Originally publishe by The New York Times

WASHINGTON – When all this started – when the coronavirus began stalking humanity like an animal hunting prey, when she and her husband lost their restaurant jobs overnight as the world shut down to hide, when she feared not being able to feed her family – Janeth went outside with a red kitchen towel.

It was Passover. Her pastor had told her about the roots of the Jewish holiday, about Israelites smearing a lamb’s blood on their doors as a sign for the plagues to pass them by. So Janeth, an immigrant from Honduras, reached up to hang the red towel over the door of her family’s apartment on the edge of the nation’s capital. It was close enough, she figured, to show the angel of death to pass over our home.

Pass us by, coronavirus.

And pass us by, hunger.

At night now, it’s the worry over food that keeps Janeth’s mind racing, and her heart, she says, hurting. I spend hours thinking, thinking, about what we will do the next day, where we will find food the next day, she says weeks into the coronavirus outbreak, her family’s food and cash both dwindling.

Janeth and her husband, Roberto, are part of the greatest surge in unemployment in the U.S. since the Depression, setting off a wave of hunger that is swamping food programs nationwide. The couple and every adult member of their extended family in the U.S. have lost their jobs in the economic lockdown prompted by the pandemic.


They are among the tens of millions in America – more than 1 out of every 6 workers – abruptly cut off from paychecks.

The Associated Press is withholding the couple’s full names because they are in the country illegally and could face deportation. Their immigration status, their problems with English and scanty access to the Internet all combine to block them from accessing the U.S. government benefit programs that millions more newly jobless citizens are able to turn to during the outbreak.


Before the pandemic, food policy experts say, roughly one out of every eight or nine Americans struggled to stay fed. Now as many as one out of every four are projected to join the ranks of the hungry, said Giridhar Mallya, senior policy officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for public health.

Immigrants, African Americans, Native Americans, households with young children and newly jobless gig workers are among those most at risk, said Joelle Johnson, senior policy associate at the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

They’re more vulnerable to begin with and this situation has just exacerbated that situation, she said.

When the global economy clamped down, Roberto, a cook in his mid-30s, and Janeth, who keeps water glasses filled at another restaurant and is in her mid-40s, spent $450 out of their final paychecks to stock up. Weeks later, their diminished cache includes two half-full five-pound bags of rice, an assortment of ramen noodles, a half-eaten bag of pasta, two boxes of cornbread mix, four boxes of raisins and cans of beans, pineapple, tuna, corn and soup.

Cookies? Roberto and Janeth’s 5-year-old, gap-toothed daughter Allison still asks them, always getting a gentle no back. Ice cream?

Janeth and Roberto have cut down to one meal a day themselves, skipping meals to keep their daughter fed.

On a good day recently, after Roberto landed four hours of work preparing take-home meals for a grocery store, they had enough for what constitutes a feast these days – a can of refried beans split three ways and two eggs each, scrambled. Janeth also made tortillas from their last half-bag of masa flour.

Janeth placed aluminum foil over two of the plates; she and Roberto would eat later. Tears sprang from her eyes as she watched her daughter wolf down the meal.

Where can we get enough food? How can we pay our bills? she asked. Then she repeated something she and her husband emphasized again and again over the course of several days: They are hard-working people.

We have never had to ask for help before, she said.

Janeth and Roberto also have three adult children and, as the oldest of three sisters here, she and Roberto are trying to keep a half-dozen households in the United States and Honduras fed.

By day, they race in their second-hand pickup truck from food pantries and churches to relatives’ houses. They chase tips about food giveaways or temporary jobs. They share their painstakingly acquired cartons of food with her two sisters, who themselves have a total of five young children to feed, and call their grown children with leads on food lines.

And they fight off despair. We don’t have help. We don’t know how it will end, Janeth said.

On a recent day, Janet and Roberto’s breakfast is coffee and a few crackers. Allison eats cereal, a favorite provided by a food bank.

Soon after, Roberto and Allison, who is sporting pink sparkly sneakers, are among the first in line outside a DC food pantry. In line with them: a young African American man newly unemployed and seeking aid for the first time and two foreign-born nannies with their clients’ children in tow. The women now are only intermittently used – and paid – by their employers and need help feeding their own children at home.

Roberto is happy to leave with a bag of bananas, some spaghetti, tomato sauce and other staples.

Another day, Roberto and Allison stay inside the truck while Janeth heads out in a cold drizzle to approach a church said to be providing food. She struggles to read the sign in English posted on the door, then calls the numbers listed. No one answers.

Later, loading their pickup truck to take food to Janeth’s sisters, husband and wife dip into the pockets of their jeans to display the cash they have left – $110 total.

That’s gas money. Without that, living on the outskirts of town, there’s no getting to food banks, to one-day cash jobs, to stranded relatives facing eviction and hoping for food.

On the drive to Janeth’s sisters in Baltimore, Janeth hands Allison a small container of applesauce. The girl savors each taste, dipping in her finger, licking every last bit. More? she asks hopefully, tilting the container toward her mother.

Janeth answers regretfully, tenderly. No more.


Read more:

Originally published by The Huff Post

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – California will be the first state to give cash to immigrants living in the country illegally who are hurt by the coronavirus, offering $500 apiece to 150,000 adults who were left out of the $2.2 trillion stimulus package approved by Congress.

