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Central America/Mexico Migration News Brief for December 7, 2018

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Author: Lily Folkerts

A compilation of recent top articles and reports related to issues of U.S. immigration and enforcement policy and migration from Central America and Mexico (articles in English and Spanish). Please feel free to send us recommendations or requests for upcoming news briefs: lfolkerts@lawg.org. This is the last news brief for the year. Have a great holiday season!

Candles in front of a picture of Berta Caceres

Source: The Guardian

U.S. Enforcement

The US has made migrants at the border wait months to apply for asylum. Now the dam is breaking.
Dara Lind, Vox, November 28, 2018
“And so asylum seekers wait, for days or weeks or (increasingly) months: sometimes in migrant shelters whose capacity has stretched to the breaking point, sometimes huddling together on bridges, sleeping on the street, in the cold, vulnerable to the violence they hoped to escape in their home countries.”

‘Death is waiting for him’
Maria Sacchetti, Washington Post, December 6, 2018

“Fearing MS-13, Santos Chirino sought asylum in the United States. He was denied. Shortly after returning to Honduras, he was killed. His children hope a judge will spare them the same fate.”

The Notebook: Asylum Seekers Improvise a New Border Bureaucracy
Lolita Brayman and Robert Langellier, The Nation, November 30, 2018

“Officially, it doesn’t exist, because CBP’s reliance on it is arguably against US law—but without it, chaos at the border would be tenfold. The list is managed by a committee of six or seven asylum seekers, who are replaced when their own numbers get called.”

Border Agents Shot Tear Gas Into Mexico. Was It Legal?
Megan Specia and Rick Gladstone, New York Times, November 28, 2018

“Alastair Hay, a professor of environmental toxicology at Leeds University in Britain, said the tear gassing was ‘clearly a violation of another country’s territory’ and an interference in Mexico’s affairs.”

Immigration Experts: Tear Gas Has Been Used at the Border for Years, But Never on Children

Emily Kopp, Roll Call, November 29, 2018

“The use of tear gas by U.S. authorities on asylum-seekers including small children Sunday builds on a legacy of excessive force at the Southern border, but also represents a reversal of reforms made during former President Barack Obama’s second term toward more humane policies, according to data released by U.S. Customs and Border Protection this week and immigrant rights experts.”

Witness: “No Warning” Before U.S. Border Patrol Started Tear Gassing Central American Asylum Seekers
Pedro Rios, Democracy Now, November 27, 2018

“We also witnessed how a helicopter flew down low enough to use its rotors to push this plume of smoke, of tear gas into the canal where many of the migrants were gathering and had formed. It was clearly an aggressive action meant to debilitate all of the people who were there, and my concern especially was for the children who were breathing in these toxic fumes.”

Reuters Photojournalist Talks About Photo of Children Fleeing Tear Gas at Border in Mexico
Niraj Chokshi, New York Times, November 26, 2018

“The woman in the photo, identified by BuzzFeed News as Maria Meza, told the online news site that she feels like crying whenever she looks at the image. ‘I felt sad, I was scared. I wanted to cry. That’s when I grabbed my daughters and ran,’ Ms. Meza, 39, told BuzzFeed. ‘I thought my kids were going to die with me because of the gas we inhaled.’”

For asylum seekers in Tijuana, fellow migrants are organizing force

Kevin Sieff and Sarah Kinosian, Washington Post, November 27, 2018

“The notebook was created earlier this year, as U.S. border officials increasingly restricted people from beginning their asylum claims on the American side of the border. That left migrants waiting in northern Mexico without a way to keep track of who was next in line. Although Mexican immigration officials communicate directly with CBP, the Mexican government didn’t have a system to organize the thousands of asylum seekers here. So the migrants stepped in.”

Refusing to Hide: Migrants Find Power in Caravans
Ana Cecilia Pérez, Yes Magazine, November 26, 2018

“The marginalized have determined they will no longer collude in their own oppression by hiding their journeys.”

Migrantes comienzan huelga de hambre para presionar por asilo
La Prensa Gráfica, 20 de noviembre de 2018

“Dijo que intentarán un acercamiento con las autoridades de Migración, y recordó que el objetivo es que Estados Unidos aumente el número de personas a las que se les atiende diariamente, de 40 a 50 personas”.

