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Central America/Mexico Migration News Brief for February 16, 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.

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•LAWG Urges Congress to Reject President’s FY19 Budget, Harmful to Border & Immigrant Communities and our Latin American Neighbors
LAWG, February 13, 2018

“‘This ‘America First’ budget proposes to curb migration, but its narrow-minded focus fails to address the roots of forced migration. Its cuts to diplomacy, development assistance, peace accord implementation in Colombia, and humanitarian assistance will further fray our relationship with Latin America and the world,’ states Lisa Haugaard, LAWG’s Executive Director.”

U.S. Enforcement

•IACHR Expresses Concern over Situation of Immigrant Defenders in the United States
Organization of American States (OAS), February 16, 2018
“The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses deep concern about allegations that the United States is targeting immigrant human rights defenders and community leaders for detention and deportation. The IACHR calls on the United States to adopt measures to ensure an environment in which they can do their work as human rights defenders freely, without threat of immigration detention and deportation. The IACHR also urges the United States to reconsider its policy of closing legal avenues for migrants and refugees to reach or remain in a regular migration status in the United States.”

•50 Law Enforcement Leaders Send Letter to Senate on Proposals Related to ‘Sanctuary
Law Enforcement Immigration Task Force, February 15, 2018
“As law enforcement leaders dedicated to preserving the safety and security of our communities, we have concerns about legislative proposals that would attempt to impose punitive, ‘one-size fits-all’ policies on state and local law enforcement… Attempts to defund so-called sanctuary cities regularly sweep too broadly, punishing jurisdictions that engage in well-established community policing practices or adhere to federal court decisions that have found federal immigration detainers to violate constitutional protections. We oppose these approaches and urge Congress to work to encourage – rather than compel – law enforcement agency cooperation within our federal system.” 

 •Senate immigration debate ends in failure

Elana Schor and Burgess Everett, Politico, February 15, 2018
“And in a blow to President Donald Trump, the GOP plan to enshrine his four-part immigration framework came the furthest of any proposal from reaching the 60-vote margin needed for passage, failing by 39-60. A competing bipartisan agreement got rejected, 54-45, after a furious White House campaign to defeat it, including a Thursday veto threat.”

•Immigration bills fail in Congress, leaving ‘dreamers’ in limbo
Ed O’Keefe, David Nakamura, and Mike DeBonis, The Washington Post, February 15, 2018
“On Capitol Hill, attention is likely to shift to the House, which could take up the issue after next week’s Presidents’ Day recess A bill sponsored by Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Tex.) has the backing of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus and other conservatives who want to stake out a position further to the right of the White House proposal to guard against future concession The bill includes new resources for immigration enforcement away from the border; a crackdown on ‘sanctuary cities’ — ­jurisdictions that do not cooperate with federal immigration enforcement authorities; and a requirement that employers use ­’E-Verify,’ a federal database, to check whether their employees are authorized to work in the United States.”

•A Path to Citizenship for 1.8 Million DREAMERs? Despite Talk, No Proposal Would Do So
Sarah Pierce, Migration Policy Institute, February, 2018
“We estimate that the McCain-Coons proposal, the USA Act of 2018, would have been the most generous of the options before the Senate—with potentially as many as 1.73 million individuals meeting the requirements for legal permanent residence.”

•ICE launches new immigration sweep in L.A. area; at least 100 detained so far
Cindy Carcamo, Los Angeles Times, February 14, 2018
“The Los Angeles Police Department and many other California law enforcement agencies have said they will not cooperate with ICE on sweeps. The LAPD has long had a policy that prevents officers from asking people about their immigration status, a rule designed to encourage those here illegally to cooperate with law enforcement in criminal investigations.”

•State of Florida Emergency Travel Advisory
Florida Immigration Coalition, February 14, 2018
“Reconsider travel to the State of Florida due to increased likelihood of racial profiling and abuse of civil liberties.”

•Top Seattle ICE official charged with stealing immigrants’ identities
Derek Hawkins, The Washington Post, February 14, 2018
“The charging document states that between October 2013 and October 2017 Sanchez used the personal information of seven immigrants to try to defraud several financial institutions, including American Express, Citibank and Bank of America. The immigrants were all ‘in various stages of immigration proceedings,’ read the document signed by attorneys from Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section.”

