Migratory Notes 60
National Guard deploys, representation denied, Silicon Valley cashing in on border buildup
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Dropping invisible dye on migrants? Blaring barking dogs? Tech initiatives to survey the southern border have a long history — some more successful than others. The area includes 12,000 underground motion sensors, long-range radars and Predator B drones that can find footprints in the sand — and the latest budget deal promised another $400 million in funding for border technology.
Silicon Valley is looking to cash in on the border boom, reports Bloomberg Businessweek in a detailed analysis of the industry. Among those interested is Peter Thiel, the PayPal billionaire, who has raised money for a virtual wall startup called Anduril Industries, after a powerful sword in The Lord of the Rings.
But it’s unlikely these high-tech solutions will be effective. “For all its promise, surveillance technology has become a Bermuda Triangle for border security,” write Lauren Etter and Karen Weise. “The government has devoted a half-century and billions of dollars to creating a virtual wall, but political leaders, America’s biggest companies, and laboratories filled with rocket scientists have failed to deliver one that works.”
The story does note one place high-tech surveillance has succeeded: Israel. In its smart fence, “data points picked up by the sensors, such as changes in magnetic fields, temperature, and vibrations, are fed into an algorithm that’s grown advanced enough to distinguish between an intruder and an animal or a bush shaking in the wind.”
Attorney General Jeff Sessions addressed border sheriffs Wednesday in New Mexico, telling them “we have your back” as National Guard troops began deploying to the border. “On the streets of the South Texas cities they traveled through, they were all but invisible as they sat in ordinary civilian pickup trucks,” Manny Fernandez writes in The New York Times of the arrival of the troops. “Many people still associate the calling-up of the National Guard with disasters and riots, and the troops’ lack of visibility in border communities is an attempt to soften their presence.”
California initially held out, but approved a limited deployment Wednesday which will not enforce immigration laws, among other provisions. Governor Brown wrote in a letter to Trump, “This will not be a mission to build a new wall. It will not be a mission to round up women and children or detain people escaping violence and seeking a better life.”
CNN reports that not only do legal restrictions mean the National Guard could end up doing more construction work than policing, but many migrants could be looking for agents so they can declare asylum, rather than avoiding them.
If bringing in the National Guard sounds familiar, that’s because it is. Military leaders were against the plan to send the National Guard to the border when it was initially floated last year, reports The New York Times. And George W. Bush and Barack Obama sent troops to the border, reports the San Antonio Express-News. (Both these operations were judged as inefficient by government audits, reports Cronkite News.)
Previous troop mobilizations have a grim history: The Intercept reports on civilian deaths from earlier deployments, and Slate reports on one particularly shocking case, the 1997 death of an American teenager who was killed while tending his family’s goats on the U.S. side of the border by a unit of Marines searching for a “drug smuggler.”
Construction on part of Trump’s ‘big, beautiful’ border wall began in El Paso this week, reports The Texas Tribune. But the more accurate term for the barrier would be to call it a fence, reports The Dallas Morning News.
Immigration is an International Issue
For the past decade, Department of Homeland Security screening terminals stationed at Mexican immigration jails have offered the U.S. government unprecedented access to migrants heading north, and could be expanded to other countries with heavy migration flows. The goal is to “identify criminals, gang members and potential terrorists long before they reach the border,” reports The Washington Post. But Trump’s accusations that Mexico does little to stop migration to the U.S. could jeopardize this sensitive program.
Deportation and Family Separation
A 16-year-old girl, born in the U.S. to undocumented immigrants, is facing a choice that feels impossible: living with her parents in a country she barely knows, or leaving her family to pursue a life in Ann Arbor, Michigan. “There are thousands of kids like her in Mexico — U.S. citizen children of undocumented parents who have been deported, who are struggling to adapt to a country they don’t quite know, a language they don’t quite speak and people who often regard them as oddities,” writes Kevin Sullivan for The Washington Post.
In Dallas, Dianne Solis looks at the U.S. citizens children left behind after their parents were deported. “Everyone from parents to school officials, medical personnel and parish priests are focusing on how to prepare these citizen children for the deportation of a parent not here lawfully,” Solis writes in the Dallas Morning News. “There are nearly 5 million children in the U.S with a parent who is here illegally, according to the Pew Research Center.”
Crackdown on Skilled-Worker Visas
Last fall, the Trump administration announced it plans to rescind an Obama-era program that allowed spouses to work. The change, expected in June, means that “thousands of mainly Indian women who followed their husbands to the United States will have to give up their jobs — even though many are highly educated workers with sought-after skills,” Miriam Jordan writes in The New York Times.
