Migratory Notes 80

Closing the reunification gap, birthday incarceration, bureaucracy backlog

This week the Los Angeles Public Library celebrated the closing of a popular mural exhibit by the Oaxacan artist collective Tlacolulokos but the artists could not be there. They were deported and are barred from re-entering the U.S. The murals in the historic rotunda “explore language and culture as a key lifeline sustaining the shared experience between Mexico, Los Angeles, and beyond, with a look at how migration and the socio-political environment shape identity and cultural traditions.” Credit: LAPL

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Stewart Detention Center in Lumpkin, Georgia, is a major part of the government’s immigration crackdown, but you’d never know it from the outside. In a four-part multimedia series called ‘Inside America’s Hidden Border,’ CNN explores the infamous center, including the experience for detainees, lawyers and a growing community of family members of incarcerated immigrants. The project took more than a year of reporting, and dozens of interviews and visits to Stewart. “Weeks ago, these women didn’t have much in common. But now their greatest fears bind them together. The men they love live less than a mile away, behind bars at the Stewart Detention Center, the largest immigrant holding facility in the Southeast,” Catherine Choichet writes. “And they’re terrified of what could happen next.”

Family separation
The government is moving closer to reunifying more families, even eliciting some praise from Judge Dana Sabraw, but more than 500 children remain separated from their parents. The largest group are the 343 cases in which parents were deported.

The mother of a toddler who died after being released from Dilley Detention Center is charging the government with negligent medical care. She filed a notice of claim asking for $40 million in damages from Eloy, Arizona, which administers the contract for the detention center in Texas. The toddler’s mother also plans to file against CoreCivic and ICE, her attorney told The Washington Post. “I had the illusion of making a new life with her, because my life in Guatemala was unbearable,” her mother told Vice. “I wanted to live happily with her, to go to the park with her and to work hard for her. She was everything to me, but unfortunately that didn’t happen.

After four months apart, when a mother reunited with her son, he appeared scared and confused, reports the New York Daily News. “I’m your mommy!” says the mother in a video the ACLU circulated, as her son struggles in her arms. The Pacific Standard interviews a trauma professional who says the videos of children being connected with their parents show that their stress responders have been indefinitely switched on, which could lead to long-term impacts on their brains.

Mollie Tibbetts
Despite the president using Mollie Tibbetts’ murder to score political points against immigration since her alleged killer is undocumented and Latino, Tibbetts’ father spoke warmly of Latinos in Iowa at her eulogy, reports the Washington Post. “The Hispanic community are Iowans. They have the same values as Iowans,” he said, adding with better food. Her cousin wrote on Facebook that Tibbets’ death was about violence against women, not immigration, reports Vox.

The federal government is trying yet again to get around the Flores limits on family detention, this time to end court oversight of its treatment of immigrant children, reports Reveal. The Flores settlement is a legal agreement that limits the time and conditions under which immigrant children can be detained.

Teenagers in migrant youth shelters are being sent to adult jails as soon as they turn 18, many on their birthdays, reports Vice. Lawyers say the practice violates federal law that requires teenagers to be kept in the least restrictive setting possible and have filed a class-action lawsuit.

Several investment banks bet big on the private immigration industry when they extended a credit line totaling $1 billion to CoreCivic amidst the family separation crisis this summer, reports DocumentedNY.

The increased use of electronic monitoring bracelets instead of detention for families has opened a new immigration dispute between the government and advocates, both of whom dislike the practice for different reasons, reports The Philadelphia Tribune. Federal officials say the devices are effective in bringing people to court, but that once deportation proceedings begin, immigrants will often ditch the monitors and vanish, reports the AP. Advocates, meanwhile, argue they’re inappropriate and inhumane for people seeking asylum.

Immigration courts are being flooded with requests to terminate deportation casesbased on notices to appear that lacked a specific time, date or place. This comes after a summer Supreme Court ruling found that a government mistake with a notice meant a second chance for an immigrant facing deportation, reports the Arizona Republic.

D.C. has an immigrant legal-aid fund, but it’s been criticized by advocates for not being used to help immigrants they argue are in the most desperate situation — undocumented adults in deportation proceedings, reports The Washington Post. Instead, it goes toward naturalization applications and DACA renewals.

Lawyers in Miami use role play and coloring books to help young children forced to represent themselves in immigration court understand their situations. The New York Times Opinion Section shows a video report on these creative testimonies.

Politics of Immigration
Sessions is under fire from Republicans and lately from President Trump, but the attorney general is likely to keep his job because he is uniquely positioned to carry out Trump’s immigration agenda, and is strongly supported by immigration restriction groups, reports CNN.

John McCain’s passing will hurt immigration reform efforts, reports the Arizona Republic. The late senator was a vocal GOP champion of immigration reform and his death could make any contentious process that much more difficult.

Smugglers are making millions bringing desperate migrants into the U.S. then trapping and extorting them. The smuggling business along the Southwest border is worth an estimated $500 million. The New York Times captures photographs of some of the stash houses migrants are moved through, and interviews people who have experienced them.

A non-profit immigrant shelter in El Paso has formed a curious relationship with Customs and Border Patrol. Agents bring migrants to stay at the shelter when their detention centers are too full, and the shelter makes clear to migrants they are not in detention and can leave, reports the Los Angeles Times.

A Mexican trade minister insists that Mexico’s new trade deal with the U.S. won’t become a backdoor to pay for the border wall, reports Bloomberg.

Buzzfeed revisits the shooting death of a young Guatemalan migrant by a Border Patrol agent in Rio Bravo, a town on the Texas border, this summer, and what it means for the continuing fight for accountability for fatal shootings by CBP.

Refugees and Asylum Seekers
The Trump administration is slowing down refugee admissions by overloading the FBI and other agencies with bureaucratic demands around security screenings, reports NBC News.

A middle-aged, undocumented couple from Pakistan and their daughter are hiding from ICE in a church in Connecticut. Dave Eggers takes a deep dive into their daily life, and the implications it has for America’s morality, for The New Yorker. “How is the United States made better or more secure by throwing away this family’s eighteen years of law-abiding life in Connecticut?” asks Eggers. “The answer is that we will be no better and no more secure. We will only be more callous, less compassionate, less fair, and we will continue to spin so far from the moral center that we may never find our way back.”

In Philadelphia, four children, with deportation orders, hesitantly stepped out of their church sanctuary this week to go to school. Friends and church members are on call if ICE appears along their school bus route. They’ve been living in a church with their mother for 10 months, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Alabama has the longest backlog in the country for citizenship applications. One woman’s green card expired while she was waiting to be naturalized because it hit what advocates call a “second wall” — a long list of pending citizenship applications slowed by Trump administration policies, reports AL.com.

Immigration Journalism
The Nieman Lab reports on Vox’s Border video series focused on six different borders and how it uses maps and local source networks. “If you’re going to attempt to humanize the border between two contentious countries, you should probably start by asking the humans living there what they think,” writes Christine Schmidt.


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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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