•White House Budget Reveals Priorities for Latin America: Massive Cutbacks and Increased Deportations
Adam Isacson, Washington Office on Latin America, February 13, 2018
“U.S. aid responds to important humanitarian and development needs around the world. Overall, it represents a small proportion of the total U.S. budget, and cuts in the foreign assistance budget are not in the interest of the United States. In Latin America, U.S. assistance helps strengthen institutions, enable governments and communities to better fight crime and insecurity, and address the root causes of migration. Instead of supporting the foreign aid programs that are trying to address the violence and poverty driving people to migrate, particularly from Central America, the White House seems insistent on pushing for cutbacks. Thus far, Congress has resisted the Trump administration’s call to cut State Department and USAID funding. It should continue to do so.”

•Second federal judge blocks move to end DACA
Ariane de Vogue, CNN, February 13, 2018

“Tuesday’s ruling, combined with a ruling from a California judge last month, means the program could end up going beyond the March 5 date. The ruling means DACA recipients can renew their status, but the administration will not have to hold the program open to those who never applied.”

•The Gang Crackdown
PBS, February 13, 2018
“Some 25 dead bodies have been found on Long Island since 2016, all linked to the violent gang MS-13. Numerous immigrant teens are missing. As law enforcement tries to stop the gang, FRONTLINE goes inside the crackdown — investigating how the slew of gruesome killings led to many immigrant teens being accused of gang affiliation and unlawfully detained.”

•Donald Trump’s ICE is Tearing Families Apart
Jonathan Blitzer, The New Yorker, February 13, 2018
“A month after assuming office, Trump cancelled all of the enforcement priorities instituted by the Obama Administration, and he encouraged ICE officers to arrest as many people as they could. As a result, any immigrant who is undocumented is now at risk of being arrested and deported. ‘It feels like we’re on a totally different level than in previous Administrations, both Democrat and Republican,’ Escobar, the former Obama aide, told me. ‘From the rhetoric that’s out there, from the policies—they have the staff at ice to do what they want. The will is there. The resources are there. It’s unprecedented.’”

•Government spying on immigrants in America is now fair game. What next?
Azadeh Shahshahani, The Guardian, February 12, 2018
“On 18 October, DHS implemented a new rule to track the internet activity of all visa applicants, visa holders and legal permanent residents. The rule would also apply to naturalized US citizens. The new rule would track and store social media account information and other highly sensitive data as part of individuals’ immigration files. The policy would allow DHS to collect and track immigrants’ social media accounts handles as well as aliases, and search results from both public search engines as well as commercial databases. This kind of mass surveillance overwhelmingly impacts the dignity and fairness extended to American immigrants, more so than other Americans.”

•Arrests of Undocumented Immigrants Without Criminal Records Skyrocketed in 2017
Benjamin Hart, Daily Intelligencer, February 12, 2018
“Many ICE leaders and agents had considered themselves severely limited by the Obama administration’s directives. ‘Morale amongst our agents and officers has increased exponentially since the signing of the orders,’ the unions representing ICE and Border Patrol agents said in a statement last year, shortly after the new diktat went into effect.”

•ICE Agents Arrest Asylum Seeker at His Own Asylum Hearing
Jorge Rivas, Splinter, February 12, 2018
“Omer Abdelmaed was arrested last Thursday, moments after a two-hour asylum interview at the San Francisco branch of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services office. There, he had been asked to recount why he fears returning to Sudan, according to his attorney, Caleb Arring. Arring told local station KTVU that Abdelmaed was opposed to the ruling political party in Sudan and would be persecuted if he returned there. He added that he has never seen anyone arrested at an asylum office in the five years he’s been handling asylum cases.” 

•Polls show Americans are closer to Democrats than Donald Trump on immigration
Dylan Matthews, Vox, February 12, 2018
“What about overall immigration levels? According to the most recent Gallup polling, 38 percent of Americans want to keep immigration levels constant, 24 percent want to increase them, and 35 percent want to lower them. Not only is there a consistent majority for the status quo or greater immigration, but the share of Americans wanting less immigration has fallen in recent years.”

•Trump takes ‘shackles’ off ICE, which is slapping them on immigrants who thought they were safe  
Nick Miroff and Maria Sacchetti, The Washington Post, February 11, 2018
“The Trump administration has given street-level ICE officers and field directors greater latitude to determine whom they arrest and under what conditions, breaking with the more selective enforcement approach of President Barack Obama’s second term.”

