Migratory Notes 69

Asylum restricted, kids detained in a former Walmart others sent to prisons

Reveal broadcast Friday an investigation into current immigration laws and policies, and how they diverge from historic precedents. Migratory Notes recently partnered with Reveal to create this list of standout investigations into immigration in the Trump era. Image credit: Nikka Singh for Reveal

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The frenzy of immigration news has not stopped in the 69 weeks we have produced Migratory Notes. We intended to take a break to evaluate the impact of our work. But since this week had some very important developments, we decided to do a limited roundup as well. The full newsletter will be back in your inbox next Thursday.

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Daniela, Elizabeth & Yana

Asylum Restricted
Is domestic violence a private crime? Atty. General Jeff Sessions determined it is, and that “the asylum statute does not provide redress for all misfortune.” Julia Preston of the Marshall Project analyzes how this ruling Monday swiftly undercut two decades of legal cases that determined that domestic violence victims who lack protection in their countries can qualify for asylum as members of a “particular social group.” While Sessions based this decision on a case about domestic violence, its implications are further reaching creating the potential to deny asylum to most immigrants fleeing gang violence.

Fifteen retired immigration judges called the move “an affront to the rule of law,” and wrote they were “deeply disappointed that our country will no longer offer legal protection to women seeking refuge from terrible forms of domestic violence from which their home countries are unable or unwilling to protect them.” But not all judges agree. One told Preston that while “these are horrible cases,…it’s no different from any other crime, it’s not because she’s a member of some group.”

Tens of thousands of pending asylum cases could now be denied. Reuters reports that “at least 230,000 of the 711,000 cases before U.S. immigration courts involve asylum petitions from Central America and Mexico.” Most of these involve gang or domestic violence petitions which will be hard, if not impossible, to argue.

Detention in Prison
More than 1,600 immigrant detainees, including asylum seekers, were sent to federal prisons last week. The government maintains it is a temporary measure until more bed space can be found. The largest group of 1,000 was sent to Victorville, in Southern California’s desert, with others in Washington, Texas, Oregon, and Arizona.

‘Zero Tolerance’ at the Border
After a senator was turned away, reporters were allowed inside for a tour of a former Walmart that has been converted into a detention center for nearly 1,500 boys. The journalists observed a former McDonalds as a cafeteria, a parking lot converted into a soccer field, and Moana screened in what were loading docks.

“The teeming, 250,000-square-foot facility is a model of border life in Trump-era America, part of a growing industry of detention centers and shelters as federal authorities scramble to comply with the president’s order to end ‘catch and release’ of migrants illegally entering the country,” Manny Ramirez writes in The New York Times.

“None of the 313 bedrooms have doors. Or ceilings, so that children lying in their beds look up past where their walls end to the scaffolding of the superstore roof high above,” Bob Ortega writes in CNN. “The hundreds of children neatly lined up for their supper of barbecued chicken or sandwiches file past murals of presidents, including one of Donald Trump, alongside with a curious quote from him in Spanish alongside the English: ‘Sometimes by losing a battle you find a new way to win the war.’ (Also in Houston Chronicle, LA Times, Washington Post, WSJ)

A father took his own life after being separated from his wife and child, the Washington Post reports. In May, the Honduran man “suffered a breakdown at a Texas jail and killed himself in a padded cell last month.”

The government is considering housing children in tents along the border, reports McClatchy. This may be better than the alternative, which the Trump administration supports: indefinite family detention, according to Vox. “Which is more humane?” Dara Lind asks. “To take a child from her parent, keep her in a temporary ‘tent’ for a few days or weeks, and then place her with a relative? Or to keep child and parent together, in detention, for months or years?”

More stories on the impact of zero tolerance policies:

  • ‘It’s Horrendous’: The Heartache of a Migrant Boy Taken From His Father (The New York Times)
  • ‘They just took them?’ Frantic parents separated from their kids fill courts on the border (Washington Post)
  • A woman says federal officials took her daughter while she breastfed the child in a detention center (CNN)
  • Nearly 1,800 families separated at U.S.-Mexico border in 17 months through February (Reuters)
  • The Trump administration’s separation of families at the border, explained (Vox)
  • New ‘zero tolerance’ policy overwhelms South Texas courts (Houston Chronicle)

Jobs, Fellowships & Awards

Immigration Resources & Opportunities

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

Podcasts

Curriculum

Reporting tools and tips

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That’s all for Migratory Notes 69. If there’s a story you think we should consider, please send us an email.

*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 producedfeature-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