“Blowin’ Up,” is a term used by sex workers to describe the act of leaving a pimp. It is also an aptly named new documentary directed by Brooklyn filmmaker Stephanie Wang-Breal.
The film details the lives of women trying to leave sex work and other women trying to help them to do so. “Blowin’ Up” mostly follows Toko Serita, a Japanese-American judge, who helped found the innovative Queens Human Trafficking Intervention Court.
Serita’s court exists to help women arrested on prostitution charges change their lifestyles, giving them jobs and community connections instead of prison sentences. Many of the women featured in the film are immigrants from East Asia — often China — who came to New York to escape poverty at home.
The film deftly captures the grim routines of the Queens court and the difficult lives of the women who are arrested as they share intimate details of their work with case workers and courtroom officials. Late in the film, Wang-Breal teases the panic and fear created by courthouse ICE arrests and the election of Donald Trump. Max Siegelbaum for Documented
Welcome to Early Arrival. I’m Felipe De La Hoz, here with your local and national immigration news and analysis. For feedback, suggestions, tips or leads, reach out at email@example.com or on Twitter.
We’re always looking for deeply reported work on immigration in New York. If you have story ideas and are interested in writing for us, reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For an even more comprehensive look at the week’s immigration happenings, sign up for Boarding Pass, Documented’s new subscription newsletter. You’ll get an expanded experience with new and beefed-up sections, specialized news analysis, a look ahead to the week’s immigration events and much more. You can sign up here for only $5 per month, or $50 per year.
Chinese Artists Arrive, but No Support Network Makes it Hard to Thrive
Artists are leaving China to try and make it in New York. But they’re having a tough time getting their work out to the public as they struggle to plug into the network of gallerists and cultural institutions that form the backbone of the New York art world. Coming from a society where art is closely scrutinized by the government and gallery openings occasionally feature plainclothes police officers, many Chinese artists have trouble acclimating to the artistic culture in New York. Consequently, they miss out on valuable connections to help their career. The nonprofits, councils, and museums attempting to providing opportunities for these artists lack resources, hindering their progression even more. The language barrier doesn’t help either. Some government funding has helped bolster those resources, but there’s only so much the extra money can do. Read more at Documented.
New Documentary Reveals Inner Workings of Queens Human Trafficking Intervention Court
“Blowin’ Up,” is a term used by sex workers to describe the act of leaving a pimp. It is also an aptly named new documentary directed by Brooklyn filmmaker Stephanie Wang-Breal. The film details the lives of women trying to leave sex work and other women trying to help them to do so. “Blowin’ Up” mostly follows Toko Serita, a Japanese-American judge, who helped found the innovative Queens Human Trafficking Intervention Court. Serita’s court exists to help women arrested on prostitution charges change their lifestyles, giving them jobs and community connections instead of prison sentences. Many of the women featured in the film are immigrants from East Asia — often China — who came to New York to escape poverty at home. The film deftly captures the grim routines of the Queens court and the difficult lives of the women who are arrested as they share intimate details of their work with case workers and courtroom officials. Late in the film, Wang-Breal teases the panic and fear created by courthouse ICE arrests and the election of Donald Trump. Max Siegelbaum for Documented
Long Island Caterer Pleads Guilty to Worker Exploitation
The owner of a now-shuttered catering business on Long Island has pleaded guilty to utilizing forced labor. Ralph Colamussi, 64, was indicted for recruiting workers from the Philippines to work with seasonal visas and threatening them when they complained about the work or demanded prompt pay. According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, Colamussi would bring workers to the business, Thatched Cottage, on H-2B visas. When the temporary visas expired, Colamussi would help workers file fraudulent student visa applications, then told them he would report them to immigration authorities if they didn’t comply with his demands. He faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of as much as $250,000. NBC 4
Ossining Family Spends a Day in Sanctuary Before Deportation Stay
A mixed-status family from Dobbs Ferry that had sought sanctuary in a local church on Monday was able to return home after a judge issued a stay of deportation on Tuesday evening. Juan Guambana and María Tenesaca, undocumented immigrants from Ecuador, were convinced to sign a voluntary deportation order with the promise of coming back to New York three months after returning to Ecuador. Attorneys and community advocates then told the couple — who have an adult son who is a DACA recipient and two daughters who are both U.S. Citizens — realized they couldn’t actually re-enter the United States if they left under a voluntary deportation, and sought sanctuary. The parents are now safe from deportation as their cases continue. The Journal News
Teen Reunited with Father is a ‘Different Young Man’