In advance of rainstorm, second migrant shelter to open in Tijuana

Wendy Fry and Gustavo Solis, San Diego Union Tribune, November 28, 2018

“The new accommodations could not come soon enough for those crammed into Benito Juárez and outside on side streets surrounding the sports complex. Food shortages, a severe lice infestation and serious illnesses are affecting those in the migrant camp where at least 5,000 people are sheltered under tents in the mud.”

Migrant caravan: States have duty to protect human rights

OHCHR, November 28, 2018

“Rather than fuelling tensions with hate speech and threats, governments should work together to tackle inequality, poverty, social exclusion, violence, insecurity, environmental degradation and persecution as the main drivers of migration in Central America. Cooperation between these states is urgently required to develop more accessible, regular, safe and affordable migration channels.”

Trump to appeal judge’s order blocking asylum ban for immigrants at border
Associated Press, The Guardian, November 27, 2018

“Chief Justice John Roberts responded with a statement that the federal judiciary doesn’t have ‘Obama judges or Trump judges, Bush judges or Clinton judges.’ It was the first time Roberts has hinted at any criticism of the president, as judges ordinarily avoid making any public statements on politics.”

Trump Demand That Asylum Seekers Wait in Mexico May Turn on Legal Clause

Reuters, New York Times, November 30, 2018

“Legal experts said the proposal, if adopted, is expected to be challenged in court and could come down to the legality of a ‘contiguous territory’ provision in U.S. immigration law. It allows for the return to Mexico of migrants who are in deportation proceedings while their asylum claim is reviewed.”

One Reason The US And Mexico Can’t Agree On Having Asylum-Seekers Wait In Mexico: The Trump Administration Itself Is Divided
Hamed Aleaziz, Buzzfeed News, November 30, 2018

“Homeland Security and Justice Department officials are feuding over a controversial plan that would force asylum-seekers at the southwestern border to remain in Mexico until their cases are decided, according to sources close the administration.”

Independent Autopsy of Transgender Asylum Seeker Who Died in ICE Custody Shows Signs of Abuse
Sandra E. Garcia, New York Times, November 27, 2018

“‘Her death was entirely preventable,’ Lynly Egyes, the Transgender Law Center’s director of litigation, said at a news conference. ‘In the final days of her life, she was transferred from California to Washington to New Mexico, shackled for days on end. If she was lucky, she was given a bottle of water to drink. Her cause of death was dehydration and complications related to H.I.V.’”

The Government Failed to Conduct Background Checks on Staffers at Migrant Child Tent City
Melissa Cruz, Immigration Impact, November 30, 2018

“The inspector general found that other basic security standards were not being met at the facility (overseen by the HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement or ORR), leaving children at risk of neglect, abuse, and poor medical care.”

No one on the inside can talk about what’s happening at the tent city for migrant kids

Laura C. Morel and Patrick Michels, Reveal, November 28, 2018

“The secrecy surrounding the camp has frustrated longtime residents of Tornillo and alarmed lawyers and advocates who question its conditions. After a tour of the tent city Sept. 24, advocates left with concerns that children were given only workbooks, but no other education, and less access to mental health counseling than found in other shelters.”

Groups demand end to info-sharing on asylum-seeking children

Frank Bajak, Associated Press, November 28, 2018

“Earlier this year, the federal agency tasked with caring for asylum-seeking children separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexican border officially took on a new, little heralded role: helping to deport relatives of the young migrants. In a Wednesday letter to the heads of the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Homeland Security, 112 civil-liberties and immigrant-rights groups, child-welfare advocates and privacy activists are crying foul, demanding an immediate halt to what they call an illegal practice.”

Families Are Still Being Separated at the Border, Months After “Zero Tolerance” Was Reversed
Ginger Thompson, ProPublica, November 27, 2018

“‘If the authorities have even the most specious evidence that a parent was a gang member, or had some kind of blemish on their record,’ said Neha Desai, a senior attorney at the National Center for Youth Law, ‘anything they can come up with to say that the separation is for the health and welfare of the child, then they’ll separate them.’”

