Migratory Notes 98

Possible end to the shutdown, a deported informant, $11 toothpaste

Caption: Cristina Jimenez is director of United We Dream. Her organization is at the center of negotiations over DACA recipients, the border wall, and the government shutdown. “We are not going to fall into this trick,” she told NPR earlier this week about the president’s latest offer of temporary relief. Photo credit: Walter Barrientos

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Squeezing through a gap in the border fence was one of the easiest parts of Nubia Estrada’s journey with her four children to the United States as part of the October caravan from Honduras. Her story serves as an example of how the Trump administration’s efforts to stop migrants from crossing the border have been largely unsuccessful. Finding a way to stay legally may end up being the hardest part. “In Honduras people had talked about immigrants who snip off the bracelets and run away,” Maria Sacchetti of the Washington Post writes. “But Estrada and her sister wanted to follow the rules.”

Government Shutdown Dealing
The Senate is scheduled to vote on competing bills Thursday to reopen the government.

Senate Republicans proposed one bill to end the shutdown that has been largely rejected by Democrats and sparked criticism from immigration hardliners. The bill’s key points include:

  • $5.7 billion in funding for the border wall
  • Temporary protection from deportation for DACA recipients and TPS-holders, but no pathway to citizenship
  • Additional funding to ICE, CBP and Border Patrol, part of which would be used to increase the number of beds in ICE detention centers
  • Changes to asylum law that would make it more difficult to seek refuge
  • A plan to require Central American minors to request asylum in their home countries, ultimately restricting their access to asylum

Immigration hardliners claim the bill provides “amnesty.” Democrats say that giving back protections that Trump took away is not a compromise and DACA recipients have spoken out against the bill. The unpopularity of the bill suggests that Trump has “landed himself in the worst of all worlds, without a clear solution or the support of his most ardent followers,” reports The New York Times. “We’re obviously a little frustrated because so much focus has been on barriers, walls and fences,” Chris Chmielenski, director of content and activism at NumbersUSA, which supports curbing legal and illegal immigration, told Politico.
In addition, the Supreme Court declined to move forward with a case that would decide the future of DACA, leaving the program intact until at least October and foiling Trump’s plan to use a Supreme Court decision as leverage to negotiate with Democrats.

Shutdown Impact
The shutdown is taking a toll on immigration policies and DHS agencies:

Caravan
More than 10,000 Central Americans, mainly Hondurans, have applied for humanitarian visas in Mexico and more migrants from the latest caravan plan to accept the Mexican government’s offer to stay and work there, reports the Washington Post. But Mexico’s inconsistent immigration enforcement has left some migrants skeptical of Mexico’s promise. Since 2014, Mexico has deported half a million Central Americans without granting them their rights to due process, legal aid, or humanitarian assistance, reports KJZZ Fronteras Desk.

While visuals of the caravan have tended to focus on the pain and suffering of migrants, a photo essay by Bright Magazine, called Humans of the Caravan, captured them in Tijuana in their daily activities.

Enforcement
A teen who worked as an informant for law enforcement in Long Island was deported to El Salvador this month, reports ProPublica and New York Magazine in a co-published story. The judge determined his testimony credible but ruled that he could not grant him asylum given that he admitted to participating in murders as a member of MS-13 in El Salvador and U.S. law prohibits asylum for people who have committed a crime. “His deportation illustrates how hard it has become for immigrants fleeing MS-13 to find asylum in the U.S., even if they have shown a commitment to helping law enforcement,” writes Hannah Dreier.

Statistics from Trump’s first two years in office show that more immigrants have been targeted than during the previous administration, reports Vox. Here are some of the numbers:

  • 436 immigration arrests per day on average in 2018, compared to 300 in 2016
  • 44,631 immigrants in ICE detention each day on average, compared to 34,376 in 2016
  • 620,311 denials of visas, green cards, and other legal immigration statuses, up 37 percent from 2016

A coalition of immigrant rights groups filed a lawsuit Friday alleging that the Office of Refugee Resettlement violated its own policies and the due process of migrant children and their sponsors by allowing the information of potential sponsors to be used to conduct immigration arrests, reports Huffington Post.

