Migratory Notes 63

Bail bonds dirty business; caravan at the border; do immigrants really hurt jobs?

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#MustListen/ #MustRead
Migrants waiting for an asylum hearing are often faced with an agonizing choice: stay in detention, or pay large sums to a private bail service. Univisión and Radio Ambulante investigate the process and profiles one company cashing in on bail and ankle monitors. They asked Univisión’s audience for experiences with the bail bond system. In five days, 168 people wrote with stories of putting up homes for collateral, raffles, and other money making schemes to release loved ones from custody. They also found inconsistencies in the often arbitrary system: A $12,000 difference in bail amounts between Chicago and LA, for example.

The Trump administration is misconstruing data to spread the idea that immigrants are responsible for declining wages, reports The Center for Public Integrity in a detailed analysis that breaks down divergent findings on immigrants and jobs. Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ spin shows how years of strategic dissemination of cherry-picked and misleading information has helped set the tone for a polarizing, bruising battle over immigration that is splitting the country,” writes Susan Ferriss. “And it illuminates how the work of a small group of researchers can become the fulcrum around which policy changes are developed.”

Customs and Border Patrol has a pattern of deadly force that has taken the lives of at least 97 people since 2003, reports The Guardian in an investigative series. And the U.S. government is paying big — more than $60 million in legal settlements — related to claims of death, assault and wrongful detention levied against border agents between 2005 and 2017.

In Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, the funding and desire to build a new border barrier exists, but a plan for where the structure will go has yet to be released. “Where and how to build the wall?” writes Molly Hennessy-Fiske for the LA Times. “That’s the complicated question in the Rio Grande Valley, the busiest stretch of the southern border for migrant apprehensions and marijuana seizures.”

After 50 members of the Central American caravan were initially denied the opportunity to make asylum claims at San Ysidro because Border Patrol said they were “at capacity,” migrants were allowed to apply Monday. Some organizations accused the US of violating international human rights laws.

The government is sending 35 additional U.S. attorneys and 18 immigration judges to the border to deal with the expected influx of asylum requests from members of the caravan. “We are not going to let this country be overwhelmed. People are not going to caravan or otherwise stampede our border,” AG Jeff Sessions told reporters.

Migrants in the caravan are running into a decades-long backlog of asylum cases. While the number of asylum applications approved have stayed the same over several decades, the number of people applying each year has risen steeply, reports Buzzfeed.

The San Diego Union-Tribune created a handy graphic to break down exactly what happens when someone applies for asylum at the border. La Opinión created a guide in Spanish.

Fox & Friends has been on the front lines of the battle to portray migrants in the caravan as dangerous and criminal, and the head of the Border Patrol union publicly commended the morning show, reports Newsweek.

ICE held an American citizen in custody for 1,273 days until he could prove his citizenship, a Los Angeles Times investigation revealed. He was one of more than 1,480 citizens the agency held in detention since 2012, some for months or even years. The data shows an over-reliance on computer databases: “The wrongful arrests also highlight a presumption that pervades U.S. immigration agencies and courts that those born outside the United States are not here legally unless electronic records show otherwise.”

ICE’s acting director, Thomas Homan, is stepping down only six months after Trump nominated him for the position, citing family reasons. In a letter last Friday, Senate Democrats asked why his nomination had stalled: “We understand that the Trump Administration may be concerned about Mr. Homan answering questions under oath about his leadership of ICE, as well as the possibility that Mr. Homan’s nomination could be defeated in the Senate.” Homan, who oversaw some of the administration’s most aggressive enforcement, said in his statement that he had been maligned by “unfair and false criticism from politicians and the media.”

Immigration is an International Issue
The Outline profiles two brothers who are part of a growing number of displaced Hondurans eschewing the American Dream for a nascent Mexican Dream. They play soccer in Mexico’s regional leagues, where Honduran for-hire players bounce between games and teams. They are also part of the Garifuna community, whose slow migration is pushed by tourist development in their seaside communities and struggles with racism.

In California’s Riverside County, there has been a tenfold increase in farm laborers with temporary guest worker visas, also known as H-2As, over the past two years,reports The Desert Sun. Both growers and farm worker advocates are critical of the program, but its use is growing as finding farm labor becomes increasingly difficult.

Surveillance and Data
To work around New York City’s sanctuary law, ICE is using a data-sharing agreement of fingerprint data between the NYPD and another agency to identify undocumented immigrants. ICE then sends call-in letters requesting they appear at meetings that often end in detention, reports The Intercept. Local advocates called the tactic a “new low” in immigration authorities efforts to entrap immigrants.

A little-known data software allows ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations to mine millions of sensitive police records from dozens of localities across the country,reports In Justice Today. It allows immigration authorities to map out an individual’s social networks and review information that includes countries of origin, license plate numbers, home addresses and gang membership records.

Unaccompanied Minors
The Department of Health and Human Services has lost track of nearly 1,500 unaccompanied minors placed with sponsors after crossing the border. The agency told Congress that it learned the children were missing when it was unable to reach the adults charged with their care. Previous legislative reports found that some young migrants were placed with traffickers and ended up in forced labor on a farm.

The government is pushing new efforts to make it harder for kids without visas to enter, or remain, in the country. The Trump administration is targeting an obscure set of child welfare laws to limit protections for unaccompanied minors, reports The Marshall Project, creating a pathway to detain more young people and deport them faster. Its efforts are primarily aimed at Congress but have also begun to target multiple federal agencies. For example, the State Department gave only 24-hours notice before cancelling a program allowing some Central American children to apply for asylum before arriving at the border.

Meanwhile, immigration officials are proposing a change in policy that would detain and then prosecute parents who cross the border with their children, a zero-tolerance measure that the Washington Post reports could split up thousands of families. The exception would be families who ask for asylum, although ICE has already been accused of separating families seeking asylum at the border.

Texas, on behalf of seven states, has taken the DACA court battle to a new level. The Texas attorney general is suing the US, asking a federal court to halt the issuance of any new or renewal of any DACA permits while his lawsuit to end the program is pending, reports The Dallas Morning News.

“It makes it absolutely certain that the Supreme Court will ultimately have to take up the constitutionality of both DACA and the Trump administration’s attempt to end it,” Dara Lind writes in Vox. “And there’s a chance the new lawsuit will create an extremely unusual legal quandary: simultaneous nationwide rulings compelling government officials to process DACA renewals, and preventing them from doing just that.”

AG Sessions wants to make the Justice Department’s mission more like that of ICE by turning the department toward immigration prosecutions, reports The Huffington Post. Earlier in April, he instructed all U.S. attorney in the southwestern states to prosecute misdemeanor border crossing cases to the harshest possible extent. But some U.S. attorneys worry it takes resources away from more essential prosecutorial work.

Personal Immigration Stories


Follows: No More Deaths in the crosshairs, travel ban misinformation, deported vets

You may have noticed that in the last newsletter we included a story from 2017 about the first deportation under Trump of someone with DACA-protected status. We regret the error. Thanks to Dara Lind for letting us know about it. If you catch something, we want to hear from you. And, as always, got a story we should know about? Send it on!

Immigration Resources & Opportunities


Recently released immigration books and reports (got one, send it over)

Curriculum and special projects

Reporting tools and tips

Jobs, Fellowships & Awards

That’s all for Migratory Notes 63. If there’s a story you think we should consider, please send us an email.

Thanks this week to Adolfo Flores, Alice Diver, Dara Lind, Fernanda Santos, Ginger Thompson, 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. Thank you to Jacque Boltik and Angie Quintero for creating our template.

*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 What ice cream flavors can teach us about the changing California Dream. 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