Migratory Notes
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Migratory Notes

Migratory Notes 64

Breaking up families, overloaded courts, disappearing communities

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ProPublica’s Ginger Thompson has reported extensively on how a quiet Texas border town transformed into a place where people were kidnapped, doused with gasoline, and lit on fire. She found her answer in drugs, and also in U.S. and Mexican efforts to control the illicit trade. Thompson brought the story to life in “The Making of a Massacre” an audio narrative that includes famous actors, and which features people whose voices are rarely heard publicly. The five-part true-story Audible podcast features Danny Trejo, Alana de la Garza and Cheech Marin, among other Mexican or Mexican-American actors. The piece layers their telling of the story with those with first-hand experience of the violence — informants, protected in the U.S.; widows of those killed by the Zetas cartel.

Thompson told part of the harrowing story in “How the U.S. Triggered a Massacre in Mexico,” published with National Geographic in June 2017.

Sessions’ Crackdown
Parents and children who arrive at the border without documents will be separated rather than detained together, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced this week. The goal is to prosecute “100 percent” of people who cross the border illegally, including those seeking asylum. “If you are smuggling a child then we will prosecute you, and that child will be separated from you as required by law,” Sessions said in a public statement Monday.

Federal district courts in Arizona have already reached the limit of how many border-crossing cases they can prosecute, the chief judge told the Arizona Daily Star. That makes it unlikely the courts can handle the coming deluge of cases.

The disparity in how immigration judges decide asylum cases is already stark, and Sessions’ attempts to restrict access to asylum for people fleeing domestic violence or street crime instead of government persecution could make it worse, reports the Los Angeles Times. In San Francisco, for example, the rate of granting asylum among judges ranges from 3 to 91 percent.

In an effort to shut down a rogue Twitter account allegedly run by an anonymous USCIS employee, Customs and Border Protection officials tried to pressure Twitter to share user records without the legally required court order or summons, reports The Intercept.

Members of the anti-immigrant vigilante groups, California State Militia and Minuteman Project, returned to set up surveillance near the San Diego border. They are watching for migrant caravans, reports Univision.

Immigration is an International Issue
Mexico deports more Central Americans at its formidable southern border than the US does, sometimes twice as many, reports NPR. Since 2014 they have developed a system of roving checkpoints and raids to create a “containment zone” across Chiapas. Last year, Mexico deported nearly 82,000 Central Americans.

There were at least 37 transgender migrants who traveled in the caravan that reached the U.S. border last week, and 11 of them have applied for asylum last week. They faced an especially complicated journey including being turned away from housing by some religious groups, told to change how they dressed and misgendered, reports Splinter.

Another caravan member, a mother of two, told CNN she was the happiest she had been in weeks because she was safe in immigration detention, rather than fearing for the life of her young son in Honduras.

Republican legislators took the first step in forcing a vote in the House on several DACA bills Wednesday morning, reports USA Today. Their strategy uses at least two unusual Congressional maneuvers: one to get the bills on the floor without approval by a committee or the speaker of the House, and another to push a vote on several pieces of legislation at once. An analysis by Vox notes the Republicans backing the plan are confident they will have enough supporters on both sides of the aisle to push through a vote.

One in six immigrants in the detention system have been detained at least six months. Those who remain the longest are those appealing their cases. The AP reports on a Nigerian man who had been arrested and served time for selling counterfeit hats in an Indianapolis mall. Since 2014, he has moved between six detention centers and is now in an Alabama center known as the black hole for complicated cases.

“The results of Tuesday’s primary elections simultaneously bolstered the Republican Party and demonstrated how much ground it has yielded to Donald Trump, particularly on the volatile issue of immigration,” writes Ronald Brownstein in The Atlantic.

Not every candidate has followed that path though. Tim Kane (not to be confused with Senator Tim Kaine) is running for Congress as a Republican in Ohio on an unusual platform: as a policy expert who argues immigration is good for the economy and is openly skeptical of the border wall, reports The New York Times.

One year since Texas signed a law banning sanctuary cities immigrants are living in fear and some have opted to leave the state, reports Vice. Activists have continued to protest the law — a caravan against SB-4 passed through the state last month and another is planned for the summer, reports Houston Public Media. Some sheriffs, meanwhile, are seeking to keep the fraying bonds with the immigration community intact by holding meetings with activists and running public awareness campaigns.

Hondurans are the latest group to be stripped of Temporary Protection Status, leaving around 57,000 people with the decision to leave or be deported. Altogether, the Trump administration has canceled TPS protections for 98 percent of people from various countries who held it previously.

First-person immigration


Immigration-Related Resources & Job Opportunities



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

Curriculum and special projects

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Come meet us in person! Here are some upcoming events where we will be presenting:

And here is some recent press coverage: Following immigration reporting and data in the Trump era is a complicated endeavor. We wrote about how Migratory Notes does it, and why, for the European Journalism Centre’s Data Driven Journalism blog.

That’s all for Migratory Notes 64. 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. Thanks this week to Fernanda Santos, 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 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



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