Migratory Notes 67

#wherearethechildren, a fatal border shooting, zero-tolerance trauma

​#Wherearethechildren went viral, demanding answers from the government about missing immigrant children. But the answer is not simple since stories had been conflated, and some immigrant activists argued that these children, and their guardians, are more at risk if they are identified. / @bjoyful123

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On the frontline of new zero-tolerance policies, asylum seekers — who are not technically entering the U.S. illegally — face mass trials, criminal records and separation from their children. The Intercept visited the Brownsville, Texas courtroom of Judge Ronald G. Morgan, where court employees have been shocked by the “anguish that parents communicated” and the “spectacle of dozens of migrants being convicted and sentenced en mass.” On a recent morning in May, Judge Morgan “pronounced a blanket sentence for all of the defendants: no prison, no big fine — merely time served. With that, his court concluded. In 46 minutes that morning, 32 people had been convicted, sentenced, and dispatched en masse to ICE detention,” writes Debbie Nathan. “‘All rise!’ said the bailiff, and the judge exited the room. The chained migrants then shuffled and clanked to their fates, without their children.”

The hashtag hit the number one trending spot Saturday on Twitter. But the question isn’t a simple one, in large part because the query is mired in confusion around three separate pieces of news in recent weeks: family separation at the border set off by Trump administration policies, a new report on migrant child abuse allegationsunder Obama, and the news that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) can’t reach the guardians to whom it handed over thousands of unaccompanied minors, and they had lost track of nearly 1,500 children.

In response, Trump took to Twitter to blame Democrats for the child separation policy actually implemented by his administration. Trump advisor Stephen Miller doubled down on Trump’s position, blaming family separation on loopholes in the law created by Democratic administrations.

Trying to get a sense of what is true and what is not? The Washington Post fact checked spin on family separation and the 1,500 “lost” kids. The Post also looks at research into whether separating kids from their parents at the border actually discourages immigration, and find that such “deterrence has only a weak effect.”

In an effort to combat some of the confusion circulating online about the children HHS can’t locate, as well as from the White House’s comments, NPR interviewed Obama’s domestic policy director, and point person on immigration. Her theory: “in many cases those parents and kids have been reunited and they’ve gone off the grid. They don’t want to be contacted by a government agency.” Plus, she said, under this administration, undocumented caretakers have real reason to fear being contacted by the federal government.

The Trump administration says it will soon require parents who pick up their migrant children from HHS to be fingerprinted. A similar idea was considered under the Obama administration, but NBC News reports it was scrapped for fear that it would intimidate parents.

Vox also points out that HHS only made one phone call to reach the guardians of each of the children. As one advocate notes: “If you can’t reach somebody after one phone call, you usually would not describe that person as missing.”

A Border Patrol agent shot and killed a young Guatemalan woman in the border town of Rio Bravo, Texas last week. She was a member of the Maya-Mam indigenous group and had traveled to the U.S. to find work to help pay for university. Facing increasing scrutiny, Border Patrol has provided different narratives of the shooting. First, the agency alleged an agent fired at a group of people who attacked the agent and called the deceased woman an ‘assailant,’ then later said the agent was ‘rushed’ by a group of migrants, reports CBS News. The incident is already inflaming tensions on the border, reports KERA News.

Unaccompanied minors have alleged sexual abuse, violence, derogatory language, neglect and harassment at the hands of the Border Patrol, according to an ACLU and International Human Rights Clinic at the University of Chicago Law School report that compiled complaints filed between 2009 and 2014. Border Patrol was also accused of failing to fully investigate the complaints. The agency responded saying the claims were “baseless” and that it has oversight from outside agencies.

The Border Patrol union is openly critical of Trump’s deployment of National Guard troops to the border, calling it a “colossal waste of resources” because it hasn’t lightened the workload of border guards, reports the Los Angeles Times.

In New Mexico, border courts have long been criminally prosecuting nearly every eligible immigrant in a manner akin to Session’s recent zero-tolerance policy changes, reports the Los Angeles Times. And it’s had an impact on one immigration judge, who says he is feeling the emotional impact of decades spent routing thousands of immigrants with little or no criminal convictions through the criminal justice system: “I have presided over a process that destroys families for a long time, and I am weary of it.”

The president appeared to question the practice of trying immigrants through a court system in a recent interview. He argued that it is impractical to keep hiring judges for an expanding prosecution and, instead, promised to change the system, reports CNN.

A picture circulating online of a GEO Group transport van for young children equipped with car seats has set off an internet storm of concern about a “prison bus for babies.” Snopes reports the photo is from a 2016 press release about the purchase of such a bus for outings that range from medical visits to field trips for kids in the GEO family detention center. 
Mother Jones offers a graphic breakdown of some of the basic facts around private prisons — the cost of daily detention, the proportion of prisoners housed by the major private prison firms, and factors spurring the boom in private prisons that is only expected to grow under Trump.

White House
An anti-immigrant activist with the Center for Immigration Studies has been nominated for a post overseeing the section of the State Department that deals with refugees and immigration, reports the Los Angeles Times.

After appearing to take a step toward allowing immigration agents at schools, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos clarified Wednesday that she had been misrepresented and “schools are not, and should never become, immigration enforcement zones.” But The New York Times reports, “as she offered that reassurance, Ms. DeVos moved toward rescinding an Obama-era policy document on student discipline that could make undocumented students vulnerable.”

The Modesto Bee profiles two immigrant mothers who deal with the fear of deportation very differently — one by becoming an outspoken advocate for the undocumented, the other growing ever more fearful as enforcement increases.


Jobs, Awards, Scholarships

Immigration-related Resources


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


Curriculum and Special Projects

Reporting tools and tips

That’s all for Migratory Notes 67. 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