A Guatemalan father and son traveled claimed asylum at the border last summer, hoping to work and send money back to their family. But the two were separated, with the father, López, heading to immigration detention and the son, Artemio, sent to a migrant childrens’ facility. After 11 months, they were reunited, but the joy quickly faded as López realized his son, now 18, would barely eat or drink, could not communicate properly, would spend large portions of the day sleeping, and displayed several recurring tics. Records show Artemio was prescribed psychotropic drugs in detention, something the family’s attorney believes violated the Flores agreement. The Palm Springs Desert Sun
Despite Injunction, ICE Continues to Arbitrarily Deny Parole to Asylum-Seekers
For years, once asylum-seekers arrived in the United States, passed credible fear interviews, and could prove their identities and plans to return to court, the government would typically let them out of detention. This began to change under the Obama administration, as regional ICE offices began instituting blanket bans on parole for asylum-seekers. In July, a federal court delivered an injunction saying it was unlawful for the offices to automatically deny every parole request without giving individualized reasons. Nevertheless, routine parole denials have continued as ICE has merely started submitting form denials with a few arbitrary reasons checked off. United Press International
CBP Increasing Predator Drone Operations, Sloppily
A new report from the Department of Homeland Security’s Inspector General details the expanding use of unmanned Predator drones — typically thought of as deployed largely in war zones — as part of its regular border operations. According to the OIG statistics, CBP alone flew 635 Predator missions in fiscal year 2017. Drones equipped with sophisticated cameras and sensors intended to monitor cross-border activity could fly up to 100 air miles from the border. The report also found images the drones were capturing were vulnerable to interception, and that CBP did not properly pull out personally identifiable data swept up in drone scans. Gizmodo
Public Charge isn’t Just Public Benefits
The coverage around the recently-proposed new public charge rules has largely focused on the fact that immigrants utilizing an array of public benefits, including food and housing assistance, will be barred from gaining visas or permanent residency. But credit scores will also be considered, with a “good” score supposedly demonstrating an migrant’s ability to self-sustain. Critics of the policy say a credit score does not depict the entirety of a person’s financial circumstances. Other factors determining a public charge include how much the applicant is earning as a percentage of the federal poverty level, and if they have private health insurance. MarketWatch
‘Anti-Sanctuary’ Jurisdictions Lack Oversight and Compliance
Another DHS’ Inspector General report examining the expansion of the 287(g) program — which effectively trains local law enforcement into federal immigration agents with some specialized training — found the program was operating without proper oversight and compliance with standard procedures. The number of jurisdictions participating in these agreements, which involve screening inmates at local jails for immigration offenders and turning violators them over to ICE, went from 36 in January of 2017 to 78 today, after the Trump administration encouraged local sheriffs and governments to sign up. CityLab
Washington — GOP sees immigration as winning issue, House blasts noncitizen voting, Mostofi goes to the Hill
After realizing the tax law on which they banked their electoral prospects is not very popular, Republican candidates for Congress are turning to emotional issues like crime and immigration in their bid to retain the House in a tough midterm year. As expected, vulnerable Republicans have seized upon left-wing Democrats who advocate for the abolishment of ICE, accusing their colleagues of wanting open borders. MS-13, a gang that continues to have comparatively small numbers of adherents and a tiny geographical footprint, is nonetheless being discussed around the country. The Washington Post
ICE’s spending habits have come under scrutiny in recent weeks, especially following revelations that DHS moved budgets around to give ICE funds already allocated to other agencies. One big cash drain is ICE’s deportation flight operations, known informally as ICE Air, which have already gone $107 million over budget this fiscal year. Lawmakers from both parties consider the spending to be “unsustainable.” National Public Radio
As San Francisco rolled out its program to allow residents without legal status to vote in local school board elections, House Republicans pushed through a non-binding resolution condemning the practice of noncitizen voting. They claim it dilutes citizenship to allow both legal residents and the undocumented to vote. NBC News
New York City Commissioner of Immigrant Affairs Bitta Mostofi was in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday to lobby lawmakers against a bill introduced by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.) that would permit holding minors and their parents in detention centers indefinitely. Mostofi and a team of city attorneys, along with social and clinical workers, were recently detailed to the border region to assist asylum-seekers. Politico
Support the work of Documented
Documented was founded with the goal of making sure the people affected by our stories were also the people reading them. Immigration reporting is often extractive and isn’t produced or published with the main protagonists as the intended audience. Through our reporting and out outreach via WhatsApp, we’ve created award-winning journalism that is created with and for New York’s immigrant communities. This work is not easy and it is not cheap. Consider becoming a member today to help fuel this work. By joining the Documented Community, you can not help only provide us with the financial freedom needed to fulfill our mission but also meet others who are passionate about immigration in the New York area. Become a member today.