•GOP senators introduce version of White House immigration framework
Tal Kopan, CNN, February 11, 2018
“The White House proposal offered a pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million eligible immigrants, more than the 800,000 of whom registered for DACA in the five years of the program. In exchange, the White House sought upwards of $25 billion for border security and a wall, a number of changes to laws to make it easier to deport and detain immigrants, a substantial cut to legal immigration based on family relationships and an end to the diversity visa lottery. The Grassley bill essentially makes those bullet points a reality, including the proposals that would toughen immigration enforcement and limiting family-based visas only to spouses and children under 18 years old — a vastly reduced number of eligible immigrants from the current system.”

•Democrats Can Win on Immigration
Matt A. Barreto, The New York Times, February 11, 2018
“This means that not only is it morally just for Democrats to position themselves as the party that stands against hatred and bigotry and in favor of inclusiveness and opportunity, but it is also a strategically sound position for winning votes. Simultaneously, it sends a clear, welcoming message to Latino, African-American and Asian-American voters, while also winning over enough of the white voters who also oppose immigrant bashing.”

•Yupanqui/Prior: Christians Must Not Fail America’s Dreamers
Bruno Yupanqui and Karen Swallow Prior, The News & Advance, February 11, 2018
“But I don’t know how much longer I have to continue defending my humanity. I don’t know how much more I have to clarify that I’m more than just a statistic, whether that’s used positively or negatively. I don’t know how much more I have to continue telling others that I am American. Because I am.”

•The Childhood Journeys That Made Them ‘Dreamers’
Caitlin Dickerson, The New York Times, February 10, 2018
“The roughly 700,000 unauthorized young immigrants who have come to be known as ‘Dreamers’ took many paths to the United States, but they share one thing: a journey during childhood that defined the rest of their lives.”

•Trump’s vanity wall is biggest obstacle to protecting Dreamers
Vicki Gaubeca, The Hill, February 10, 2018 
“Nearly nine out of 10 Americans support a permanent solution for DACA recipients, while six out of 10 oppose a border wall. If the people’s voices were heard, these bills likely would pass if congressional leadership simply allowed them to go to the floor for a vote.”

•White House floats an offer to keep legal immigration at 1 million per year instead of cutting it
Brian Bennett, Los Angeles Times, February 10, 2018
“The combined effort, officials said, would effectively make up for the cuts in other immigration categories for about 13 years, the official said. After that, if Congress takes no additional action to add or expand visa categories, the total number of people allowed to resettle in the U.S. each year likely would decline by hundreds of thousands.”

•The cruel reality of Trump criminalizing immigration
Carra Stratton and Paromita Shah, The Hill, February 7, 2018
“We do the little we can but ultimately, we need our members of Congress to remove the cruelty from their debates and recognize the humanity in our families. Instead of finalizing the transformation of our laws to the full criminalization of migrants, they should commit to preventing harsh laws from getting even harsher.”

•Not So Fast on Deportations, Judges Tell Immigration Agency
Liz Robbins, The New York Times, February 9, 2018
“These federal judges are not deciding immigration cases, over which they have no jurisdiction, but rather giving people time to fight in the immigration courts. They are slowing deportations by insisting that undocumented immigrants still have the right of due process, even if in many of these cases, the immigrants had known for years that they could be expelled.”

•We Locked Four Experts in a Room Until They Solved Immigration
Julia Preston, Politico, February 9, 2018
“As it turned out, for our model congress, funding Trump’s wall was neither intolerable, nor was it central to anyone’s purposes. But for their deal to work, the wall would have to be left out. (And good luck getting any deal without a wall past Trump.) What our exercise mainly showed is that there is considerably more willingness to negotiate a solution to protect Dreamers than the acrimonious standoff on Capitol Hill over the issue would suggest—even among those on very different sides of the immigration debate.”

•US Congress Rejects Trump Proposals to Slash Latin America Security Aid
Angelika Albaladejo, Insight Crime, February 9, 2018
“Last week, Trump threatened to stop providing aid to Mexico and the Central American nations of Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala ‘if they can’t stop drugs from coming in.’”

•Top Kelly ally resigns, sought extended amnesty for immigrants
Paul Bedard, Washington Examiner, February 9, 2018
“A recent Breitbart report revealed a memo he wrote to top immigration officials in which he said those with TPS status ‘work legally in great numbers,’ are ‘liv[ing] the American dream, ‘have many thousands of American citizen children,’ and ‘it makes no sense to send [citizens of Honduras, Nicaragua, and El Salvador] back to their country of origin.’”

