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Central America/Mexico Migration News Brief for April 6, 2018

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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.

Source: Luc Forsyth (Buzzfeed News)


•Tell Secretary Nielsen: Stop Separating Families!
LAWG, March 2018
“Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, abandon the cruel, costly, and unjustified practice of separating families seeking protection at our borders, including those who are fleeing persecution in their home countries. Children belong with their parents in safe communities, not locked up in detention centers.”

•Press Release: LAWG Launches Report, Warns Conditions Driving Migrant Caravan Persist
LAWG, April 3, 2018
“‘The U.S. should not be pressuring Mexico to step up its migration enforcement like it has in the past at the cost of offering those fleeing persecution a chance to make their claims heard. It is not illegal to seek asylum and due process should be upheld. The Mexican government, for its part, should not send people back to their death and instead uphold its responsibility under international and national law to screen and recognize people’s concerns. Doing otherwise will only leave families, individuals, and children between a wall and a dangerous place and fuel the vicious cycle of displacement and migration,’ said LAWG Senior Associate Daniella Burgi-Palomino.”

•Between a Wall and a Dangerous Place: The Intersection of Human Rights, Public Security, Corruption & Migration in Honduras and El Salvador
Lisa Haugaard, Daniella Burgi-Palomino, & Andrea Fernández, LAWG, March 2018
“This report is a series of blog posts written from October 2017 through March 2018 about the dangers and challenges faced by Honduran and Salvadoran citizens in their home countries, even as the Trump Administration moves to deport more Honduran- and Salvadoran-born people in the United States back to home countries they may no longer know and restrict protections to those fleeing. The series, based on interviews with activists, government officials, journalists, humanitarian workers, diplomats, and academics, shows how the dangers that propel  children, teenagers, women, and men from those countries to seek refuge in the United States, Mexico, and elsewhere have not ended.”

U.S. Enforcement

•Immigration Groups Demand Records Related to Family Separation at the Border
Emily Creighton, Immigration Impact, April 5, 2018
“These requests ask for records detailing agency methods for separating family members, tracking individual family members after they have been separated, facilitating communication between separated family members, and determining where to house minor children and detain their parents. The FOIAs also ask for data that will help the public understand the impact of this practice before and during the Trump administration.”

•Trump conjures a new immigrant rape crisis
Aaron Blake, The Washington Post, April 5, 2018
“President Trump has returned to the controversial — and unproven — claim that arguably launched his 2016 campaign, accusing migrants headed for the United States of epidemic rape and the countries they come from of sending criminals northward.”

•Where is the Caravan of People Seeking Asylum in the U.S. Now?
Chantal de Silva, Newsweek, April 4, 2018
“Many of the marchers in the refugee caravan headed toward the U.S. are coming from Honduras, where disputed elections in November led to weeks of street protests and ‘brutal’ repression, according to the Latin America Working Group (LAWG). ‘The United States should have cut off all military aid to Honduras due to the brutal killings of people by Honduran security forces, most by the military police, who were protesting against electoral fraud after the contested November 2017 elections,’ Lisa Haugaard, executive director of LAWG said in a statement.”

•Who Are the People Behind the Migrant Caravan?
NBCnews, April 4, 2018
“The conditions that prompted the 2014 spike still exist in Central America today, said Daniella Burgi-Palomino, senior associate with the Latin American Working Group, which issued a report on conditions Tuesday. ‘People are not leaving for economic reasons or to take advantage of a system in the U.S.,’ Burgi-Palomino said. ‘They have real valid claims of fear of returning to the country. They don’t have access to justice. The refugee crisis from the Northern Triangle has not ended.’”

•Trump plays to his base on Central American migrant caravan — few will ever reach the US
Elizabeth Oglesby, The Hill, April 4, 2018
“‘We are reaping what we sow in Honduras,’ said LAWG director Lisa Haugaard, in a press release Tuesday. ‘A failure of the international community including the United States to take a strong stance against repression is intensifying the human rights crisis in the country and contributing to the outflow of refugees.’”

