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Central America/Mexico Migration News Brief for February 23, 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: John Moore, Getty Images

U.S. Enforcement

•Their daughters were held at the border – then the blackmail from fake Ice agents began
Micah Hauser, The Guardian, February 23, 2018

“Over the past five months, at least 11 families with relatives – all asylum-seeking mothers and children – detained at the facility have been extorted by impersonators who have demanded payment to stop their loved ones being deported. In total, the victims have paid more than $13,500, none of which has been recovered.”

•USCIS Changes to Asylum Interview Scheduling Allows Long-Pending Cases to Languish
Royce Murray, American Immigration Council Immigration Impact, February 23, 2018

“While scheduling asylum interviews in a timely manner is important to applicants, as well as the government, this decision will create additional obstacles for many worthy applicants looking to successfully claim asylum. Over the years while applicants wait for an interview, detailed memories fade, supporting documents get lost, corroborating witnesses become harder to find, and evidence grows stale. Long delays also prevent family members from reuniting in safety together, as spouses or children may be left in tenuous situations outside of the United States.”

•Immigration agency removing ‘nation of immigrants’ from mission statement
Max Greenwood, The Hill, February 22, 2018

“’The agency’s new mission statement was developed and debuted within the agency by USCIS Director Cissna during his first conference with USCIS senior leadership from around the world,’ a USCIS official told The Hill. ‘It reflects the director’s guiding principles for the agency. This includes a focus on fairness, lawfulness and efficiency, protecting American workers, and safeguarding the homeland. These key priorities are reflected in the agency’s new mission statement.’”

•Some immigrants in danger of losing TPS should be able to seek green cards, federal lawsuit says
Antonio Olivo, The Washington Post, February 22, 2018

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in New York, seeks to force federal immigration officials to adopt a more lenient policy toward such cases and to address conflicting legal opinions that have allowed TPS holders in some parts of the country to qualify for green cards or work visas, while others, who live elsewhere, cannot. ‘We’ve advocated for years for a more uniform policy without any result,’ said Mary A. Kenney, a senior attorney at the American Immigration Council in Washington, which filed the lawsuit. ‘The solution is for there to be a uniform interpretation of the law.’”

•With three months left in medical school, her career may be slipping away.
Maria Sacchetti, The Washington Post, February 22, 2018

“‘I’ve gotten emails saying, ‘Oh, we loved you,’ Aramburo, 28, said one recent morning as she hurried to predawn rounds at a neurology intensive-care unit. ‘But in the back of my mind, I’m thinking, ‘What if I can’t finish?’”

•Trump’s ending immigrant program racially motivated: Lawsuit
Alanna Durkin Richer, ABC News, February 22, 2018

“The lawsuit filed in federal court in Boston seeks to block the administration from terminating temporary protected status for thousands of immigrants from Haiti and El Salvador. It claims Trump’s move to rescind the program was rooted in animus against immigrants of color, citing comments he made on the campaign trial and in office.”

•Trump threatens to yank immigration enforcement from California, warns crime would explode
Dan Mangan, CNBC, February 22, 2018

“President Donald Trump angrily said Thursday that he is considering withdrawing immigration and border control enforcement agencies from California because of what he called the state’s ‘protection of horrible criminals.’ Trump said crime would explode in California if he took such an action — and predicted that the Golden State would be ‘begging’ for the return of federal immigration authorities within two months.”

•American higher education at risk from immigration policies, says USC president
Natasha Turak, CNBC, February 21, 2018

“Out of the Los Angeles-based university’s 38,000 students, about 23 percent are from abroad. The challenge of students being able to stay and work in the U.S. after graduation is a major issue for universities and many employers alike, who argue that the country loses valuable talent because of restrictive visa regulations.”

•Immigration Curbs Will Weaken Social Security
Howard Gleckman, Forbes, February 21, 2018

“Just one proposal—a Senate bill to reduce the number of permanent residency visas (green cards)– would increase unfunded Social Security obligations by $1.5 trillion, or 13 percent, over the next 75 years. In the nearer term, it would accelerate by one year the date by which the Social Security trust fund is projected to be depleted—from 2034 to 2033.”

•When it comes to immigration, America suffers from amnesia
Cardinal Joseph William Tobin, The Hill, February 21, 2018

“Elected officials and some in the media throw around new phrases to describe Dreamers such as ‘chain migration.’ There is nothing more harmful or hurtful to describe the human migration experience and its importance to society than to use a term such as ‘chain migration.’”

•Under Trump, Border Patrol Steps Up Searches Far From the Border
Ron Nixon, The New York Times, February 21, 2018

“Border Patrol officers are working without permission on private property and setting up checkpoints up to 100 miles away from the border under a little-known federal law that is being used more widely in the Trump administration’s aggressive crackdown on illegal immigration.”

•Republicans try to link sanctuary cities to the opioid epidemic. They fail.
Kate Irby, McClatchy, February 20, 2018

“While the Drug Enforcement Agency estimates the vast majority of heroin in the U.S. is facilitated in some way through Mexican drug cartels, ‘most of the people that I prosecuted at the border for moving huge amounts of drugs were U.S. citizens,’ said Arthur Rizer, who was a federal drug prosecutor with the Department of Justice. ‘Sure, you get some immigrants with backpacks of stuff, but the tractor trailers full of drugs are typically going to be people here legally.’”

