Category Archives: Immigration

Big talk, little change on Trump’s border

Alex Brandon / Associated Press

After months of tough campaign rhetoric, the Trump administration touted a steep decline in border-crossing arrests as evidence of a “new era.”

In Arizona, the arrest of an unauthorized immigrant at a Pima County court and a raid on a humanitarian aid camp near Arivaca offered further signs of an immigration crackdown.

But what exactly has changed along Arizona’s border with Mexico?

Federal immigration agents have arrested people at courthouses before.

The Arivaca camp raid wasn’t the first of its kind; Border Patrol agents also raided it in 2014.

And while arrests of border crossers did plummet after Trump took office in January, they had been declining for years. In 2016, there were 65,000 apprehensions in the Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector, down from more than half a million in 2000.

The truth is, Trump officials are not so much taking border enforcement in a radical new direction as they are tweaking the formidable border security machine built during the Bush and Obama administrations.

So Southern Arizonans without legal status find themselves in a familiar position: trying to figure out the new rules. While campaign bluster about mass deportations has subsided, the federal government is threatening to deport non-criminals living in this country illegally and is prosecuting first-time crossers, something that had largely stopped under Obama.

Scaling up those efforts would be monumentally difficult. The U.S. doesn’t have enough judges, immigration officers or detention space for mass deportations.

The Arizona Daily Star spoke with about three dozen faith leaders, school administrators, organizers, law enforcement officials, lawyers, service providers and immigrants, and gathered data from law enforcement agencies and courts to see what has changed — and what hasn’t — under the new administration.

The Star found that while people are scared, they are not hiding. Instead, they are taking steps to prepare themselves and their families in case they are stopped by a local police officer or get a knock on their door from immigration authorities.

Elma Esquer, middle, talks with Imelda Cortez of Paisanos Unidos about a time when immigration officers came into her house looking for someone else. Daniela Zuñiga, left, and her son Manuel Armenta, right, listen. The group was discussing their legal rights during a cafecito in August. Cortez told them about their right to have an attorney and advised them to be wary of signing documents. A.E. Araiza / Arizona Daily Star

They already know they have to be ready, particularly in the seven years since Arizona passed Senate Bill 1070, one of the toughest immigration laws in the country.

Attendance is up at citizenship prep classes and know-your-rights workshops put on by the Mexican Consulate and grassroots organizations. Families are developing plans to protect U.S.-born children in case their parents are deported.

Some schools saw a slight dip in enrollment after Trump was elected, but for the most part fears subsided and attendance rebounded after principals and teachers reassured students they were safe at school.

Trump’s plan to build a “big, beautiful” wall is proceeding, but not yet on the widely fenced and heavily patrolled border in Arizona. And in recent months, he has said we may need only 1,000 miles of border wall because the rest — another 1,000 miles — already has natural barriers like mountains and rivers.

In Tucson’s federal court, first-time illegal crossers now face criminal charges, but criminal immigration prosecutions are fewer than they were during most of the Obama administration largely because the number of crossers is so much smaller now.

Local sheriff’s departments are holding fewer people for federal immigration officers, and police are not checking as many people’s immigration status, as required by SB 1070, after a state attorney general opinion said an Arizona ID or driver’s license is sufficient proof of legal status. The opinion emphasized that local authorities can’t detain people just to check immigration status.

While Border Patrol agents are catching fewer crossers, Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers are arresting more people already in Arizona. ICE arrests are up nearly 13 percent in the state from January through April compared to the same period in 2016. But that’s still 26 percent below what was reported in 2014.

And Trump’s announced crackdown has run into predictable obstacles, such as the intractable backlog in immigration courts that stymies deportations. Those challenges persist even though two more immigration judges were assigned to Arizona and attorneys say judges are moving through cases faster.

Considering all that, the Trump administration faces a steep climb in realizing a “new era” in border enforcement.

Seven months into Trump’s administration — despite the rhetoric — the Arizona border remains largely as it was before he took office.

Continue reading at the Arizona Daily Star.

Advertisements

Covering immigration: How U.S. and German media approach the story

When most news consumers think of immigration or refugees, they think of specific geographies — the U.S.-Mexico border or Western Europe receiving people from Africa or the Middle East. But the movement of people is global, and the issues across geographical regions are more similar than different.

Opinion pieces about security and immigration published in a newspaper in Nairobi could be reproduced almost word for word in Washington; Sicilian advocates’ concerns over Frontex are almost identical to what Texas activists say about the Border Patrol; and when businessmen in Greece talk about Islamization and Sharia law, they echo concerns of Southern Arizona ranchers.

