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Central America/Mexico Migration News Brief for March 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: Michael Stravato (The Washington Post)


U.S. Enforcement

•Congress unveils $1.3 trillion spending package, includes background check bill
Lauren Fox, Phil Mattingly, Ted Barrett and Deirdre Walsh, CNN, March 21, 2018

“Lawmakers worked for months to find consensus on immigration, particularly the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. But despite some negotiations with the White House at the last minute, there was no deal. The White House offered to continue the program for two and a half years in exchange for $25 billion in border security, but Democrats argued they wanted a more permanent solution. Democrats offered the White House $25 billion in border security in exchange for a pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million DACA eligible individuals. The White House passed. In the end, all that is slated to be included is $1.6 billion in border security, which includes millions for 33 miles of new border fencing — not a concrete wall — that was already authorized through the 2006 Secure Fence Act. Democrats and environmental groups secured a win in that the bill prohibits any wall being built through the Santa Ana Wildlife Refuge.”

•‘Where’s Mommy?’: A family fled death threats, only to face separation at the border.
Michael E. Miller and Jon Gerberg, The Washington Post, March 18, 2018

“There, Silvana was told she was being separated from her kids because she had tried to enter the country illegally a decade earlier. Border Patrol agents said she would be charged with
‘illegal reentry’ — a felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison — and that her children could not join her in court, she recalled later. (The Washington Post is not naming the children because of the family’s fears about their safety.) Instead, the kids were loaded onto a van and driven for four hours. As his baby brother slept in his arms, the 16-year-old could hear his sister crying out for their mom. He tried to comfort her, but a metal divider stood between them.”

•DHS keeps separating kids from their parents — but officials won’t say why or how often
Editorial Board, The Washington Post, March 20, 2018

“Responding to a class-action lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of parents separated from their children, ICE insists it has done nothing so outrageous that it ‘shocks the conscience’ — a Supreme Court standard for measuring the denial of due-process rights. Here’s a question for Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen: If it does not ‘shock the conscience’ to traumatize a little girl by removing her from her mother for four months in a land where she knows no one and speaks no English, what does ‘shock the conscience’?”

•Los horrores de la Patrulla Fronteriza
Leo Zuckermann, Excelsior, 22 de marzo de 2018

“Para fortuna de los que desconocemos el tema, Cantú escribió este libro sobre los años en que fue policía fronterizo. Un horror. Como bien dice el autor, la Border Patrol en realidad es una fuerza paramilitar. No es gratuito que muchos de sus miembros sean exmilitares, quienes buscan un empleo después de haber servido en las Fuerzas Armadas de Estados Unidos. La mitad de los agentes son hispanos, que hablan perfectamente español, varios de ellos residentes de ciudades fronterizas. ‘Mucha de esta gente se une a la Patrulla Fronteriza, no para oprimir a otros, sino por lo que representa en materia de servicio, estabilidad y seguridad financiera’”.

•Trump’s Immigration Stance Is Making the Census More Difficult Than Ever

Henry Goldman, Bloomberg Politics, March 21, 2018
“Millions of foreign-born residents are expected to hide from or avoid the 2020 count because of the political climate created by Trump, census staff and civil-rights groups say. Their reluctance to participate likely will worsen if Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, whose department houses the Census Bureau, accepts Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ demand to include citizenship status in the survey for the first time.”

•Trump: Sanctuary Cities Are Endangering Innocent Americans
Latin American Herald Tribune, March 19, 2018

Trump met at the White House with lawmakers and federal and state officials to discuss sanctuary cities – some 200 US cities and counties that do not allocate funds to pursuing illegal immigrants and refuse to inform federal authorities of the immigration status of people who are detained or arrested by law enforcement. ‘In many cases they are very bad actors. We have gang members, we have predators, rapists, killers – a lot of bad people,’ Trump said, adding that sanctuary cities are ‘causing a lot of problems for this country’ by protecting ‘bad actors’ and even aiding ‘hardened criminals’ at the expense of “innocent Americans.”

•Border wall Dreamers deal implodes
Burgess Everett, Politico, March 19, 2018

“White House officials asked Democrats to approve $25 billion for President Donald Trump’s border wall in exchange for extending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program through fall of 2020, those sources said. That would give Trump his full wall funding request in the must-pass spending bill and still give him leverage over the DACA program heading into his 2020 reelection campaign.But Democrats balked, demanding that the White House provide a pathway to citizenship to 1.8 million young immigrants eligible under the DACA program, those sources said. The White House might have been open to negotiating further, but Democrats were only willing to entertain the massive wall funding figure in exchange for helping the same number of immigrants that Trump embraced in a proposal earlier this year.”

