Immigration News for June 3, 2021

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On the eve of Vice President Kamala Harris’s visit to Guatemala, Rosa Tock, Executive Director of the Minnesota Council on Latino Affairs (MCLA), urges more aid, delivered “directly to organizations with proven effectiveness and impact in the communities,” not through the Guatemalan government.  (Plaza Publica)

“We need to be realistic that the stay here campaigns and the militarization of the borders will not stop desperate young men, women and children to take a trip that they consider less risky than staying in their precarious towns and villages….

“Unscrupulous political and economic elites need to be held accountable through sanctions while political opposition and civil rights advocates fighting for an independent judiciary are free to live without the threat of state violence….

“As you recall from your hardworking parents, immigrants strive to make the most of the opportunities we fight for in our new country and home. But our heart remains close to that place we also call home, where we left behind family and friends. As the US government decides programs to help Central Americans, continue seeking out the voices and institutions far from the corrupted centers of power. For these new partnerships to work, they will require a sustained long-term commitment with the Guatemalan people.” 

Meanwhile, Guatemalans continue to head north, as they have for decades. Like thousands of other Guatemalans, Jerónimo mortgaged her house, borrowed money, and risked everything to get to the United States. She was deported—and now she is losing everything. (Associated Press)

“Alvina Jerónimo Pérez tries to avoid going out. She doesn’t want to see neighbors. She’s even changed the chip in her cellphone since her failed journey to the United States.

“The 42-year-old woman is fearful her unsuccessful migration could cost her more than she can bear — even the single-story concrete block house her husband built on land passed down from her great grandparents in this mountaintop hamlet in south-central Guatemala….

“Jerónimo is among more than 228,000 Guatemalans deported by the United States since 2015. For many of those, the dream failed. They were sent home with the stigma of failure and staggering debts that can’t be paid in a country where the minimum wage is about $11 per day.

“She, like many others, sees no way out but to try again.”

Central Americans are not the only migrants heading north. People from countries around the world fly to cities in South America, and then begin the journey north. Panama is having a hard time coping with a surge of immigrants trekking through the country on their way to the United States. (Bloomberg)

“The migrants, from as far away as Senegal and Nigeria, are starting to overwhelm Panama’s shelters as numbers surge, Foreign Minister Erika Mouynes said….

“The nation’s migration authority recorded 5,818 undocumented foreigners crossing into Panama from Colombia in April, up 477% from January. The biggest source countries are Haiti and Cuba, but many also travel from as far away as Bangladesh and Uzbekistan, trying to eventually reach the U.S.” 

The trek north is increasingly dangerous. Higher enforcement and quicker expulsions mean more border crossings, and in more remote and dangerous areas.(Washington Post)

“The Pima County medical examiner’s office, which is responsible for most of southern Arizona, encountered 220 remains last year, the highest in a decade. ‘2021 looks like it will be pretty significant as well,’ Greg Hess, the county medical examiner, said in an interview. ‘We tend to have a bell curve over the hotter months.’…

“Dangerous crossings have also increased in California, where smugglers are sending migrants through rugged mountains between the Imperial Valley and San Diego, authorities say.”

Meanwhile, in the United States …

Representative Ilhan Omaar (D-MN) introduced a bill to repeal the Alien Enemies Act of 1798, which was used as a basis for Japanese internment and for Trump’s Muslim ban. (The Hill)

“The act, part of the Alien and Sedition Acts, remains in effect to this day, though the three other bills targeting immigrants and foreign nationals during times of war have since expired or been repealed. …

“Former Democratic Rep. Mike Honda(Calif.), a Japanese American internment camp survivor, said in a statement included in Omar’s press release, ‘it is past time we repeal the last vestiges of the archaic laws known as Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798.’” 

GEO’s for-profit prisons pay immigrant detainees a dollar a day for work in the facility. The detainees are awaiting the outcome of civil immigration cases. The State of Washington and detainees are suing GEO, demanding that they be paid the state’s minimum wage. (Associated Press)

“After nearly four years of litigation and pandemic-related delays, a trial is underway to determine whether the GEO Group must pay minimum wage to detainees who perform cooking, cleaning and other tasks at its immigration detention center in Washington state….

“Attorney General Bob Ferguson and some detainees filed separate lawsuits against GEO in 2017, arguing that the company’s contract with the federal government requires it to follow state and local laws — including Washington’s Minimum Wage Act — and that GEO, one of the nation’s largest private detention companies, unjustly profited by paying so little.”

Advocates are accompanying Iowa immigrants to routine check-ins, hoping to assure their safety. (KCRG)

“The routine check-ins are to review paperwork, verify information like addresses, and also answering anything that may have changed since the last meeting. The concern is what they’ve heard has been happening at these check in’s for some immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally: reports of them being deported.”

