Migratory Notes 88

A plan to end birthright citizenship, Pittsburgh’s refugees, troops to the border

The man who killed 11 people in a Pittsburgh synagogue during Shabbat services had posted angrily online about the work of refugee advocacy and resettlement organization HIAS, formerly the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. Image credit: HIAS

This week we welcome a new staff writer to our growing Migratory Notes team, journalist Anna-Catherine Brigida (read her bio below). Yana is staying with us and moving into a new role as special projects editor.

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While Trump tweets about how the Central American caravans heading north are an “invasion” and are “made up of some very tough fighters and people,” Michael E. Miller writes in the Washington Post that “there is one prominent feature of the caravan the president has not mentioned: the children.” More than 2,000 youngsters were part of the caravan that entered Mexico on October 19, some babies with parents, others older children and teens traveling on their own. Isaac, 12, and Javier, 16, were among them, “but after more than 600 miles, the two friends were at a crossroads.”

Birthright Citizenship
After Trump shared his intent to end birthright citizenship in an interview with Axios published Tuesday, even some Trump allies like Paul Ryan pushed back. “We didn’t like it when Obama tried changing immigration laws via executive action, and obviously as conservatives we believe in the Constitution,” Ryan told radio station WVLK in Kentucky.

If Trump does issue an executive order, it would still most likely be up to the courts to decide the fate of birthright citizenship, writes Dara Lind in Vox. “It would simply tee up a court fight; ultimately, the Supreme Court would have to decide whether to stick to its century-old interpretation of the 14th Amendment — which holds that children of noncitizens are in fact ‘born in the United States and subject to its laws,’ and therefore citizens by right — or to specifically exempt children born to unauthorized immigrants.”

Trump claimed the U.S. is the only country that provides a right to citizenship based on being born here. But in fact, more than 30 nations do to varying degrees, including neighboring Canada and Mexico. “Birthright citizenship, with few exceptions, is the norm in countries whose laws were crafted based on English common law, including Canada, Jamaica and Pakistan,” Jaweed Kaleem writes in the LA Times. “Nearly every country in Central and South America provides birthright citizenship, too.”

Caravan and Troops to the Border
Trump announced Wednesday that he was prepared to send 15,000 troops to the border in response to the migrant caravan. That goes way beyond the plan the Defense Department announced Monday to send 5,200 troops by the end of this week –and more in the future — as part of “Operation Faithful Patriot,” reports The Hill.

And that’s thousands more troops than the estimated 3,500 migrants in the caravan, who are weeks away from the U.S. — Mexico border, and whose numbers have declined. About 1,800 applied for asylum in Mexico, took up the offer for work permits, or returned home, reports Reuters.

Several former military and national security officials have been openly critical of the deployment, calling it a political ploy, reports Politico. The Defense Secretary shot back “we don’t do stunts.”

There have been false rumors about who is funding food and water for the migrants. Organizers point to Mexcan church groups, municipal officials, and local residents in towns along the way as key to sustaining the caravan, reports the Arizona Republic.

New Caravans
Another caravan broke through a gate at the Mexico-Guatemala border Sunday after waiting all week for the border to open and a 26-year-old Honduran man died from a hit to the head by a rubber bullet. Officials, including Mexican and Guatemalan police, used tear gas and batons, to stop the migrants, according to Al Jazeera. Mexican officials said their officers did not shoot rubber bullets into the crowd and were not responsible for the death.

The following day, the caravan clashed with Mexican authorities when trying to cross the river dividing Mexico and Guatemala. One migrant drowned, reports AP.

More than 2,000 migrants in at least three additional caravans left San Salvador this week, reports Reuters.

While these caravans are gaining widespread attention, they remain tiny compared with larger immigration trends. “El Salvador experiences a migration dynamic where 200 to 300 people migrate each day,” a Salvadoran immigration expert told the Washington Post. “A caravan is the visibility of this hidden reality.”

