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Central America/Mexico Migration News Brief for August 5, 2016

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A compilation of this week’s top articles and reports related to issues of migration from Central America and Mexico (articles in English and Spanish).

Root Causes:

•   El Salvador Says a Brutal Gang Laundered Money Through Motels, Brothels, Taxis
Sarah Esther Maslin, Washington Post, July 29, 2016
“In an extensive operation Thursday that resulted in 77 arrests, 106 seized vehicles and 34 frozen bank accounts, the Salvadoran government targeted the financial holdings of the gang, exposing the enrichment of its leaders and sending a message to the impoverished rank and file… Salvadoran investigators focused first on the income that Mara Salvatrucha gets through extortion, and then turned to a network of businesses allegedly used to launder the money: used-car dealerships, drive-in motels, brothels, two major urban bus companies, dozens of pirated taxis, restaurants, bars, and a fruit and vegetable stand. Some of the accused have business connections in the United States…”

•   Case Against El Salvador’s MS13 Reveals State Role in Gang’s Growth
Héctor Silva Ávalos and Bryan Avelar, InSight Crime, August 3, 2016
“A massive operation that has bared the finances of El Salvador’s Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) gang offers compelling evidence of a long suspected theory: government benefits extended to the country’s gang leaders in connection with a 2012-2013 truce were used to strengthen their criminal organizations… Court documents presented this week in San Salvador indicate that the MS13 leaders collected some $25 million during the truce. The investigation found that one of the gang’s top financial advisors actually drew a government salary from an important municipality in the greater San Salvador area. The same gang leader was issued a permit to carry a weapon shortly after his release from prison in 2013.” 

•   Daughter of Murdered Journalist Gunned Down in Guatemala
AFP and Yahoo! News, August 3, 2016
“Lindaura Aceituno, 36, died after being taken to hospital with several bullet wounds… On June 25, Aceituno’s father, Alvaro Aceituno Lopez, 65, was shot dead in the same town by attackers in a car. He was the director of a local radio station and managed a news program… Guatemala is one of Latin America’s most dangerous countries, with around 6,000 murders a year, many of them linked to gang violence. So far this year, five journalists have been violently killed and dozens have been assaulted or threatened.”

•   Mexico Violence Increases
KRGV, August 1, 2016
“A military convoy was ambushed in Nuevo Laredo, a border city three hours west of the Rio Grande Valley. One Mexican soldier died and six others were injured… According to public affairs and security studies professor Guadalupe Correa-Cabrera, it’s a fight between the Mexican military and the drug cartels.”

•   Van 8 periodistas asesinados en 7 meses; un homicidio se comete cada 26 días: Artículo 19
Manuel Ureste, Artículo 19 y Animal Político, 4 de agosto de 2016
“En cuanto a los ataques a la prensa, Artículo 19 documentó que sólo en tres meses, de abril a junio, tuvieron lugar 149 agresiones. Hasta 115% más que en el primer trimestre, cuando se registraron 69 eventos. En total, hasta junio de este año suman 218 agresiones: es decir, que en los primeros seis meses del año se documentó, en promedio, al menos una agresión al día contra periodistas y comunicadores. La agresión más frecuente es el ataque físico contra el periodista o contra su equipo de trabajo (46 casos). Le siguen las intimidaciones (37); y las amenazas (35). La Ciudad de México es el primer lugar de agresiones contra la prensa, con 31 ataques en el primer semestre de este año. Le siguen Veracruz, con 28; Oaxaca, con 27; Guerrero, con 17; y Puebla, con 15”.

•   A Year Without Justice: The Murder of Ruben Espinosa
Lucho Granados Ceja, teleSur, August 1, 2016
“Sunday marked the one-year anniversary of the grizzly murders of Ruben Espinosa, Nadia Vera, Yesenia Quiroz, Alejandra Navarrete, and Mile Virginia Martin in the Narvarte neighborhood in Mexico City. It has been 12 months of state-sanctioned impunity… The Mexican government is waging a war, but on its own people… This war is really about further militarizing Mexican society, answering social demands with bullets. But it’s also entrenching impunity.”

•   Ignorance About Transgender Identities in the US and Mexico and the Challenges of Winning Asylum
Nidia Bautista, Global Voices, July 30, 2016
“Researchers found that transgender women in Mexico face brutal violence from state officials, including the police and military, as well as persecution by drug cartels. Societal factors like family rejection and economic marginalization also lead to violence against transgender women in Mexico… Some of Mexico’s transgender women have migrated to the United States to apply for asylum (legal protection based on a well-founded fear of persecution either from state or private actors). While the US has its own long and terrible history of transphobia (transgender people report far higher rates of violence than non-transgender lesbians and gay men), rising transphobic hate crimes and stigma are factors driving transgender women to flee Mexico.”

