Migratory Notes 68

Pizza delivery to ICE detention, in limbo over the Rio Grande, UN calls family separation human rights violation

Criminal prosecutions on the border jumped between January and April, to the highest levels under the Trump administration. But in the last 11 years, there have been four other months with even greater numbers, reports CityLab. Source: Esri/TRAC

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News about the caravan of Central American asylum seekers blew up in a way nobody expected. Adolfo Flores, who was embedded with the movement for more than a month and whose reporting brought it to the attention of the president, shares in Buzzfeed the gripping inside story. “It was a lesson in the consequences, in the age of Trump, of getting the attention you thought you wanted,” Flores writes. “Now they were also facing the wrath of Trump’s tweets, and soon they would feel the crushing weight of the US and Mexican governments, as the caravan became the center of a political game and a media storm, even as the migrants grappled with what it meant to suddenly become the face of their fleeing compatriots.”

Trump points to San Diego as a model for his “big, beautiful wall.” But the border region is the biggest entry point for hard drugs. “The latest Homeland Security statistics show that border walls — or tall fences — do not necessarily work in the way the president says,” Nick Miroff writes in the Washington Post. “They have been far more effective at stopping people than at stopping drugs.” Miroff provides a broad history of barriers efforts and smugglers’ ingenuity at finding new ways to blend in to get drugs across the border.

Zero-Tolerance at the Border
The United Nations human rights office is demanding that the U.S. “immediately halt” family separations of immigrants detained at the border and that it “runs counter to human rights standards and principles.” The U.S. response: “Neither the United Nations nor anyone else will dictate how the United States upholds its borders.”

Protests in more than two dozen cities across the U.S. have been staged against the practice, reports NPR. Meanwhile, some border judges in Tucson are pushing back against family separation, recommending in more than 20 individual cases that children be reunited with their parents after their release from immigration custody, reports the Arizona Daily Star.

Federal officials have already run out of space for children and are looking for more sites, reports NBC News. Hundreds of kids are being kept in temporary holding at border stations because there is nowhere to place them; nearly half of them are under the age of 12.

Family separation at the border may be subject to a Constitutional challenge, a California judge ruled Wednesday, The New York Times reports. The Trump administration first piloted its zero-tolerance policies last summer. A Brazilian mother who was separated from her son then is a plaintiff in the court case, ABC News reports. Attorneys argue the child was needlessly taken from the woman in August and held for months, even after she was released from ICE detention.

PRI’s The World follows the plight of a 6-year-old Guatemalan girl who was also separated from her mother in El Paso in August. Her story could offer a glimpse of what is to come as more families are separated: The daughter was sent to a detention facility in upstate New York, classified as an unaccompanied minor. The pair have not seen each other since. The mother, who speaks a Mayan dialect, was deported alone to Guatemala, although she was seeking asylum and passed a credible fear interview. Her daughter was sent to live with a distant relative in Florida, after federal officials threatened to put the child in foster care.

When a senator from Oregon tried to take a tour of a privately run children’s detention center in Texas, he was denied entry and the contractor who runs the center called the police, reports The Washington Post. The President and CEO of the facility, Juan Sanchez, is being paid as much as $770,860 a year, Newsweek reports.

On a bridge suspended over the Rio Grande, families seeking asylum wait to be admitted to the U.S. But Border Patrol agents say they are at capacity for processing asylum requests, reports the Los Angeles Times. Despite days that sometimes reach 100 degrees, migrants say the situation in the U.S. is still better than any they would find in Mexico, where work is difficult to find and violence is a constant threat.

Critics say border agents telling migrants they are at capacity for asylum claims is part of a new tactic employed to thwart asylum seekers, and that it undermines migrants’ legal rights to ask for protection. Texas Monthly reports that border agents have begun checking migrant’s IDs, as well as physically blocking migrants from accessing the port of entry altogether, both unusual steps. Vox reports on the legal responsibility of the government towards asylum seekers.