•Immigration agents arrest Houston father of five on his way to work
Lomi Kriel, Chron, February 9, 2018
“‘They pretend like they are looking for someone and then they just start asking people at random,’ said Cesar Espinosa, the [FIEL Houston’s] executive director. ‘What we are looking at is that very fine line between enforcement and racial profiling.’”

•Trump concocted a story about a border agent’s death. The truth won’t catch up.
Dana Milbank, The Washington Post, February 9, 2018
“There was no corrective tweet from Trump or the others and no retraction by Fox News, which buried the FBI’s findings with brief mention. Fox News, which had previously reported immigrants to be guilty of rape allegations that were later dropped, continued to reportthe border union’s claim of assault ‘despite FBI finding no scuffle.’”

•A government worker says he didn’t want to help ICE deport immigrants. So he quit.
Kristine Phillips, The Washington Post, February 9, 2018
“‘People have asked why am I doing this if I have a child. I’m doing this because I have a child,’ Dyrdahl-Roberts wrote on Twitter. ‘I want to be able to look my child in the eye.’ Following orders from ICE meant having a hand in breaking families apart, he said — and he refused to follow such orders.”

•The Senate’s immigration debate, starting next week, is really at least 7 different debates
Dara Lind, Vox, February 8, 2018
“This whole floor debate could be a sideshow while real negotiations are happening in private. Several groups of legislators are theoretically working on new immigration compromises, and none of them have figured one out yet — probably because the biggest splits among legislators aren’t even on policy, but on the question of how important it actually is to pass a bill in the coming weeks. But if they do make a breakthrough, or if McConnell works something out himself, that compromise would be introduced as the new starting point.”

•ICE Issues Guidance on Enforcement at Courthouses
Tory Johnson, American Immigration Council, February 7, 2018
“The directive, dated January 10 but only made public last week, states that ICE agents and officials have the authority to conduct immigration enforcement inside federal, state, and local courthouses against “specific, targeted” individuals when the agency has information suggesting the person is currently located at the courthouse.”

Mexican Enforcement

•Casi 600 migrantes centroamericanos localizados en el último mes en Tamaulipas
Jacobo García, Observatorio de Legislación y Políticas Migratorias, 13 de febrero de 2018
“La suma de todas las operaciones ‘dan un resultado de 581 migrantes liberados’, dijo Rodríguez quien describió como lamentable la situación en la que se encontraban los migrantes. ‘Estaban mal comidos, deshidratados, sin medicamentos’, señaló. Según el portavoz, el tráfico de migrantes es una de las principales fuentes de ingresos de los grupos delictivos que operan en la zona’”.

•Mujeres migrantes son acusadas falsamente de trata en Chiapas: Centro Prodh
Andrea Vega, Animal Político, 12 de febrero de 2018
“Los delitos más recurrentes imputados a hombres centroamericanos en prisiones estatales mexicanas fueron homicidio y robo. En cambio, a las mujeres se les acusaba principalmente de trata y lenocinio (con 22 % del total de casos); 20 % eran imputadas por lo menos de delitos contra la salud y otro porcentaje igual por lo menos por delitos sexuales”.

Root Causes

•Leader of Honduras Anticorruption Mission Resigns
Associated Press, VOA, February 16, 2018
“The head of the Organization of American States’ anticorruption mission in Honduras resigned Thursday citing a lack of support from the regional body and the Honduran government. Juan Jimenez Mayor said in a statement that the OAS didn’t provide the resources necessary for the mission to be effective and noted that OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro did not receive him last month when he traveled to Washington.”

•MS13 in the Americas: How the World’s Most Notorious Gang Defies Logic, Resists Destruction
InSight Crime, February 12, 2018
“The Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) is one of the world’s largest and arguably most violent street gangs. After relatively humble beginnings in Los Angeles in the 1980s, it has spread to more than a half-dozen countries and become a central focus of law enforcement in two hemispheres. In spite of these efforts, the MS13 remains a persistent threat and shows signs of expanding its criminal portfolio. This report attempts to explain what makes the MS13 such a difficult problem for authorities to tackle. It focuses on assisting law enforcement’s understanding of the gang’s criminal activities, but it includes deep discussion on the social and political issues around the MS13.”

•Violencia lanza a salvadoreños a vivir calvario en Costa Rica
Ximena Alfaro M., La Prensa Gráfica, 12 de febrero de 2018
“Desde 2015, Costa Rica ha recibido un número cada vez más grande de peticiones de refugio de parte de salvadoreños. Los casos aquí descritos son de familias completas que fueron desplazadas por la violencia de pandillas”.

