Migratory Notes 66

Havoc at the border, CBP detains Spanish speakers in Montana, DeVos says schools can choose to report students to ICE

Michael Williams, a Republican candidate for governor in Georgia, rode on the campaign trail in a self-proclaimed ‘Deportation Bus.’ He failed to make it Tuesday to the next step to a runoff primary, winning just 5% of the votes. Photo from Ana Clavel’s Facebook page via Latino Rebels.

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Why are moderate Republicans going defying party leadership to try and force a vote on immigration? The Washington Post created a handy data analysis and visualization explaining why some legislators are backing this move which would protect Dreamers. They find the backers of the vote 1) Represent the most Hispanic Republican districts 2) Face competitive races or are retiring 3) Represent agricultural districts. As of Wednesday evening, they needed four more Republican signatures, assuming all Democrats support the move, to force a vote. (Conservative and moderate Republican leaders will convene Thursday morning to see if an agreement can be made that does not force a vote.)

At the center of Sessions’ efforts to limit asylum based on claims of domestic abuse is the case of one Salvadoran woman living in the Carolinas. Now the attorney general could use her case to set a precedent that could severely restrict who can apply for asylum. In an exclusive interview with NPR, the woman, called Ms. A.B. in the story, spoke out for the first time: “In El Salvador… there’s no protection for women. Anyone who’s been there knows this.” Critics of the current policy, led by the Trump administration, say that asylum claims are too broad. “I think it’s a legitimate question to ask,” Jan Ting, a former immigration official who teaches at Temple University Beasley School of Law, told NPR. “Wait a minute, do we really want to say everyone who has experienced violence at the hands of a domestic partner is entitled to asylum in the United States?” AB is now waiting for Sessions’ decision. “I felt like they are playing with me,” she said. “Like I’m a child who was given candy, only to have it taken away.”

Undocumented immigrants are flooding federal criminal courts on the border as a result of AG Sessions’ zero-tolerance policy. The Voice of San Diego describes “havoc” in local courts. And the former “border czar” under Clinton tells the site that this approach of prosecuting illegal entry as a misdemeanor, rather than an administrative violation, has been tried before — and it failed.

Parents and children are already being separated on the border, with no clear answer for when they will be reunited, reports the Arizona Daily Star. “I only wanted to ask about the whereabouts of my child in this country,” one Guatemalan immigrant asked the judge as he was moved through an Operation Streamline court procedure. The response: the judge didn’t know, and suggested he continue asking the question at the facility where he would be detained.

Detained parents are frantically asking public defenders to help them find their children, reports NBC News. Immigrant advocates fear this prosecutorial policy “impedes asylum claims and lets the government use children as leverage, forcing parents to agree to deportation so families can reunite,” reports The LA Times. One public defender warned this policy may actually have an unintended effect where parents return to the US to look for their children. “The logic of this is that parents learn their lesson,” he said. “But they’re going to come back. It’s their kids.”

PRI’s The World reports on how migrant families that made it through before the zero-policy edict are still feeling the impact of an overburdened immigration system. They follow the case of one pregnant woman from Honduras who joined the Central American migrant caravan. Days before new prosecutorial policies went into effect, she was released from detention on the condition that she show up in court. She was able to join her aunt in Connecticut but now she is facing a long wait for an official to visit her and scan her ankle monitor.

Enforcement Limits?
A Border Patrol agent detained and questioned two American citizens at a gas station in Montana, allegedly because they were speaking Spanish. The incident has spurred concerns about the overreach of immigration authorities, reports The Washington Post. A recent investigation by the Los Angeles Times found that more than 1,480 citizens have been detained under suspicion of being undocumented since 2012.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said it’s up to individual schools to decide whether to alert ICE that a student may be undocumented, reports Politico. Schools are considered “sensitive locations” where ICE activity is discouraged; DeVos’s comments would be a departure from that norm, and critics say it would interfere with undocumented children’s Constitutionally-protected right to an education.

Regulating the workplace by requiring employers verify workers’ legal status was a frequent Trump campaign promise. But it is not one he has upheld as president, The Washington Post reports. As the demand for labor is high and unemployment is at a 17-year low the will for the E-Verify program is lacking. Last March, Cindy Carcamo reported for the LA Times on long-standing employer loopholes, and how they need to end to prevent unauthorized immigration flows.

Justice & Deportation
The head of ICE warned this week that the agency would step up deporting families who have been ordered by a judge to leave the country. “Of course, I expect a lot of letters, ‘Why are you targeting families and not criminals?’ But if they are given their due process and a federal judge makes a decision, if we don’t execute those decisions there is no integrity in the system,” ICE Interim Director Thomas Homan said.

More than 350,000 immigrants are at risk of having their deportation cases reopened, a number that would only increase an already dire court backlog after a precedent-setting decision by Sessions, reports Vox. Immigration judges will no longer be allowed to use administrative closure to take low-priority deportation cases off their dockets. Under the new precedent, judges can’t close cases even when someone is waiting for their visa.

More than 100,000 hearings for detained immigrants in 2017 were via Skype in immigration court, reports Mother Jones in an investigation into the growing role of virtual trials. The medium creates little place for asylum seekers to make their case to attorneys, or judges, reports Mother Jones. One pro bono attorney, for example, is regularly asked to video interview 18 people in two hours.

Resettlement resources prepared for the arrival of refugees who never arrived sit unused across the country, reports The New York Times. It’s just one impact of the bureaucratic hurdles — staff cuts, intensified screenings — that have almost entirely halted refugee admissions and, as a result, broken down the “machinery of refugee resettlement.” In Newark, charity groups that spent months preparing for a flood of refugees that never came, reports NorthJersey.com.

Gangs & Immigrants
Connecting immigrants to gangs is a tactic ICE uses to justify a deportation, sometimes using false information. Slate reports on a case in which immigration authorities argued a Dreamer should be deported because he was in a gang — a claim a federal judge ruled to be blatantly untrue.

Trump’s statement calling some undocumented immigrants “animals,” and then clarifying that he was referring to MS-13 gang members, should be seen as dehumanizing language that is a threat to all immigrants, reports The Atlantic.

International Solutions
Canada is integrating its recent flood of asylum seekers into the workforce as quickly as possible, in part by facilitating recruitment presentations with companies in need of labor, reports The Washington Post. It’s a stark contrast to the American system, where asylum seekers often wait months before receiving a work permit. In Australia, immigrants are moving into small towns and helping to forestall the rural collapse familiar in the American Midwest, reports The New York Times.

Quick links:


Immigration Jobs and Opportunities



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


Curriculum and Special Projects

Reporting tools and tips

That’s all for Migratory Notes 66. 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 Monica Campbell, 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