Migratory Notes 76

Child detention is like “summer camp,” toddler dies upon release, cashing in on foster care

The monarch butterfly has become a symbol of the immigrant rights movement in recent years, showing up at rallies, marches and protests. The photo is part of an exhibit hosted by Colectivo Liminal making its way around the country to support local migrant organizations. Credit: Lisette Morales

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#Must Listen
For the past year, parents deported from Oakland to Mexico have been raising their children long-distance, providing homework reminders and nutritional advice over daily video chats. PRI’s The World’s story, reported from both places, illustrates how one family copes with the forced separation that has impacted thousands of mixed-status families annually.

Children in Detention
As children are being released from detention, serious concerns are emerging about treatment:

Officials from five federal agencies involved in family separation were asked at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing whether they thought the policy was a success. Their response: silence. In response to allegations of abuse at family detention centers, an ICE official compared the detention centers to “summer camps.” Much of the rest of the hearing was marked by the officials’ (who represented DHHS, the DOJ, USCIS, ICE and CBP) inability to give clear data or explain why some children remain in custody.

Ongoing Family Separation
“Deleted family units” is the term CBP officials used for separated families. The Washington Post reports on the core problem with the family reunification effort: failure to record, classify and keep track of separated families. The New Yorker breaks down what categories the 914 parents deemed ineligible for reunification fall into — those who waived their parental rights, have a “prohibitive criminal record,” are outside the U.S., and those who are still up for further evaluation.

Judge Sabraw chastised the administration for “losing” hundreds of parents, reports NPR. Children still waiting are asking: “What about me?” reports NBC News.

For the 463 migrant children whose parents were already deported, there is no plan or specific allocation of resources to reunify them, reports The Atlantic.

A lawsuit contends that several fathers have been separated from their children for a second time, allegedly for refusing to close their children’s asylum case and be deported together, reports Vox. The fathers “were presented with forms that gave them three ‘options’ for their families’ cases — with the option for deporting the child along with the parent already selected. One parent says the check mark had been made in pen; two others report that they were told they had to sign the form with that option selected,” writes Dara Lind.

Children reunited with their parents are showing signs of trauma from the separation, including anxiety, introversion and regression, reports The New York Times. Some migrant children are pretending to handcuff and vaccinate toys or people around them.

Frontline takes a deep dive into the family separation crisis in their latest film, along with an exploration of how Obama dealt with child migrants.

Migrant Suicides
An immigrant detainee with a mental health diagnosis killed himself after 21 days in solitary confinement at Stewart Detention Center in Georgia. It’s only the latest such tragedy in ICE detention, reports The Intercept in a deep dive into the man’s story.

A Yemeni immigrant, separated from his family due to the travel ban, shot himself at Fat Boys Grocery in Louisiana on July 18. His family blamed the pain of being divided from his children and wife. Four days later, due to a class action lawsuit in federal court to reissue visas for Yemenis in Djibouti, his family was finally able to travel to the United States; they arrived a week after his funeral.

A “Little LA” is growing in Mexico City, populated by deportees who do not speak Spanish well. Not everyone is happy about it, reports the Dallas Morning News. “There isn’t a [expletive] Little LA. This is Tabacalera,” a waiter told Alfredo Corchado. “That’s what these imbeciles call it, but they can’t even speak Spanish. I even doubt they’re Mexican. Where are their documents? They come back and act as though they can teach us something. “ But others, feel they are “agents of change” creating a new iteration of the “American Dream” in a changing Mexico. Previous stories on Little LA: PRI’s The World, WSJ, Time

Follow the Money
Cayuga Centers is the largest provider of foster care for unaccompanied minors, despite its troubled history of negligent care and under-experienced employees, reports The New York Times. Its government contracts for working with immigrant children took it from a $1.1 million deficit in 2013 to $48.7 million in annual revenue in 2017.

Democrats are increasingly coming under fire from constituents for taking money from private prison corporations, in part because of growing anger at family separation. Even ostensibly pro-immigrant politicians like California Gov. Jerry Brown get contributions from GEO Group and CCA, reports Mother Jones.

Naturalization applications fell by more than 7,000 in the first quarter of 2018compared to 2017, but backlogs for getting citizenship are getting worse, reports Quartz.

DNA to ID Deportees
Canada is using ancestry DNA websites to establish the nationality of immigrants it wants to deport, reports Vice. Immigration agents are using the websites to find family members of a targeted individual and determine their country of origin. It’s a process many critics say is flawed because ethnic origin isn’t necessarily connected to country of citizenship.

From Immigration Detention to Knight-Wallace Fellow
Mexican journalist Emilio Gutiérrez-Soto, who was freed from immigration detention on July 26 after being held since December, 2017, will be a Press Freedom Fellow at the University of Michigan. Mexico is the second most dangerous country for journalists after Syria and Gutiérrez is seeking asylum following death threats.

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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

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