•Condenas confirman que en PNC hay grupos de exterminio: IDHUCA
Ezequiel Barrera, La Prensa Gráfica, 12 de febrero de 2018
“Durante la investigación, la Fiscalía General de la República (FGR) logró demostrar que estos seis policías y los 12 civiles cometieron al menos 10 homicidios, dos intentos de homicidio, una privación de libertad y robos en los municipios de Ciudad Arce, Colón, Armenia y Sacacoyo, del departamento de La Libertad”.

•Score of Mexican Ex-Cops Charged with Abductions, Killings
Latin American Herald Tribune, February 12, 2018
“The state Attorney General’s Office accuses them of carrying out a state policy to illegally detain, torture and kill private citizens during the administration of former Gov. Javier Duarte, who governed the state from 2010 to 2016 and is currently jailed on money laundering and organized crime charges.”

•Trump’s focus on MS-13 risks bolstering gang’s fearsome image, study says
Oliver Laughland, The Guardian, February 12, 2018 
“In the United States, the federal government has made the MS-13 a center-point of its immigration policy, which has bolstered the gang’s image as the most feared gang in the region. The gang will take advantage of this political capital when it is handed to it,” the study cautions.”

•Tillerson’s Attempt to Mend Ties in Latin America
Christopher Sabatini, The New York Times, February 9, 2018
“But the administration’s rhetoric on immigration, free trade and American allies’ commitment to battling the scourge of narcotics — not to mention Mr. Tillerson’s embrace of the Monroe Doctrine — have weakened Washington’s leverage throughout Latin America, as the declining popular approval of the Trump administration demonstrates.”

•Guatemala needs help in its battle against corruption
Michael E. Allison, The Hill, January 25, 2018
“The U.S. and international community must support the Guatemalan people in defense of the gains that they have made over the last 10 years. Otherwise, the hard work of its citizens and attorney general will have been for nothing.”

Actions, Alerts & Resources

•Report | ICE Lies: Public Deception, Private Profit
National Immigration Justice Center, February, 2018
“ICE Lies: Public Deception, Private Profit, a joint report by the National Immigrant Justice Center and Detention Watch Network, proposes that DHS’s patterns of irresponsible governance—including fiscal mismanagement and opacity in detention operations—contribute to a failure of accountability for its ongoing rights violations. Addressing these good governance concerns would not address all the problems in the system, or even the worst of them, but would constitute a critical first step toward oversight that has been sorely lacking on the part of Congress and independent oversight bodies like the DHS Office of Inspector General.”

•Putting lives at risk: Protection failures affecting Honduras and Salvadorans deported from the United States and Mexico
Francisca Vigaud-Walsh, Refugees International, February 15, 2018
“According to findings from this Refugees International (RI) report, both the United States and Mexico are deporting individuals with significant protection needs back to Honduras and El Salvador – the countries from which they fled. The report, Putting Lives at Risk: Protection Failures Affecting Hondurans and Salvadorans Deported from the United States and Mexico, finds that the protection process at every stage – from the processing of an asylum application to deportation and reintegration into the country of origin – suffers from serious failures that ultimately put lives at risk. The RI research also found that despite important investments in reception services for deportees, both Honduras and El Salvador have weak protection systems.”

•Every immigration proposal in one chart
Lisa Desjardins, PBS News Hour, February 13, 2018
“A range of immigration proposals under debate in the Senate this week could change the lives of hundreds of thousands of young, undocumented immigrants who are now protected from deportation by DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. The measures will join several bills that are under consideration in Congress — not to mention the immigration proposal the White House released earlier this month. It can be hard to keep up with all the different policy ideas. That’s why we created a chart with all the various immigration plans circulating on Capitol Hill. We published the chart last month, and have updated it this week now that the debate in the Senate is gaining steam.”

•Fact Sheet: Family-Based Immigration
Zuzana Jerabek, National Immigration Forum, January 30, 2018
“Family immigration is the primary basis for legal immigration to the United States. Under current immigration law, U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (LPRs) can sponsor certain family members for a visa that provides permanent residence, also known as a “green card.”

•Hold CBP Accountable
ACLU, American Immigration Council and Northwest Immigrant Rights Project 
“This site documents litigation taken across the country in an ongoing effort to establish accountability and transparency of one of the fastest growing agencies in the United States. The website also directs readers to additional resources for those seeking to monitor CBP’s disregard of constitutional and statutory rights.”

*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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