•   Propuestas migrantes radicales son usadas para instar a otros a salir del país
Julissa Mercado, El Heraldo, 31 de julio de 2016
“Para entender el caso de la migración siempre es importante tener en mente que la migración es algo multicausal, no podemos decir que la migración obedece únicamente a una causa, obedece a diferentes circunstancias, la violencia es una de ellas, la falta de oportunidades es una de ellas, pero hay una que es común y que yo he podido detectar en cada persona a la que yo le he preguntado, y es el hecho de la reunificación familiar…” dice la primera dama de la nación, Ana Garcia de Hernández. 

•   82 alcaldes y exalcaldes asesinados en 10 años; 50% de los crímenes han ocurrido en 4 estados
Arturo Angel, Animal Político, 4 de agosto de 2016
“Del 2006 a la fecha 82 alcaldes en funciones, alcaldes electos y exalcaldes han sido asesinados violentamente en México. Aunque los crímenes se han presentado en 18 de los 32 estados, hay cuatro entidades: Oaxaca, Michoacán, Veracruz y Guerrero, que concentran más de la mitad de los casos… Tan solo en 2016 ya suman seis los asesinatos (uno de ellos de un exalcalde), y tres han ocurrido apenas en los últimos quince días”.

Mexican Enforcement:

•   More than 46,000 Central American Illegal Migrants Detained in Mexico
Prensa Latina, August 1, 2016
“From January to April, 46,887 Central American migrants have been arrested by Mexican authorities for crossing illegally the southern border, according to a report issued by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and published in this capital. The number of those arrested in 2015 for entering illegally reached 190,000, with 170,000 coming from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. They estimated that up to 400,000 people cross the border annually, without identity documents. The UNHCR also explained that 36,000 Central American children were arrested and 18,000 of them were not accompanied by any relative.”

•   En dos años aumentó 150% el flujo de migrantes: INM
Víctor Ballinas y Andrea Becerril, La Jornada, 4 de agosto de 2016
“El titular del INM rechazó que México contenga la migración hacia Estados Unidos, como se lo señaló la perredista Luz María Beristáin, quien le señaló: Vi en un diario una foto, con una nota que dice: (el presidente) Obama Felicita a Peña Nieto, le dice: han hecho su trabajo. La parte que les encargamos lo han hecho muy bien, ustedes han logrado que nosotros no tengamos que ser los que contengamos, los que frenemos u obstaculicemos el flujo de migrantes. Vargas respondió al Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD): no le hacemos la chamba a EU. Sin embargo, reconoció que en lo que va del sexenio de Enrique Peña Nieto México ha repatriado a cerca de 500 mil migrantes centroamericanos…”
Read a version in English:Huge Spike in Central Americans Crossing Mexico to US 

•   Infancia Migrante en peligro
Sin Embargo, 4 de agosto de 2016
“Durante los últimos días de julio… tres niños migrantes habían fallecido ahogados intentando cruzar la frontera entre México y Guatemala… se sabe que los tres padres de los niños han sido repatriados a sus lugares de origen, sin embargo lo han tenido que hacer aún sin los cuerpos de sus hijos, pues este trámite es más tardado, aproximadamente 20 días… Es una muestra más de que la falta de condiciones de vida digna, la violencia, pobreza y marginación en las que viven en sus países de origen, son las causantes principales de que estas personas se vean forzadas a migrar, pero también, de que las políticas de criminalización y restricción de los flujos migratorios que países como México han implementado obligan a que las personas migren sin condiciones de seguridad y haciendo uso de los ‘servicios’ de traficantes”.

•   Mexico is Already the Immigration ‘Wall’ Some Politicians Want
Mary Speck, LA Times, August 1, 2016
“Two years after the flow of unaccompanied Central American children across the Rio Grande generated U.S. headlines, the humanitarian crisis continues.  Today it plays out mostly in Mexico, whose government has become the region’s ‘deporter-in-chief,’ last year sending back 166,000 Central American migrants, including about 30,000 children, more than twice as many as the 75,000 deported from the United States. By detaining and deporting migrants, Mexico has in effect become the ‘wall’ certain politicians are calling for — which of course does nothing to solve the underlying problems.”