•Torres Statement on Trump Central American Migration Comments
Rep. Norma J. Torres (D-CA), April 4, 2018
“By abandoning the cause of democracy in Honduras, the Trump administration has helped to create the chaos we are seeing there now. Instead of blaming Mexico for a new wave of Central American migration, President Trump should look in the mirror.”

•Fears over rushed trials as US immigration judges get quota
Al Jazeera News, April 3, 2018
“US immigration judges will be expected to complete 700 cases a year in a new quota system, prompting fears that cases will be rushed through…. The numerical targets for the roughly 350 immigration judges working for the department are intended to reduce a backlog of around 680,000 cases.”

•Trump Plans to Send National Guard to the Mexican Border
Julie Hirschfeld Davis, The New York Times, April 3, 2018
“Mr. Trump has spoken before about launching a military operation to police the border, only to have his aides walk back the remarks amid a backlash from members of his administration and officials in Mexico. Last February, he called his immigration crackdown ‘a military operation,’ prompting Rex W. Tillerson, then the secretary of state, and Mr. Kelly, then the homeland security secretary, who were visiting Mexico at the time, to push back vigorously. They told their Mexican counterparts and reporters that the American president did not, in fact, plan to use the military to hunt down and deport unauthorized immigrants. The White House later insisted that Mr. Trump had meant the word ‘military’ only as an adjective. On Tuesday, though, the president appeared convinced that American troops were needed.”

•The Facts Behind ‘Caravans’ of Immigrants
Alex Kasprak, Snopes, April 3, 2018
“While BuzzFeed’s reporting implied that a few may attempt an actual crossing of the border illegally, this is a largely inaccurate characterization. The main goal, as in years prior, is to draw attention to the dangers inherent to fleeing violence in Central America by creating a mass request for asylum.”

•How Trump is quietly rewriting US immigration policy
Tal Kopan, CNN, April 2, 2018
“Immigration lawyers say they’ve already seen the effects of greater scrutiny of applications for visas, they say slowing down the process and setting higher bars for longstanding categories of visas all under the mantle of ‘Buy American, Hire American’ efforts and so-called ‘extreme vetting.’ It’s been accompanied by a sharp rise in arrests of undocumented immigrants and especially a rise in those without criminal records, also accomplished by simple changes in prioritization and definitions.”

Hannah Dreier, Propublica, April 2, 2018 
“President Trump had seized on MS-13 as a symbol of the dangers of immigration, referring to parts of Long Island as ‘bloodstained killing fields.’ Police were desperately looking for informants who could help them crack how the gang worked and make arrests. Henry gave them a way in.”

•New Quotas for Immigration Judges as Trump Administration Seeks Faster Deportations
Laura Meckler, The Wall Street Journal, April 2, 2018
“Immigration attorneys and the union that represents judges warned the rules would pressure judges to resolve cases quickly at the expense of hearing out evidence that could help defendants trying to stay in the U.S. ‘This is a recipe for disaster,’ said A. Ashley Tabaddor, an immigration judge in Los Angeles who is president of the National Association of Immigration Judges. ‘You are going to, at minimum, impact the perception of the integrity of the court.’”

•Venting on Immigration, Trump Vows ‘No More DACA Deal’ and Threatens Nafta
Katie Rogers, The New York Times, April 1, 2018
“Whatever his intention, Mr. Trump’s Twitter outburst captured the fickle tendencies that have driven his policy positions on immigration. On one hand, he has suggested at times that he is open to extending citizenship to millions of undocumented people. On the other hand, he has denounced those who have entered the country illegally as brutal criminals and raged about lax enforcement that he said had allowed immigrants to pour into the country.”

•Trump’s border wall: US military is as unlikely to pay for it as Mexico
Tom McCarthy, The Guardian, March 31, 2018
“‘This is not a man who knows anything about how to actually govern,’ said Gordon Adams, who served as associate director for national security and international affairs at the OMB under Bill Clinton. ‘You’d have to have congressional action to allow the transfer of the funds. And that would require 60 votes in the Senate and that means he’d have to have the Democrats on board.’”