Many Americans began receiving $1,200 checks from the federal government this week, and others who are unemployed are getting an additional $600 a week from the government that has ordered them to stay home and disrupted what had been a roaring economy.

But people living in the country illegally are not eligible for any of that money, and advocates have been pushing for states to fill in the gap. Wednesday, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced he would spend $75 million of taxpayer money to create a Disaster Relief Fund for immigrants living in the country illegally.

We feel a deep sense of gratitude for people that are in fear of deportations that are still addressing essential needs of tens of millions of Californians, said Newsom, who noted 10% of the state’s workforce are immigrants living in the country illegally who paid more than $2.5 billion in state and local taxes last year.

California has an estimated 2.2 million immigrants living in the country illegally, the most of any state, according to the Pew Research Center. State officials won’t decide who gets the money. Instead, the state will give the money to a network of regional nonprofits to find and vet potential recipients. Advocates say that’s key to making the plan work because immigrants are unlikely to contact the government for fear of deportation.

You need to use organizations that have trusted relationships with these families, said Jacqueline Martinez, CEO of the Latino Community Foundation.

A group of charities has committed to raising another $50 million for the fund from private donors, potentially offering benefits to another 100,000 people. But that money will have fewer limitations, meaning grants could be more than $500 or less, depending on the cost-of-living where a person lives.

Organizers began raising money on Friday and have raised more than $6 million so far, with contributions from the Emerson Collective, Blue Shield of California Foundation, the California Endowment, the James Irvine Foundation, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and an anonymous donor.

We want this to be as equitable as possible and benefit as many people as possible, said Daranee Petsod, president of Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees.

California has been the most aggressive state in the nation when it comes to giving benefits to immigrants living in the country illegally. Last year, California became the first state to give taxpayer-funded health benefits to low-income adults 25 and younger living in the country illegally. This year, Newsom had proposed expanding those benefits to seniors 65 and older.

Republicans and conservative groups have mostly opposed those measures, arguing the state should not use public money for people who are not citizens. But immigrants rights advocates say California – the fifth largest economy in the world with a population of nearly 40 million people – has a responsibility to care for all of its residents.

The spending announced Wednesday means Newsom has committed to spending more than $2 billion responding to the coronavirus, an extraordinary amount in just over one month. Thursday, state lawmakers are scheduled to have their first oversight hearing of Newsom’s spending.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

California has more than 26,600 confirmed coronavirus cases and more than 850 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Those numbers are far behind other virus hot spots like U.S. like New York and New Jersey, which public health officials attribute to the state’s aggressive implementation of physical distancing and stay-at-home orders.

Since mid-March, 2.7 million Californians have filed for unemployment benefits – more than all of the claims California processed in 2019 combined. The state’s Employment Development Department has been overwhelmed, causing delays for many people seeking assistance.

Wednesday, Newsom announced the state’s call center will expand its hours to 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week. More than 1,300 state employees have been reassigned to help process the claims. And Newsom said the state will begin distributing federal unemployment benefits by the end of the month to people who usually aren’t eligible for them, including the gig workers and the self-employed.

At least five other states are already issuing those benefits, prompting criticism from some state lawmakers.

The people in Sacramento are making promises, and the bureaucracies and the technology are failing the people, Republican state Assemblyman Jim Patterson said.

Read more:

Screen Shot 2020-04-17 at 1.06.27 AM

Originally published by LA Times

Gov. Gavin Newsom has announced a $125-million relief effort due to the coronavirus crisis for immigrants without legal status.

We feel a deep sense of gratitude for people that are in fear of deportation but are still addressing the essential needs of tens of millions of Californians in food gathering and other tasks, the governor said.

Here is what we know about the plan:

  • The proposal, he said, will offer $500 cash grants for individuals in the U.S. illegally and up to $1,000 for families, with applications set to be accepted starting next month.
  • It is partly funded by nonprofit organizations and would provide cash grants to individuals and families in need. A group of 23 state assembly members sent a letter to Newsom last week asking him to create such a fund.
  • The money will be disbursed through regional nonprofit groups with experience serving people who are in the country illegally, the governor said. Newsom didn’t offer specifics on all the nonprofit organizations involved but named a few – including those founded by Laurene Powell Jobs, the widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs; and by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan Zuckerberg.

The assistance is being offered, Newsom said, because only citizens and others who are in the U.S. legally are able to receive unemployment benefits or support under the new federal program for independent contractors.

Newsom noted that undocumented workers make up 10% of the California workforce and that they are overrepresented in providing essential services such as healthcare, food and construction.

This is a recognition of the fact that immigrant families are essential to our state, said Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights. Their economic and labor contributions are keeping us going.

Immigrant rights activist Jose Antonio Vargas praised Newsom on Twitter: Thank you for remembering that undocumented Californians are an inextricable part of our state.

But there was also a backlash by conservatives and those who oppose illegal immigration. Some created a #recallnewsom hashtag on Twitter.

State Sen. Shannon Grove (R-Bakersfield) told the Associated Press she thought the money could be better spent elsewhere, such as on food banks or education.

Read more:

Screen Shot 2020-04-06 at 11.03.20 PM

Originally published by The new York Times

When the coronavirus struck New York City and most businesses were ordered to close, Luz’s employers on the Upper East Side of Manhattan allowed her to take a break. Two days later, they messaged her: Come back.