Detained immigrants will no longer be released from detention while they wait for a court hearing, after Trump signed a memo last week ending a policy he calls “catch and release.” He also requested that the defense secretary provide a list of military facilities that could become immigration detention centers. But Vox explains that the concept of “catch and release” isn’t so simple, because the policies dictating who is released from detention and when can’t be ended by an executive order. What Trump’s memo actually does is instruct the three departments that deal with immigration enforcement to expand detention.
Sessions, meanwhile, directed federal prosecutors to employ a zero-tolerance policy on the southwest border. That could mean harsher penalties for migrants apprehended crossing the border for the first time. (The Houston Chronicle reported last year on efforts to expand a program known as Operation Streamline, used to deliver mass convictions to border crossers, and which the Trump administration has shown an interest in expanding).
An ICE raid on a meat-processing plant in Tennessee that resulted in 97 arrests last week may be the single largest workplace raid since the Bush administration,reports The Washington Post. The day after the raid, 550 kids stayed home from school, reports the Citizen Tribune. The raid threw the community in Hamblen County into chaos, but it also galvanized them, reports the Knoxville News. A local Catholic church has become an operating base for the hundreds of family members and volunteers seeking to help those arrested.
Detention and Sexual Abuse
Two years ago the Intercept filed a Freedom of Information Act request to ICE to release reports of sexual abuse in agency custody. They never received a response. The DHS Office of Inspector General responded nearly two years later, sharing 1,224 complaints submitted between 2010 and 2017. They provided documentation of investigations of just 2 percent of them. “The sheer number of complaints — despite serious obstacles in the path of those filing them, as well as the patterns they reveal about mistreatment in facilities nationwide — suggest that sexual assault and harassment in immigration detention are not only widespread but systemic, and enabled by an agency that regularly fails to hold itself accountable,” Alice Speri writes.
The Justice Department will suspend a legal assistance program for people facing deportation, ostensibly to review the program’s efficacy, reports The Washington Post. The Legal Orientation Program, created in 2003 by the George W. Bush administration so court proceedings would move more smoothly, held information sessions for more than 500,000 detained immigrants last year and was one of the few ways to access legal advice in a court system that doesn’t provide representation. The program is administered by the Vera Institute of Justice and a network of 18 other nonprofits.
“This is a blatant attempt by the administration to strip detained immigrants of even the pretense of due-process rights,” said the director of one of the organizations that provides representation. A court official maintained they are protected, telling Maria Sacchetti “that immigration judges are already required to inform immigrants of their rights before a hearing, including their right to find a lawyer at their own expense.”
The Vera Institute said a 2012 study by the Justice Department concluded that the program saved the government nearly $18 million over one year.
The move comes during a push for the immigration court system to move more quickly. The union for immigration judges says Sessions’ plan to enforce quotas in immigration courts will not only further strain an already overburdened system but undermine its credibility. “Petitioners will wonder if a judge’s decision is based on merit or if they’re just trying to meet a quota or deadline,” said the president of the National Association of Immigration Judges.
Journalists & DHS
A reporter for Spanish-language media arrested while covering a protest in Memphis last week has been transferred to an immigration detention center in Louisiana, reports The Commercial Appeal. His attorneys are asking ICE to reconsider a 2007 deportation against him because, they argue, he didn’t receive any communication to attend his hearing. If the case isn’t reopened, he could face deportation to El Salvador. Another journalist in ICE detention says he fears for his life if deported back to Mexico, and 20 journalism organizations have signed a letter arguing on his behalf, reports Deutsche Welle.
The Department of Homeland Security is compiling a database of ‘media influencers’ — journalists, bloggers and foreign correspondents — culled from over 290,000 global news sources and organized by geography, language and “sentiment.” The list is a response to heightened concerns about foreign entities influencing U.S. news.
Newport Beach has joined the list of Orange County municipalities opposing California’s sanctuary law. The LA Times fact-checked some of the most common arguments against California’s sanctuary law made by public officials, and found that Trump misrepresented the state law by accusing it of releasing people with criminal records, and Sessions overstated the limits placed on law enforcement.
Elsewhere, Iowa lawmakers approved a bill that would punish sanctuary communities in the state, reports the Des Moines Register; in Virginia, the new governor vetoed a bill that would have prohibited the formation of sanctuary cities,reports The Washington Post.