A Defendant Shows Up in Immigration Court by Himself. He’s 6.
Eva Ruth Moravec and Ginger Thompson, ProPublica, November 27, 2018

“He was one of the last children left in government custody who had been affected by the administration’s widely criticized zero-tolerance policy, and who were still awaiting reunification with parents detained in the United States.”

He’s Built an Empire, With Detained Migrant Children as the Bricks
Kim Barker, Nicholas Kulish, and Rebecca R. Ruiz, New York Times, December 2, 2018

“In July, a worker at a Phoenix shelter was accused of molesting a teenage girl. In September, an H.I.V.-positive worker was convicted of sexually abusing seven teenage boys at another Arizona shelter. Southwest Key, which has relied on temporary workers to staff facilities as it has ratcheted up operations, then blew a deadline to submit proof of employees’ background checks in Arizona.”

Trump administration spending more on border troops than additional judges for massive backlog of asylum cases
Carmin Chappell, CNBC, November 27, 2018

“The Trump administration is spending at least $72 million to send troops to the U.S.-Mexico border as a caravan of migrants arrives to seek asylum. That’s nearly double what the White House requested for the entire 2019 fiscal year to hire additional immigration judges to hear the massive backlog of court cases.”

Exclusive: Homeland Security chief issues unusual plea for help against ‘caravans’
Gabby Orr and Eliana Johnson, Politico, November 30, 2018

“In what current and former U.S. officials said would be an unprecedented move, the officers — who in most cases have duties entirely unrelated to border security — would help Border Patrol agents repel what the memo calls ‘migrant caravans originating from Central America.’”

The chaos behind Donald Trump’s policy of family separation at the border

Scott Pelley, CBS News, November 26, 2018

“A 60 Minutes investigation has found the separations that dominated headlines this summer began earlier and were greater in number than the Trump administration admits.”

America Didn’t Always Lock Up Immigrants
Ana Raquel Minian, New York Times, December 1, 2018

“… in 1958 the Supreme Court, in Leng May Ma v. Barber, held that ‘physical detention of aliens is now the exception, not the rule,’ pointing out that ‘certainly this policy reflects the humane qualities of an enlightened civilization.’”

The true depths of Trump’s cruelty are about to be exposed

Greg Sargent, Washington Post, November 28, 2018

“…the incoming chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee vowed that when Democrats take over in January, they will undertake thorough and wide-ranging scrutiny of the justifications behind — and executions of — the top items in Trump’s immigration agenda, from the family separations, to the thinly veiled Muslim ban, to the handling of the current turmoil involving migrants at the border.”

Border agent Lonnie Swartz won’t face a third trial in deadly shooting
Howard Fischer, Tuscon.com, December 6, 2018

“In a new court filing Thursday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Wallace Kleindienst conceded that when jurors found Lonnie Swartz innocent of involuntary manslaughter last month they effectively precluded a new trial on the more serious charge of voluntary manslaughter.”

Mexican Enforcement

Incoming Mexican president faces immediate border test
Sabrina Rodriguez and Ian Kullgren, Politico, December 1, 2018

“The new Mexican government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador will press the United States to invest least $20 billion in Central America and, reportedly, faster asylum processing in exchange for allowing migrants to remain in Mexico while they seek refugee status in the U.S.”

Trump’s ‘Remain In Mexico’ Border Deal Has Serious Legal Problems

Roque Planas, Yahoo, November 30, 2018

“‘This is clearly not what the asylum statute contemplates,’ Barbara Hines, a law professor at the University of Texas at Austin, told HuffPost. ‘It’s just one more way to try to keep people from applying.’”

After inauguration, Mexico’s new government heads to Washington for migration talks
Nick Miroff and Joshua Partlow, Washington Post, November 30, 2018

“The two governments have tentatively agreed to the [Remain in Mexico] deal’s broad outlines, but it has yet to be formalized. Trump administration officials engaged in the talks say they are cautiously optimistic they can seal the agreement, while recognizing the López Obrador administration may need more time.”