She asked me if I was OK, if I was sick, Luz said of her employer, a family of four with two school-aged children. The mother then told her: If everyone in your home is OK, I need you to come help with the kids and the house.

Luz, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico who lives in the Bronx, is a housekeeper and nanny, and she has become her family’s sole breadwinner since her husband lost his restaurant job and the city’s economy collapsed.

Her dilemma – whether to work and risk exposure to the virus, or to stay home and fall into a deeper financial hole – is one shared by many low-income New Yorkers as the city has become the epicenter of the pandemic in America.

For thousands of domestic workers who clean and cook for the well off, the crisis has laid bare the city’s stratification. Struggling financially even in the best of times, they do not have the luxury of prioritizing their health now.

Some have already lost their jobs, with their employers departing to second homes at the beach or upstate. Those who are working climb onto subways and buses to go clean and sustain the homes of people who can afford to self-quarantine.

You run a risk each time you step out of your home, said Luz, 36, who like several people interviewed for this article asked to be identified only by her first name because of her immigration status.

Like Luz, many domestic workers are undocumented and do not qualify for most forms of government assistance.

New York State health officials announced recently that undocumented immigrants would be able to access emergency Medicaid benefits to cover the cost of testing and treatment if they contracted the coronavirus.


And federal officials have said that seeking medical care will not activate the so-called public charge rule, which penalizes green card applicants if they have used public benefits.

Yet advocates for immigrants say that is not enough. They have criticized the exclusion of undocumented immigrants from the federal government’s $2 trillion dollar stimulus package. Even couples where one spouse is documented and the other is not are ineligible.

They argue that, regardless of their legal status, immigrants make up a large portion of the work force doing jobs that will keep the country afloat: farm work, stocking grocery stores, delivering food, taking care of older people and the disabled and cleaning homes and buildings.

Immigrants continue to be on the front lines of this response, said Steven Choi, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition in New York.

Since the coronavirus crisis erupted, Luz’s workload has actually grown. She now has to cook for the family, which is quarantined because the virus was detected at one child’s school, she said, and entertain the children, 8 and 12, who get restless when their schoolwork is done and they can’t go outside.

Luz takes them into the hallway outside the apartment to play catch so their parents can quietly work from home. This is hard for them, too, she said of her employers.

She also has to clean even more – wiping down surfaces, washing hands, taking care not to let the towels she uses to dry her hands get mixed in with the family’s laundry. Her 10-hour workdays are exhausting. Her weekly salary of $700 has not changed.

There are nearly half a million undocumented immigrants in New York City, according to a recent report by the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs. More than three-quarters were in the labor force last year, the report found, but they had the lowest median annual earnings of any group of working New Yorkers: just over $26,000.

To receive one of the $1,200 cash payments included in the federal aid package, plus $500 per child, workers need to have filed federal income taxes using a Social Security number.

Undocumented workers do not qualify for Social Security numbers and instead use individual taxpayer identification numbers to file.

But many point out that they still file tax returns. One cleaner in Manhattan, Celsio, who is from Ecuador, said, I came here to work, but also to pay taxes.

Celsio, 45, says he now cleans the homes of 10 customers a week, down from 50, and is nervous about making next month’s rent. He is not even sure he will be able to buy the basics of his trade: Cleaning products such as Lysol have vanished from many stores and are sometimes being sold at exorbitant prices.

Domestic workers say they need to keep working not only for their own financial needs, but for the many older, sick and disabled New Yorkers who rely on them.

Bessie Dozis, 75, has a helper from Mexico named Rosa, who comes to her home in Astoria, Queens, seven days a week to bathe and dress her 75-year-old husband, Peter Dozis, who has Parkinson’s disease, and take him to medical appointments. I asked if she needed to stay home – it was up to her, Ms. Dozis said.

Rosa, 52, kept working. When I arrive, he’s happy, because he knows I am going to help him get up out of his recliner, she said. After tending to Mr. Dozis, she shares meals with the couple.

When she leaves home for work, her children tell her Cudate, Mami: Be careful, Mom.

Being undocumented has added an extra layer of anxiety for workers already nervous about getting sick.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has stressed its policy of not detaining immigrants in or around hospitals and suggested in mid-March that it would stop most arrests to avoid the possibility of introducing the coronavirus into detention centers. (The head of the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees ICE, later attempted to walk back that statement.)

Yet many undocumented immigrants remain skeptical, and rumors abound. Tests for coronavirus cost $3,000, some mistakenly believe.

Obstacles to testing – including not having a car to reach drive-through testing sites – have left many feeling on their own.

But some do feel supported. In many cases, domestic workers’ regular employers – even if they canceled cleaning services – have offered to keep paying them and to help in case of an emergency.

Leticia Aparicio, 34, a cleaner from Mexico, said her clients had canceled in recent weeks but had continued paying her. I don’t know, I feel bad – I’m not used to that, said Ms. Aparicio, breaking down in tears.

Still, she can now afford to stay home with her two young daughters, who are home from school, while her husband goes to his construction job.

Another housekeeper, Yoseline Rosas, was the only person in her seven-person household in the Bronx who was still employed last week. Then, she, too, was dismissed from her job – cleaning and babysitting for a divorced lawyer on the Upper East Side – but the lawyer said she would continue paying her usual salary of $600 a week until the crisis had passed.

For some, the consequences of continuing to work have already proved clear.