Copwatching is coming to border communities. The Los Angeles Times reports on the growing use of MigraCam and other apps developed to film interactions with border agents.

USCIS pulled hundreds of pages of documents detailing training practices for asylum officers from its website, reports Newsweek.

Detention
A transgender immigrant who entered the U.S. as part of the Central American migrant caravan has died of a cardiac arrest in immigration custody, reports Buzzfeed. A local advocacy group says that after crossing the border, she was detained in cells known as “hieleras,” for how cold they are, and did not receive adequate food or medical care. She died weeks later. “I didn’t want to come to Mexico — I wanted to stay in Honduras but I couldn’t,” she told Buzzfeed in an earlier interview. “They kill trans people in Honduras. I’m scared of that.”

The Supreme Court invalidated a lower court’s ruling allowing an immigrant teen in detention to obtain an abortion. In an unsigned opinion with no dissents, the court wiped out a precedent that would allow other minors in detention to access abortions. The justices did, however, decline the administration’s request to prosecute the ACLU attorneys who represented the immigrant teen.

Enforcement 
Uncertainty caused by a wave of enforcement actions is causing new threats to children’s health, reports Reveal. The impacts may be invisible, but could harm children’s development, and advocates say it has hit the proportions of a public health issue. The story is part of Reveal’s week of coverage zeroing in on Trump’s immigration policies and the millions of people they’re affecting. Reveal also investigates a Georgia immigrant detention center that staff describe as a “ticking bomb,” and break down the numbers on immigration. Migratory Notes contributed to the coverage with a list of 10 standout investigative stories from the first 16 months under Trump.

Fear of deportation is keeping some immigrants from reporting domestic abuse,reports The New York Times. Houston saw a 16 percent decrease in reports of domestic violence from the Latino community, just one of several large Latino-heavy cities that saw a similar drop.

Justice 
Immigration courts are granting fewer reprieves from deportation, even to immigrants with pending visas or green cards, according to new data from the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University. The Star Tribune reports on how this is impacting some immigrants in Minnesota.

Labor 
One of the biggest employer sting operations in recent years took place this week at a gardening and landscaping company in Ohio. More than 100 people were arrested, reports the AP. So far, no charges have been filed against the employer.

Sanctuary 
A pizza delivery man is facing deportation after making a delivery to a military base in Brooklyn, El Diario reports. (Read an English-language version in Voices of New York.) A military guard at the base asked him for his immigration documents, then called ICE, which detained him. The arrest is raising concerns about the limits of sanctuary in New York, reports CNN.

A federal appeals court will reconsider an injunction that bans the Justice Department from withholding funds because of a city’s sanctuary status. While the case was originally brought to court by Chicago, the ruling was applied nationally. Now Sessions is requesting that the federal appeals court narrow its scope.

Oregon’s sanctuary law, the oldest in the country, is the target of a conservative group’s effort to repeal the law. But critics have questioned the group’s ethics, and opened an investigation into its signature-collecting, arguing the organization was misleading voters, reports the AP.

Supreme Court
The court’s decision to rule in favor of a baker who refused to bake a wedding cake for a gay couple could bode well for a ruling against the travel ban. That is, if justices read the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause in a similar manner by taking into consideration any individual prejudice that Trump exhibited before creating the travel ban, reports Politico.

Books 
Dallas Morning News border reporter Alfredo Corchado and Migration Policy Institute President Andrew Selee both published books this week that look at how Mexico and the United States are intertwined. Selee’s book, Vanishing Frontiers,critically examines the relationship between the U.S. and Mexico. Corchado’s book, Homelands, follows Mexican migration from the 1980s to today through the stories of four men. Both find some of the answers in stories from small-town Pennsylvania. Corchado expanded on that in an op-ed for The New York Times, writing, “Amid all the anti-immigrant fervor, nativists have overlooked a fundamental fact: In recent years, Mexican immigrants and their Mexican-American offspring have been rescuing the most iconic places in America — its small towns.”

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*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 policy 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