•The Myth of the Criminal Immigrant
Anna Flagg, The New York Times, March 30, 2018
“In 136 metro areas, almost 70 percent of those studied, the immigrant population increased between 1980 and 2016 while crime stayed stable or fell. The number of areas where crime and immigration both increased was much lower — 54 areas, slightly more than a quarter of the total. The 10 places with the largest increases in immigrants all had lower levels of crime in 2016 than in 1980. And yet the argument that immigrants bring crime into America has driven many of the policies enacted or proposed by the administration so far: restrictions to entry, travel and visas; heightened border enforcement; plans for a wall along the border with Mexico.”

•A New Official ICE Policy Calls for the Detention of Pregnant Women
Katie Shepherd, Immigration Pact, March 30, 2018 
“The government is not required to detain every person who arrives at our Southern border, pregnant women included. In fact, ICE’s blanket refusal to release detained non-citizens is currently being challenged in court. Many of the detainees are asylum seekers who are not subject to mandatory detention and have not been deemed a flight risk or danger to the community.”

•US Judge Opens Door for Thousands to Apply for Asylum
Associated Press, VOA, March 29, 2018
Due to a backlog in immigration cases, the asylum seekers are often not given a hearing within a year, and thus, by the time they show up in court and learn about the deadline, it’s already passed, Martinez found. ‘This means many asylum seekers who were previously going to have a door slammed in their face are now able to say, ‘No, a federal court has said that I am timely filing my application and you need to accept it’’ said Matt Adams, legal director of the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project and an attorney for the plaintiffs.”

•US to require would-be immigrants to turn over social media handles
Tal Kopan, CNN, March 29, 2018
“According to notices submitted by the State Department on Thursday, set for formal publication on Friday, the government plans to require nearly all visa applicants to the US to submit five years of social media handles for specific platforms identified by the government — and with an option to list handles for other platforms not explicitly required.”

•Exclusive: Under Trump, prosecutors fight reprieves for people facing deportation
Reade Levinson, Reuters, March 29, 2018
“Under a procedure known as ‘administrative closure,’ judges can indefinitely shelve deportation cases of immigrants who have lived illegally for years in the United States but have not committed serious crimes and have strong family or other ties in the country. The immigrants are not granted full legal status and their cases can be reopened at any time. In the interim they can remain in the country and often are eligible to work legally… In the first year after Donald Trump became president, the trend was sharply reversed, with about 20,000 cases closed, 64 percent fewer than the previous year.”

•President Trump talked to Defense Secretary James Mattis about using military funds to pay for border wall
Amanda Macias, CNBC, March 29, 2018 
“When asked if taking money away from the service branches in order to fund Trump’s wall would harm Mattis’ goal of a maintaining a lethal military force, White responded, ‘I think that’s a bridge too far because we don’t have those details’.”

•How Would Pompeo Affect U.S. Policy Toward the Region?
James R. Jones, Ray Walser, Riordan Roett & Raymond A. Joseph, Inter-American Dialogue, March 29, 2018
“U.S. President Donald Trump announced his firing of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on March 13 in a tweet in which he also said that he would nominate current Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo for the role. Tillerson’s dismissal came just days after the White House announced that Trump would attend the Summit of the Americas next month in Peru, followed by a stop in Colombia, marking his first trip to Latin America as president. Will Pompeo receive smooth confirmation in the Senate? What does Pompeo’s rise to secretary of state mean for U.S. policy toward Latin America and the Caribbean? What will Trump accomplish on his trip to South America next month?”

•Immigration detention in the United States denies basic human freedoms
Cristina Fialho, Los Angeles Times, March 28, 2018 
“Orange County is home to not one, but two, of these immigrant jails, where asylum seekers, legal permanent residents, victims of human trafficking and others are locked up, at times indefinitely. Many of them are often forced to work in these jails and prisons for $1 a day.”

•Trump proposal would penalize immigrants who use tax credits and other benefits
Nick Miroff, The Washington Post, March 28, 2018
“Current rules penalize immigrants who receive cash welfare payments, considering them a ‘public charge.’ But the proposed changes from the Department of Homeland Security would broaden the government’s definition of benefits to include the widely used earned-income tax credit as well as health insurance subsidies and other ‘non-cash public benefits.’ The changes would apply to those seeking immigration visas or legal permanent residency, such as a foreigner with an expiring work visa. While they would make little difference to those living here illegally, it could affect immigrants protected by the ­Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — whose termination has been blocked by federal courts — if they attempt to file for full legal residency.”