Veronica Sampedro, 46, a legal resident originally from Mexico who runs a cleaning business in Manhattan with her three daughters, was still managing to clean some homes until a few days ago, when she and one of her daughters began having flulike symptoms, including fever and fatigue.

Now another daughter has lost her sense of taste and smell.

But so far, they have not gotten tested, hoping that their sickness will pass.

We feel a little sick, like the flu, Ms. Sampedro said. I don’t know why.

Andrea Salcedo contributed reporting.

Read more:

Screen Shot 2020-04-01 at 11.45.02 PM

Originally published by Mother Jones

In recent weeks, Los Angeles has surpassed the San Francisco Bay Area as California’s coronavirus hub. The city is also host to one of the country’s largest undocumented populations, and doctors there are already seeing families hesitant to seek medical attention because of their immigration status-putting those residents and the rest of the population further at risk.

The fear is palpable, and our patients are very, very afraid, said Jim Mangia, the CEO of St. John’s Well Child & Family Center, an LA-based network of clinics that he said serves more undocumented patients than any other provider in the country. On top of responding to the public health crisis, Mangia said in a press call Tuesday, St. John’s employees are having to constantly reassure patients that they can safely see doctors.

St. John’s clinics across Los Angeles serve more than 100,000 patients every year, but right now they barely have enough protective equipment to last through the weekend. Mangia told reporters that, by the end of the week, St. John’s will have run out of masks, and that the organization is scrambling to purchase more from factories in China. So far, almost 900 of its patients have been sent to an isolation tent set up to treat possible cases of COVID-19. The organization has been working with county and state officials, but the problem has been with the federal government, Mangia said. As for tests, St. John’s has only about 30 left, and they don’t know when more will arrive. The president is saying there are plenty of tests out there, but of course we know that’s not true, he said, adding that last week 39 tests were administered, and 7 came back positive.


About 30,000 of St. John’s patients are undocumented, according to Mangia, so we are a trusted resource. There are so many questions coming in from the community that its phone lines are inundated with calls. Even still, Mangia added, it’s a constant battle to overcome the latest attack by the administration on the immigrant community. 

While there hasn’t been ICE activity in the area recently, there are constant rumors, he said. A few weeks ago before the pandemic hit Los Angeles, Mangia said a patient came into the clinic and told others that ICE was around the corner-and everybody ran out of the exam room. In recent weeks, patients have asked for extra refills of their prescriptions and copies of their children’s medical records, in case they get deported.

The dilemma is that we’ve recently come from a very intensive period of threats against the undocumented immigrant population in this country, Mangia said. We’re operating in an environment where we are constantly having to reassure patients that they can access services…and in a pandemic, it’s more difficult and more dangerous.

The fear is such that St. John’s staff is launching an outreach effort next week to try to educate as many people as possible in South LA about how to prevent the spread of the virus and distribute hand sanitizer, but also to reassure people that they can, and should, access medical services if they feel sick. We’ve even gone as far as training our staff to do to a human chain around our clinic sites, Mangia said, and to be prepared to do that should ICE show up.

Read more:

Originally published by The New York Times

LOS ANGELES – Jose cared for the bottle-fed babies, 700 of them in all. He knew a calf was healthy if her eyes were bright and her appetite hearty. Droopy ears were a bad sign. He was attuned to calf coughs.

His job was to do all things a mom would do to look after her young, said Mary Kraft, who employed Jose and his brother, Juan, both undocumented immigrants from Mexico, for a decade at her Quail Ridge Dairy in Colorado.

Then about a year ago, the brothers informed Ms. Kraft that they were returning to Mexico. They had amassed enough savings in the land of opportunity to resume their lives back where they had started.

The pair are among a growing number of Mexicans who have been departing the United States in recent years, part of a reverse migration that has helped push the undocumented population to its lowest level in more than 15 years

New data that was released on Wednesday by the Center for Migration Studies shows there were 10.6 million immigrants living unlawfully in the United States in 2018 compared with 11.75 million in 2010, a decline propelled primarily by Mexicans returning south.

The issue of illegal immigration has become a centerpiece of the 2020 presidential campaign, as President Trump has stepped up deportations across the interior of the United States and further fortified the southwestern border against unauthorized entry.

Several Democratic candidates have called for decriminalizing border crossings; establishing pathways to citizenship for undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children; and relying on technology, not more fencing, to enforce the border with Mexico. They have also expressed support for focusing deportation resources on removing immigrants who are a threat to public safety or convicted criminals.

The new data shows that the number of undocumented immigrants continues to shrink, a trend that began even before Mr. Trump took office.

The population of unauthorized Mexicans in the United States declined by a quarter between 2010 and 2018, the new immigration figures show, amid stepped-up deportations and an improved Mexican economy that has encouraged many people to go home voluntarily.


And Mexicans, the largest foreign-born population in the United States, are not the only nationality electing to leave. The undocumented population from South Korea has dropped by 22 percent, and Poland’s has plummeted more than 50 percent – returning to countries that have enjoyed economic prosperity.

It is widely assumed that everyone wants to come to the United States but that no one wants to leave, said Robert Warren, the demographer who analyzed census data for the nonpartisan think tank. That’s never been the case.

