Migratory Notes 90

Daniela Gerson
Nov 15, 2018 · 12 min read

Shutting down asylum, borders and butterflies, Thanksgiving on the border

A baby traveling with the migrant caravan takes a nap. Photo by Alice Driver

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In few words, and 10 photos, Alice Driver relates a vivid story of leaving your home behind and traveling with a caravan headed toward the United States. “In the late afternoon sunlight, after you have showered with the other women, you stand in the grass and brush your daughter’s hair as you look over at your three sons and imagine what kind of lives they might live,” Driver writes in Longreads. “Your daughter is wearing donated shoes covered in silver sparkles and as she stands up in her baby stroller, you wrap your arms around her.” (More recent coverage from Driver on the Caravan: “An Intimate Look at Life Inside the Migrant Caravan” for Time with Magnum photographer Jerome Sessini and “We have nothing to fear from the migrant march” for CNN.)

In 2014, three Honduran women survived a brutal attack by a Border Patrol agent. Two were left for dead and another was taken to his house, where he raped her, reports The New York Times. The women are now putting a spotlight on Border Patrol’s hiring practices and supervision protocol by taking the agency to court. “Over the past four years, at least 10 people in South Texas have been victims of murder, attempted murder, kidnapping or rape — all, according to prosecutors and officials, at the hands of Border Patrol agents who suddenly and violently snapped,” Manny Fernandez writes.

Midterm Fallouts
Trump has asked for Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen for her resignation, reports The Washington Post. Trump’s frustration that she is not tough enough on immigration, “seems to be rooted in his own failure to understand immigration policy,” writes Dara Lind in Vox. Because “Trump decided to measure the success of his immigration policy in whether or not people were trying to enter the US at all — not in how many were being deported, or allowed to stay, or anything else — he set himself up for failure.”

Democrats also want Nielsen out, reports The Daily Beast. Twenty-six House Democrats penned a letter demanding her resignation Wednesday, citing her inhumane immigration policies such as family separation.

Thomas Homan, immigration hardliner and former ICE director, has been identified as a possible replacement, reports The Washington Post.

Congress resumed this week and funding for the border wall will be one of the key issues Republicans will try to pass before the house turns blue in January, reports AP. If the issue goes unresolved, a full or partial government shutdown could happen in the next few weeks.

Jeff Sessions is no longer attorney general, but his replacement will inherit the crisis he left behind with policies that limit due process, restrict access to asylum, and an increased backlog, Julia Preston reports in an analysis for The Marshall Project. Immigration reform advocates, she writes, “said Sessions’ tenure provided new arguments for Congress to move the immigration courts out of the Justice Department to the federal judiciary.”

Trump signed a proclamation last week stating that migrants crossing the southern border can only ask for asylum at ports of entry. The ACLU, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the Southern Poverty Law Center immediately sued the government for violating federal law, arguing that applying for asylum is a right no matter when and where you do so, reports The New Yorker.

Migrants following this order are being turned away at ports of entry because of long wait times at the border, lack of space in processing centers, and push back from Mexican authorities to leave the waiting area, reports The Daily Beast.

Border Wall
The first six miles of Trump’s border wall will cut through a national park and butterfly sanctuary in Hidalgo County, Texas, reports The Intercept. There are already 700 miles of fencing along the border, but the barrier, which will be constructed in February, would be the first new section built under the Trump administration.

Military personnel began “hardening” the U.S. border near Tijuana on Tuesday, adding wire and fencing in preparation for the arrival of the first caravan of Central Americans, reports Buzzfeed News.

Morale is low for the 5,600 troops at the border getting by on rations of chicken and noodles, and barred from the Whataburger down the road, while preparing to spend Thanksgiving without their families, reports The New York Times. “When you send a soldier on a dubious mission, with no military value, over Thanksgiving, it doesn’t help morale at all,” said Maryland Democratic Rep. Anthony G. Brown, a former Army pilot.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis visited troops on the border Wednesday. He called the deployment “a moral and ethical mission.”

A break out contingent of LGBT migrants were among the first to arrive from the caravan making its way through Mexico, reports The Washington Post. These migrants stick together to protect themselves, reports AP. “Supposedly you’re emigrating from your country because of the violence, the discrimination, the homophobia, and it turns out that in the very caravan you face this kind of violence,” one transgender woman from Honduras said.

Later in the week, a group of about 400 Central Americans arrived by bus in Tijuana, where they plan to seek asylum, reports The Desert Sun.

Several thousand of the remaining migrants from the first caravan are making their way through Guadalajara and Culiacan to the border, reports AP. But some others are headed to Texas to seek job opportunities rather than asylum, reports The Dallas Morning News.