Migration has once again jumped to the top of the news agenda on both sides of the Atlantic — fueled by the Trump administration in the United States and by the arrival of more than a million people seeking refuge in Europe — but is the media giving this issue the right coverage?

I have focused on the topic of diversity and migration for the last 10 years and every election cycle, as politicians trot out immigration to motivate voters, we hear about the importance of reporting on this issue. That enthusiasm is almost always short-lived, though, and we find ourselves back where we began. Ideally, immigration should be treated to constant coverage that captures the nuance in the issues, much like education or health care. Instead, the media in general seems to cover it like a natural disaster.

One could argue that coverage in the last decade or so has been hampered across the board, as newsrooms in North America and Europe face shrinking resources while expectations to be faster and do more with less continue to rise. But the use of stereotypes, and the focus on crime and terrorism in immigration coverage by some media outlets, is hardly novel.

While in Germany the media is largely credited with the overwhelmingly positive reaction seen in  the beginning of the so-called refugee crisis, earlier (and subsequent) coverage has been problematic. In the United States, coverage on immigration,  according to researchers, has contributed to polarization on the issue.  

If anything is different in this new wave of coverage, it is the climate in which news is being received. Now, on top of immigration being a hot-button and highly-politicized issue, we are living in an era when everything some people don’t like gets called “fake news” and where the term “lügenpresse,” the lying press, has come back in use. The distrust of the mainstream media is high and growing — especially in the United States. Among President Donald Trump’s supporters, nearly nine in 10 respondents to a new University of Virginia Center for Politics poll said that media criticism of the president reinforces that he is on the right track. The same percentage agreed with Trump’s assertion that the press is “the enemy of the American people.” In Germany, a poll conducted by the Allensbach Institute found 40 percent of respondents described the reporting on refugees as “one-sided.”

Immigration touches on issues of identity, human rights, justice and fairness — all against a backdrop of real and perceived economic impact. And based on the current picture researchers paint of how we in the media are doing, there’s plenty of room for improvement.

The stories we cover or don’t cover, the language we use, the voices we choose to represent, play a major role in shaping the public policy debate on immigration.

Continue reading.

A crisis within a crisis: Refugees in Lesbos

Amani and Aliya, 10-year-old twins, fish in the port of Mytilene in Lesbos, Greece. Their family fled Iraq after ISIS killed their uncle and have been stranded in Greece for more than a year as their asylum case is processed.

Two families – one Greek, one Iraqi – come together in a Lesbos hotel, looking for stability amid their own crises.

Lesbos, Greece — Upstairs in the Blue Star hotel, Iman* cooks a large pasta dish and makes tea; a luxury after going without her own stove for more than a year. After dinner, the Alsamaray family* disperses.

Khalil, Iman’s husband, catches up on the latest news from the family’s hometown of Mosul, Iraq. Jamil, 13, goes out, while his sisters Amani and Aliya, 10-year-old twins, lie in bed and watch YouTube videos until they fall asleep.

The family had lived for 10 months in an overcrowded migrant centre in Lesbos, Greeceuntil January, when they moved in to the hotel as part of a United Nations initiative to place vulnerable refugees in better housing during the winter.

Since 2015, more than a million refugees have come through Greece, often on their way to western Europe. Like the Alsamarays, thousands remain stranded until their asylum claims are processed; they find themselves in a crisis within a crisis, fleeing violence only to often spend more than a year in a country stretched thin over the past decade by a financial crisis.

While their refugee guests dine upstairs, the Makris family tries to wind down after a long day. They clear the table from the catering delivered to feed asylum seekers and hotel owner Dimitrios Makris fields calls. There’s a long list of tasks to be completed in time for the tourist season, even if in recent years fewer tourists have been arriving.

At a time of unprecedented economic strife when Greeks are struggling to get by, the refugee crisis adds to the pressure on Greece – while also providing some locals with much-needed income.

Inside these crises, the Alsamarays and the Makrises each fight to survive. Both families know that life can be upended overnight and what it means to be exiled, and both fear their best days are behind them. But, at least for a moment, under one roof, they also give each other what they desperately need: a measure of stability among the uncertainty.

Continue reading at Al Jazeera.