ImageMary Kraft employed two undocumented Mexican brothers for a decade at her Quail Ridge Dairy in Colorado before they decided to return to Mexico.
Credit…AAron Ontiveroz for The New York Times

Mexico’s birthrate has dropped, meaning families have fewer mouths to feed, and getting across the increasingly fortified border with the United States has become more difficult, dangerous and expensive.

It used to be that a glut of working-age Mexican citizens turned to the U.S., a developed country, for available jobs, said Donald Kerwin, executive director of the Center for Migration Studies, which is based in New York and analyzes trends and policies related to international migration. This dynamic has changed significantly over the years.

The center’s estimates show that the overall number of undocumented people has dropped precipitously in California, New York and New Jersey, states that for decades have been magnets for unauthorized workers and that, in recent years, have introduced sanctuary policies to protect them.

Texas, whose governor and Legislature have backed efforts by the Trump administration to crack down on illegal immigration, has experienced an increase in its undocumented population, suggesting that the job opportunities and affordable living luring Americans to the state are also wooing undocumented immigrants.


California’s undocumented population dropped to 2.3 million, a 21 percent decline since 2010. New York saw a 25 percent decline, to 684,000. Texas’ undocumented population climbed to 1.79 million from 1.71 million.

Despite the arrival at the border of a large number of Central Americans, especially families fleeing violence, a larger proportion of undocumented people who have arrived in recent years came on visas that they then overstayed.

About 4 million of the 10.6 million undocumented immigrants who resided in the United States in 2018 arrived after 2010. Among them, two-thirds, or 2.6 million, entered the country lawfully, having passed inspection at an airport or another port of entry, but did not leave within the period of time they were permitted to stay with a tourist, business or student visa. Many of them hail from Asian countries, such as China and India.

There was a 69 percent jump since 2010 in the number of Indians in the country illegally, reaching 619,000 in 2018. The number of undocumented Venezuelans more than doubled during that period, driven by political and economic upheaval.


Conversely, Ecuador was one of the nationalities seeing the biggest declines. The number of undocumented Ecuadoreans in the United States shrunk by 36 percent, leaving 173,000 people. Among those who went home was a 50-year-old construction designer, Mario, who left five years ago after living for 14 years in New York.

My main goal was the education of my daughter and my son, said Mario, who withheld his last name out of concern for undocumented relatives still living in the United States. Both of them, they got college degrees. I accomplished my mission.


Not everyone is returning by choice, of course.

After dropping to 65,332 in the last year of the Obama administration, deportations of people from the interior of the country have climbed, reaching 85,958 in the most recent fiscal year.

The Department of Homeland Security recently announced it intends to deploy SWAT-like teams of border agents to help arrest immigrants who live in so-called sanctuary cities like Chicago, a plan likely to bolster that number.

The Trump administration has also limited some previously available exemptions for people fighting deportation.

Jorge Zaldivar of Mexico, for example, had been allowed under the Obama administration to stay in the United States despite a deportation order because he had an American son with a congenital illness who needed his support.

But Immigration and Customs Enforcement refused to extend his stay of deportation last year, and Mr. Zaldivar was deported last month even though he still has a case before an appeals court.

Now his wife, Christina, an American who barely speaks Spanish, is preparing to move from Denver to Mexico with their three youngest children.

I have to sell the house and give up everything we worked hard for, Ms. Zaldivar said.

The diminishing number of undocumented immigrants is becoming an ever-greater concern for employers in sectors of the economy, such as agriculture, that rely on immigrant labor.


You invest in developing these people who become a huge part of your operation, and then they’re gone, said Ms. Kraft, whose family-owned dairy in Colorado produces milk to make cheese, chocolate and whey powder.

You lose that historical knowledge and have to start out with new ones, she said, except new ones aren’t coming to replace them.


Read more:


Originally published by The New York Times

Eddie Oh, an industrial engineer, lost his job during the financial crisis that gripped South Korea in 1998. With no prospects, he scrounged together his savings to pay his family’s airfare to California. They were going on vacation, he told the United States embassy, which issued six-month visitor visas for the family.

The Ohs headed to Sunnyvale, a middle-class community in California’s Silicon Valley where a relative already had rented a small apartment. The Ohs moved in, nine people crammed into two rooms. Mr. Oh got to work painting houses. His wife found a job as a waitress. And their children, Eli, 11, and Sue, 9, started school.

We were constantly in debt. We struggled to pay the rent, said Eli Oh, who grew up to be a critical-care response nurse at Stanford University. Nobody ever thought we were illegally here because we didn’t fit the stereotype.

They are hardly alone. Though President Trump has staked much of his presidency on halting the movement of undocumented immigrants across the southern border, the Oh family’s roundabout route to residence in the United States is part of one of America’s least widely known immigration stories.

Some 350,000 travelers arrive by air in the United States each day. From Asia, South America and Africa, they come mostly with visas allowing them to tour, study, do business or attend a conference for an authorized period of time. But when they stay beyond when their visas expire, some of them fall into the same illegal status often associated with migrants showing up at the border.

Nearly half of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants now in the country did not trek through the desert or wade across the Rio Grande to enter the country; they flew in with a visa, passed inspection at the airport – and stayed.

Of the roughly 3.5 million undocumented immigrants who entered the country between 2010 and 2017, 65 percent arrived with full permission stamped into their passports, according to new figures compiled by the Center for Migration Studies, a nonpartisan think tank. During that period, more overstayers arrived from India than from any other country.