•   Record Remittances Sent to Mexico in First Half of 2016
AZPM, August 1, 2016
“Money sent to Mexico from people working in other countries set a record of $13.2 billion in the first half of 2016, the Central Bank of Mexico reported. The previous record, in the first six months of 2007, was of $12.8 billion. Remittances increased almost 9 percent in the first half of 2016 from the same period last year. The vast majority came from the United States. Analysts attributed the increase to improvements in the U.S. economy and job market and to depreciation of the Mexican peso.With oil revenue, remittances are a principal source of foreign income in Mexico.”

•   Mexican Military Detain 104 Illegal Immigrants Stuffed in Tractor Trailer
Idelfonso Ortiz, Breibart, August 1, 2016
“Inside of the tractor trailer, military personnel moved a series of pallets to discover the 104 illegal immigrants from El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Ecuador… The groups was made up of 62 men, 21 women and 21 teenagers and children under18-years of age. The driver of the tractor trailer was arrested and turned over to federal authorities while the illegal immigrants were turned over to Mexican immigration authorities.”

U.S. Enforcement:

•   A Tale of Two Migration Flows
The Editorial Board, NY Times, August 1, 2016
“Even as the administration tries to find new ways to address migration from Central America, it has been unwilling to change the old and misguided immigration policy for Cubans, who are leaving the island in increasing numbers. Cubans who reach American soil are generally allowed to stay permanently, based on a 1966 law and policies adopted during the 1990s… This has created burdens and expenses for countries along the route Cubans take, including Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica and Mexico. Leaders from those countries should encourage President Obama to rescind the current policy and admit only those people who can prove that they face persecution at home.”

•   Johnson: Fed Looking at Family Immigration Detention Changes
Josh Gerstein, Politico, August 4, 2016
“Last month, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected a key part of the Obama administration’s interpretation of a long-standing settlement regarding immigration detention for minors. The Justice Department argued that the nearly-two-decade-old deal requiring quick release of children in most circumstances only applied to children traveling across the border alone and had no impact on those crossing illegally with relatives, usually their mothers. However, the appeals court found the 1997 settlement in Flores v. Reno does apply to accompanied minors, forcing immigration officials to find a way to get such children out of immigration detention quickly.”

•   DHS Chief Defends Child Detention
Mike Lillis, The Hill, August 3, 2016
“Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said the centers are a ‘critical’ tool for screening illegal immigrant families to determine whether they pose a flight risk, whether they present a health threat and whether they have legitimate claims to remain in the country. ‘A large component of who’s entering the country now are parents who bring their kids, and we have to have a good sense for who these people are,’ Johnson said during a breakfast in Washington sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor.”

•   Immigration Agents Don’t Follow the Law When it Comes to Asylum Seekers
Esther Yu-Hsi Lee, Think Progress, August 2, 2016
“These anecdotes come from a new report by a U.S. government commission that makes federal policy recommendations, which documented the inconsistent experiences with immigration agents that asylum seekers and refugees encountered when they claimed a credible fear of being returned to their home countries and were instead put into an expedited removal process from the United States. In the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) report — which follows up on a two-volume report released more than ten years ago — researchers found that these immigrants continue to confront barriers found in the 2005 report, including agents who did not refer immigrants to other agencies when they expressed a fear of being returned, openly skeptical or hostile agents, and a lack of official interpreters.”

•   EEUU continuará la deportación de menores centroamericanos no acompañados
Maria Peña, La Opinión, 4 de agosto de 2016
“Johnson argumentó que el gobierno tiene que continuar la política actual de deportaciones –establecidas en noviembre de 2014- para evitar la práctica de ‘detener y soltar’  (llamada ‘catch and release’ en inglés) a los indocumentados. Por otra parte, Johnson dijo que la agencia sopesa posibles cambios a su política actual a la luz del dictamen del Quinto Circuito de Apelaciones, que el mes pasado reafirmó el llamado ‘Acuerdo Flores’ de 1997, pero no precisó cuándo”.

•   The Border Patrol is in Chaos. Can Its New Chief Make a Difference?
Sara Rathod, Mother Jones, July 30, 2016
“But Border Patrol critics have been pushing for a shakeup at the top for years. US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the umbrella agency that encompasses the Border Patrol, is the largest law enforcement agency in the country with 44,000 armed officers… Since its rapid expansion in the wake of 9/11, critics have said that CBP’s training and capacity to investigate employee misconduct hasn’t kept up, leaving new recruits green and often unaccountable. Here are some of the biggest complaints about the Border Patrol in recent years: Corruption, Abuse, High-Profile Deaths.”