•Dem leaders pull back from hard-line immigration demand
Mike Lillis, The Hill, March 19, 2018

“The apparent change in strategy has angered immigrant rights advocates in and out of Congress, who want the minority Democrats to use their rare leverage on the omnibus government funding package — among the last must-pass bills of the year — to secure protections for the hundreds of thousands of young immigrants who came to the country illegally as children… The apparent change in strategy has angered immigrant rights advocates in and out of Congress, who want the minority Democrats to use their rare leverage on the omnibus government funding package — among the last must-pass bills of the year — to secure protections for the hundreds of thousands of young immigrants who came to the country illegally as children.”

•Immigration Advocates Warn ICE Is Retaliating For Activism
John Burnett, NPR, March 16, 2018

“The American Civil Liberties Union and other groups say they have documented two dozen cases of immigrant activists and volunteers who say they have been arrested or face fines for their work. They say many of the activists who are undocumented don’t have criminal records and only came to the attention of Immigration and Customs Enforcement because of their activism.”

•U.S. Immigration agency to more closely monitor caseworkers, documents show
Nick Miroff, The Washington Post, March 16, 2018

“According to the documents, USCIS will establish the Organization of Professional Responsibility to enhance oversight of the way its employees handle the more than 26,000 cases the agency adjudicates daily. The office will have three divisions, including an Investigations Division to ‘manage the agency’s program that investigates cases involving fraud, waste, abuse or misconduct by USCIS employees,’ according to one draft version obtained by The Post. A USCIS official with knowledge of the plans said it has been viewed internally as a crackdown on employees who may be too forgiving toward applicants for permanent legal residence or citizenship and who may have demerits in their case files, including misdemeanor criminal charges or having received public assistance such as welfare payments.”

•The Walls
This American Life, March 16, 2018

“Stories from border walls around the world, where one place ends and another begins. And the strange ecosystems that arise.”

•White House opposes DACA fix in exchange for border wall funding
Jonathan Easley, The Hill, March 14, 2018

“The Washington Post reported earlier in the day that Republican officials were discussing a plan that would extend the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for three years in exchange for three years of border wall funding, or a so-called three-for-three plan. White House deputy press secretary Raj Shah said the administration does not support that effort but that the president could be open to a long-term fix if it were included in a spending bill.”

•Senate advances Trump’s border protection nominee
Stephen Dinan, The Washington Times, March 14, 2018

“During his time as acting chief Mr. McAleenan has overseen building and testing of Mr. Trump’s border wall prototypes and has shepherded the president’s push for stepped-up border enforcement, drawing the ire of immigration groups who say agents have stepped over the lines. The activists’ particular gripes rest with treatment of children, who they say Border Patrol agents have separated from parents during arrests.”

•What California’s racist history can teach us in the battle to save immigrants from Trump
Gustavo Arellano, NBC News, March 13, 2018

“The rest of the country would never believe that a state that has essentially declared itself a sanctuary for undocumented folks was, for nearly all of its existence, the most xenophobic in America. But not only is that true, it’s also why the legislature — now run by Gen X Latinos who came of age during the last gasp of white America in California — has become so stridently pro-immigrant. It’s not just because it’s the right thing to do, but to atone for the sins of their predecessors.”

•ICE spokesman in SF resigns and slams Trump administration officials
Dan Simon, CNN, March 13, 2018

“James Schwab, a spokesman for the San Francisco Division of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, has resigned, citing what he says are falsehoods being spread by members of the Trump administration including Attorney General Jeff Sessions. ‘I just couldn’t bear the burden — continuing on as a representative of the agency and charged with upholding integrity, knowing that information was false,’ he told CNN on Monday.”

Mexican Enforcement

•Debe terminar la detención de menores migrantes: Acnur
Victor Ballinas, La Jornada, 19 de marzo de 2018

“Mark Manly, representante del Alto Comisionado de las Naciones Unidas para los Refugiados (Acnur) en México, y Alan García, de la misma oficina para los Derechos Humanos, exigieron en el Senado que se ponga fin a la detención de niños en estaciones migratorias y pidieron se armonice la Ley de Migración con la de los Derechos de Niñas, Niños y Adolescentes para acabar con esa situación”.