A big overlooked immigration story is that twice as many people came in with a visa than came across the border illegally in recent years, said Robert Warren, the demographer who calculated overstay estimates by using the Census Bureau’s annual American Community Survey and shared those figures with The New York Times.

As Mr. Trump has called for hiring thousands of new Border Patrol agents and erecting miles of new fencing, federal immigration authorities have devoted relatively few resources toward the much larger numbers of undocumented immigrants who have overstayed their visas.

The Department of Homeland Security said it has succeeded in bringing the number of visa overstayers down slightly over the past two years, but enforcement is difficult because authorities are only beginning to gain access to better data on who has and has not flown out of the country.

Once they are in the country, they are home free because there is so little interior enforcement, said Jessica Vaughan, a former federal visa officer who is now policy director at the Center for Immigration Studies, which lobbies for restricting immigration.

Overstayers represent about 46 percent of the 10.7 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, according to the migration center’s data. This is not necessarily because of a huge jump in the number of people overstaying their visas; rather, their proportion of the undocumented population has soared amid a huge decline in border crossings since 2000.

The largest number of overstayers – about 1 million – hail from Mexico, a neighboring country with a long history of commercial and family ties and substantial flows of people across the border. But the picture is changing. Between 2010 and 2017, 330,000 Indians overstayed their visas, more than from any other country. Large numbers of people from China, Venezuela, the Philippines, Brazil and Colombia also overstayed.

Many undocumented Asians – including a large number from India – have settled like the Ohs in and around Sunnyvale, about 50 miles southeast of San Francisco, according to the Center for Migration Studies analysis.

Apple, LinkedIn and other tech titans in the area employ many whom the companies have sponsored for legal work visas or permanent residency in the United States.

Some of them stay on as independent programming contractors after their visas have expired or after leaving a company that sponsored them for a visa.

But they are only part of the story. Many undocumented Indians here in Sunnyvale have low-skilled service jobs, catering to their well-heeled brethren who frequent the Indian supermarkets, eateries and clothing shops that line El Camino Real, the main commercial corridor.

They are people like S. Singh, 24, who works at a diner where the Indian lunch crowd on a recent afternoon dined on spicy lentils and spinach with flatbread and sipped masala chai. Mr. Singh, who like most others interviewed for this story declined to share his full name, said that he had arrived as a tourist two years ago.

At Indian grocery stores nearby, Indian workers arranged shelves stocked with Taj Mahal tea, basmati rice and canned Kesar mangoes. They hesitated to answer questions, beyond saying that they had entered as tourists. One of them said that he had come on a student visa that had expired.

Inside a closed restaurant on a recent afternoon, two Indian men and two Indian women workers slept before dinner service, their bodies draped over a long bench where patrons would later be seated. Ankit, an Indian engineer on a work visa who had hoped to grab a bite, only to realize it was too early, surmised that they were undocumented – just like the Indian Uber driver who had brought him there.

There are no legal pathways for people working in restaurants and grocery stores, he said. These workers are coming for a better life.

The government reported that nearly 670,000 travelers who arrived by air or sea and were supposed to depart in the 2018 fiscal year had not left by Sept. 30, 2018. That number had dropped to nearly 415,700 by March 2019, because many people overstay by just a few months.

But developing policies to curb overstays requires accurate data, experts say, and Homeland Security officials still lack a reliable system to track them.

Most travelers are photographed and fingerprinted at American consulates abroad when they receive a visa and then again on arrival in the United States. But Customs and Border Protection still depends overwhelmingly on biographical information from the manifests of departing travelers, provided by airlines, to tally who did not leave in time, or at all.

In 2016, federal officials began working with airlines and airport authorities to install a biometric facial-comparison system at departure gates. A digital picture taken of those boarding a plane to leave the country is compared to the one taken on their arrival.

Thus far, the program covers 4 to 5 percent of those departing by air each day, said John F. Wagner, a deputy assistant executive commissioner for Customs and Border Protection. He said in an interview that his agency hopes to cover 90 percent of departing travelers within three years.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which enforces immigration rules in the interior of the country, said that it puts a priority on identifying those who pose potential national security or public-safety threats. In fiscal 2018, its Homeland Security Investigations unit made 1,808 arrests in connection with visa-violation leads.

Many of those who overstay their visas do not intend to stay illegally, said Kalpana Peddibhotla, an immigration lawyer in the San Francisco Bay Area.

They entered with a specific purpose and fell out of status for a variety of reasons, only to realize there is no easy mechanism to correct their status violations, she said.

Graduates of American universities, allowed to remain in the United States for a period of time to work, run afoul of deadlines or commit errors on immigration forms that automatically render them deportable. Sometimes employers transfer foreign workers to a new site and fail to amend their paperwork, as required, which also cancels their legal status.

They stay because they built their lives here, bought homes here, had children here, said Ms. Peddibhotla, who became familiar with Indian overstay cases while on the board of the South Asian Bar Association of North America.

Among Asians, in particular, being undocumented brings shame to the family. Like several others, the senior Mr. Oh, his wife and daughter, declined to be interviewed for this article even though the daughter was able to help her parents obtain green cards after she married an American.

My parents are not proud of breaking the law, said Mr. Oh, who also now has a green card. To this day, most of their church friends do not know they were undocumented.

In places like Sunnyvale, it is not hard for people to disguise their immigration status.