Teaching immigration law to six-year-olds because they will go to court without a lawyer: not what we mean by due process of law. (New York Times)

“Every Tuesday and Friday, Lindsay Toczylowski visits the Long Beach Convention Center, where she gathers small groups of children, some as young as 6, for a 45-minute lesson.

She’s not there to teach the ABCs. She’s there to educate them about their legal rights.

“Toczylowski is an immigration lawyer. Her students are migrants who crossed the southwestern border without a parent.”

Extending Temporary Protected Status to Haitians in the United States was a sensible and humane move. Now the Biden administration should do the same for other countries in turmoil. (Washington Post)

“It should follow suit with nearly 200,000 Salvadorans, the largest cohort of TPS recipients. Many have lived in this country for 15 years or more, their protections extended by the George W. Bush administration as well as the Obama administration. As with Haitians, their remittances are a critical source of support in their home country. El Salvador, too, is beset by growing political trouble as President Nayib Bukele veers toward autocracy. As things stand now, Salvadorans will lose their protected status in October.

“The residency privileges and work permits granted to Salvadorans, Haitians and others already living in this country were intended to be temporary. They were extended because conditions in their home countries made their return impractical and unsafe. To pretend otherwise, as the Trump administration did, made the United States look small, weak and mean. Mr. Biden has shifted to a better policy; he should stick to that track.” 

Speaking of U.S. policies: making immigration difficult-to-impossible for entrepreneurs makes no sense at all. While John Kim eventually got a green card, his experience shows the barriers that keep successful entrepreneurs from contributing to the U.S. economy. (Forbes)

“John S. Kim, cofounder of Sendbird, which offers real-time chat and messaging for mobile apps and websites, relocated from his native South Korea to San Francisco five years ago.

“He wanted to be close to his U.S. customers like Yahoo, Reddit and Headspace, have access to Silicon Valley venture capital, hire American engineers and expand his company here. He easily obtained an L-1 nonimmigrant visa for foreign executives, given that he’d first started the business in South Korea, but by 2019, he had only one extension left. He applied for a green card to get legal permanent residency—and received a letter that he’d likely be denied. ‘Notice of intent to deny is, ‘We’re going to kick you out; change our mind,’ ‘he says. ‘We had raised $100 million–plus in financing, we had real revenue in the tens of millions of dollars, we were creating jobs. It was a slap in the face, for sure.’…

“Long a hotbed of entrepreneurialism and a beacon of hope for immigrants, America is now known for a convoluted, highly politicized immigration policy that puts roadblocks in the way of foreign-born founders.” 

Today’s Good News 

Bolé restaurant on University Avenue burned during the protests after the murder of George Floyd last summer. Now it’s back, in St. Paul’s Como neighborhood. (Sahan Journal)

“Over the summer, Bolé’s Gofundme raised more than $150,000 from 4,000 people. Rekik, Solomon and Lelna were stunned. As Ethiopian immigrants, they find refuge in the food and community. They knew others felt the same, but never realized how many people loved Bolé as much as they did.  …

“After losing everything, Bolé was able to survive because of community support. ‘A lot of people struggle throughout the lifetime, but for us this was a moment to listen to our supporters and customers and say, ‘This is our calling, so let’s serve,’ ‘ Solomon said.

“Solomon said he doesn’t like to think now about what Bolé has gone through. He’s grateful for the new Bolé, but wishes he didn’t have to watch his business burn down to get there.

“’We have two daughters… and for us at that point to show them, ‘Look, we just lost a business, but it’s okay. We’re gonna get up and you’re gonna see us succeed.’ ‘ Solomon said. ‘For us to be examples for our own children, means more than anything.’”

Mohammed Naieem Asadi has finally been allowed to come to the United States. Now the U.S. government must act to protect other Afghans whose lives are in danger because they worked with U.S. forces. (Stars and Stripes)

“Asadi, a helicopter pilot reputed to have killed more insurgents than anyone else in the Afghan air force, received a rare endorsement by the Pentagon last fall to move to the U.S. with his family because he was in ‘imminent danger of being killed by the Taliban.’ 

“But the Defense Department later withdrew its approval, saying that senior officials had not been consulted. 

“The decision angered former advisers who vouched for Asadi’s bid to come to America. As a major in the Afghan air force, Asadi protected the life of a downed U.S. pilot last year and, by one former chief warrant officer’s estimate, had been in the cockpit for 70% of all missions in southern Afghanistan in recent years.” 

About Mary Turck

News Day, written by Mary Turck, analyzes, summarizes, links to, and comments on reports from news media around the world, with particular attention to immigration, education, and journalism. Fragments, also written by Mary Turck, has fiction, poetry and some creative non-fiction. Mary Turck edited TC Daily Planet, www.tcdailyplanet.net, from 2007-2014, and edited the award-winning Connection to the Americas and AMERICAS.ORG, in its pre-2008 version. She is also a recovering attorney and the author of many books for young people (and a few for adults), mostly focusing on historical and social issues.
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