Mexico begins moving caravan migrants to new shelter but faces mistrust

Sarah Kinosian, William Branigin, and Antonio Olivo, Washington Post, November 30, 2018

“Mexican authorities have begun moving Central American migrants from a crowded, increasingly unsanitary encampment to a government-run shelter farther from the U.S.-Mexico border, raising fears among members of a migrant caravan that their dreams of asylum in the United States will be dashed.”

The key reason why Central Americans don’t want asylum in Mexico
Ana Campoy, Quartz, November 28, 2018

“But the problem is that Mexico can be just as dangerous as the countries they are fleeing. Furthermore, the US’s strategy is legally problematic: Neither US law nor international commitments require Central Americans to apply for asylum in Mexico.”

Faced with months-long wait in Mexico, some caravan migrants decide to go home
Kevin Sieff and Joshua Partlow, Washington Post, November 28, 2018

“Since the IOM program launched here about a week ago, 50 migrants from Central America have signed up to return to their native countries. In the next few days, the first group will be flown on commercial airlines to Tapachula, in southern Mexico, and then continue to their home countries, probably by bus.”

México y países Centroamericanos firmarán el sábado plan para frenar migración
José Meléndez, El Universal, 27 de noviembre de 2018

“México, Guatemala, El Salvador y Honduras firmarán el próximo sábado, en la capital mexicana, el Plan de Desarrollo Integral de Centroamérica, que tratará de enfrentar los problemas de pobreza y de violencia en la zona para atacar las causas de la masiva migración irregular a Estados Unidos”.

La detención de niños migrantes se disparó 842% durante el sexenio de Peña Nieto
Manu Ureste, Animal Pol
ítico, 27 de noviembre de 2018
“con Peña Nieto se detuvo por año a un promedio de 10 mil 261 menores de 11 años, y con Calderón se detuvo a poco más de mil por año”.

Mexico’s New Leader Faces Clash With Trump Over Migrant Caravan
Azam Ahmed and Elisabeth Malkin, New York Times, November 26, 2018

“Mr. López Obrador must swiftly decide: Will he stand up to Mr. Trump and defend the migrants’ pleas to be allowed into the United States, even if many of their asylum requests will ultimately be rejected? Or will he acquiesce to Mr. Trump’s demands and the economic imperative of good relations with the United States?”

Root Causes

Berta Cáceres: conviction of killers brings some justice, but questions remain
Nina Lakhani, The Guardian, December 1, 2018

“The court was shown a WhatsApp message sent by Desa’s financial manager Daniel Atala regarding criminal charges against Cáceres and two other COPINH leaders. ‘I’ve spent a lot of money and political capital to get those three arrest warrants,’ he wrote. Which politicians made that happen?”

The resolution of an Honduras activist’s murder only exposes the injustice that remains
Nina Lakhani, The Globe and Mail, December 2, 2018

“She couldn’t – she wouldn’t – accept a world in which the poor majority are oppressed so the rich minority can thrive. The fight to stop Agua Zarca was, for her, a battle in a much bigger war against the neo-liberal model. She was a compelling orator and a smart political analyst determined to challenge the status quo – which led to threats, harassment, smear campaigns and fake criminal charges.”

Comunicado de la Familia de Berta, el COPINH, Gustavo Castro y los equipos legales de la causa ante el fallo que juzga a Sergio Rodríguez, Mariano Díaz, Douglas Bustillo, Elvin Heriberto Rápalo, Edilson Duarte, Oscar Haroldo Torres y Emerson Duarte.
COPINH, 29 de noviembre de 2018

“El veredicto que acaba de emitirse NO satisface nuestras exigencias de justicia como víctimas en el asesinato de Berta Cáceres y el intento de asesinato a Gustavo Castro”.

Berta Cáceres: seven men convicted of murdering Honduran environmentalist
Nina Lakhani, The Guardian, November 29, 2018

“The court ruled the murder was ordered by executives of the Agua Zarca dam company Desa because of delays and financial losses linked to protests led by Cáceres. The murder was contracted to a group of hitmen who were paid to kill Cáceres.”

