Migratory Notes 87

All eyes on the caravan, family crossings increase, interrogating a sanctuary city

The shoemaker K-Swiss released a sneaker designed to honor DREAMers. Univision talked to the designer who said the company wanted to do something “relevant, impactful and represents the community in a supportive way.” Fifty percent of the proceeds will go to the organization United We Dream to fund DACA renewal fees. Credit: Univision

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Coverage of the current Central American “caravan” of migrants walking toward the United States has triggered key questions in terms of representation. The Los Angeles Times’ Cindy Carcamo explores whether there is really a border immigration crisis, with a handy guide illuminating some key points: illegal immigration is at historic lows overall; Mexican migration is driving the drop; and the current caravan is not unprecedented, but unusual for its size.

Images are also an important part of the narrative, reports Slate, and few images in recent years have had as much of an iconic grasp on public awareness as those of the caravan. In contrast to Europe, Henry Grabar writes that in the U.S., “the global migration crisis has produced few enduring images — in part because it has scarcely touched us at all. The migrant caravan making its way through Mexico might number a few thousand; in 2015, tiny Slovenia was seeing twice that many arrivals every day.” Now the iconic images of the caravan are defining perception of migrants, despite the data that shows most undocumented immigrants actually overstay visas. “New arrivals overstaying their visas make up a larger share of new undocumented immigrants in the U.S. than those who illegally crossed the border — and have since 2007,” Grabar writes. “In 2014, the most recent year covered in the report, the proportion of new unauthorized immigrants who had come with a valid visa reached two-thirds. If you wanted a photo of unauthorized immigration in the United States, you could try an airport or, more precisely, an expired visa.”

The Central American migrant caravan crossed into Mexico this weekend, despite attempts by Mexican and American officials to stymie its progress. “We want to get to the United States,” said one woman from Honduras. “If they stop us now, we’ll just come back a second time.”

Many of the migrants heading north have already lived for decades in the U.S., some illegally, before being deported or returning voluntarily. Now they hope to reunite with their children or go back to their old jobs, reports The Washington Post. “It’s time for me to go back to the United States. It’s a country where I can live my life, unlike Guatemala,” said one man. This group says they plan to cross into the U.S. illegally saying, “it’s the only way.”

Even as this caravan moves forward, plans for another caravan may be forming with a plan to leave from El Salvador’s capital next week, reports CNN.

Fact-checking Caravan news
Despite Trump tweeting that there are “unknown Middle Easterners” among them, there is no evidence from reports and data shows that less than .1 percent of migrants intercepted in Mexico are of that background, Quartz reports.

Trump also tweeted on Wednesday in agreement with Obama’s 2005 statement, in which the then-senator said, “We simply cannot allow people to pour into the United States undetected, undocumented, unchecked and circumventing the line of people who are waiting patiently, diligently and lawfully to become immigrants into this country.” But Trump failed to mention that the speech continued. Obama also said he supported comprehensive immigration reform legislation and that border security alone would not end unauthorized border crossings.

There has also been little evidence of another of Trump’s claims on the caravan — that it was funded by Democrats, or maybe George Soros, reports The New York Times. Some of the activists traveling with the caravan insist that the only people behind the caravan are migrants looking for a better life, reports USA Today.

Caravan language
Descriptions of the migrant caravan in militaristic terms has been a touchpoint. After The Daily hosted an episode on The Caravan and the Midterms, Daily host Michael Barbaro tweeted, “Struck by those who say NYT/The Daily shouldn’t cover migrant caravan at all, arguing it fans political flames. Here’s the thing: given events of past year thousands of undocumented migrants marching toward US and seeking entry 2 weeks before midterms is news, plain & simple.” Journalist and Migratory Notes advisory board member Fernanda Santos tweeted back that it’s not that simple: “Q is, when is the coverage so much that it overshadows other bits of important news ahead of midterms? Also, they’re not ‘marching.’ These aren’t soldiers. I understand using a stronger verb here, but ‘marching’ gives a militaristic feel to something that is not military.”

AP removed, and apologized for, a tweet calling participants in the migrant caravan “like a ragtag army of the poor.” It’s an example of how using historically xenophobic language to describe migrants has become so commonplace that many media organizations — among them PRI’s The World — don’t notice when they are doing it. For example, talking about “waves” or “floods” of refugees harkens back to language of inundation that was very similar to what was historically used to heighten racist sentiment that helped lead to the creation of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1892, reports PRI.

Border Numbers
Despite the immigration crackdown, the number of migrants stopped on the Arizona-Mexico border has increased by 50 percent since last year, with most of the growth coming from families and minors, reports the Arizona Republic. The increase mirrors what is happening across the border.

Family detention, in particular, has increased. “In September, Border Patrol agents arrested 16,658 family members along the U.S.-Mexico border, up 80 percent from July and more than any other month on record, according to data released Tuesday,” reports the Texas Tribune. The number of migrants arriving at the border has been higher in the past but what has changed is who is arriving. It used to be mainly single adults but now more families with children are making the trek. At one shelter of 300 parents waited in line for help. “Some said they had never heard of Donald Trump, much less anything about zero tolerance. Others said they decided to make the journey now because they knew they would make it out of detention easily with children in tow.”

That number, along with migrants heading north in the caravan, has pushed a refrain from both the president and right-wing media about a border crisis.

