media.

Last year over 170 migrant farmworkers contracted Covid-19 at a greenhouse in upstate New York, reports Documented. Despite the outbreak and the hospitalization of some workers, business at Green Empire Farms continued uninterrupted.


Jobs, Fellowships & Awards

Houston Chronicle is hiring an immigration reporter. Send resume and clips to lily.thomas@chron.com.

Director of Development and Audience Growth, Borderless Magazine

inewsource seeks border and immigration reporter

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

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

*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

*Yana Kunichoff is a special projects editor for Migratory Notes. She currently covers public education for the Arizona Republic. 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