•USCIS Is Withholding Records Showing That Border Agents Are Abusing Asylum Seekers
Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, Immigration Impact, March 26, 2018 
“A new Freedom of Information Act lawsuit hopes to reveal how asylum officials’ repeated concerns about CBP officer misconduct were left unaddressed. The lawsuit, filed by Human Rights Watch and Nixon Peabody LLP, seeks information about such misbehavior, including hundreds of reports that CBP failed to properly screen asylum seekers.”

•Disappearances at US-Mexico Border Highlight Persistent Insecurity
Scott Squires, InSight Crime, March 23, 2018 
“A new report has revealed that the Mexican states with the highest rates of disappearances are located along the US-Mexico border, illustrating how both crime groups and security forces in those areas have adopted the tactic for various reasons.”



Mexican Enforcement


Peña a Trump: saque en EU su frustración; alistan a 4 mil militares en frontera
Enrique Sánchez, Excelsior, 6 de abril de 2018 
“Si sus recientes declaraciones derivan de una frustración por asuntos de política interna, de sus leyes o de su Congreso, diríjase a ellos, no a los mexicanos. No vamos a permitir que la retórica negativa defina nuestras acciones”.

The Mexican Government Will Safeguard the Nation’s Interests and Sovereignty
Secretary of Foreign Relations, April 4, 2018
“In all of its communications on the topic, the Mexican government has stated to the US government that if the planned deployment of the National Guard results in the militarization of the border, it would seriously damage the bilateral relationship.”

•Mexican ambassador: Mexico doesn’t welcome Trump’s call for military to border
Eli Watkins, CNN, April 3, 2018
“Gutiérrez said likewise that the Mexican government shared a desire for a secure border with the United States, but acknowledged the two neighboring nations disagreed in major ways on how to achieve that security. He cited Trump’s proposed border wall as an example and again stressed the Mexican government’s position that it will not pay for Trump’s wall.”

•Mexico: We don’t ‘make immigration decisions for US’
Susannah Cullinane, CNN, April 3, 2018
“Mexico has firmly rejected US President Donald Trump’s accusations of lax efforts to stop illegal migration over the Mexican-US border, saying in a statement Monday that it does not promote such activity under any circumstances… Mexico ‘does not make immigration decisions for the United States or any other nation,’ the statement said, adding that the respective authorities ‘will decide whether to authorize or not the entry of those who are part of the caravan.’”

•Migrant caravan heading to U.S. border puts Mexico in tough spot with Trump
Delphine Schrank & Mica Rosenberg, Reuters, April 2, 2018
“Local officials have offered lodging in town squares and empty warehouses or arranged transport for the migrants, participants in a journey organized by the immigrant advocacy group Pueblo Sin Fronteras. The officials have conscripted buses, cars, ambulances and police trucks. But the help may not be entirely altruistic. ‘The authorities want us to leave their cities,’ said Rodrigo Abeja, an organizer from Pueblo Sin Fronteras. ‘They’ve been helping us, in part to speed the massive group out of their jurisdictions.’”

•Dozens of Central American Children Rescued From Sweltering Truck in Mexico
Reuters, The New York Times, March 30, 2018 
“The 136 migrants, from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua, were rescued in the violent southeastern state of Veracruz after 24 hours in temperatures above 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 Celsius), Mexico’s migration institute INM said.Tens of thousands of Central Americans fleeing violence and poverty in their homelands aim to pass through Mexico to the United States every year, often transported by human traffickers who subject them to perilous conditions.”

Root Causes

•’If our countries were safe, we wouldn’t leave’: the harsh reality of Mexico’s migrant caravan
David Agren, The Guardian, April 6, 2018
“Isabel Nerio Rodríguez, 52, also fled after extortion demands. She tried to open a bakery in El Salvador, but a gang demanded a $300 (£214) fee for starting operations and threatened to kill her grandson if she didn’t pay. ‘The only thing we want is security for our children,’ said Rodríguez, whose own daughter had been grabbed by gangbangers and gang-raped after refusing to become their leader’s girlfriend. ‘If our countries were safe, we wouldn’t leave,’ she continued. ‘Who would want to leave and suffer like this?’”


