Migratory Notes 91

Tear gas at the border, “humanitarian crisis” in TJ, undocumented immigration dips

Buzzfeed News reporter Adolfo Flores gave kids in the caravan cameras to show what the experience looks like through their eyes. Ashlel Aguilera, 12, and Antonio Aguilera, 15, on the back of a bus in Southern Mexico. Photo by Antonio Aguilera.

Know someone who might like Migratory Notes? Please help us spread the word: Here’s the subscribe form and here’s an archive on Medium. Got a story or an immigration-related resource or opportunity we should know about? Send it on!

#MustRead/ #MustListen
Why are record numbers of families being apprehended at the U.S. southern border? Joshua Partlow and Nick Miroff in The Washington Post provide an explanation: “Central Americans know they will have a better chance of avoiding deportation, at least temporarily, if they are processed along with children. The economics of the journey reinforces the decision to bring a child: Smugglers in Central America charge less than half the price if a minor is part of the cargo because less work is required of them.”

This analysis triggered some critical responses from other journalists. New York Times national correspondent Jose Del Real wrote in a Twitter thread: “It flattens an entire refugee crisis to economics, with no mention of violence, it disregards the love Central American parents feel for their kids, and doesn’t hammer home the scale of this problem. I guarantee this becomes a political talking point.” To which Miroff responded in a Twitter thread, “I hear your concerns and take them to heart. But too much coverage, I think, has ‘flattened’ (as you say) migration to a series of cliches and cudgels, ie they’re all fleeing violence, or they’re criminals. We have to push beyond that, ask difficult questions & report honestly.” He also wrote that concerns about political ramifications of reporting were troubling and more immigration journalists need to report from sending countries.

One pull factor for Central Americans to migrate as families have been opportunities for asylum, Caitlin Dickerson explains on The Daily. But this avenue is rapidly narrowing under Trump. The Daily explores if Trump is dismantling U.S. asylum policy, or returning it closer to its origins, in an in-depth look at its roots after the Holocaust, political maneuverings, and expansion under Obama.

Border Chaos/ Border Repression
Two different narratives of the chaos at the Tijuana border have emerged. Mexico’s interior minister called Sunday’s protest “violent.” DHS officials led a tour Tuesday for reporters, and San Diego Sector Chief Rodney Scott maintained “hundreds of people were screaming at border officers,” “rocks flew overhead” and a section of the wall was torn apart, reports LA Times. “When they broke that, they had a breach where they could just walk right through,” Scott said. “Migrants started pouring through.”

But BuzzFeed reports that the 42 people who crossed into US territory and were arrested only made it to a no-mans-land between two border fences. And migrants insist the protest was peaceful, reports The Washington Post, until agents launched canisters of tear gas, which is banned in warfare.

One Honduran mother fleeing the gas with twin 5-year-old daughters became an emblematic image of the border chaos. “I snapped a picture I will never forget,” Reuters photographer Kim Kyung-Hoon writes.“In the frantic moments after the canisters hit the ground, the acrid smell was everywhere and I could see children crying, their eyes stung by the gas.” The mother later told Reuters, “I thought I was going to die with them because of the gas.”

Immigration experts believe the confrontation is the “inevitable consequence” of Trump’s policies that make migration more difficult while ignoring the reasons why people must flee, reports BuzzFeed News. One Democratic lawmaker is calling for a Central American “Marshall Plan” after a border visit.

Caravan
The mayor of Tijuana declared a “humanitarian crisis” as the city struggles to house nearly 5,000 Central Americans waiting to seek asylum. LA Taco describes the gym where hundreds are housed as a “squalid mess.” The migrant influx is sparking a fierce debate among residents torn between fears of crime and rising unemployment, and respect for the city’s migrant roots, reports The San Diego Union-Tribune. Hundreds of local residents marched in protest of the caravan last week, with signs reading “Mexico First” and “No Illegals.”

The Department of Homeland Security is using undercover informants to infiltrate WhatsApp groups organizing the caravans, reports NBC.

After Sunday’s confrontation, migrants in the caravan are struggling to choose their next move –staying in Tijuana, returning to their home countries, or crossing into the US — none of which are good options, reports the LA Times. On Monday, 30 migrants volunteered to return home, double the usual daily amount, reports Adolfo Flores of BuzzFeed News.

Border Business
In the town of San Ysidro, California, where 90 percent of consumers come from Mexico, hundreds of businesses lost a total of $5.3 million when the border was shut down for five hours on Sunday, reports The New York Times.

Residents in southern Texas are struggling to adapt to an increasingly militarized border since troops were deployed, reports The Intercept. “Having the military here is a disaster,” one resident said. “Or more likely a tragedy.” At least 25 unarmed people have been fatally shot by Border Patrol agents in less than a decade as enforcement has harshened. U.S. government officials have insisted that the soldiers will be properly trained to interact with migrants.

Asylum
The U.S. and Mexico allegedly reached a deal for Central American migrants to stay in Mexico while they apply for asylum, according to high-level Mexican officials close to President-elect Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, reports The Washington Post. On Tuesday, a Mexican official denied that such a bilateral agreement had been made but said the country must prepare to house Central American migrants while their asylum applications are processed, reports AP.

