Migratory Notes 71

Lost inside detention, efforts to end due process and the Mexican election wildcard

Protestors gathered in front of the Supreme Court in April while the travel ban case was argued before the court. This week the court sided with the Trump Administration and upheld the ban. Source: Victoria Pickering (Flickr)

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The voice of one 6-year-old girl, separated from her mother after migrating from El Salvador, has been heard around the world. For her, memorizing her aunt’s number was the difference between staying connected to her family and being adrift among the thousands of other migrant children waiting for their families to find them.

“Jimena’s insistent pleas for a phone call at a Border Patrol detention facility… quickly became the searing incarnation of what the Trump administration is doing to children,” writes Ginger Thompson for ProPublica in a story that follows what has happened to Jimena after the recording went viral.

Travel Ban Upheld
The Supreme Court upheld Trump’s travel ban Tuesday, limiting travel from several predominantly Muslim countries. In the majority opinion, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. argued the president has the authority to act on national security and immigration, despite the discriminatory nature of some of Trump’s statements. In a searing dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote that while the court, as part of the decision, took an important step in overturning the ruling that sent Japanese Americans to internment camps, by upholding the travel ban, the court “merely replaces one gravely wrong decision with another.”

Some families anxiously waiting for the travel ban decision are now facing permanent separation. Numerically, Iranians are likely to be the group most affected. For one American woman in Seattle, that means she may need to leave the U.S. to be with her Iranian husband, reports The Seattle Times. And the travel ban would likely further slow down international students coming to the U.S., reports Inside Higher Ed.

The ruling is the biggest legal victory Trump has had yet, and, in upholding the power of the presidency over immigration, it may impact legal challenges to his border policies.

Family Separation is Officially Over, but Will it Actually End?
A California federal judge ruled Tuesday that families can no longer be separated at the border. Immigration authorities have two weeks to reunite children under the age of 5 with their parents, and 30 days for older children. “The unfortunate reality is that under the present system, migrant children are not accounted for with the same efficiency and accuracy as property,” Judge Dana Sabraw wrote.

It remains to be seen if the government will reunite parents and children quickly. Attorneys trying to navigate the system describe “a total labyrinth.” The Texas Civil Rights Project is representing more than 300 parents looking for their children, and has only been able to find two. Incomplete documentation by Border Patrol, and the young age of the children, could challenge efforts to reunite families, reports The Washington Post.

Further complicating matters, children have been moved to a network of shelters and foster homes all over the country. The Washington Post has mapped the sites, and asks readers to share if they know of children in other centers.

The judge’s order also stops parents from being deported without their children. It comes too late for the 26-year-old farmer sent back to El Salvador without his 6-year-old daughter, who says he’d migrate all over again to find her, reports The Washington Post.

Over the weekend, the Trump administration announced a way for parents to quickly get their children back: agree to be deported and forget about asylum,reports Vox. In Houston, one parent was asked to sign a voluntary order of removal and was promised that he wouldn’t be deported without his daughter,reports The Texas Tribune. But DHS said many other parents agreed to be deported without their children.

Indefinite Detention of Families?
Sessions filed a motion last week that would change the Flores agreement, which regulates how long children can be detained, and the standards of their detention. The alternative proposed by the AG is family detention that goes beyond the current restriction of 20 days.

The Marshall Project reports from a family detention center northwest of Philadelphia, where tricycles and assorted balls lay around an outdoor field. Advocates describe systemic abuse and neglect, as well as more routine indignities, like bed checks of families every 15 minutes as they sleep. The center slipped through a loophole in the Flores ruling and is open because it had a childcare license when the ruling came down in 2015. But more centers like it would cost money ICE simply doesn’t have, reports The Huffington Post.

In an opinion piece in The New York Times, Sonia Nazario argues that there are proven alternatives to family detention that should be adopted: “The family case management program, a pilot started in January 2016, allowed families seeking asylum to be released together and monitored by caseworkers while their immigration court cases proceeded,” writes Nazario, the author of Enrique’s Journey. In the LA Times, Christina Fialho, co-founder of Freedom for Immigrants, goes even further arguing to end all detention, which she writes would save the government money.

