Migratory Notes 81

Scouring Guatemala for parents, Latino citizenship under attack, double trouble for African migrants

Teams of lawyers and human rights workers are tracking down deported migrant parents in the Guatemalan highlands. Rene Lopez shares a photo of his 10-year-old son, Jairo, who is still in the U.S. after being separated from his father. Credit: Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles Times

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In the mountains of Guatemala, attorneys head into remote highlands to search for the parents of children still detained in the U.S. Cindy Carcamo and Katie Falkenberg report for the Los Angeles Times on the halting and painstaking work to reunify families with no phone numbers or exact addresses. “As word got out, men and women encircled Villatoro, telling him similar stories of families journeying to the U.S. only to land in immigration detention,” writes Carcamo of a Guatemalan attorney’s efforts. “He listened sympathetically, but he never found who he was looking for.” Sometimes, when families are located, the result is unexpected: “Whereas parents of younger children yearn to be reunited, those of older children sometimes prefer they stay in the U.S. After all, they had left Guatemala for a better life, and perhaps, some parents rationalize, they are old enough to cope in the U.S.”

The New York Times also reports on efforts to reunite families in the face of the administration’s lackluster efforts, and on families in agony waiting to find out when they’ll see their children again.

Family reunification
More than a month after a court deadline passed to reunite families, nearly 500 children still remain separated from their parents and in immigration custody, reports The Washington Post. Some of those children migrated with guardians and not their parents, a narrow definition of ‘family’ being used by the Trump administration, reports Rewire.

As the school year starts, about 40 children separated from their families can’t be enrolled in school, reports Politico. That’s because they are in temporary foster care.

An obscure Supreme Court ruling over whether a school in Texas could require undocumented children to pay tuition to enroll has a new relevance in light of the many children now languishing in detention centers, reports The New Yorker. “In June, the Texas State Teachers Association called on the governor of the state to make provisions for the education of the detained children, before the beginning of the school year, but has so far received no reply,” writes Jill Lepore. “Is education a fundamental right?”

Reports of sexual abuse of migrant children in detention are continuing to trickle out, reports the AP. El Salvador is offering legal representation to families of three minors who told Salvadoran officials they were abused at a shelter in Arizona.

Citizenship & Green Cards
The U.S. is denying passports to hundreds, and perhaps even thousands, of Latino U.S. citizens along the border by accusing them of using fraudulent birth certificates, reports The Washington Post. In some cases, people are even being jailed or are unable to reenter the country. The State Department told the Post that it “has not changed policy or practice regarding the adjudication of passport applications,” adding that “the U.S.-Mexico border region happens to be an area of the country where there has been a significant incidence of citizenship fraud.”

Around 8,000 Vietnamese green card holders who have committed legal infractions are being targeted for deportation under the Trump administration, reports The Washington Post. Under the suggestion of Stephen Miller, ICE is reinterpreting a 2008 agreement with Vietnam making a group of people who fled the country’s Communist takeover in the 1970s deportable.

To prepare for possible deportation, some Mexican citizens are having their American family members apply for dual citizenship, reports The Dallas Morning News. The Mexican consulate in Dallas has seen a sharp growth in applications — from 977 in 2016, to nearly 2,500 in 2017, and now 2,699 from January 1st to August 31st.

Military officials are concerned that the drop in admittance for Iraqi refugees who helped U.S. troops overseas will hurt efforts to gain the cooperation of the local population in conflict zones, reports Reuters. As of August 15th, only 48 Iraqis had entered the U.S. this fiscal year on a special refugee program for people who helped American forces. Last year, 3,000 were admitted under the program.

A 5-year-old girl nearly died of a ruptured appendix while in a short-term detention center in McAllen, Texas — a health issue that is treatable but can be fatal if unrecognized, reports The Intercept. It was the same detention center where a Honduran man died from an undiagnosed, life-threatening illness.

A Mexican journalist who has twice been detained by ICE after requesting asylum writes a first-person account for the Columbia Journalism Review of his physical and mental anguish while in detention. “I need to spell out some of my recent experiences, so that others will not go through these extremely degrading hardships in a foreign place where universal liberties are proclaimed and then inhumanely denied to those who would seek protection,” writes Emilio Gutiérrez Soto.

Immigrants in detention are uniquely placed to be the victims of scams. Harper’s Magazine reports on the fake lawyers, or the notario fraud, taking advantage of migrants facing desperate situations. “For her, nothing was complicated,” said one detained woman who would eventually lose her asylum case because of what she says was ineffective representation. “She told me everything was going to be fine, that I just had to get my brother to deposit a thousand dollars for her to get started on my case.”

Basements, offices and hotels across the country won’t appear on any list of ICE holding facilities, but they are all places where detained immigrants spend time while being moved to other locations, reports The Texas Tribune.

Prisoners across the country went on strike last week, including some in immigration detention, reports ThinkProgress. That means refusing to work or eat to push for 10 demands, including getting paid minimum wage for any work done while detained and for better rehabilitative services.

African immigrants in the U.S. often face a double threat — from stepped up immigration enforcement and the targeted policing that takes place in African-American neighborhoods. In a feature story for Popula, Ashoka Mukpo looks at New York’s West African community and the shock facing green card holders who have been deported.

A federal judge in Texas did not end DACA on Friday as expected, creating an opening for some recipients of the program to request renewals, reports Voice of America. Among District Judge Andrew Hanen’s responses was that if the states that are suing to end DACA were so harmed by the program, they should have sued to end it years earlier. “DACA is a popular program and one that Congress should consider saving,” he said.

Public Charge Rule
Immigrants are dropping out of the WIC federal nutrition program for women and children in fear of being denied legal status in the future, local health providers in at least 18 states have told Politico. “It’s a stealth regulation,” said one immigration attorney. “It doesn’t really exist, but it’s being applied subliminally.”

The U.S.-Mexico trade deal conspicuously leaves out the issue of immigrant labor and, in doing so, ensures that small businesses will continue to suffer from a lack of employees, reports The Guardian. Meanwhile, Trump’s efforts to curb foreign hires is hurting the bottom line and business owners complaints are getting louder, reports The New York Times.

Since the 1940s, Indian immigrants have worked in the hospitality industry. Today, half of all U.S. motels are run as Indian family businesses by children and grandchildren, reports National Geographic.

Discrimination on the Job
The former spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform filed a discrimination complaint with the Office of Human Rights alleging he dealt with racial slurs and harassment from FAIR’s management, reports the Los Angeles Times.

An army director hired as deputy director at USCIS was fired for making anti-Muslim comments on Facebook, reports Buzzfeed.


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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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