The following is part of a pop-up newsletter called “Migratory Notes” written by Daniela Gerson and Elizabeth Aguilera, who at a time of rapidly shifting policies, synthesize exceptional immigration journalism and highlight emerging practices to connect with multiethnic communities. It’s republished here with permission. You can follow along on Medium or subscribe here.
Straight-up amazing reporting
Reveal tells the story of a French war correspondent who made a decision to help a Kurdish refugee family cross a border from Italy that changed his life and his career. The transformation, and the challenges, he recorded along the way making for a mesmerizing audio story. It’s a long piece, but it’s worth a listen. “For the first time in my life there was a global problem at my corner,” the journalist, Raphael Krafft, said. “I tried to make a border between the citizen I was, and the journalist I was. But after a while, the border was melting.”
Don’t forget the Irish
When the Irish prime minister came to Washington last week for St. Patrick’s Day, it was supposed to be an easy visit. But then he brought up the 50,000 from the Emerald Isle living illegally in the U.S., reports The New York Times. “We would like this to be sorted,” Prime Minister Enda Kenny said, calling for a path to citizenship. “All they want is the opportunity to be free,” he added, choking up momentarily. The Irish Times reports Kenny told Congress: “On this day when we remember St Patrick, himself an immigrant twice over to our shores, I urge you to look sympathetically at this issue.”
The Irish have been known to bring politicians to the table. In past years, they have appealed for special treatment which has been written into immigration bills. Daniela reported 11 years ago that then Senator Hillary Clinton made her first statement in favor of comprehensive immigration reform at an event with undocumented Irish, following Senator John McCain to the stage.
Muslim Latinos, a “fast growing” — but still very small — demographic is being doubly targeted by Trump’s immigration crackdown. NPR looks at how one couple is coping, visiting a mosque in South LA where an undocumented Latina immigrant prays. The L.A. Times found in Texas that “At the nation’s only [specifically] Latino mosque, Trump’s immigration policies have ‘changed everything.’ And last year, Walter Thompson-Hernandez traveled south of the border for Fusion, following a group of California Latino Muslims who support one of Mexico’s biggest mosques in Tijuana.
The Muslim Association of Hawaii only numbers 4,000. But it helped shape national policy earlier last week, as its imam, Ismail Elshikh, was a plaintiff in Hawaii’s successful lawsuit restraining President Donald Trump’s travel ban. He is Egyptian and his mother-in-law is Syrian. The Wall Street Journal has an in depth look at this community which celebrates Eid on the beach and has a mosque with a view.
Travel ban TRO redux
When Hawaii issued the Temporary Restraining Order on Wednesday afternoon a few news outlets published a selection of excerpts from the often scathing ruling. The New York Times pulled this one: “The illogic of the Government’s contentions is palpable. The notion that one can demonstrate animus toward any group of people only by targeting all of them at once is fundamentally flawed.” And the Guardian pulled this one: “Any reasonable, objective observer would conclude, as does the Court for purposes of the instant Motion for TRO, that the stated secular purpose of the Executive Order is, at the very least, ‘secondary to a religious objective’ of temporarily suspending the entry of Muslims.”
The White House fired back that it would “vigorously defend” against these “flawed rulings” and the Department of Justice filed motions Friday to appeal a more limited Maryland ruling in the 4th Circuit as well as to seek clarification of Hawaii’s ruling in the 9th Circuit.
The Washington Post found that internal Trump data undercuts a ban. One report found that most foreign-born terrorists embraced extremist ideology after they arrived in the United States. Another report, drawing on classified FBI data, finds most of the suspects coming from countries unaffected by Trump’s executive order, according to officials familiar with the report.
Associated Press reporter Martha Mendoza analyzed 10 years of data to find that those most impacted by a halting of the refugee program would likely be Burmese, thousands of whom are Christians.
Other people’s babies, American exceptionalism, and the Dutch
Iowa Rep. Steve King’s tweet that the Dutch anti-immigrant candidate who was defeated on Wednesday understands that “we can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies” set off a firestorm of responses from both sides of the aisle.
In the National Review, Jonathan Tobin writes that “Steve King’s dangerous belief that demographics are destiny undermines American exceptionalism and the integrity of conservatives.”
He argues that American problems with immigration are distinct from those in Europe. “Support for multiculturalism and bilingual education undermines the process by which contemporary immigrants from Hispanic or other Third World countries can successfully assimilate into the American mainstream,” Tobin writes. “But the sort of problems that exist in European nations — where even immigrants who wish to fully assimilate may never be seen as full-fledged members of society — will never be replicated in America.”
The young feminist immigration beat
Think Teen Vogue is just about which waterproof mascara to get? Think again. The magazine is producing hard hitting, often activist, immigration reporting. There’s a story on what it’s like to celebrate your sweet 16 in immigration detention, a profile on a candidate for Congress in LA who grew up as an undocumented immigrant, and detailed explainers on executive orders to “why YOU should be concerned about immigration raids.”
Lenny Letter, Lena Dunham’s newsletter targeting young feminists, is also covering immigration issues. In the “Fight is Female,” attorney Meena Harris, who happens to be Kamala’s niece, wrote of the dominating role female lawyers have had in fighting the travel ban on the ground: “It turns out SFO wasn’t the only place where this gender disparity was apparent; it was happening all over the country.” Daniela noted at LAX on the Saturday after the travel ban went into effect not only were the lawyers almost all female, but so too were the Congresswomen who showed up and demanded flights be stopped.
Building The Wall
Trump released his first budget last week, settling at least one key question. It appears Americans will start paying for The Wall, with a requested 1.5 billion for this fiscal year. Of the more than 600 firms that have formally registered interest to build it, about 10 percent are Latino owned, according to the Guardian.