•Trump administration sued over detention of immigrant children
Brendan Pierson, Reuters, February 20, 2018

“‘In a sharp break from the laws and policies intended to protect these vulnerable children, the Trump administration has vilified and targeted them,’ the lawsuit said.”

•U.S. is separating immigrant parents and children to discourage others, activists say
Molly Hennessy-Fiske, Los Angeles Times, February 20, 2018

“Historically, most border crossers were sent back to their home countries, but the Trump administration has threatened to prosecute some migrant parents because entering the country illegally is a federal crime. The first offense is a misdemeanor, with a maximum sentence of six months. Those caught a second time face a felony charge with a maximum sentence of up to 20 years, depending on their criminal record. Once a case becomes a criminal matter, parents and children are separated.”

•With deportation looming, Haitian workers highlight their role in Florida’s tourism industry
Renata Sago, Marketplace, February 20, 2018

“Every morning, hundreds of uniformed workers file into the employee entrance of the ‘most magical place on Earth’ — Walt Disney World, where they are responsible for keeping the resort’s lavishly themed rooms clean and guests happy.”

•Why Employers In Georgia Are Watching The Immigration Debate Closely
Joel Rose, NPR, February 19, 2018

“Business is booming in Dalton. The town has finally bounced back from the Great Recession, when it suffered some of the worst job losses in the country. Now employers here have a different problem: too many open jobs, and not enough applicants to fill them.”

•Francisco Cantú: ‘This is work that endangers the soul’
Ursula Kenny, The Guardian, February 18, 2018

“Part of my reason for writing this book was looking back on my time in the patrol and thinking about all the ways that I was lending myself and my identity to help enforce ultimately flawed policies. And when I look at them now, these are policies that feel violent and inhumane. And so in the book, and in my life, I was really trying to grapple honestly with my own culpability and with all the ways that I can and cannot extract myself from the work that I did and from the institutions I was a part of.”

•Ninth Circuit Asked to Quash Limits on Border Crossing Photos
Matt Reynolds, Courthouse News Services, February 16, 2018

“During arguments on appeal, Ebadolahi said the ACLU was not disputing that the government has an interest in border security and the plaintiffs knew they could not take unauthorized photos over border agents’ shoulders, or snap pictures of other sensitive material like computer screens or interview rooms. ‘This is not about the right to enter into restricted areas and take whatever photographs you want,’ Ebadolahi said. ‘Everything that we’re talking about is visible out of doors.’”

•U.S. top court mulls whether to take up ‘Dreamers’ dispute
Lawrence Hurley, Reuters, February 16, 2018

“The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday discussed in private how to handle President Donald Trump’s appeal of a judge’s decision blocking his plan to end protections for young illegal immigrants dubbed ‘Dreamers,’ and the nine justices could announce as early as Tuesday whether they will take up the case.”

•Outrage as US border agents cut visit times for divided families
Sam Levin, The Guardian, February 16, 2018

“At Friendship Park, which extends from San Diego to Tijuana, US authorities are now limiting meetings to 30 minutes and allowing only 10 people at a time, a major policy change that dismantles what is for many families the only opportunity to spend time with their loved ones in person.”

•How Successful Was Tillerson’s Latin America Tour?
The Dialogue, February 15, 2018

“U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson concluded his five-country trip through Latin America and the Caribbean on Feb. 7, during which time he sought to shore up support for further U.S. sanctions against Venezuela’s oil sector and President Nicolás Maduro’s government, as well as to strengthen ties with allies in the region. Did the United States get what it wanted out of Tillerson’s trip? How strongly have the countries of the region embraced the latest U.S. push for stronger sanctions on Venezuela? A year now into the Trump administration, are U.S. relations with Latin America improving generally?”

Mexican Enforcement

•Mexican Deportees, Thorny Battles and the Ordeal of Remaking One’s Life
Latin America Herald Tribune, February 20, 2018

“The US, according to Mexican National Migration Institute (INM) figures, repatriated 166,986 Mexicans in 2017, of whom 14,069 were sent back at the border crossing in Reynosa, located across the Rio Grande from McAllen, Texas. Although the Mexican government has insisted that Mexico is now more a migrant transit country than a source country, the experiences of the migrants at the shelter are at odds with the official position.”

•Aún sin resolver, más de 7 mil solicitudes de asilo en México

Emir Olivares Alonso, La Jornada, 19 de febrero de 2018

“Gabriel Godoy, de la Agencia de las Naciones Unidas para los Refugiados (Acnur), señaló que por un lado el Estado mexicano participa e impulsa acuerdos globales en favor de los migrantes, como la Convención sobre el Derecho de las Personas Migrantes y sus Familias o las consultas sobre las garantías de este sector ante la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos. Pero por el otro cierra las puertas al derecho al refugio de miles de personas. Dio un dato: nuestro país tiene 0.048 refugiados por cada mil habitantes, en tanto que naciones como Líbano o Uganda, tienen 173 y 24, respectivamente, por cada mil habitantes”.