Especially if they’re not from Mexico or Latin America, no one suspects them of being undocumented, said Kathy Gin, executive director of Immigrants Rising, a San Francisco-based advocacy organization that works with undocumented youth.

Their parents encourage them to keep their heads low, not share their stories, not speak out about immigration issues, said Ms. Gin.

Marilyn Omatang left Manila in 2004 with her eldest child, Dean, then 12, to join her husband, who had arrived in California two years earlier. She told me we are going to Disneyland, recalled Dean, which they did.

But they had to remain in the United States to earn the money to provide for a special-needs child who required pricey medical care and for the schooling of three others, all living in the Philippines with relatives.

With just a job at a 7-Eleven, I could pay for the medical treatment and their education, said Ms. Omatang, 56, who rose to the position of manager, only to be let go after a co-worker reported to their boss that she was undocumented.

For more than a decade since then, she has been a caretaker to wealthy seniors in Silicon Valley, never revealing her status, and using a different name to report her income to the federal tax authorities.

One of her employers, Ms. Omatang said, is a Trump supporter who favors a tough approach to undocumented immigration.

I heard her say, ‘just send all those illegal people back home,’ she said. And I thought, ‘Oh, oh. If you only knew.’

Read more:

Originally published by CNN

Immigration and Customs Enforcement on Tuesday rescinded a nearly half-million dollar fine against Edith Espinal, an undocumented immigrant who has been living inside a church in Columbus, Ohio, in order to avoid deportation, according to advocate groups.ICE also withdrew fines for six other women who were living inside churches across the country to avoid deportation, according to the National Sanctuary Collective.The fines drew national attention earlier this year and spawned legislation to grant Espinal deportation relief. ICE began issuing notices of its intent to fine migrants last December following President Donald Trump’s executive order, issued a year earlier, instructing the agency to begin collecting fines from migrants unlawfully in the US.Richard Rocha, a spokesperson for ICE, said in a statement that Espinal and the others are still violating the law.”These individuals are subject to final orders of removal and they remain in the United States in violation of law,” he said. “ICE will pursue enforcement of these removal orders using any and all available means, and has reserved the right to reassess fines in these cases. ICE remains committed to utilizing this enforcement tool, as provided by Congress, which serves an important role in promoting compliance with our immigration laws.”In a letter received by the families, ICE wrote, “Following consideration of matters you forwarded for ICE review, and in the exercise of discretion under applicable regulations, ICE hereby withdraws the Notice of Intention to Fine,” according to the National Sanctuary Collective.”We knew that these exorbitant fines were illegal and nothing more than a tool to scare our clients and retaliate against them for fighting back and standing up to this administration,” said Lizbeth Mateo, Espinal’s attorney.In July, CNN reported that Espinal, a Mexican national, had received a letter from ICE notifying her that it intended to fine her for staying in the US illegally over several years and failing to follow orders to leave the country, her attorney said at the time.

Read more:

Originally published by CNN

A huge majority of Americans want there to be a way for immigrants living in the US illegally to stay in the country legally, if requirements are met, according to a new survey by the Pew Research Center out Monday.Over the last week, immigration authorities rounded up 680 undocumented immigrants in a record-setting operation, taking place at seven sites in six cities in Mississippi. The raids are believed to be the “the largest single-state immigration enforcement operation in our nation’s history,” according to US Attorney for the Southern District of Mississippi Mike Hurst.The survey was conducted from late July to early August, before the raids in Mississippi, and found 72% of Americans want there to be a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants, while only about a quarter think there should be a national law enforcement effort to deport all undocumented immigrants.Republicans and Republican-leaning independents mostly agree that there should be a legal way for undocumented immigrants to remain in the US (54%), but that view is on the decline, down 5 percentage points since a March 2017 Pew poll. Almost 9 in 10 Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents support a legal way for undocumented immigrants to become citizens, which is steady since 2017.

Republicans are also more apt to back a national law enforcement effort to deport all undocumented immigrants in the US — 42% of all Republicans and Republican-leaning independents and almost half (49%) of conservative Republicans.But there’s an even split on which party Americans agree with on policies to deal with illegal immigration — 40% say the Democrats, 39% say the Republicans and 19% agree with neither party.Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are more likely to agree with their own party’s policies (77%) than are Democrats and Democratic-leaners (70%). Liberal Democrats agree more strongly than moderate/conservative Democrats (82% and 61%, respectively) while 85% of conservative Republicans agreed with their own party, compared with 64% of moderate or liberal Republicans.

Americans of different parties also had significantly different priorities regarding the humanitarian crisis at the US border with Mexico.Seventy-one percent of Democrats and leaning-independents thought it was very important to provide safe and sanitary conditions for asylum seekers, and only 32% of Republicans and leaners said the same. Democrats also prioritized increasing the number of judges handling asylum cases (58% very important) more so than Republicans (45% very important).Significantly more Republicans than Democrats called it very important to reduce the number of people coming to the US to seek asylum (65% very important for Republicans, 24% for Democrats) and make it harder for asylum seekers to be granted legal status (40% very important for Republicans, 10% for Democrats).In general, the majority of Americans see the US government as doing a bad job dealing with the increased number of people seeking asylum at the border with Mexico (65% bad, 33% good) — including 44% of Republicans and 84% of Democrats.The Pew Research Center poll was conducted online July 22 through August 5 among a nationally representative sample of 4,175 adults. Results for the full sample have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 1.9 percentage points, it is larger for subgroups.