Detention
Immigration activists allege that private detention centers intentionally charge up to four times the price of basic goods in order to incentivize immigrants to join an optional work program that pays $1 a day, thus boosting profits and lessening operating costs, reports Reuters. A price list shows toothpaste costs $11, denture cream costs more than $7 and mini deodorant costs $3.35.

Last week, the House passed an amendment to the federal budget that would stop and prohibit the transfer of funds to ICE from other government agencies, reports ThinkProgress. The Trump administration has funneled an estimated $200 million to ICE from other federal agencies such as FEMA and the U.S. Coast Guard.

Southern Border
Four volunteers for Arizona-based aid group No More Deaths were found guilty of entering federal land without a permit for an August 2017 incident in which they left food and water in the desert for migrants. Documents obtained by The Intercept show that the case is part of a systematic effort by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to track activists working in the Arizona desert and hinder their work. The four women could face up to six months in jail.

Residents and immigrant rights groups in McAllen, Texas question Trump’s use of the word “crisis” to describe the border region, reports the LA Times. The real crisis, they say, is the violence on the other side of the border in Reynosa. “There’s hundreds of (migrants) on the other side of the border, abandoned. We’re causing that,” said the founder of a migrant shelter.

A museum in El Paso tells the history of Border Patrol, from its roots fighting Chinese migration in the 1920s to its current role in policing the border, reports AP. The privately funded museum aims to provide a neutral picture, but also “plays down the corruption and mismanagement of its early days, and its role in discriminating against Mexican-Americans along the border,” writes Russell Contreras. Historical photos published by the Houston Chronicle show how the agency’s enforcement capabilities and resources have evolved over decades.

Border Wall
At least three cemeteries in Texas could be destroyed by building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. DHS is allowed to waive any laws that would usually require public hearings about the destruction of important historical, archeological, and burial sites like these in order to build the wall, reports The Intercept.

The history of the opioid crisis in the U.S. shows that a border wall won’t stop drugs from reaching the U.S., reports The New Yorker. OxyContin, the addictive painkiller, did not enter the U.S. through Mexico, but rather it is the product of an American pharmaceutical company. The opioid epidemic is now in its third wave, with fentanyl and other synthetic drugs made in China now the leading causes of overdose deaths in the U.S. It’s true, some drugs do come from Mexico, but details revealed in the El Chapo trial show that smuggling networks are sophisticated and a border wall won’t stop them. They mainly bring drugs in through legal ports of entry, hidden in shipments of other goods, reports the Daily Beast.

Asylum
A journalist from Mexico details the 10-year process of seeking asylum in the U.S., which included seven months in detention, multiple court hearings and appeals and continuing to remain in limbo, reports Politico. “Today, I am one of many hundreds of asylum seekers, uncertain of my future in this country. A judge will decide my fate in the coming weeks,” writes Emilio Gutierrez Soto in a feature published in English and Spanish.

Politics
Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand backtracked on her previous hardline stances on immigration, including opposing amnesty for undocumented immigrants and increasing funding to ICE, after announcing her intent to run for president in 2020, reports CNN. Her remarks sparked some criticism given that she called Trump’s immigration policies “racist,” but called her own stances “unkind.”

Labor History
After fleeing civil wars in their home countries in the 1980s, Salvadoran and Guatemalan immigrants used their organizing skills to promote better working conditions in the U.S., with a particular influence on the Justice for Janitors movement in California, farmworker industry in Florida, and poultry industry in North Carolina, reports The Conversation.

Immigration Stats
Most people see immigrants as contributing positively to society, suggesting that global populism is not as popular as headlines suggest, according to a recent study by the World Economic Forum. About 57 percent of people view immigrants favorably, with the most support in South Asia and the least support in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Approval in North America is above the global average at 66 percent.

Americans believe immigration is the most important issue facing the country, beating healthcare as the most significant issue and suggesting continued attention on policy during the 2020 presidential campaign, reports The Hill.

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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 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 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 keeps families in one of the most polluted places in California? 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