Migratory Notes 74

Closing the doors to asylum, reunifications moving ahead, a peek into child detention

House Republicans forced a vote Wednesday supporting ICE, after Senate progressive Democrats have taken a vocal stance against the agency, and protesters have called to abolish it. Photo: Ice.gov

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From $429 DNA tests to finding employment that better fits with a case worker’s requirements, one undocumented parent is doing everything she can to be reunited with her 1-year-old daughter, currently in U.S. custody. The mother’s trials “shed light on the bureaucratic maze that families encounter when trying to retrieve a child from the immigrant foster system run by the Department of Health and Human Services — a place where the rights of foreign parents collide with U.S. officials’ stated desire to protect the interests of children whose backgrounds are unknown to them,” Kavitha Surana writes for ProPublica.

At least 70 babies have been ordered to appear in court without their parents since October 1, reports Kaiser Health News. “The number of infants under age 1 involved has been rising — up threefold from 24 infants in the fiscal year that ended last Sept. 30, and 46 infants the year before,” Christina Jewett and Shefali Luthra write.

Family Reunification
Serious concerns are being voiced about what children have experienced while detained. One father from Guatemala said his son returned to him covered in bruises and rashes, reports the Los Angeles Times. And a federal judge ruled that two immigrant children must be treated for PTSD sustained when the government separated them from their parents, reports Mother Jones.

Detention facilities for migrant children separated from their parents are “a rough blend of boarding school, daycare center, and medium security lockup.” For many, the first holding centers were cold and cramped, and lights kept on all night prevented them from sleeping. Some children were then sent to shelters with sports fields and an outdoor pool, while others encountered recreation areas of asphalt in full view of the Texas sun. The rules, however, are similar in each facility: don’t touch other children, don’t sit on the floor, don’t use nicknames. And try not to cry.

Child detention has become a $1 billion dollar industry, 10 times larger than it was a decade ago, reports the AP.

With the next family reunification deadline approaching, officials say they plan to process the cases of 200 children a day. To do so, they’ve been moving families around the country. But some attorneys are sounding an alarm, saying they haven’t been told where their child clients are being moved, reports The New York Times.

The Department of Health and Human Services has introduced a truncated process to connect children with their families, while warning that the move could endanger children.

Judge Dana Sabraw, who is overseeing the family reunification process, questioned whether HHS was really worried about the welfare of children or just trying to cover its own complicity in the separations, reports Bloomberg.

Sabraw also ordered that reunited families can’t be deported for at least a week.

After reunification, ICE will oversee children’s immigration cases instead of the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

Plaintiffs in the Flores case filed papers this week alleging that detention conditions violate the humane treatment standards set out in the settlement, including limiting the holding of children, Reuters reports. Hundreds of sworn statements about life in detention from children and parents detail challenging conditions.

A private prison company from the UK with a history of alleged abuses is the leading candidate to turn a shuttered nursing home outside of San Diego, Texas into a privately run family detention center, reports The Texas Observer.

A Mexican man died of an apparent suicide at Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia, reports the AP. For another man, being denied health care multiple times in a New Jersey immigration detention center nearly cost him his life, reports Documented.

Polling Attitudes on Immigration
Nearly 40 percent of those surveyed in an NPR/Ipsos poll feel that refugees and asylum seekers are taking unfair advantage of the system. Among Republicans, that number jumps to 65 percent. The biggest attitude divide across parties is in the allocation of $25 billion for border security. The poll found that the clearest indicator of attitudes about immigration came not from party affiliation, but where people got their TV news.

Eighty-five percent of Trump voters see MS-13 as a national threat, with 50 percent worried they or a family member will fall prey to the gang, according to a HuffPost/YouGov survey, even though those numbers in no way correspond to the actual threat.

A new USCIS asylum policy would immediately disqualify anyone with domestic violence or gang-based claims from receiving protection in the U.S., reports CNN. It would also allow immigration officers to disqualify someone from asylum because they entered the country without permission. Advocates fear the policy could permanently reshape immigration law.

Sessions’ harsher approach to asylum is already apparent in some immigration courts, said attorneys on the border. CNN reports judges are telling asylum seekers that they no longer qualify under the new policy.

With the threat of family separation at the border and new policies aimed at cutting the number of people eligible for asylum in the U.S., many Central Americans are setting their sights on asylum in Mexico instead, reports The Dallas Morning News.

USC Professor Roberto Suro argues, “we need to do more than offer asylum,” in The New York Times. “Enforcement alone won’t stop them, certainly not enforcement consistent with our laws,” he writes of asylum seekers from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. “Congressional Democrats need to propose a long-term legislative solution, making a commitment to address root causes and creating an orderly legal channel for the migration in the meantime.” (note: Suro is on the Migratory Notes advisory board).

The expansion of the U.S. border wall will demolish backyard patios, trees, and perhaps even homes in Tijuana, reports the Los Angeles Times.

A federal judge in Illinois shut down a Trump administration effort to strip citizenship from a Pakistani-born man accused of hatching a terrorist plot with Al Qaeda, reports Politico.

Intelligence analysts warned the Trump administration that ending Temporary Protected Status for Central Americans living in the US would likely increase illegal immigration, CNN reports. Now hundreds of thousands are in limbo as their TPS is set to expire, as well as 200,000 U.S. citizen children.

Travel Ban
The U.S. government must reconsider the asylum cases of almost 90 Iranians after issuing them a blanket denial, a California court has ruled, reports NPR.

Immigration and the World Cup
The greatness of the French soccer team, and it’s recent World Cup win, comes in large part from its immigrant talent, writes The New Yorker. Players on the French team have roots in Algeria, Cameroon, Mali and Guinea.

Some 200 Nigerians are stranded in Moscow after falling victim to scammers who sold them round-trip tickets to Russia using FIFA Fan IDs and then canceled their return ticket, reports The Moscow Times. Activists say they are victims of traffickers who took advantage of Russia’s relaxed visa requirements introduced to encourage foreign fans to attend the World Cup.

The Texas Tribune is crowdfunding for a bureau in the Rio Grande Valley to ramp up its coverage of family separation.


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That’s all for Migratory Notes 74. 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