Read more:


Originally published by LA Times

The number of immigrants in the U.S. illegally dropped to the lowest in more than a decade in 2016, according to a new report.

Tuesday’s report from the Pew Research Center analyzed census and immigration data to estimate that in 2016 there were 10.7 million immigrants in the U.S. illegally.

The number is 1.5 million less than its peak in 2007.

The center crunched its numbers by subtracting the number of foreign-born people living in the country legally from the total foreign-born population and adjusting with estimated numbers for the many immigrants in the country illegally who do not respond to government surveys. It included more than 1 million immigrants who are temporarily in the country legally under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and Temporary Protected Status programs because the future of such protections is unclear under the Trump administration.

The decline comes from a sharp drop in the number of Mexicans residing in the country illegally, even as the population of Central Americans illegally crossing the border or overstaying visas has grown.

Mexico is still the dominant birth country for immigrants in the country illegally, but the explanation for the decline has a lot to do with Mexico, said D’Vera Cohn, who co-wrote the report. We think the decline in the number of unauthorized immigrants was almost entirely due to fewer Mexicans entering the country without authorization.

The number of Mexicans in the U.S. illegally dropped 1.5 million from 2007 to 2016, the report said, leaving Mexican nationals to make up about half of the immigrants in the U.S. without permission. In the same time period, the number of Central American immigrants in the U.S. illegally increased by 375,000. Pew found 1.85 million Central Americans to be residing in the country illegally, with a significant number from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

The decline in the share of Mexicans among the people in the U.S. illegally is due to the “dramatically different living conditions” in Mexico compared with its southern neighbors, said Randy Capps, director of research for U.S. programs at the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute, who was not involved in the study.

Over the long term, Mexico’s economy has improved and its birth rate has declined, leaving fewer people interested in job opportunities in the north, especially after the U.S. recession a decade ago. Capps said migration from Mexico was historically dominated by young men coming to the U.S. alone, while Central American immigrants today tend to come as families. Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, he added, have in recent years experienced “higher rates of violence, much more poverty and much lower per capita income” than Mexico, leading people to flee north.

(Los Angeles Times)

Pew did not look at data from 2017 because the American Community Survey, the U.S. Census Bureau’s ongoing population estimate, came out as the Pew report was close to completion. But Pew researchers said they expected the trend of decreases in the Mexican population to continue even as the Central American population increased.

Because the report does not look at 2017 or this year, researchers could not say what effect the Trump administration has had overall on the number of immigrants in the country illegally.

During his campaign, the president vowed to deport all immigrants living in the U.S. illegally, suggesting he could do so through military-style roundups similar to those authorized by President Eisenhower in 1954 that led to mass deportations of Mexicans. President Trump, who has faced criticism for demonizing immigrants in the U.S. illegally by broadly painting them as rapists and killers who infest the country, has also continued to demand the construction of an expanded border wall.

If you look at apprehensions data, it does point to the number of Central Americans increasing, but we can’t say what’s happening overall, Cohen said. Many people from other countries overstay visas rather than cross the border without authorization.

Border apprehensions dropped during the first year of Trump’s presidency to the lowest number since 1971. Since then, they have increased. Last month, Border Patrol agents arrested or rejected for admission 60,745 people attempting to enter the U.S. at the Mexico border, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The number is the highest it’s been since Trump became president. The increase was due in part to high numbers of Guatemalans and Hondurans fleeing violence.

Experts caution that it is difficult to draw conclusions from border apprehension and admission rejection numbers. Over the years, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has alternated between reporting decreases in border apprehensions as either a measure of border agents doing badly or doing well at their jobs.

Deportations have not reached the levels they did during the Obama administration. In the fiscal year that ended in September, the government ordered 287,741 deportations, according to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University. In the 2013 fiscal year under the Obama administration, there were 438,421 deportations.

Pew researchers said that although deportations have had an effect on the number of immigrants in the country without permission, the numbers of migrants attempting to enter or stay in the country illegally to begin with is a bigger reason for the decline. Overall, the number of immigrants in the country illegally dropped by 13% between 2007 and 2016.

Pew found statistically significant declines from Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Korea and Peru. But in addition to those from Central American countries, the number of immigrants from India and Venezuela in the U.S. illegally also grew during that period.

Researchers at Pew also concluded that visa overstays were increasingly the source of new immigrants in the country illegally.

“Among unauthorized immigrants in the center’s estimates who arrived in the previous five years, the share who are likely to be people who overstayed their visas probably grew substantially between 2007 and 2016 – to the point where they probably constituted most of the recent unauthorized immigrant arrivals in 2016,” the report said.

Although the total number of immigrants in the country illegally declined in those nine years, the number in the U.S. legally grew by more than 6 million, or by 22%, according to the report. There were about 34.4 million immigrants in the country legally in 2016.

The report also broke down numbers of immigrants in the country illegally by state. A dozen saw declines of 10,000 or more since 2007. That included a drop of 550,000 in California to 2.2 million and 240,000 in Florida to 775,000. Three states saw increases in the same period. In Maryland, the number of immigrants there illegally grew by 25% to 60,000. In Massachusetts, the increase was nearly 14% to 35,000, and in Louisiana it was a 27% jump to 15,000.

Read more: