Immigration News: June 28, 2022

The biggest immigration story tonight continues to be the deaths of migrants packed into a tractor-trailer truck in San Antonio. The death toll continues to rise—51 at latest count. 

[WOLA] “Mass death has once again hit the U.S.-Mexico border. And once again, it didn’t have to happen. As the border zone enters the hottest weeks of the summer, the U.S. government must begin, right now, a fundamental re-examination of the policies—the decisions made, and not made—that are leading to the preventable deaths of hundreds of people.

“It’s hard to fathom the horror beheld by the San Antonio, Texas city worker who heard a cry for help coming from a trailer truck parked along a road on the city’s outskirts, on the evening of June 27. It’s even harder to fathom the suffering of the 62 migrants inside, including parents and children, locked in without ventilation or water. 

“Only 16 of them were still alive. The rest had succumbed, painfully, to heat stress and dehydration. As of mid-day on June 28, the death toll was reported at 50.

“This is not the first mass death of migrants inside a cargo container near the U.S. border. Worse, the June 27 tragedy only modestly increases a 2022 migrant death toll on U.S. soil that had already appeared on course to break all previous records. Migrants continue to die at the U.S.-Mexico border, usually of drowning, dehydration, exposure, or falls from the border wall, with a frequency that seems unprecedented.”

[AP] “Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, policy director at the American Immigration Council, wrote that he had been dreading such a tragedy for months.

“’With the border shut as tightly as it is today for migrants from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, people have been pushed into more and more dangerous routes,’ he wrote on Twitter.

“Migrants — largely from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador — have been expelled more than 2 million times under the pandemic-era rule in effect since March 2020 that denies a chance to seek asylum. The Biden administration planned to end the policy, but a federal judge in Louisiana blocked the move in May.

“U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported 557 deaths on the Southwest border in the 12 months ending Sept. 30, more than double the 247 deaths reported in the previous year and the highest since it began keeping track in 1998. Most were related to heat exposure.”

And in other news

Hoang Murphy is an immigrant and a 2022 Bush Fellow. 

[Star Tribune] “At age 2, Hoang Murphy came to the United States with his family from Vietnam. At 8, he entered the foster care system with his siblings. And, at 10, after his father’s parental rights were terminated, he became a ward of the state.

“Murphy, now 30 and founder of Foster Advocates, knows firsthand how the foster care system shrivels the hopes of too many young people. Although he credits foster care with saving his life, he hopes a 2022 Bush Foundationfellowship will help him enact seismic changes to guide former foster children toward more fulfilling lives. …

“[Murphy]: The hard part of foster care is that there are almost no good choices. You don’t want to be in this situation. The best thing that we can do is try to preserve families whenever possible [but] I wouldn’t go so far and say, “Preserve families at any cost.” Children bear that weight more than anybody else, and I know that deeply. I mean, I would have died.

“So, for some, it’s a life-saving intervention. But what do we do with a system that wants to save children but doesn’t know how to care for them?”

For many, asylum is a matter of life and death.

The state parole board recognized his rehabilitation, but a felony conviction means Prasad  is automatically deportable–even though he came to the United States as a permanent resident in 1978 at age 6 and lived here all his life, even though he would face persecution as a gay man if deported back to his home country.

[The Guardian] “He suffered severe physical and sexual abuse as a young child, including a beating that led to hearing loss, according to court records. He struggled with drug use as a teenager and post-traumatic stress disorder and ended up getting involved with gangs for protection, his lawyer wrote. At 22, he took someone’s life during an altercation and was convicted of second-degree murder, handed a life sentence with the possibility of parole after 20 years.

“Last year, after 27 years behind bars, authorities granted Prasad parole, recognizing his rehabilitative work, which included leading support groups, and determining he was not a public safety risk. “I had worked so hard, and I was so proud to tell my mom that I was finally coming home,” he recalled.”

Cell phone monitoring of migrants means they have to carry a special phone at all times–but it’s a phone that can only make calls to and from ICE. 

[ABC50] “‘It is a telephone they gave me for reporting every week, for recording photos of myself to send to immigration officials,’ Wendy said in Spanish. ‘It is only for immigration (officials) nothing more.’

“She can speak with an ICE official if they call her but no one else.

“Wendy, who did give her or her daughter’s last names, says when she gets a notification she must send in a photo or respond to their request.

“The phones use facial recognition to confirm her identity and location monitoring via GPS.

“Wendy says her phone usually goes off between 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. most mornings, and then she quickly sends in a photo of herself. Sometimes they ask for more data and after she sends it, she says it goes black.”

Refugees are rebuilding Utica, NY. They now make up about one-quarter of its population of 60,000. The refugee influx began with Bosnians and continued with Karen and Somalis. Now the city expects a new wave of Ukrainian refugees. The Paw family arrived after spending 15 years in a refugee camp in Thailand. 

[New York Times] “When the family arrived in Utica from the refugee camp in 2009, Ms. Paw was 15, extremely shy and able to speak only Karen, the language of the Karen ethnic group in Myanmar, formerly known as Burma. Yet she graduated in the top 10 of her high school class and later earned a college degree. ‘It makes them proud when they look at the diplomas,’ Ms. Paw said about her parents, who still speak only Karen. ‘It’s a sign their kids will live a better life than in the camp.’

“’In the camp there was no electricity,’ she said; her older sister, Nu Win, accidentally started a fire when studying by candlelight. In Utica, Ms. Paw’s bedroom is strung with lights. She has a desk and a tall mirror. She’s applying for jobs as a medical assistant and studying for an insurance certification exam so she can one day sell life insurance. …

“Ms. Paw and her family are part of a remarkable migration to Utica, helping to turn around a once-fading manufacturing town. Utica had been home to companies like General Electric that provided thousands of jobs. But like in other manufacturing towns across the country, plants started downsizing, and eventually closed.

“Utica’s population, which stood at 100,000 in 1960, plunged. By the 1990s, arson had destroyed many homes. But Bosnians, who fled the Balkan conflict and arrived with educations and building skills, bought hundreds of the run-down houses in East Utica, which had been predominantly Italian. In the 2000s, there was a surge of refugees from Myanmar — including the Karen, like Ms. Paw and her family, who were persecuted by the Burmese military and fled to camps in Thailand.”

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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