•   The Two Faces of Obama’s Immigration Policy
Annie Hylton, In These Times, August 1, 2016
“The June 23 decision halted the two programs meant to realize that promise: Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) and an expansion of the 2012 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA+)… Obama’s role in this story is not as straightforward as it sounds. He is not simply a champion of immigrant rights thwarted by Congress and the courts… In January of this year, and again in May and June, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) ramped up raids targeting recently arrived Central American women and children. Immigrants were picked up in churches and schools.”

•   Migrante en Los Ángeles: “La última vez que vi a mi esposo fue el 26 de noviembre”
Araceli Martínez Ortega, La Opinión, 2 de agosto de 2016
“Hace siete meses, la violencia de las pandillas que acecha a Guatemala hizo que ella y su esposo Mauricio Rosales lo dejaran todo y enfilaran rumbo a Estados Unidos. ‘Teníamos amenazas de muerte. Contábamos con un negocio de lavado de carros por el que nos pedían 1,000 quetzales, como 150 dólares cada semana. Las primeras semanas se pudo pagar pero no pudimos seguir. En el negocio no se manejaban grandes ganancias. Salía para vivir. Como no cumplimos con la cuota, las maras empezaron a lanzar disparos al pasar por la casa. Huimos el 4 de noviembre de 2015’, confiesa”.

•   Nonprofit’s ID Cards Get Recognition from Police, Immigration
AP and NY Times, July 30, 2016
“The initiative began three years ago, after officials from the Greensboro-based interfaith immigration advocacy group FaithAction International House began talking with police about building bridges to the immigrant and minority communities… They aren’t government IDs and can’t substitute for driver’s licenses, but officers say they can minimize complications during traffic stops or crime reports by confirming people are who they say they are and live where they say they live.”

•   Court Strikes Two Blows for Immigration Judges Case
Josh Gerstein, Politico, July 29, 2016
“A three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals held that the identities of immigration judges accused of misconduct could not be categorically deleted from records made public under the Freedom of Information Act. The court also ruled that when producing email chains and similar records under FOIA, agencies cannot redact information solely on the basis that it appears to be nonresponsive to the subject of a request. The finding that rejects across-the-board privacy deletions could make it easier to expose information about inappropriate actions by federal employees or perhaps even by people outside government. D.C. Circuit rulings on FOIA have a major impact since the vast majority of such litigation takes place in Washington’s federal courts.”

•   New Rule to Benefit Undocumented Immigrants in Mixed-Status Families
Jorge Cancino, Univision, July 29, 2016
“A bit of good news arrived for undocumented immigrants on Thursday: applying for legal status will be faster and less painful for some. Under a new rule, certain unmarried children under 21 and spouses of legal permanent residents can apply for a provisional waiver to adjust their immigration status without staying outside the country for years. The rule, which goes into effect Aug. 29, still requires undocumented immigrants to apply for a visa from their country of origin. But without the waiver, undocumented immigrants who leave the country face a three or 10 year-ban from re-entering the United States, even if they’re applying for legal status. Previously, only spouses and children of citizens qualified for the waiver.”
Leer en español

•   Quiénes se benefician y cómo pueden pedir el perdón 601-A que elimina a la Ley Del Castigo
Jorge Cancino, Univision, 29 de julio de 2016
“El servicio de inmigración de Estados Unidos confirmó el viernes una nueva regla que permitirá a ciertos inmigrantes indocumentados cónyuges e hijos de residentes legales permanentes solteros –y también de ciudadanos- pedir un perdón para salir del país, llevar a cabo el trámite consular, volver a Estados Unidos como inmigrantes y recibir la tarjeta verde o green card.”