•Acusan rezago en peticiones de asilo
Silvia Garduño, Reforma, 19 de febrero de 2018

“Del total de solicitudes, hasta el momento sólo han sido reconocidos como refugiados mil 907 y 918 recibieron protección complementaria”.

Root Causes

•U.S.-trained police are hunting down and arresting protesters amid post-election crisis in Honduras
Sandra Cuffe, The Intercept, February 20, 2018

“TIGRES special forces have been controversial since their founding in 2013, and their short history has been dogged by allegations of theft and corruption involving drug traffickers. Trained in Honduras and in the United States by Green Berets from the 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne), the TIGRES receive substantial support from the U.S. State Department. And they have been active participants in government repression during the current political crisis in Honduras.”

•Trump Is Making MS-13 Stronger
Óscar Martínez, The New York Times, February 17, 2018

“With Mr. Trump in the White House and the Republicans controlling Congress, it does not appear that things will be any different. Even the Treasury Department has tried to crack down on MS-13; it is the only gang that it has levied sanctions against. And yet, after almost 40 years in the United States, everything seems to suggest that this criminal organization has much to look forward to.”

•41 mil víctimas de violencia intrafamiliar en tres años
Gabriel García, La Prensa Gráfica, 22 de febrero de 2018

“Un total de 41,298 víctimas, tanto adultas como menores de edad, acudieron a los juzgados de Familia para presentar sus avisos entre 2015 y 2017, según los datos presentados ayer por la Mesa Judicial, la instancia que aglutina a todos los jueces y magistrados del país”.

•MS13 Trial in Spain Highlights Gang’s Struggle for International Unity

Angelika Albaladejo, Insight Crime, February 21, 2018

“The trial has begun in Spain related to the country’s largest-ever operation against the MS13, revealing details of the Central American gang’s failed attempt to unify factions and expand operations internationally.”

•Localizan ocho cadáveres en fosas de Mara Salvatrucha en La Paz
EFE, La Prensa Gráfica, 21 de febrero de 2018

“Este sitio se suma a los más de 150 los cementerios clandestinos de las pandillas encontrados desde 2014 en diversas partes del país, con más de 220 víctimas de la violencia homicida que vive El Salvador”.

•IACHR Welcomes Decisions on Clarifying Forced Disappearances in El Salvador
Organization of American States, February 20, 2018

“According to the information available, in both decisions the Constitutional Chamber ruled that investigations should be carried out into the victims’ whereabouts, and that the State has an obligation to ensure that the investigations are not hampered. The Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court also indicated that the Ministry of Defense and the Joint Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces had shown ‘inactive conduct’ in terms of providing information on the respective operations, conduct that in this regard goes against relevant international standards.”

•Desplazados por la violencia en Ciudad Juárez buscan refugio en Estados Unidos
Jonathan Álvarez, Animal Político, 20 de febrero de 2018

“El asilo político para los mexicanos es muy difícil, asegura Amesquita, pues aproximadamente el 98% de los casos son negados. La coordinadora de Mexicanos en Exilio considera que si Estados Unidos acepta a demasiadas personas a través de asilo político, el gobierno tendría que aceptar que México no es un país seguro, y afectaría a los acuerdos económicos entre ambos países”.

•Tiene Juárez un fin de semana violento
Staff, El Diario de Juárez, 19 de febrero de 2018

“Juárez registró otro fin de semana violento, diez personas fueron asesinadas y entre las víctimas se encuentran dos mujeres. Del primero al 18 de febrero 37 personas han sido asesinadas, reportó la Fiscalía General del Estado (FGE) que cuenta con un mínimo de casos esclarecidos”.

Actions, Reports, & Resources

•The US Undocumented Population Fell Sharply During the Obama Era: Estimates for 2016
Robert Warren, Center for Migration Studies, February 22, 2018

“This report shows estimates of the undocumented population residing in the United States in 2016, by country of origin and state of residence. Previous CMS reports have documented the long-term change from rapid population growth in the 1990s, to single-digit rates of growth in 2000 to 2010. This report shows continued declines in the population from most countries and in most states since 2010.”

•Webinar: “Actualizaciones de las políticas estadounidenses hacia México y Centroamérica para orgs de la sociedad civil en la región”
LAWG, 20 de febrero de 2018

•Towards an Adjustment of Status for Salvadorans with TPS: A Pathway to Permanent Residency in the United States
Manuel Orozco, The Dialogue, February, 2018

“Providing legal permanent residency for Salvadorans with Temporary Protected Status comes as a logical, humane and politically important and defensible step for the United States and the US Congress. Salvadorans with TPS have set down roots and are by now fully integrated members of American society. They constitute a vibrant economic force and support US foreign policy interests. As a population, they mirror US native born or naturalized citizens in terms of many of their characteristics. Granting them permanent residency would strengthen the social and economic fiber of the United States, while also advancing US interests of stability, prosperity and democracy abroad.”

*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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