While many are eager to cash in, Cemex, the Mexican cement giant, bowed to pressure and said no to an estimated $1 billion of concrete needed for construction, the LA Times reports. Berkeley is doing its best to push other companies to follow Cemex’s lead, becoming the first city to divest from any companies that work on the wall, according to the East Bay Express.
Also in the budget was a cut to a Department of Justice grant that helps pay the cost of jailing local immigrants that shocked some local police, reports USA Today. For those that are not sanctuary municipalities, that move was particularly dismaying.
New York-based Huge debuted a panic button app at South by Southwest Interactive tech festival that will provide a way for undocumented immigrants to let their loved ones know if they are detained by immigration enforcement agents, according to Ad Week.
Additional incidents of Border Patrol agents detaining citizens are being reported. In San Ysidro, a Los Angeles-born man was detained at the U.S.-Mexico border for 24 hours along with his elderly parents who are legal permanent residents. The trio was not released, according to NBC 7 San Diego, until after a reporter questioned Customs and Border Protection about its 12-hour holding policy.
The Verge uncovered that many undocumented immigrants being held in private detention facilities fear for their lives and voluntarily sign up for solitary confinement. The story was the result of a Freedom of Information Act Request into conditions at three private prisons contracted by the federal government.
Facing the consequences
With immigrants increasingly scared of deportation, a wide variety of consequences are emerging. In a twist on the frequently told “undocumented immigrants actually pay taxes too” story, and in her first piece as the Washington Post’s immigration reporter, Maria Sacchetti finds this year’s story may be undocumented immigrants paid taxes before the Trump administration made them too afraid to do so.
In the fields across California, farm owners are finding it harder to fill labor needs, which had already become more challenging under Obama, the LA Times reports.
Other reported consequences include immigrants going hungry and canceling food stamps (Washington Post), failing to apply for a visa for survivors of domestic violence (WNYC), and cities rethinking municipal identification cards (Next City).
The New York Times creates a visualization explaining the challenging path to a visa. Further down is a map showing the countries where rejection rates are highest. Topping the list: Cuba, Laos, Guinea-Bassau and Somalia.
The L.A. Times considers whether a point system that promotes highly educated immigrants, like in Canada or Australia, could work, as Trump has recently promoted in Congress. Short answer, this would be very hard to make happen, and would likely not have the desired consequences if it could. “There will be pushback,” said Demetrios Papademetriou, president emeritus of the Migration Policy Institute, predicting the hardest battle may be from Asian Americans.“The Asian American community has always argued that, ‘You guys, you Europeans and Latinos, have been able to milk that system for decades, and now you’re going to deny that to us.’”
Some churches across the country declared have themselves sanctuary for those in need. Yet the Catholic Church is restraining from using the term even though many nuns were very involved in the early sanctuary movement, writes the Global Sisters Report. Chicago’s Cardinal Blase Cupich wrote a letter to priests explaining, “We have not named our churches as ‘sanctuaries’ solely because it would be irresponsible to create false hope that we can protect people from law-enforcement actions, however unjust or inhumane we may view them to be.” Many of the nuns interviewed, including those who had participated in the 1980s movement, felt ambiguous about using the sanctuary title today. One reason cited is fear that houses of worship will no longer be protected from the authorities in the current context.
As the California legislature pushes ahead with a bill to make the state a sanctuary, Los Angeles County Sheriff Jim McDonnell is opposing the proposal. The LA Times reports that McDonnell argues in a letter that becoming a sanctuary state would actually invite immigration enforcement agents into the county, because his department would not be able to transfer inmates with immigration violations from the county to the feds.
With the new immigration regulations, Dreamers appear to largely be able to continue to benefit from DACA, for now. But many fear what comes next, including those with some of the most promising careers. CNN follows a student originally from China who attends Yale Medical School but is unsure if she can pursue her dream of becoming a doctor now. And the Atlantic recently created a mini documentary featuring medical students at the Loyola Stritch School of Medicine in Chicago, which actively recruits DACA recipients. These medical students fear that if DACA is canceled they will not be able to be hired as medical residents in the U.S.
Who’s in charge now?
It still comes down to politics. Henry Olsen, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, writes in the LA Times that if Dems want to win in the future they have to change their stance on immigration. He opines it’s critical to gain the backing of the Obama supporter who voted for Trump or those Romney voters who did not vote for Trump, but neither of those groups is going to be won over with protests agains tthe travel ban or on border security.
Job and internship opportunities
With all the focus on immigration has come new job opportunities in immigration reporting and policy. Here are a few:
- International Reporting Fellowship for Minority Journalists ICFJ travel fellowship (not specifically migration, but good opportunity to do so)
- Professor of Practice, Cronkite Borderlands Initiative (2 positions) — Arizona State University
- Immigration Reporter — Marshall Project
- Race/ Related Editor — New York Times
Senior Radio Editor — Reveal (not specifically immigration, but they do a lot on the topic).
That’s it for Migratory Notes #7. We’re both based in LA, so help us out by letting us know what’s going on elsewhere. We realize this is in no way a complete list. If there’s a story you think we should consider, please send us an email, or you can add one on this form.
Thank yous to those who helped last week, knowingly or unknowingly. Here’s a few: Cindy Carcamo’s FB posts, Global Nation Exchange FB group, Marshall Project newsletter, Mash-Up Americans, Xavier Maciel’s Sanctuary Schools newsletter, various members of the Media Consortium, and countless tweeters.
Daniela Gerson 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. You can find her on Twitter @dhgerson
Elizabeth Aguilera 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 looked at how California’s undocumented kids could be the first to lose medical care under Trump. You can find her on Twitter @1eaguilera