Asylum
To make it more difficult for caravan members to receive asylum, DHS is considering creating a “waitlist” at the border, only accepting people it has enough space to process and detain, reports CNN. That process has already started, reports the Los Angeles Times, and it’s forcing some migrants who came from as far afield as Russia into dire situations.

An analysis of data from the Department of Justice shows that U.S. courts are approving asylum cases at the lowest rate in two decades, reports Buzzfeed.

Pittsburgh
The attack on Jewish worshippers in Pittsburgh tied to the congregation’s support of immigrants has shaken a community in Pittsburg proud of welcoming refugeesfrom places such as Bhutan, Somalia and Iraq.

HIAS, the organization that the killer identified in tweets as motivating his actions, is a national refugee resettlement group that works locally in Pittsburgh with Jewish Family and Community Services. It had recently hosted a national Shabbat event focused on refugee issues, which had apparently triggered the wrath of the killer: “HIAS likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can’t sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I’m going in.”

Although HIAS started helping Jewish refugees, the vast majority of its work is now non-Jews, reports The New York Times. (Disclosure: Daniela’s father, who was born in Uzbekistan to Polish Jewish refugees, was resettled by HIAS in New York in the early 1950s.) In recent years, as the needs changed, the group shifted its name from Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society to the initials it was widely known by, HIAS.

Some felt it was inappropriate for HIAS, a Jewish group, to devote resources to aiding Muslims; HIAS, to its eternal credit, disagreed,” Lev Golinkin writes in a personal essay about HIAS helped provide refuge for his family when they left the Soviet Union. “As Mark Hetfield, the president and chief executive of HIAS, once told me, ‘We decided to help, not because they are Jewish, but because we are Jewish.’”

Border Wall
Homeland Security claims Trump’s border wall is being constructed, calling a 2.25-mile barrier in Calexico the first part of the wall, even though it is a replacement of an old section of the wall that has been in the works since 2009, reports Buzzfeed News.

White House and the Elections
Republicans are playing on immigration fears and stereotypes in campaign advertisements and on Twitter to bring supporters to the polls, reports Reuters. Advertisements on a range of platforms have cost millions of dollars.

The Border Patrol union endorsed three Democrats, and the Trump administration is angry about it, reports Politico.

Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen is one of the officials that sources say is likely to leave the White House after the midterm elections, reports Politico.

Noncitizens will be able to vote in a local school board election in San Francisco, making it the largest city to give voting rights to undocumented immigrants and other legal residents without citizenship, reports the LA Times. But despite spending about $310,000 to set up a new registration system and to put out word about the program, only 49 non-citizens had registered, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. That breaks down to about $6,326 invested per new voter.

Detention
A Honduran woman says she did not receive proper medical attention when her scar from a C-section opened while she was detained, reports the Texas Tribune. A July 2018 Buzzfeed News investigation previously revealed that pregnant women were denied medical care at six detention facilities.

The Trump Administration has loosened the policy of reviewing a family’s plans for living in the U.S. before releasing them from detention, reports the San Diego Union-Tribune. The policy, called “coordinated release,” means that families will be released more quickly but with less government help for travel plans. It has also caused added stress on local immigrant organizations.

Enforcement
Community arrests, where ICE raids workplaces and homes in a specific community, are concentrated in 24 of 3,200 counties, reports CityLab. The top three counties are: San Bernardino, CA; Dekalb, GA; and New York, NY.

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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.

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*Daniela Gerson is a co-founder and the editor of Migratory Notes. She 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 theDemocracy 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 co-founder and the executive editor of Migratory Notes. She 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 a staff writer for Migratory Notes. She 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

*Anna-Cat Brigida is a staff writer for Migratory Notes. She is a freelance reporter covering immigration and human rights in Mexico and Central America. She began covering immigration as a journalism student at USC Annenberg and later moved to Central America to work as a reporter. She has covered the region since 2015 and has been based in El Salvador since January 2018. She has also worked as a Spanish-language writer for Fusion out of the Mexico City office. Her work has appeared in Washington Post, The Guardian, Univision, LA Times, and Al Jazeera, among others. You can find her on Twitter @AnnaCat_Brigida

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