Elizabeth Aguilera
Jan 10 · 11 min read

Fact checking Trump, asylum seekers stuck, another caravan

The government shutdown is now in its second week over Trump’s insistence he gets $5.7 billion for a border wall, a “medieval solution” he says works. Here, along the border with Tijuana, is the current border barrier that has been up for years and that runs along more than half of the U.S.-Mexico border. Source: Jonathan McIntosh/Flickr

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A growing palm oil industry may be one reason for increased migration from Guatemala. Many subsistence farmers sold their land to big companies but have not found economic stability in return, reports Reuters. This is true in Raxruha, a municipality in Alta Verapaz home to the family of Jakelin Caal, the 7-year-old girl who died in CBP custody. “The work’s a killer,” her uncle told Reuters. “You have to get up at 3 a.m. and you get home at 10 at night, and with the little you’re paid, it’s not enough.”

Some believe that the industry’s entry into the region can promote a positive economic boom, “critics say farmers have given up land that long fed them,” writes Sofia Menchu, “with many then entering a state of co-dependency with palm oil companies that have become major employers, but do not pay well enough to stop people migrating.” Instead, residents have used the money from land sales to pay for smugglers to take them to the U.S.

Government Shutdown
As the government shutdown entered its second week, and after Trump stormed out of a meeting with Democratic leaders Wednesday, he is headed to the border. On Thursday in Texas he is expected to get a cool welcome as nearly every elected official along the border opposes an emergency declaration to build a wall, reports The Washington Post.

The shutdown has only caused problems for the immigration system and created challenges for enforcement. Immigrants have shown up to their court dates to find the doors locked due to the shutdown, adding to a record-high case backlog, reports the Arizona Republic. An immigration lawyer is feeling panic over the disarray that the shutdown has caused in the courts and fears that it will lead to the deportation of her clients, reports The New Yorker.

E-Verify, the online platform designed to prevent immigrants from working illegally in the U.S., is unavailable during the shutdown, reports NPR. The shutdown has caused the DHS advisory council to cancel a trip to the border that was meant to help them draft recommendations for DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, reports The Daily Beast. Still, deportations continue as ICE agents work without immediate pay.

Trump’s Immigration Speech
Trump’s Tuesday night speech was full of inaccuracies and misleading claims, fact-checked by Politico. Here are a few:

  • Illegal border crossings have decreased since the 1990s and early 2000s and do not constitute a “crisis.”
  • Immigrants commit crimes at lower rates than U.S.-born citizens.
  • Whether the wall is made of concrete or steel does not matter to Democrats.
  • Any profits from a new trade deal with Mexico would go to companies and individuals, not the government.

Most of the speech “[painted] immigrants broadly as terrorists, criminals and a threat to American society,” reports The Washington Post. As Vox’s Dara Lind documents in a lengthy Twitter thread, Trump has repeatedly used this rhetorical tactic, which she calls IACATBTKY (Immigrants are coming across the border to kill you), since his campaign began.

A top counterterrorism expert for the U.S. government explains that there is no security or terrorism crisis at the border, in an op-ed for Just Security based on his time as director of the government agency the National Counterterrorism Center from 2014 to 2017.

Immigration experts say there is a border crisis, but it isn’t the one that Trump painted in his Tuesday speech and other public comments.

These are problems a wall can’t fix, reports The Intercept. But Trump continues to be limited by his campaign promise of a wall, which started as a rhetorical device to keep him on-message, reports The New York Times. Even some of his allies are starting to worry that Trump will make key concessions on immigration policy for a wall that is ineffective.

Fact check
Six immigrants on a federal list of suspected terrorists were apprehended by CBP at the southern border in 2018, much fewer than the 4,000 cited by White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders in an interview with Fox News last weekend.

Potential asylum seekers in Mexican border towns are increasingly hiring smugglers to help them cross the border as the process of “metering,” the process of allowing only a few asylum seekers in a day, has led to longer wait times in Mexico, reports The New York Times.

Immigration is an International Issue
On Monday, Mexico announced it would place guards at 370 locations along the country’s southern border with Guatemala where migrants often cross illegally, reports AP. Mexico’s Interior Secretary cited a new potential Central American caravan as part of the reason for doing so.

Mexican officials say the new administration plans to formally ask the U.S. to stop deportations to dangerous border cities in Mexico, such as Reynosa in the state of Tamaulipas, where dozens of migrants and deportees were reported kidnapped and extorted in 2017, reports The Washington Post.

A friend of the two Honduran boys killed in Tijuana recounted the story of how the three were lured to an apartment complex by a woman and were then tortured for ransom money, reports VICE News. The third boy was able to escape and is in protective custody in Mexico. Two men and a woman have been arrested in the case.

Detention & Enforcement
Since Trump took office, 22 migrants have died in detention, according to an investigation by NBC News. DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen claims the facilities have “the highest standards in the world,” but the investigation revealed that the agency itself has issued at least three reports about poor conditions in immigrant detention within the last year.

The job of Border Patrol agents is one of the most polarized in the country, with some believing they deserve a “halo of service” and others believing they are “Trump’s personal militia, tasked with carrying out an inherently racist agenda,” reports New York Magazine. A deep look into the life of one agent shows how the agents view their own work.

Travel Ban
A coalition of government watchdog organizations and civil liberty groups have tried to use legal action to force DOJ to issue a correction to a misleading January 2018 report linking terrorism and immigration and used to justify the travel ban, but the agency has refused to issue a correction, reports The Washington Post.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a plan Tuesday to provide affordable healthcare to low-income New Yorkers, including undocumented immigrants, called NYC Care in a move that has sparked a national debate. This isn’t an entirely new effort. In California, various cities and counties, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, provide health care access to the undocumented. Oregon and California both offer health coverage to low-income undocumented minors and just this week the new California governor proposed extending benefits to young undocumented adults up to age 26.

The online filing system for employers to request seasonal work visas, iCERT, crashed last week when employers overloaded the system by asking for H-2B visas for nearly 100,000 workers in one day, reports Bloomberg Law. Employers, who say they are already pressed for workers, worry the site crash will delay their anticipated April arrival.

A trial began Monday to determine if the decision to end TPS for Haitians was motivated by racism and anti-immigrant sentiment, reports The Haitian Times. An estimated 50,000 Haitians could be shielded from deportation, depending on the outcome, which is expected Thursday.

A black church in Philadelphia has become part of a growing sanctuary movement since Trump took office, by housing a Mexican mother and her three children who fled violence in Mexico. “If I could live in my country….I wouldn’t be here enclosed between four walls,” the mother said in a video for AJ+.

Immigration Books
Novels about the immigrant experience have always been part of American literature, but are taking on new meaning since Trump took office. The Associated Press recommends Valeria Luiselli’s “Lost Children Archive,” about young immigrants separated from their families, and Nicole Dennis-Benn’s “Patsy,” about a Jamaican woman’s surprise to find a different America than she had imagined. Another recently published collection of short stories is “Useful Phrases for Immigrants” from May-lee Chai.


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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 Newsom’s got an idea even Trump likes — will it lower California’s drug prices? 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.

Elizabeth Aguilera

Written by

Health/Social Services reporter @CALmatters, co-founder of #MigratoryNotes. I carry a mic & a pen. Prev: @KPCC @SDUT, @DenverPost. elizabeth@calmatters.org

Migratory Notes

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

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