•Urgen armonizar leyes a favor de los menores migrantes
Leopoldo Hernández, El Economista, 14 de marzo de 2018

“‘Con la armonización de la Ley de Migración y la Ley de Refugiados, junto con la Ley General de Derechos de Niñas, Niños y Adolescentes, México estaría cumpliendo con importantes medidas para… (alcanzar) los compromisos’, indicó Mark Manly, representante en México del Alto Comisionado de la ONU para los Refugiados”.

Root Causes

•Honduran Law Protecting the Corrupt Passes as Congress Jeers
Telesur, March 21, 2018

“Gabriela Castellanos, director of the Honduran National Council of Anti-Corruption (CNA), says the congressional reform to the Seizure of Assets Law shields political corruption: ‘This act gives more strength to impunity. There is a ferociously strong, tangible and exaggerated effort on part of the Legislative Department – the National Congress – to strengthen corruption, evidently to cover the number of corrupt that the (CNA) has been pointing toward for the last four years,’ said Castellanos.”

•Morales Removes Members of Guatemalan Anti-Corruption Committee
Telesur, March 21, 2018

“The Guatemalan government has removed 11 national police investigators from the International Commission Against Impunity for Corruption in Guatemala (CICIG), which its director, Ivan Velasquez, says was done to ‘affect the investigations’ the commission is carrying out on high-ranking government officials for alleged political wrongdoing, including President Jimmy Morales.”

•Mexico Journalists Face Violence From Both Officials and Crime Groups: Report
Angelika Albaladejo, InSight Crime, March 21, 2018

“While organized crime groups are often assumed to be the main perpetrators of violence against journalists in Mexico, Article 19’s recent report highlights the role of the Mexican government in committing, condoning and ensuring impunity for these crimes. Violence is used to silence both the journalists targeted and those in whom it incites fear. The states of Veracruz, Tamaulipas, Oaxaca, Guerrero and Chihuahua are now dubbed ‘zones of silence’ because targeted killings are increasingly fostering fear and leading to self censorship and at times mass displacement. For example, in Veracruz, which is considered the most dangerous state in Mexico for journalists, at least 30 journalists fled seeking safety following the 2012 murder of crime reporter Regina Martínez. The former governor of Veracruz from 2010 to 2016, Javier Duarte — who has been jailed on charges of colluding with crime groups while he was in office — once admonished journalists to ‘behave’ if they wanted to stay safe.”

•Northern Triangle Attorneys General Facing Setbacks in Fight Against Corruption
Héctor Silva Ávalos, InSight Crime, March 19, 2018

“The election of the three new attorneys general in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador will undoubtedly mark the future of these anti-corruption efforts: attorneys general who do not stand up to criminal elites will inevitably end up being weakened, while those who maintain their independence will be able to continue to make strides against what has become one of the most violent and corrupt regions of the world.”

•Asesinan en Veracruz al periodista Leobardo Vázquez; suman 3 en lo que va de 2018
Manu Ureste, Animal Político, 22 de marzo de 2018

“‘Es inadmisible que la violencia contra los periodistas en Veracruz persista. Es fundamental que las autoridades locales y federales colaboren para esclarecer este crimen y así ayudar a revertir la impunidad, combustible necesario para que se dé este tipo de violencia y agresiones en contra de la libertad de expresión’, dijo sobre el crimen Jan Jarab, Representante de la ONU-DH en México”.

•The day I got my AK-47: Guns, Mexican drug cartels and US laws
Juliana Ruhfus, Al Jazeera, March 21, 2018

“Barely known is the fact, that US gun laws are having a deadly impact in Mexico, too. According to a report from the US Government Accountability Office, a staggering 70 percent of all crime guns recovered and traced in Mexico between 2009 and 2014 could be traced back to the United States.”

•Guatemala Changes Army’s Role Amid Political Crisis
Victoria Dittmar, InSight Crime, March 19, 2018

“While the army’s return to its constitutional role of protecting the country from external threats rather than fighting crime in the streets may be a positive move, Morales’ announcement appears to have political ends because it is taking place when the president’s legitimacy is in question. Morales has had a tense relationship with the International Commission Against Impunity in Guatemala (Comisión Internacional Contra la Impunidad en Guatemala – CICIG), an independent body backed by the United Nations, and the Attorney General’s Office (Ministerio Público – MP), after they requested his immunity be lifted in August 2017, so they could investigate possible illegal financing in his presidential campaign… Outside Guatemala, Morales is facing scrutiny by the United States, which has also expressed support for the CICIG and the fight against corruption in Guatemala. The changes within the army and the purge of its top brass could be an attempt to appease the US government, given that they were announced just a week after a visit from Nikki Haley, US Ambassador to the United Nations.”

