Migratory Notes 70

Family separation, Trump reverses course, what happens to the children?

The Pittsburg Post-Gazette fired cartoonist Rob Rogers after he produced a series of illustrations critical of the Trump administration. While it was reported this illustration, which was later projected on the San Francisco Federal Building, caused him to lose his job, that is not entirely true according to Snopes. Photo via Twitter.

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The rough conditions undocumented youth face in detention go far beyond cages or tents. And they are not new. A Reveal and Texas Tribune investigation found drunk employees, sexual assault, the forced administration of heavy psychotropic drugs that leave children “hypnotized” — and private companies that continue to receive government contracts despite repeated violations. “In nearly all cases, the federal government has continued to place migrant children with the companies even after serious allegations were raised and after state inspectors cited shelters with serious deficiencies, government and other records show…Since 2014, 13 organizations that faced serious allegations or citations shared the $1.5 billion total — nearly half of what the federal government spent to house immigrant children in that time.”

“Authorities say that parents are not supposed to be deported without their children,” Miriam Jordan writes in The New York Times in a story of a Guatemalan mother was separated from her son at the border. Then she was deported — alone. “Migrant parents and children become separate legal cases in the maze of government bureaucracy, and keeping them linked has proved challenging,” Jordan writes. “Different legal protections are afforded to juveniles and adults in the immigration system, and as a result, reuniting families can take months or longer.” That is, if it happens at all.

Those entering the country illegally along the border are not the only targets of Trump’s “zero tolerance” policies. Undocumented immigrants who have been in the U.S. for years with deep roots and little to no criminal records are also facing extended detentions, reports Reuters. Previously, most of these individuals would have been released on bond after their arrest, but now they are being kept in detention to wait for their day in court, which can take years in some cases.

Trump reversed family separation — but what comes next?
Facing a deluge of criticism including Laura Bush and the pope, Trump reversed course Wednesday, contradicting his own interpretation of his powers and issuing an executive order ending family separation. This came after Atty. General Jeff Sessions used the bible to defend it, and DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen denied altogether that parents seeking asylum are being separated from their children at the border. In fact, the administration changed its story 14 times, the Washington Post reports.

This is likely not the last time. The new plan, as described by officials, could be illegal, violating existing limits placed on how long minors can be detained.

The limits on family detention are due to the Flores agreement, which came out of the mistreatment of unaccompanied minors in the 1980s and got Obama into trouble during the 2014 surge. Vox explains how it works, and writer Dara Lind argues the Trump administration is deliberately starting a legal fight over family detention to try and undo those limits.

Family Separation: More than 2,000 kids have been taken from their parents since April. What’s happened to them?

The New Yorker reports the government has no intention of reuniting the children with their parents. Lawyers working to that end say it is nearly impossible to find the kids once they are in federal custody. A spokesman for Department of Health and Human Services initially said the program will “proceed as usual.” Then a second spokesman corrected that and said, “It is still very early and we are awaiting further guidance on the matter.”

Contractors have been cashing in on the family separation policy, particularly contractors in charge of hiring for youth care workers or developing child-advocacy programs, reports The Daily Beast. One non-profit in particular is to be paid $458 million, reports Bloomberg. That is Southwest Key, which has about a dozen facilities in Texas including one in a former WalMart.

A youth care worker from Southwest Key recently resigned, saying the Tucson shelter where he worked was understaffed and unequipped to help migrant kids with trauma, reports the Los Angeles Times. “I am feeling uneasy about the morality of some of the practices,” the whistleblower told his supervisor.

Doctors fear that migrant children that have been separated from their parents could suffer “irreparable harm,” reports NPR. But even when migrant children are offered the assistance of social workers or psychologists, the notes experts make from these conversations are not protected by any privacy laws. That means the notes could be used to justify ongoing detention or even deportation, reports Vox.

One Facebook fundraising effort, started by a California couple that intended to raise $1,500 has raised more than $15 million and counting to help reunite migrant families. The money will go to RAICES, the largest immigration legal services provider in Texas. (Texas Tribune put together a list that includes this and other organizations that support migrant families.)

Zero Tolerance and Asylum
On the border, asylum seekers who are trying to enter the country at established ports of entry and avoid facing criminal prosecution continue to be told there’s no room.

Meanwhile, the Department of Justice has reportedly asked the Pentagon to send military lawyers to prosecute cases, Rachel Maddow reports.

Family Separation: Congress and the White House
The New York Times looks at how the Trump administration, helped along by a partnership between senior policy adviser Stephen Miller and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, put into place what is widely considered one of the most inhumane policies used in modern American immigration enforcement.

There’s a reason administration officials did not attach the word “deterrence” to the family separation policy: “Changing immigrant detention policy as a way to deter undocumented people from coming to the U.S. is illegal, federal courts have repeatedly ruled,” Roque Planas writes in Huffington Post.

Office of Denaturalization
USCIS will open an office to go after people who allegedly cheated to obtain a green card and later citizenship with the eventual goal of stripping them of their citizenship through civil court proceedings, reports the AP. Previously, the agency did not actively pursue cases of citizenship fraud.

DACA & Dreamers
House Republicans will vote on a pair of DACA-related bills put forward by Paul Ryan this week, but not the legislation that a group of moderate Republicans and Democrats have spent weeks maneuvering to get onto the floor, reports Politico. The bipartisan group of legislators failed to get the minimum votes needed to push a discharge petition that would allow the House to vote through four different bills, over the objections of House Republican leadership. The proposals backed by Ryan are not expected to pass.

The Trump administration is using a back-door approach to killing DACA by urging a federal court in Texas to declare the program in violation of federal immigration law. That ruling would be in violation of other court rulings in favor of DACA, which the administration plans to use when making an argument to the Supreme Court to freeze all the contradictory rulings. In that vacuum, the administration could end DACA altogether, reports NBC News.

ICE is refusing to release key data about its enforcement operations, reports Bloomberg Businessweek. Now the agency is being sued by the Transactional Access Records Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University for its disappearing data.

A Texas sheriff’s deputy was held on charges of sexual assault against a 4-year-old migrant girl. He allegedly threatened her mother with deportation when the abuse was discovered, reports NBC News.

A high-speed chase between the Border Patrol and a car full of undocumented immigrants in Texas led to the death of five of the immigrants, while a driver believed to be a smuggler survived, reports NBC News.

Follows: Domestic abuse victims, ICE enforcement in PA
The New York Times reports on a woman raped and threatened with death by her boyfriend and his gang in Honduras. A little more than a week ago, she had a chance at asylum. Now, following Sessions’ asylum policy change she’s about to be sent back to her abusers.

Pennsylvania state police officers will now have to file a report whenever they call ICE to a traffic stop. It’s part of a new policy spurred by investigative reporting by ProPublica and the Philadelphia Inquirer into the impact of immigration-police collaboration.


Jobs, Fellowships, Conferences

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

Podcasts & Immigration News


Reporting resources, tools and tips

That’s all for Migratory Notes 70. If there’s a story or immigration-related opportunity 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 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