•IACHR Urges El Salvador to Comply with the Recommendations from the Truth Commission’s Final Report, 25 Years after its Publication
Organization of American States (OAS), April 2, 2018
“Progress remains stalled on the issue of memory, truth, justice, and comprehensive reparation of the victims. According to the United Nations, only 3 of the more than 100 criminal charges have led to cases being opened since the Amnesty Law was declared unconstitutional. Moreover, information received by the Commission indicates that the Armed Forces are not providing information concerning cases from the armed conflict. With respect to the right to reparation, a law that would ensure comprehensive reparation to the victims is still pending approval.”

•Lolotique despide al padre Vásquez, asesinado el jueves
Juan Carlos Díaz, La Prensa Gráfica, 2 de abril de 2018
“Las investigaciones indican que el sacerdote fue atacado por tres individuos que se conducían a bordo de un vehículo, con el cual interceptaron la camioneta en la que viajaban el sacerdote y otras personas, él fue separado y después le hicieron un disparo, en ese momento trató de huir, pero le asestaron otros disparos”.

•Army to withdraw from street patrols in Guatemala
Channel NewsAsia, April 1, 2018 
“Earlier this month defense minister Luis Ralda announced troops would stand down. Ministry spokesman Colonel Oscar Perez told Guatemala’s state news agency Saturday the country’s national security council established the interior ministry and police were capable of taking over.”

•A New Pact to Defend Latin America’s Environmental Activists
David Danzig, Open Society Foundations, March 29, 2018
“The measure, known as The Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin American and the Caribbean, is also intended to give people affected by development projects a voice in the deliberations around their approval, and some recourse if a project harms them. The agreement is the first binding legal treaty on environmental rights in the region.”

•America’s guns: Made in the US, killing in Mexico
John Lindsay-Poland, Al Jazeera, March 28, 2018
“Most of the guns used in those crimes came from the US – 70 percent of guns recovered at crime scenes in Mexico and traced since 2009 were purchased in the US and trafficked across the border. Doing so is easy, since the US-Mexico border is designed principally to facilitate massive volumes of trade. The Border Patrol, fences, and militarised infrastructure on that border are to stop migrants moving from south to north, not threats that move from the US into Mexico.”

Actions, Reports, and Resources

•Omnibus Appropriations for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018: Department of Justice (DOJ)
Christian Penichet-Paul, National Immigration Forum, March 29, 2018
“On March 23, 2018, President Trump signed the omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 (H.R. 1625). This document provides an overview of the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) appropriations for its immigration-related responsibilities and compares them to the amounts appropriated for FY 2017.”

•Omnibus Appropriations for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018: Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
Christian Penichet-Paul, National Immigration Forum, March 29, 2018

“President Trump signed the omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2018 (H.R. 1625), which passed Congress with bipartisan support, on March 23, 2018. This document provides an overview of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) appropriations for its immigration-related responsibilities and compares the amounts to those appropriated for FY 2017.”

•The War Report 2017: Gang Violence in Colombia, Mexico, and El Salvador
Ana Balcazar Moreno, Ximena Mercedes Galvez Lima, Julie Lambin & Lina Rodriguez, The Geneva Academy, December 2017
“In recent years, Latin America has witnessed an increase in the rate of violence and the forced displacement of thousands of people due to insecurity and confrontations between state forces and armed gangs or between these gangs themselves. This article analyses three case studies of countries that have stood out for their elevated rate of violence, violent homicides and criminal activities: Colombia, Mexico and El Salvador. These countries are severely scourged by the expansion of the phenomena of urban gangs, gang violence and organized crime.”

•Borderlands Conservation Hotspots on the Line
Defenders of Wildlife
“The 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border—and the ‘big, beautiful wall’  the Trump administration envisions along parts of it—pass through stunning and biologically diverse landscapes. Together the United States and Mexico have long labored to protect these lands. President Trump’s vision does not bode well for the future of collaborative cross-border conservation and the wildlife.”

*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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