•   Centroamericanos esperan asilo entre chinches, cucarachas y ratas
Araceli Martínez Ortega, La Opinión, 1 de agosto de 2016
“Desde que comenzó la crisis por la llegada de refugiados de Centroamérica a Estados Unidos, miles de ellos terminaron en Los Ángeles. Después de una peligrosa travesía… muchas familias de inmigrantes se sienten felices… Lo que muchos no saben es que si bien ya no están en riesgo inminente de morir a manos de las pandillas, la lucha por la supervivencia en una urbe como Los Ángeles apenas comienza… Lo que nunca imaginaron es que tras llegar a la primera potencia del mundo, Estados Unidos, tendrían que vivir inundados de chinches, cucarachas y ratas de todos tamaños en un pequeño departamento…” 

•   La Patrulla Fronteriza dice que estas son las zonas seguras donde no arrestará a indocumentados
Jorge Cancino, Univision, 2 de agosto de 2016
“La Patrulla Fronteriza publicó en su página digital un anuncio contrario a lo que muchos esperan: dio a conocer una lista con zonas seguras donde los indocumentados pueden evitar ser arrestados por ingresar sin permiso a Estados Unidos. Entre los lugares incluidos, están las escuelas, guarderías con licencia, universidades y paradas de autobuses escolares. En la lista también están iglesias (o lugares de culto) y hospitales en general”.
Read a version in English: Immigration Reform News in 2016: U.S. Border Patrol Agency Announces ‘Safe Zones’ for Immigrants 

•   Bloomberg-Led Group Launches 2017 Immigration Reform Drive
Seung Min Kim, Politico, August 3, 2016
“The Partnership for a New American Economy, headed by the former New York City mayor and News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch, is calling the new initiative ‘Reason for Reform’ and will flood all 50 states Wednesday with pro-reform events and detailed economic reports tailored to each state. The group is also pushing a new digital crowdsourcing effort to collect stories of how immigration has affected residents in all 435 congressional districts… In all, the Partnership is coordinating 62 immigration reform events nationwide on Wednesday.”

Resources and Reports:

•   UNHCR – Roundtable on Protection Needs in the Northern Triangle of Central America
UNHCR, August 4, 2016
Press Release and San Jose Action Statement from July 6-7 high level roundtable in San José, Costa Rica where the governments of Belize, Canada, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Panama and the United States joined to “acknowledge the need for stronger protection of asylum seekers, refugees and internally displaced people in the region. Resources in English and en español.

•   Barriers to Protection: The Treatment of Asylum Seekers in Expedited Removal
U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, August 2, 2016
“The report highlights examples of DHS officials’ flawed processing of asylum seekers… Barriers to Protection also provides troubling evidence that training and quality assurance measures are inadequate and that some Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers are not following procedures meant to ensure that asylum seekers are not mistakenly returned home… The report’s recommendations include that DHS should: appoint a high-ranking official with sufficient authority and resources to carry out the reforms necessary to ensure that asylum seekers are protected in Expedited Removal and oversee the implementation of these reforms; and have the DHS Office of Inspector General audit the Expedited Removal process for compliance with laws and policies on the protection of asylum seekers.”

•   Report: Excessive, Wrongheaded Mandatory Detention of Immigrants in Maryland
Sirine Shebaya and Robert Koulish, ACLU, August 4, 2016
“The report details how many immigration detainees are held for months or years while they fight the government’s attempts to deport them, without ever being provided a bond hearing in immigration court.”

•   Indefensible: A Decade of Mass Incarceration of Migrants Prosecuted for Crossing the Border
Judith A. Greene, Bethany Carson, Andrea Black, Grassroots Leadership and Justice Strategies, July 2016
“This book provides an oral history of the evolution of Operation Streamline over 10 years and its legacy today… In looking back at 10 years of mass prosecution of migrants, we have an opportunity to examine how and why the program emerged. We can also examine the harm it has caused against the scant evidence that it has achieved the stated goal of deterring migration at the southern border… in this book we highlight the efforts of those who are organizing to bring an end to prosecution of migrants at the border.”

•   Migrant Children and Migrants’ Children: Nativity Differences in School Enrollment in Mexico and the United States
Jennifer Glick and Scott T. Yabiku, Demographic Research, July 29, 2016
“The growing prevalence of migrant children in diverse contexts requires a re-consideration of the intergenerational consequences of migration. To understand how migration and duration of residence are associated with children’s schooling, we need more comparative work that can point to the similarities and differences in outcomes for children across contexts… The results demonstrate that, adjusting for household resources and household-level migration experience, Mexican-born children in the United States and U.S.-born children in Mexico, particularly those who arrived recently, lag behind in school enrollment. These differences are most pronounced at older ages.”

•   DHS OIG Completes Three Rounds of Unannounced Random Inspections of CBP and ICE Detention Facilities
DHS Office of Inspector General, July 28, 2016
“The OIG initiated this inspection program in response to concerns raised by immigrant rights groups and complaints to the DHS OIG Hotline regarding conditions for aliens in CBP and ICE custody… The results of these inspections will be incorporated into a public report to be issued in the fall.”