“It Is Not a Natural Disaster”: Dana Frank on How U.S.-Backed Coup in Honduras Fueled Migrant Crisis
Dana Frank, Democracy Now, November 28, 2018

“…where does all the violence and the gang terror come from? It comes from this almost complete destruction of the rule of law. The coup itself was a criminal act. But it’s also that it opened the doors for every kind of conceivable criminal activity.”

Caravan Refugees Fled Honduras —Where the President’s Brother is an Alleged Cartel Kingpin
Ingrid Arnesen, The Daily Beast, November 28, 2018

“And when President Donald Trump talks about ‘bad hombres’ south of the U.S. border, he might have someone like Hernandez in mind. But Hernandez is not part of the caravan of mostly Honduran asylum seekers subjected to tear gas and rubber bullets when they try to cross into the United States. Hernandez is, in fact, emblematic of what those asylum seekers are hoping to escape.”

Honduras: Policía reprime protesta opositora para conmemorar un año del “fraude” electoral

El Periodico, 26 de noviembre de 2018

“Decenas de policías hondureños reprimieron con gases la noche del lunes a cientos de opositores que marcharon en la capital, un año después de las elecciones en las que fue reelecto el presidente Juan Orlando Hernández, a quien exigen renunciar y acusan de ‘fraude’ en esos comicios”.

Melvin Gómez died in the caravan: his story reveals why he and thousands of migrants are fleeing Honduras
Jeff Ernst, Univision, November 27, 2018

“Minimum wage is between $300 and $400 a month depending upon the sector, but 80 percent of the working population doesn’t earn even that. Despite an investment of over $20 billion in strategies to reduce poverty since Hurricane Mitch ravaged the country 20 years ago and sparked the country’s first great wave of migration, 68 percent of the population falls below the poverty line.”

Mexico’s New President Restarts Investigation Into 43 Missing Students
Paulina Villegas, New York Times, December 4, 2018

“It will start a new investigation under a special prosecutor’s office and will aim to consider all leads, including those that were ignored or discarded by the former government.”

Mexico: Forced Disappearance, an Ongoing Crime

Daniel Wilkinson, Human Rights Watch, November 26, 2018

“For many, perhaps most, relatives of the disappeared, the loss of the loved one continues to feel recent, even when logic tells them that the person is most likely dead. So long as there’s uncertainty, there will be hope. So long as there’s hope, they remain trapped in a torturous limbo, unable to mourn or move on with their lives. For parents in particular, abandoning hope feels like a betrayal, like they are killing their own child.”

Matan al periodista Alejandro Márquez; su cuerpo fue ubicado en Nayarit
Animal Político, 2 de diciembre de 2018

“Márquez Jiménez es el noveno periodista asesinado en 2018. El hallazgo de su cuerpo e identificación se dieron al cumplirse el primer día del periodo presidencial de Andrés Manuel López Obrador”.

A Journalist Was Killed in Mexico. Then His Colleagues Were Hacked.
Azam Ahmed, New York Times, November 27, 2018

“Someone was trying to spy on Mr. Valdez’s closest friends and colleagues the day after he was killed last year — most likely the Mexican government, according to those targeted.”

Iglesia advierte: El Salvador cerca de ser Estado fallido por inseguridad
Susana Peñate, La Prensa Gráfica, 3 de diciembre de 2018

“Arzobispo de San Salvador reprocha que el problema de la violencia social no ha sido resuelto por los gobiernos en 25 años y llama a candidatos a presentar propuestas claras”.

‘Finally, they will pay’: justice beckons for survivors of El Salvador massacre

Anna-Catherine Brigida, The Guardian, November 28, 2018

“From December 11 to 13, the US-trained Atlacatl Battalion massacred nearly 1,000 people in El Mozote – 533 children, 220 men and 200 women – trapping them in the local church and houses to shoot them en masse. The military still maintains the official version of events – that the massacre was a confrontation with guerrillas.”

U.S. sends dozens of military vehicles to Guatemala despite alleged misuse
Mary Beth Sheridan, Washington Post, December 6, 2018

“The Trump administration has donated dozens of new military vehicles to the Guatemalan government, just weeks after authorities in the Central American nation were accused of using similar U.S.-supplied Jeeps to intimidate international anti-corruption investigators and American diplomats.”