Wie der Ausnahmezustand auf Lesbos zum Alltag wurde

After marching themselves, a brother and sister watch the Greek Independence Day parade in downtown Mytilene. Photo by Talitha Brauer.
Nach der Flüchtlingskrise erholt sich die griechische Insel Lesbos langsam. Doch der Bürgermeister fürchtet, dass die echten Herausforderungen noch bevorstehen
Mayor Spyros Galinos at work in his office at the new town hall in Mytilene, Lesvos. Photo by Talitha Brauer.

Keine Zelte mehr, keine Müllhaufen – auch die vielen Freiwilligen sind verschwunden. Die Not der Flüchtlinge auf der griechischen Insel Lesbos hat die kleine Hafenstadt Mytilini einst auf die Titelseiten von Zeitungen in der ganzen Welt gebracht. Jetzt erinnert in der historischen Altstadt kaum noch etwas an die humanitäre Krise, die das Leben hier so lange geprägt hat. Und dennoch: Wer heute an Lesbos denkt, denkt an die Flüchtlinge, sagen sie auf der Insel.

Dabei kommen längst nicht mehr so viele Flüchtlinge wie noch vor zwei Jahren. Die Balkanroute ist geschlossen, das Rücknahme-Abkommen von EU und Türkei nach wie vor in Kraft. Doch bei den Migranten, die dort sind, wächst die Verzweiflung.

„Die Lage scheint sich derzeit zu entspannen, aber wenn man genauer hinschaut, ist es nicht so einfach“, sagt Achilleas Tzemos. Er ist Projektkoordinator von Ärzte ohne Grenzen auf Lesbos. Viele seien in überfüllten Lagern untergebracht – mit ungewisser Zukunft, was zu schweren psychischen Problemen führe. Vor wenigen Wochen zündete sich ein Syrer auf der benachbarten Insel Chios an – er überlebte nur knapp. Drei Tage davor hatte sich ein anderer in der Nähe von Athen erhängt.

Seit 2015 sind mehr als eine Million Flüchtlinge über Griechenland nach Europa gekommen. In der Hochphase landeten an einem Wochenende bis zu 10000 Menschen an Lesbos’ Küsten, hungrig und erschöpft von der Überfahrt. In der Regel warteten sie ein paar Tage, bevor sie eine Fähre Richtung Festland bestiegen, von wo aus sie nach Schweden oder Deutschland weiterreisten. Nun müssen sie bleiben, bis ihre Asylgesuche entschieden sind.

Continue reading at Der Tagesspiegel.

Snapshot: Angels feed hungry in Palermo

Palermo — A group of Sicilians gather in Piazza Indipendenza once a week. From the trunks of their cars, they separate the donated pastries from sandwiches with pork, mindful of religious restrictions.

For the past five years, the Angels of the Night, or Angeli della Notte, have put on their orange vests and driven around different parts of the city feeding the homeless, a population with a rising share of African migrants.

“Unfortunately the [European Union] does not do anything about it, we feel left to our own means,” said Giuseppe Li Vigni, a 52-year-old high school teacher who first organized the group through Facebook. “Many of the migrants do not want to stay in Italy, but their hopes are slim and nothing is done to give them a good life in the countries of departure. Sicily is beautiful and full of sun and culture, but it offers very little. There are no jobs.”

Li Vigni estimates that about 40 percent of the people they serve weekly are migrants, the others are Italians, some of whom lost their jobs and homes during the economic crisis. By now they know people by names. Like Muhammad, who came from Iran more than 30 years ago and sleeps in a camper van by the port. He takes extra food to give out to others and offers shelter to those in need.

The volunteers meet Tuesdays at 9 p.m. and drive in tandem, stopping at known spots where the homeless congregate: train stations, busy shopping streets, narrow alleys. “Do you need a hat, do you need a scarf,” they asked as one of the volunteers quickly pulled out clothes from a bag and offered them to a young African migrant. On an unseasonably cold night in January, some of the men slept in a homeless shelter, the only place for those without legal status. Others found refuge inside the train station or trains, which is illegal.

“When you walk on the streets you see them but you don’t stop,” said Anna Li Vigni, Giuseppe’s daughter, as they drove from one spot to another, in between picking up donations from restaurants and hospitals. “But when you are here, you listen to their stories and how they got here.”

Europe, Germany Brace for African Migrants as Record Numbers Land in Sicily

In past years, bad weather meant people stop making the dangerous Mediterranean route from Libya, but not this year. There were three landings in just two days in one bad-weather weekend. Photo by Anke Trojan.
As European countries pull back from past commitments to accepting refugees, tens of thousands linger in Italy as they navigate an overwhelmed asylum system.

