fbpx Early Arrival: Over Half of New Jersey Farm’s Seasonal Workforce Tested Positive for COVID-19 - Documented

Early Arrival: Over Half of New Jersey Farm’s Seasonal Workforce Tested Positive for COVID-19

Wednesday's Edition of Early Arrival: 1 Family’s Harrowing Journey Through the Immigration Courts — DHS Refuses to Release Teenage Asylum Seeker — New Relief Package Includes Immigration Provisions

Max Siegelbaum

May 13, 2020

On May 1, five people had tested positive for COVID-19 in Upper Pittsgrove Township, a small community in southern New Jersey. A week later, it was reported that 59 migrant workers on a local farm had tested positive.

The state is preparing to receive tens of thousands of workers to pick fruits and vegetables for the summer, with many arriving from other farms in the U.S. State health officials are working on a plan to test farmworkers for the virus, but advocates say the development in Upper Pittsgrove is a sign the state government’s efforts are too late.

Department of Health officials would not identify the farm where the virus transmission occurred. The mayor of the township where the farm is located said he believes the situation is contained to the farm property. NJ Spotlight


Documented and Latino USA Follow 1 Family’s Harrowing Journey Through the Immigration Courts

In February of 2019, Elvis was picked up by U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents while crossing the Texas border with his then-pregnant wife Wendy amid a growing crackdown by CBP and Immigration and Customs Enforcement. He tried to claim asylum, but that effort came as a slew of policy changes and Department of Justice rulings began snarling the immigration court system. Along with Latino USA producer Alissa Escarce, we followed Elvis’ story for six months as he and Wendy wound their way through the courts. He fled a violent gang in Guatemala; was represented by an attorney who, in the middle of his case, was suspended from practicing law because of misconduct towards his immigrant clients; was held for months for minor procedural glitches; and was eventually denied asylum without clear explanation by a recently hired immigration judge.

We also followed New York’s immigration courts every day for three months amid these changing standards, and found Elvis’s story is far from unusual. Go here to listen to the story, and click here to read more about the project.

New Jersey Residents from India Blocked from Traveling Home

Indian citizens living in the New York area were prevented from traveling to India aboard special repatriation flights run by Air India, according to a new policy issued by that government. One couple in New Jersey lost their H-1B sponsored jobs and had to go back to India within 60 days to avoid being in the U.S. illegally. But they were turned back at the Newark airport when the airline refused to give tickets to the couple’s children, as they are American citizens. “I would like to urge the Indian government to reconsider their decision on the humanitarian basis,” Ratna Pandey said. Hindustan Times

New York City Launches Election Translator Program

The New York City Civic Engagement Commission has voted to launch a poll-site interpreter service, providing translations in Russian, Haitian Creole, Arabic, Yiddish, French, Bengali, Korean, Chinese, Urdu, Italian and Polish. The Voting Rights Act requires the Board of Elections to provide translation services for Spanish, Korean, Chinese, and Bengali, and last year, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s DemocracyNYC program tried to expand that with interpreters in Russian, Haitian Creole, Yiddish, and Polish. The state-run BOE tried to block the administration’s move in court, but failed. Gotham Gazette


DHS Refuses to Release Teenage Asylum Seeker

Mariano, a 17-year-old Guatemalan boy, has been held in a California detention center for more than 400 days. He’s one of the longest-held minors in federal custody. The teen, who was detained in Solano County in California, has been in detention for 20 times the maximum time allotted under the Flores agreement, which sets the conditions under which minors can be held in federal custody. Minneapolis couple Bryce Tache and James Donaldson read about Mariano and quickly applied to sponsor him six months ago, but they now fear the Trump administration is trying to keep Mariano until he turns 18 so officials can more easily deport him. The Los Angeles Times

Meatpacking Industry is a Major COVID-19 Vector

A Smithfield Foods plant in South Dakota became the notorious site of the largest surge of COVID-19 infections last month, and meatpacking and poultry-processing plants around the country have since become major sites of infection. Nobles County in Minnesota, which is home to a JBS pork processing plant, has the second highest per-capita infection rate of any county in the U.S. with 1,100 cases. Nebraska’s Dakota County, home to a Tyson Foods meat plant, has more than 1,000 confirmed cases. The meat processing industry’s workforce is largely composed of immigrants. Associated Press

Federal Authorities Continue to Deport COVID-19 Positive Haitians 

Federal authorities continue to deport coronavirus-positive Haitians and did so as recently as Monday, the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti, according to Boston-based human rights organization, said. Five Haitians who tested positive for COVID-19 in immigration detention were deported alongside roughly 100 others, who hadn’t tested positive. “I don’t know how they can do this,” said Etienne, one of the deportees, who maintains he was born in the U.S. Al Jazeera

Lawyer for Boston Area Judge Says She’s Being Targeted by the Trump Administration

Newton District Court Judge Shelley Joseph is possibly the first Massachusetts judge to be federally indicted since the Colonial era, The Boston Globe reports. Last year, she was indicted on obstruction of justice charges for allegedly allowing an undocumented criminal defendant to slip out of the courthouse before an ICE agent could detain him. But her indictment is simply part of a campaign led by President Trump to enforce his immigration policies, her attorney argues in new court filings. The U.S. Attorney in Boston previously said he had no plan to prosecute judges, but that seemed to change when an immigration official in Washington said he needed a prosecutor “willing to indict.” The Boston Globe

Washington — Coronavirus Relief Package Includes Immigration Provisions, Trump Loosens Visa Restrictions, Former California Mayor Becomes DHS CFO

The latest coronavirus relief package unveiled Tuesday by House Democrats contains immigration-related provisions that will likely become points of contention during negotiations with Republicans. It would allow immigrant doctors working on COVID-19 recovery efforts to bypass green card wait times, and would also expedite the processing of work visas and immigrant visas for health-care workers. 

The visa provision is similar to one in a bipartisan Senate bill that would authorize up to 40,000 unused immigrant visas to be used by health-care workers. It has backing from Sens. Chris Coons (D-Del.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.). David Perdue, (R-Ga.), and Todd Young, (R-Ind.). The House aid bill also includes language that would require the Department of Homeland Security to figure out how to administer naturalization ceremonies remotely. 

One provision in the bill that will likely see pushback from conservatives would award temporary protection from deportation to undocumented workers in industries deemed essential during the pandemic, including first responders, health workers and farm and food processing employees. A restriction on punishing so-called ‘sanctuary cities’ will likely also cause controversy. CQ Roll Call

The Trump administration will temporarily restrict visa restrictions for seasonal workers who are “essential to the US food supply chain.” The regulation applies to H-2B visa holders, which are intended for seasonal workers, and is designed to help U.S. employers who rely on foreign workers. It also calls for the release of detainees in ICE custody who are at risk for coronavirus infection and not deemed a threat to public safety. CNN

Troy Edgar, the former mayor of Los Alamitos, California, has become the new chief financial officer for the Department of Homeland Security after a stint as the local face for the state’s anti-sanctuary movement. In 2018, Edgar drew the White House’s attention when he backed a city ordinance that would declare the city exempt from SB-54, a California law that limits cooperation between law enforcement and federal agents. The movement secured Edger a regular speaking gig on Fox News and other networks where he voiced opposition to California’s undocumented immigrant-friendly policies. Orange County Register

Max Siegelbaum

Co-executive Director of Documented




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