As Palm Plantations Grab Land, Mayan Women Organize
Martha Pskowski, Sierra Club, December 2, 2018

“Since African palm companies began buying up land in Sayaxché in the late 1990s, arable land has become scarce. The women assembled in Las Pozas have organized to produce meat, fruits, and vegetables to sustain their families.”

U.S. sanctions Nicaraguan officials, including Ortega’s wife

Arshad Mohammed, Reuters, November 27, 2018

“The step will have the effect of freezing any property owned by Murillo and Moncada Lau that falls under U.S. jurisdiction and of barring U.S. individuals, banks and other entities from carrying out any transactions with them.”

Killing Asylum: How Decades of U.S. Policy Ravaged Central America (Podcast)

Jeremy Scahill, The Intercept, November 28, 2018

“This week on Intercepted: Decades of CIA death squads, economic warfare, coups, and support for authoritarian rule played a central role in the exodus of refugees from Central America.”

Why the Migrant Caravan Story Is a Climate Change Story
Todd Miller, Yes Magazine, November 27, 2018

“Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador lie in the trajectory of the so-called “dry corridor” of Central America that stretches from Southern Mexico to Panama. This epithet is a recently adopted description of the region, to describe the droughts that have risen in intensity and frequency over the last 10 years.”

Actions, Reports, and Resources

Fact Sheet: “Remain in Mexico” Plan
Human Rights First, November 2018

“While the details of the plan remain unclear, returning asylum seekers to Mexico could place refugees at risk of being deported to persecution and would violate U.S. law and international treaty obligations.”

Why do some asylum seekers cross the U.S. southern border between ports of entry?

Human Rights First, November 2018

“CBP officers turn back asylum seekers by outright refusal or by telling them to come back another day. In 2017, Human Rights First and other organizations documented numerous examples of illegal turn-backs at multiple crossing points.”

U.S. Unauthorized Immigrant Total Dips to Lowest Level in a Decade

Jeffrey S. Passel and D’Vera Cohn, Pew Research Center, November 27, 2018

“The total is the lowest since 2004. It is tied to a decline of 1.5 million people in the number of Mexican unauthorized immigrants from 2007 to 2016.”

Trump’s ‘Public Charge’ Rule Would Radically Change Legal Immigration
Shawn Fremstad, Center for American Progress, November 27, 2018

“The regulations proposed by the administration would make it harder for working- and middle-class people to immigrate legally to the United States by denying them green cards and visas based on government predictions that they are ‘likely’ to receive Medicaid coverage or other means-tested public benefits at any time in the future.”

Americas: US government endangers asylum seekers with unlawful policies

Amnesty International, November 26, 2018

“Unlawful US border policies are leaving thousands of asylum seekers stranded in Mexico, where they are facing threats of deportation to their countries of origin, where they potentially face serious harm, Amnesty International said today following a research mission last week.”

Stuck at the Door
Amnesty International, November 2018

“… attempts by governments to implement hard-line border controls to prevent irregular arrivals of migrants and refugees do not stem the number of people leaving their countries, yet simply force people to use more clandestine – and as a result more dangerous – routes, putting human lives at risk and fuelling criminal networks.”

Informe Final: Mecanismo Especial de Seguimiento al Asunto Ayotzinapa
Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, 25 de noviembre de 2018

“La Comisión llama al Estado mexicano a redoblar los esfuerzos para determinar el paradero de los estudiantes normalistas, conocer la verdad de lo ocurrido la noche del 26 y 27 de septiembre de 2014, brindar una atención integral a las familias y asegurar que estos hechos atroces no vuelvan a ocurrir”.

Protection in the North of Central America
Norwegian Refugee Council, November 2018

“Forcibly displaced people experience high levels of vulnerability and lack access to basic needs such as food, housing, health, education, and employment. Limited access to durable solutions. Communities affected by violence experience difficulties in accessing basic public services.”


*The Central America/Mexico Migration News Brief is a selection of relevant news articles, all of which do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of the Latin America Working Group.

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