News started to spread on a Friday evening that a sea landing with nearly 600 people — including more than 100 minors — was expected next morning at Sicily’s port of Catania. It was the middle of January and an unusually cold, rainy week, but none of that mattered. More people kept coming and more continued to die.

That weekend alone, nearly 2,000 were rescued. Half a dozen others arrived in white plastic bags. In Messina, an imam and a priest led prayers for two of them as their relatives mourned their loss, shivering under blankets.

Others, burned from the mixture of fuel and salt water, were taken directly to the hospital, where those who made the trip before them brought them a phone to call their families and reminded them that they should be grateful to be alive. Since January, 602 people have died or gone missing trying to cross the central Mediterranean route, following the deadliest year yet with 4,600 deaths in 2016.

The reasons behind what pushes this group of mostly Sub-Saharan Africans to risk death and endure beatings, rapes and exploitation on their way to Europe are as complex as the individuals themselves. Yet their fate often comes down to a binary decision: they are either refugees where they happen to land, fleeing war or persecution, or they continue their journey and are economic migrants looking for jobs.

And even as the line between both conditions becomes blurrier, it also keeps moving.

Outside immigration centers, migrants and asylum seekers insist they want to keep heading north. “Germany is my country,” one man from Senegal said. “In Germany they like African people,” he insisted.

What they don’t know or talk about is how European countries are erecting fences to stop people from going north and governments are making deals with countries in Africa, including quasi-states such as Libya, to send people back. Now with rising anti-immigrant rhetoric and upcoming elections, politicians and citizens increasingly say countries like Germany can’t take everyone who comes in, especially the Africans.

So far this year, nearly 25,000 people have arrived in Sicily, a trend that if continues could break last year’s record of 181,000. And just as thousands arrive almost weekly, tens of thousands linger in Italy as they navigate an overwhelmed asylum system, appeal their rejected claims or are stranded here — unwilling or unable to go back.

Continue reading at Coda Story.

Schicksalsroute Libyen – Sizilien

Sicherer Hafen. Seit Anfang des Jahres sind mehr als 13.400 Flüchtlinge nach Italien gekommen. Foto: Anke Trojan.
Vergewaltigungen, Prügel, willkürliche Haft: Wer es als Flüchtling über Libyen nach Sizilien schafft, berichtet von furchtbaren Erlebnissen. Ein Bericht aus Catania.

Am Freitagabend verbreitet sich das Gerücht, dass am nächsten Morgen bis zu 600 Menschen in Catania, der zweitgrößten Stadt Siziliens, ankommen werden – darunter mehr als 100 minderjährige Flüchtlinge. Alle werden über Libyen nach Europa gereist sein, und viele von ihnen werden auffallend ähnliche Geschichten erzählen, über Schläge, Vergewaltigung, Erpressung in einem faktisch gescheiterten Staat.

Mitte Januar. Es ist ungewöhnlich kalt und regnerisch. Doch das ist unwichtig: Allein an diesem Wochenende werden fast 2000 Flüchtlinge aus dem Meer geborgen und nach Sizilien gebracht werden. Ein halbes Dutzend von ihnen in weißen Plastiksäcken oder Särgen. Ein Imam und ein katholischer Priester werden in Messina für sie beten, während ihre Verwandten – trotz Wärmedecken vor Kälte zitternd – ihren Verlust beklagen.

Seit Jahresbeginn kamen mindestens 440 Menschen auf dieser Flüchtlingsroute ums Leben, 2016 waren es im gleichen Zeitraum „nur“ 97. Mit dem EU-Türkei-Abkommen ist die zentrale Mittelmeerroute wieder zur meist genutzten Flüchtlingsroute geworden. Seit Januar sind bereits mehr als 13 400 Flüchtlinge in Italien angekommen, 9000 waren es im gleichen Zeitraum 2016 – einem Rekordjahr. Die meisten fliehen vor Krieg, Verfolgung und extremer Armut. Andere haben auf der Suche nach Arbeit zunächst jahrelang in Libyen gelebt, bis die Zustände dort unerträglich wurden.

Libyen steht im Zentrum einer Diskussion darüber, wie man die zentrale Mittelmeerroute abriegeln kann. Beim Gipfel in Malta einigten sich die EU-Staats- und Regierungschefs darauf, ihre Zusammenarbeit mit Libyen zu intensivieren, etwa über Ausbildungsmissionen für die Küstenwache des Landes oder Auffanglager.

Continue reading at Der Tagesspiegel.