Sunday, September 29, 2013

Top immigration story ideas, links and tips from #coveringimmigration event at UTEP - #border2013

Ideas were really flowing at the UTEP Immigration reporters' conference this weekend, organized by the Zita Arocha. Here's a quick summary of immigration story ideas suggested by a round table of El Paso-based immigration lawyers and advocates* and a few tips on where to find related data.  (For more sources, see my immigration tipsheet here):

1. Secure communities controversies: are truly dangerous criminals or harmless relatives of US citizens being deported and detained? 

Data:The ICE FOIA page includes secure community data stats by state. Deportation/removal (for criminal/non-criminal by country) also available via ICE too.

2. Increase in asylum seekers on the southern border- particularly Mexicans who have fled violence. Few apps are granted and there are long waits.

Data: Asylum grants by country is available via USCIS or via Homeland Security's Immigration Yearbook see Asylum granted/denied by individual immigration judges is available via the non-profit TRAC

3. Human rights issues about the conditions of facilities where asylum-seekers, children, other immigrants are detained.

Data: ICE FOIA Library page also includes both audits and ICE contracts of detention facilities. Use FOIA to obtain more data yourself. Request interviews with individual detainees by contacting PIOs w/ICE - you need full names and A numbers

4. Deaths of immigrants crossing - increasing both in Az and in So Tx because of increased border security/fence etc. that drives crossers to more dangerous/remote areas.

Data sources include: Sheriff's departments in affected areas, medical examiners and coroners, data on unidentified bodies from state police, consulates can help reach families.
Good examples of reporting on this include the Arizona Daily Star's border death database:
(based on Pima County ME and other data).

5. The cost of securing the border - human and $$ and the difference between the money spent on the so border vs. the no. border, which remains unfenced.

Data on federal contracts - money paid to build the fence, etc - is available online via and more can be FOIAed. Don't forget local gov'ts/agencies can get Homeland Security grants and obtain more $$from seizures/forfeitures. (Data on Texas forfeitures is available via public information request to the Texas AG's office).

6. Explode myths - the"Dreamers" still dreaming of reform,  immigrants can't automatically adjust status after 10 years, waits for family members/fiances/spouses of US citizens can literally stretch decades due to backlogs and quotas. Consult immigration lawyers to describe laws and find local examples. Searchable directory of AILA members here:

*The panel on Sept. 28 at El Paso's La Fe Culture and Technology Center included Fernando Garcia, director of the Border Network for Human Rights, Ruben Garcia, director, Annunciation House, Father Bob Mosher of the Columban Mission Center, Melissa Lopez, executive director of Diocesan Migrant & Refugee Services Inc and Katie Anita Hudak, executive director of Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center and was moderated by Estela Reyes Lopez of the Centro de Salud Familiar La Fe.

Americans murdered in Mexico

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US citizens continue to be killed in ongoing border violence. I've been covering this since 2009.

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Who killed Baby Jane Doe?

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A 2003 investigation from the now online-only newspaper gave this baby back her name. But her murder remains unsolved...