Migratory Notes 73

Reunification chaos, grandparents detained at a military base, miscarriages in detention

Some faith leaders have been the most visible working against the family separation policy, reports KPCC. Boston Cardinal Seán P. O’Malley said, “Do not use children as pawns to enforce a hostile immigration policy.” Image courtesy: US Catholic bishops’ Justice for Immigrants Campaign

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At the border in Tijuana, an unofficial notebook with the names of nearly 2,000 would-be asylum seekers is a roughshod effort to make order from the chaos. “The book’s guardian — always an asylum seeker — scrawls each person’s name and country of origin in blue ink,” writes Cindy Carcamo in the Los Angeles Times. “On this day, the crowd clamored for information. The notebook held answers: How many people were ahead? How many people were let in the day before? How much longer would they have to wait? People reached for the notebook as if it were a sacred totem.”

In The Conversation, Princeton Professor Douglas Massey uses six graphics to breaks down some of the biggest issues in immigration. Among them, how Mexicans having fewer children — not border enforcement — transformed immigration; how the number of immigrant apprehensions per Border Patrol officer is at its lowest level since 1943; and how successful asylum cases are divided by an immigrant’s country of origin.

Return to Catch and Release
The Trump administration has reunited just over half of parents with their young children as of Thursday morning, but are saying the rest are ineligible because parents are already deported or safety concerns.

Families with children under the age of 5 are being prioritized for placement into this so-called “alternative detention program” where parents are freed with ankle bracelets after a failed effort to convince a judge to allow the long-term detention of migrant families.

But that doesn’t mean that families won’t be separated again in the future, Vox reports. The judges in two ongoing cases against family separation “agree with a core principle of the government’s argument on immigration policy: that it can’t be forced to release anyone who comes into the US without papers just because they bring their child with them,” writes Dara Lind.

At a reunification in Phoenix, two “mothers were met with cries of rejection from their children” who did not recognize them, or had attached to caregivers, reports The New York Times. The 6-year-old girl whose pleas were caught on audio from a detention center and heard around the world is expected to reunite with her mother soon. The mother was released Wednesday from a Texas detention center and was en route to Arizona where her daughter is being held, Ginger Thompson of ProPublica tweeted.

Parents of at least 19 of the children who are under the age of 5 have already been deported, as well as others with older children. Among them are the parents of one 7-year-old girl at a shelter in Arizona who are in Guatemala (the child crossed the border with her father who was then deported), and fear losing their daughter for good, reports the Los Angeles Times.

In another case, a 1-year-old boy in the process of being reunited with his deported father in Honduras must first sit through the formal process of deportation, including a visit to court, reports the AP.

Other parents are still behind bars. Various complications have contributed to the chaotic scramble of federal officials to reunite parents:

The administration’s struggle to connect parents with their children shows just how poorly planned the separation policy was from the beginning, reports Adolfo Flores for Buzzfeed. In fact, concerns that there was never a plan to reunite families seem increasingly correct.

For the first time in 2018, illegal border crossings went down in June, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Dozens of immigrant children, possibly in custody after being separated from their parents at the border, were detained for three weeks inside a vacant office building in Phoenix with “dark windows, no kitchen and only a few toilets,” reports Reveal. The children were under the supervision of a U.S. defense contractor who detained them in a building not licensed to hold kids, and which was not listed among public lists of shelters for migrant children.

DHS quietly rolled back an Obama standard against detaining pregnant immigrants, and women in detention are describing miscarriages caused by a denial of medical care and being shackled around the stomach, reports Buzzfeed.

A loophole in federal law means detention centers for migrant children located on federal land aren’t subject to the usual rigorous child welfare inspections run at the state level, reports CBS News.

“Five years ago, nine in 10 asylum seekers were released during their court hearings, often with an ankle monitor, but now nine in 10 are held indefinitely in horrible places,” Sonia Nazario writes in The New York Times on shifts in policies which she argues violate international laws for asylum seekers. “The point is to push people to the breaking point so they’ll give up their legal rights.”

(This 2016 explainer from PRI lays out how asylum seekers came to be automatically put in detention).

The Defense Department promised some immigrant Army reservists and recruits a path to citizenship through a special recruitment program. But now, more than 40 of them have been discharged or had their recruitment halted without a clear explanation, reports the AP.

An elderly couple who tried to visit their son-in-law at his Army base on the Fourth of July were turned over to ICE, reports NY1.

Any non-citizen who applies for citizenship, a green card or any other change of status and is denied by USCIS will now be placed in deportation proceedings. “This new policy greatly expands the categories of ‘enforcement priority’ to most of the people trying to navigate a byzantine immigration system,” Hassan Ahmad writes in Quartz.

Protest Movement
A woman climbed the Statue of Liberty in a protest against migrant child detentionon the Fourth of July, as fellow activists unfurled an ‘Abolish ICE’ banner at the base of the statue.

The management consultancy McKinsey & Company announced it will no longer do business with ICE after employees raised concerns over its relationship with the agency, reports The New York Times.

Immigration judges have been ordered to deal with the newest cases on their docket first and push older cases further down the list. That means the immigration court backlog is going to get even worse under Trump, reports The Dallas Morning News.

Brett Kavanaugh, Donald Trump’s pick for the Supreme Court, sided with the administration on a case where federal authorities tried to stop a pregnant teen in immigration custody from getting an abortion, reports The Washington Post.

Under the pressures of zero tolerance, California has adopted mass immigration hearings after long holding out, reports the AP.

Meanwhile, courts are struggling to find interpreters to accommodate Central Americans who speak indigenous languages and a rise in African and Asian border crossers — all of whom are now being charged with misdemeanors, Voice of San Diego reports.

A federal judge in California ruled in favor of the state’s sanctuary law in a lawsuit brought by the Trump administration to try to force collaboration between local police and ICE, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Mexico’s Borders
Mexico’s new president, long a critic of American immigration enforcement, is starting his own border force. Among its main goals will be to stop undocumented Central Americans from entering Mexico through its southern border, reports Bloomberg.

From the waiting room at Eloy Detention Center in Arizona to the tumbleweeds that blow through the nearby desert, Eileen Truax eloquently paints a picture of one immigrant family caught up in the billion-dollar business of detention in an excerpt from her book We Built the Wall.


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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 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