- Fewer American adults are in favor of Trump’s immigration stance than in February 2017 (Reuters/Ipsos poll)
- After ICE blamed sanctuary policies for a high-speed car chase that killed an undocumented couple, local police want an investigation (LA Times)
- New York courts took an unprecedented step of acting against Legal Aid lawyers protesting the presence of immigration agents in a city courthouse(WNYC)
- Members of New York’s Little Liberia are deciding whether to leave or go into hiding as their discretionary relief is set to expire next year (LA Times)
Follows: Caravan, in-state tuition for DACA students, foreign-born recruits, census
- After a last stop in Mexico City to pay homage to the the Virgin of Guadalupe (AP), the migrant caravan headed north with 200 migrants planning to seek asylum in the U.S. (Reuters).
- Arizona’s Supreme Court ruled against in-state tuition for DACA recipients,reports the Arizona Daily Sun.
- A special program attracted foreign-born military recruits, but now it’s left them locked in a bureaucratic limbo, reports Stars and Stripes.
- Fears that Trump’s push to include information about citizenship status on the census could put immigrants at risk have a precedent. Census information was used to send Japanese-Americans to internment camps during World War II, reports The Washington Post.
Selected Resources and Opportunities
- Podcasts to check out
- Pod Save the People, a podcast hosted by DeRay McKesson, speaks to two attorneys who defend kids facing deportation.
- Alhambra Source, a multilingual community news website, launcheds a podcast with the first story about a local DACA recipient.
- Only in America: National Immigration Forum launched a new podcast about the people behind immigration issues.
- The New American Songbook from Groundtruth Project looks at the stories behind the songs of immigrants.
- Voices in America
- Mash-Up American
- ¿Qué Pasa, Midwest? is a bilingual podcast to help encourage a Midwestern Latinx community
- For a more complete list Radio Public curates podcasts about immigration and migration
- Recently released immigration books and reports (got one, send it over)
- Bringing Evidence to the Refugee Integration Debate, from the Urban Institute
- Up Against the Wall, by Edward S. Casey and Mary Watkins, uses the U.S.-Mexico border to look at the many walls, both literal and metaphorical, being built to police divisions. It won the Ethnic Studies (NAES) Outstanding Book of the Year award in 2017.
- The Making of a Dream: How a group of young undocumented immigrants helped change what it means to be American by Laura Wides-Muñoz covers the growth of the Dreamer movement.
- The Book of Isaias: A child of Hispanic immigrants seeks his own America by Daniel Connolly is a nonfiction narrative about the children of Mexican immigrants coming of age in Tennessee.
- The Newcomers: Finding Refuge, Friendship, and Hope in an American Classroom by Helen Thorpe tells the story of a Denver high school.
- Special report on the Politics of Immigration and Education from the journal Education Policy.
- Immigration-related curriculum
- Re-imagining immigration 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
- Imm-print published an Immigration Detention Syllabus
- Immigration reporting tools and tips
- Immigration Data Resources: An extensive, and growing, list of immigration resources curated by PRI’s Angilee Shah and shared as part of her presentation on finding immigration stories at NICAR 2018.
- How to cover local refugee communities (American Press Institute)
- Tips on covering immigration when you do not live near the border(Daniel Connolly, from IRE 2017)
- Resources for investigating visas (Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting)
Fellowships and Scholarships
That’s all for Migratory Notes 60. If there’s a story you think we should consider, please send us an email.
Thank yous to Jacque Boltik and Angie Quintero for creating our template. Daniel Kowalski, Audrey Singer, Michele Henry, Jason Alcorn, Voice of San Diego Border Report, Global Nation Exchange FB group, Migration Information Source, Politico’s Morning Shift, and countless tweeters.
*Daniela Gerson is an assistant professor at California State University, Northridge with a focus on community, ethnic, and participatory media. She is also a senior fellow at the Democracy Fund. Before that she was a community engagement editor at the LA Times; founding editor of a trilingual hyperlocal publication, Alhambra Source; staff immigration reporter for the New York Sun; and a contributor to outlets including WNYC: New York Public Radio, The World, Der Spiegel, Financial Times, CNN, and The New York Times. She recently wrote How can collaborations between ethnic and mainstream outlets serve communities in the digital age? for American Press Institute. You can find her on Twitter @dhgerson
*Elizabeth Aguilera is a multimedia reporter for CALmatters covering health and social services, including immigration. Previously she 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 before that she covered a variety of beats and issues for the Denver Post including urban affairs and immigration. Her latest story is Single-payer health care: what Californians need to know. You can find her on Twitter @1eaguilera
*Yana Kunichoff is an independent journalist and documentary producer who covers immigration, policing, education and social movements. 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