For Mexico, the caravans have presented a political conundrum in which the country has to balance public opinion and its relationship with the U.S., reports the LA Times. Many Mexicans support the caravans, but others see the migrants as “potential criminals, low-wage job competition and drains on public resources,” writes Patrick McDonnell. The New York Times reports the support for the caravan members is a new shift. Outgoing Mexican President Peña Nieto has helped the U.S. deter Central American immigrants during his tenure, but president-elect Lopez Obrador “will not do the United States’ dirty work,” writes Elisabeth Malkin.

ICE detainees have hit an all-time high of 44,631, reports The Daily Beast. And it is unclear how ICE has paid for the 4,000 more detainees than Congress funded.

Two dozen immigrants have spent more than three years in California’s detention centers, regardless of whether or not they have been convicted of a crime, reports the LA Times. The federal government pays somewhere between $48,910 and $75,920 per year for each migrant in detention. Those who spend the most time in detention are migrants with the most resolve against signing a voluntary deportation order.


  • In Mississippi, the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Mississippi Justice League filed a lawsuit against a local county sheriff’s office in Mississippi for allegedly detaining a family in June 2017 for “looking Latino” and threatening them with deportation, although all legally reside in the U.S. (Jackson Free Press)
  • In New Jersey, the number of immigration cases has increased by 26 percent since last year part of a mounting backlog, with 1 million open cases nationwide. Long wait times caused former DACA recipient Jorge Chacon to miss his second child’s birth because he was in detention. (WNYC)
  • In Vermont, activist group Migrant Justice filed a lawsuit Wednesday against DHS for targeting and surveilling members in efforts to suppress immigration activism around the country. (The Guardian)
  • In New York, a court Wednesday ruled it illegal for state and local authorities to arrest people for ICE. (Newsday)

The rate of new enrollment for foreign students at U.S. universities has decreased for the second year in a row, this year by more than 6 percent, according to Voice of America. Experts attribute the decline to high tuition costs, anti-immigrant rhetoric, and increasing competitiveness of other universities. Foreign students still choose the U.S. more often than any other country, contributing $42 billion to higher education each year, reports The Wall Street Journal.

Seventeen members of Congress sent a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, urging him to restore “visa fairness” for Chinese graduate students, reports Voices of NY/ World Journal.

Children of undocumented immigrants are foregoing higher education for fear of putting their parents at risk of deportation by sharing their information on financial aid forms, reports The Guardian.

Teachers in Baja and San Diego have teamed up to develop a dual-language immersion program to better serve the 53,000 students in the Mexican state who are from the U.S., reports The San Diego Union-Tribune. The school would teach subjects in both English and Spanish to create a truly bilingual student body.

Immigration Journalism
The conservative magazine Weekly Standard released audio of Rep. Steve King referring to immigrants as “dirt,” after the Iowa Republican challenged the veracity of earlier reporting.

“There’s plenty of dirt. It’s coming from the West Coast, too. And a lot of other places, besides. This is the most dirt we’ve ever seen,” King said in an exchange with a voter before midterm elections.

The designation “public charge” has been used since 1882 to deny residency and citizenship to immigrants who could become a burden on the U.S. government, reports Documented NY. The term has been applied subjectively and the Trump administration hopes to broaden its use. “It was always meant to punish the poor,” one expert said.


  • A lawsuit filed last week accuses Greyhound of violating California state consumer protection laws by allowing CPB agents to board buses and question passengers’ legal status. (Washington Post)
  • A federal court ruled in favor of DACA recipients last week when it decided to maintain an injunction that prevents the Trump administration from revoking the recipients’ deportation protection. (The New York Times)
  • Academic Christine Wade writes that promoting strong democracy and ending funding to corrupt military and police forces in Central America are the solutions to the migrant crisis, not the militarization of the border. (World Politics Review)
  • 7-Eleven franchise owners believe corporate headquarters has encouraged ICE to raid some stores in an attempt to seize franchises by accusing them of violating immigration laws. (Bloomberg)

Migratory Notes’ Special Projects Editor Yana Kunichoff will be presenting Thursday as part of a panel on Coverage of Immigrant Communities it a Time of Fear for the People-Powered Publishing Conference in Chicago. If you’re there, come say hi!

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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 Despite mass shooting, California — with tougher gun control — has lower gun-death rate than most states. You can find her on Twitter @1eaguilera

*Yana Kunichoff is a special projects editor 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

Migratory Notes

At a time of rapidly shifting policies, we synthesize exceptional immigration journalism.

Daniela Gerson

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Ass’t Prof @CSUNJournalism and Senior Fellow @CCEMNewmarkJ. Co-creator #MigratoryNotes. Subscribe for free: https://bit.ly/2tkethJ @dhgerson

Migratory Notes

At a time of rapidly shifting policies, we synthesize exceptional immigration journalism.