•UN Points to Abuses, Cover Up in Mexico’s Ayotzinapa Investigation
Josefina Salomón, InSight Crime, March 16, 2018

“The report by the United Nations’ Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) accuses the Mexican authorities of a cover up, and points to an ‘almost uniform modus operandi’ in the way suspects in one of the worst human rights violations in Mexico’s recent history were arbitrarily detained and tortured to obtain confessions, which were later accepted as evidence in the case. It also accuses authorities of unnecessarily delaying the process of bringing suspects before a public prosecutor and of concealing errors during the early stages of the investigation.”

Actions, Resources & Reports

•AILA Report: Deconstructing the Invisible Wall
American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), March 21, 2018

“AILA provides a report that surveys how policy changes by the Trump Administration are slowing and restricting legal immigration. Among the policies and practices surveyed in AILA’s report include the travel bans and extreme vetting directives, policies slowing or stopping the admission of foreign workers and entrepreneurs to the United States, the termination or curtailment of programs for compelling populations, hurdles on the naturalization of foreign-born soldiers in the U.S. military, the growing backlog and increase in processing times for immigration applications, and the decreased focus on stakeholder input and customer service by government agencies. Taken together, these policies are impeding legal immigration to the U.S., at the expense of U.S. businesses, American families, local communities, and our economy.”

•360 Videos Document Life for Asylum Seekers at U.S. Border
Human Rights First, March 20, 2018

“The video takes viewers to the U.S. Mexico border to hear from asylum seekers in search of safety—highlighting the dangers they face in Mexico and the challenges the Trump Administration presents when they get to the other side. ‘This series sheds light on the humanity many have lost sight of—the untold stories of the mothers, fathers, and children who have risked their lives in search of the most basic human necessity: safety,’ said Human Rights First’s Ashley Panzera, a filmmaker.”

•The New Generation: Mexico’s Emerging Organized Crime Threat
Lucy La Rosa and David A. Shirk, Justice in Mexico, March 19, 2018

“In the policy brief, titled “The New Generation: Mexico’s Emerging Organized Crime Threat,” the authors contend that the ‘kingpin strategy’ that led to the downfall of famed drug trafficker Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzmán has now given rise to a new organized crime syndicate known as the Jalisco New Generation Cartel (Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generación, CJNG).”

•Double Injustice: Report on Human Rights Violations in the Investigation of the Ayotzinapa Case
United Nations Human Rights: Office of the High Commissioner, March 15, 2018

“Based on the analysis of the cases of 34 individuals (33 men and one woman) prosecuted in the case, OHCHR has solid grounds to believe that torture was committed against them, as well as other human rights violations, between September 2014 and January 2016. The judicial records provide ample evidence of these alleged human rights violations. In all the cases analysed by OHCHR, the individuals presented numerous physical injuries, certified by medical examinations, which are consistent with injuries resulting from torture. The findings following the reviews of the judicial records corroborate the statements of the 34 detainees interviewed by OHCHR.”

•Hurricane Harvey: The Experiences of Immigrants Living in the Texas Gulf Coast
Bryan Wu, Liz Hamel, Mollyann Brodie, Shao-Chee Sim and Elena Marks, Kaiser Family Foundation & Episcopal Health Foundations, March, 2018

“For a variety of reasons, including potential language barriers, lack
of social ties, and fears of drawing attention to their own or someone else’s legal resident status, immigrants may be more vulnerable to the effects of natural disasters and their aftermath compared to those who were born in the United States. This summary aims to highlight immigrants’ experiences with Harvey in order to better understand the particular needs of this potentially vulnerable population both in recovering from Harvey and preparing for future storms.”

•Annual Report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights 2017
Edison Lanza, Organization of American States, 2017

“This Office found there was also some progress in the investigation, trial, and punishment of some of those responsible for crimes committed against journalists in past years. However, despite these efforts, the majority of these crimes remain in a troubling state of impunity. Indeed, this section of the report places emphasis on the murders, detentions, attacks, and threats against journalists for the exercise of their profession. The report also points to numerous attacks and threats in the context of protests.”

*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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