Protest Movement
Protesters rallied against family separations in San Francisco, Chicago, Portland and in several Texas border towns. (El Paso Times has a list of 14 celebrities spotted in Tornillo). Nationwide protests are planned for June 30.

Tech companies like Microsoft and Salesforce are providing cloud services and data processing software for immigration authorities. Now their employees are pushing back, in some cases demanding their companies cancel contracts with ICE altogether, reports Mother Jones.

Zero Tolerance Backlog at the Border
Officials have temporarily stopped criminal prosecution of border crossers under the zero tolerance policy because there is no detention space. “We’re not changing the policy,” said Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. “We’re simply out of resources.”

While it’s mostly Central Americans seeking asylum along the Texas border, in California Mexican asylum seekers displaced by criminal gang violence are filling shelters along the state’s southern border while they wait to make a claim, reports the Desert Sun.

Border Backlash
The mayor of Brownsville, Texas says, contrary to the president’s allegations, there is not a safety and security crisis in his border town. “Most of the people that are migrating are from Central America,” he told The New York Times. “They’re trying to just save their own lives. We’re doing fine, quite frankly.”

The head of the Tornillo, Texas tent city for immigrant youth described the president’s call for the separation of children from their parents as an “incredibly dumb, stupid decision,” El Paso Times reports. He said he expects to cease operations July 13, when his government contract ends. Residents of the border town housing several hundred migrant children, are shocked to see the enforcement happening in their own backyard, reports The Guardian. “It’s twisted and shameful,” said one resident.

Detention and Justice
Trump suggested that due process rights for immigrants be eliminated altogether. “When somebody comes in, we must immediately, with no Judges or Court Cases, bring them back from where they came,” he tweeted. That is against the law. What does due process look like for immigrants right now? The New York Times has a handy explainer.

Immigrant kids, who are not guaranteed access to a lawyer in immigration court will be facing proceedings on their own. Some migrant children do not even know the full reasons that their parents fled, further hurting their chances of asylum or remaining in the U.S., reports The New Yorker.

The U.S. is making plans to house as many as 20,000 immigrant children unaccompanied minors migrant children on four military bases, that could also be used to detain families, reports The New York Times. And, a 15-year-old boy walked out of the largest children’s migrant detention center in the country, housed in a former Walmart in Texas, and is now missing.

The Department of Health and Human Services is responsible for providing an education for detained migrant children. Education Week breaks down what the law requires, and to what standards, when it comes to schooling in detention.

Congress Stalled on Immigration…Again
House Republicans failed to pass an immigration bill Wednesday by more than 100 votes, despite a last-minute all-caps tweet backing it from Trump. It would have allowed for indefinite family detention, as well as provided a path for dreamers and more funds for the border wall. Votes on a narrower measure are delayed until after a 10-day recess.

Clamping Down on the Northern Border
A French teenager visiting her mother in British Columbia, Canada, went on a run and landed in detention in Tacoma, Washington for two weeks. She said she had no idea she crossed the U.S. border.

Border Patrol closed off highways in northern Maine and New Hampshire to demand proof of citizenship from drivers, reports The New York Times. It’s not a new tactic in areas near the country’s borders, but it is becoming more frequent under Trump.

Migration South of the Border
Mexico also separates undocumented Central American families, reports Publimetro. After crossing Mexico’s southern border, migrant children are often placed into separate housing, though families can visit each other at certain times of the day.

Mexico’s next president is likely to push back more against the United States on immigration enforcement, reports the Austin American-Statesman. That’s especially true if the frontrunner, a charismatic left-leaning politician who has been openly critical of Trump’s treatment of migrants, wins the election.

MS-13
ProPublica debunks the biggest misconceptions Trump is making about the MS-13 gang, including that MS-13 is organizing to foil immigration law, posing as migrant families on the border, and still growing.

Reporting Immigration
Central American scholars and advocates are rarely heard in the public debate around family separation, writes Roberto Lovato in the Columbia Journalism Review. That dynamic further erodes the agency of Central Americans around this issue — both those on the border and those speaking out to make change.

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That’s all for Migratory Notes 71. If there’s a story you think we should consider, please send us an email.

Thanks this week to Adolfo Flores, Alice Diver, Dara Lind, Fernanda Santos, Ginger Thompson, 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. Thank you to Jacque Boltik and Angie Quintero for creating our template.

*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