Despite repeated Twitter threats from the president to deploy the military, the Pentagon says they haven’t received any orders, reports Buzzfeed. The heightened rhetoric, playing to fears about immigration and race, could impact Republicans’ chances in the coming midterm election, reports The New York Times in its Daily podcast.

Guests on CNN’s Reliable Sources show say that the narrative is fueled by nativism in conservative media, and doesn’t consider the reality that the caravan may never even reach the border.

Meanwhile, the news media has turned its sights away from the border towns like Brownsville that still house hundreds of detained migrant children, reports The New York Times.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is considering expanding a rule that would allow him to make a ruling on immigration cases even before they reach the Board of Immigration Appeals, a move that would allow the attorney general to more directly reshape federal immigration policy, reports The Hill.

Immigration attorneys who want to represent minors will no longer have to submit their credit history or insurance information to the government in a background check form, reports Buzzfeed.

After the June 2017 arrest of 1,400 Iraqis, ICE officials misled a court about the details of a supposed repatriation agreement with the Iraqi government, leading to the prolonged detention of the immigrants which normally would not have been permitted, reports Buzzfeed.

Sanctuary Cities
Philadelphia has proudly claimed the title of “sanctuary city” since 2014, refusing to buckle under the pressure of the Trump administration’s threat to cut federal funding to sanctuary cities. But it turns out the title is not so clear-cut. The fourth segment in a ProPublica and Inquirer series shows that police and other law enforcement officials have given information to ICE about undocumented immigrants charged with crimes on at least two dozen occasions.

A new report shows the extent to which technology companies like Amazon have cooperated with the Trump administration to target immigrants using tech like iris scanners, cloud hosting and mobile biometric devices, reports Rewire News. Fast Company asked Amazon for a response but hasn’t received it.

O’Neill, Nebraska, with a population of fewer than 4,000 people, was home to Central American migrants — until an ICE raid in August tore the community apart. Today, the future for many people is uncertain, reports Buzzfeed.

The ACLU delivered petitions to Greyhound asking the company to stop cooperating with ICE and allowing agents on its buses, reports The Dallas Morning News.

A father appeared in court to support his young daughter in a case against the man she said tried to rape her. Then immigration agents picked him up, and he says the accused may have tipped off ICE, reports The Orange County Register.

Asylum and Refugees
As the border becomes increasingly difficult to cross, more migrants are taking the administrative path of asylum to enter the United States. The Washington Post follows this new reality, from border apprehensions to a review of the legal walls facing migrants.

A top official at the Department of Health and Human Services is conducting an audit of the agency’s refugee operation, and is also looking closely at its controversial director Scott Lloyd, reports Politico.

Migrant Health
A Harvard professor who has volunteered as an EMT along the border describes in The Atlantic the injuries suffered by migrants trying to make their way across the wall. “She had broken both legs, and months would go by before she was able to walk again. But she was thinking about her shoes — a weapon of the weak, which migrants use to walk under the light of the moon, to run from bandits who want to rob and hurt them, and from the Border Patrol agents who want to capture them and send them back to start all over again.”

Family separations are creating a mental health crisis of toxic stress and trauma in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, particularly among children with a deported parent, reports The Texas Tribune.

Immigrant Communities
As Middle Eastern immigrants, primarily Iraqis, have settled in the San Diego suburb El Cajon, they have advanced its political, economic, and cultural growth. This story is part of a package from Curbed.com about California and Texas, their economic power, positions along the border and influence across the country.

Border Art
An interactive art project that asks border crossers to write down their experiences is documenting emotional responses to the U.S.-Mexico border as a geographical space, reports Curbed.com.

Brain Drain
The American economy doesn’t always value migrants who don’t have higher education degrees. In a written and audio series, PRI profiles some people finding their ways around the barriers in the U.S. education system.

Two long-time activists were barred from entering an immigration detention center last month after years of visiting detainees. They suspect it was because of a public campaign they took part in alleging ill-treatment of incarcerated immigrants, and say that ICE is violating their right to free speech, reports the Miami Herald.

Restaurant Industry
A Los Angeles restaurant owner spoke to L.A. Taco about her decision to lend money to her most reliable employee to pay for a coyote to bring his son to the U.S. from El Salvador. The owner hopes coming forward with this story will inspire appreciation for the immigrant workforce. “People don’t really understand how much this industry relies on the immigrant workforce. We need to recognize this and embrace it,” she said. It is unclear if helping immigrant employees in this way is a bigger trend within the restaurant industry.

Jobs, Fellowships & Awards

Immigration-Based Projects and Investigations
Do you know of deportees to El Salvador facing harm? Human Rights Watch researcher Elizabeth Kennedy is asking for assistance in concluding a multi-year investigation on harm to Salvadoran deportees from the US, including disappearance, rape and murder. If you know of any cases, she asks that you please email her at kennede@hrw.org.

Asylum City is a storytelling project exploring the life and death consequences of seeking sanctuary in Chicago. Chicago-based journalism project 90 Days, 90 Voices has launched a Kickstarter to support six months of reporting on asylum.

Jobs, Fellowships, Conferences

Immigration Resources & Opportunities

Recently released immigration books (got one, send it over)

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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 The Grand Refugee Hotel: The Sequel to My Grandfather’s Germany for Refugees Deeply. 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

*Migratory Notes Advisory Board: Daniel Connolly, Maria Kari, Dan Kowalski, Paola Marizán, Roberto Suro, Phuong Ly, Fernanda Santos