Lawyers are helping the thousands of caravan members in Tijuana decide whether or not to apply for asylum, reports The San Diego Union-Tribune. About 70 percent of migrants will likely pass a credible fear interview, one lawyer predicts, but many may struggle to provide evidence for their cases. On average, 76 percent of migrants who cross the border pass a credible fear interview, reports Univision. About 20 percent of asylum claims have been granted each year since 2012, reports Politifact.

Family Separation
A loophole in the injunction issued by a judge in June to stop family separation has led to at least 16 more cases of children separated from their parents, reports ProPublica. The ruling allows children to be separated from parents if their safety is at risk. Immigration officials have used a broad interpretation of this exemption to deem parents unfit or unsafe, often using a proven or alleged criminal record to justify the separation.

The Trump administration’s family separation policy has cost at least $80 million as of Nov. 6, reports The New York Times. The price tag continues to grow as 140 children remain in custody without their families.

A Guatemalan mother remains separated from her 11-year-old daughter, who was put into foster care when the pair crossed the border in May, reports The New York Times. The daughter was born in the U.S. and the law bars citizens from being held in detention. Immigrant advocates estimate at least 50 children are in similar situations.

Enforcement 
More than 2,000 employees at the Tornillo tent city, which houses hundreds of unaccompanied migrant children, have not undergone fingerprint background checks, which is required by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to ensure the safety of children, reports Vice News.

The U.S. Interior Department, tasked with protecting natural resources in national parks and other federal lands, has taken on a larger role in immigration enforcement this year, reports ABC. The agency handed over 4,010 people to CBP from May to November 2018, compared to 126 people in 2016.

A Mexican man who had been living in a church in North Carolina to avoid deportation was arrested last week during an immigration office appointment, reports The News & Observer. Democratic politicians accuse ICE of using the appointment as a false pretense to lure him from the church, where immigrants are usually safe from deportation.

Immigration Demographics
Undocumented immigration dipped to the lowest levels in a decade, according to a Pew Research Center study. New arrivals are declining, most significantly from Mexico, but instability and violence in Central America has led to an increase of migrants from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. In addition, undocumented immigrants from India and Venezuela increased, while there were statistically significant declines from Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Korea and Peru. An estimated 10.7 million undocumented immigrants lived in the U.S. as of 2016. Although there is no definitive data, it’s likely that most undocumented immigrants now are visa overstayers.

Public Charge
Baltimore sued the Trump administration charging a new State Department visa policy keeps immigrants from seeking benefits, reports The Baltimore Sun.

Justice
A New York court ruled that all immigrants charged with crimes deserve jury trials, reports WNYC. Lawyers who filed the suit believe a jury of peers will better ensure a fair trial for immigrants who could face deportation if convicted of a crime.

The Trump administration has allocated $39.8 million to hire new judges and support staff to handle the backlog of immigration cases, reports CNBC. In comparison, sending troops to the border cost nearly double: $72 million.

Corporate law firms have emerged as important challengers to Trump’s immigration policy, reports The New York Times. Lawyers claim their motives are not political, but critics say they are driven by a left-leaning bias common among top law firms.

Education
From New Mexico to Tennessee, attendance decreases when students are worried about their own deportation or a loved one’s deportation, reports NBC. This trend worsens when schools allow ICE on the property or collect information on immigration status, so some schools are changing their policies.

Labor
Philadelphia, the city with the most aggressive ICE office in the country, has increased workshops to educate undocumented workers about their rights since Trump took office, reports The Inquirer. These trainings are part of a larger trend nation-wide, with cities in New York and California doing the same.

Workers with visas for seasonal agricultural work, known as the H-2A visa, have more than doubled since 2010, reports Documented NY. The shifting workforce, previously dominated by undocumented workers, is making it more difficult for the workers to negotiate better working conditions because they are tied to their employers.

Elsewhere, the agricultural industry is turning to technology to replace the shortage of labor, reports The New York Times.

Follows

  • Trump says he would “totally be willing” to shutdown the government on Dec. 7 if Democrats don’t approve the full $5 billion he wants for a border wall. (CNN)
  • At least half a dozen families that were reunited after being separated under the zero-tolerance policy remain in detention, which immigrant advocates claim violates a law that prohibits detaining children for more than 20 days in unlicensed facilities. (AP)
  • An autopsy revealed that a trans woman from Honduras who died in ICE custody in May showed signs of physical abuse. She died of severe, untreated dehydration. (The Daily Beast)
  • One year after contentious presidential elections in Honduras, migrants continue to flee the political crisis and the crackdown that ensued. (Al Jazeera)
  • Climate change threatens the livelihoods of millions in Central America and is often an overlooked factor in migration from the region. (Sierra Magazine)

Jobs, Fellowships & Awards

Immigration Resources & Opportunities

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

Newsletters, Podcasts, & Facebook Groups

Curriculum

Reporting resources, tools and tips

If there’s a story or immigration-related opportunity you think we should consider, please send us an email.

*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 As California areas record ‘worst air’ on earth, state needs to protect public after wildfires. 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