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Migrant News Brief 7.24.19

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Date: Jul 24, 2019

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: lalvarez@lawg.org.

U.S. Enforcement

Trump administration to expand its power to deport undocumented immigrants
Maria Sacchetti, Washington Post, July 22, 2019 

“The stated targets of the change are people who sneaked into the United States and do not have an asylum case or immigration-court date pending. Previously, the administration’s policy for “expedited removal” had been limited to migrants caught within 100 miles of the U.S. border who had been in the country for less than two weeks. The new rule would apply to immigrants anywhere in the United States who have been in the country for less than two years — adhering to a time limit included in the 1996 federal law that authorized the expedited process.”

Asylum Seekers That Followed Trump Rule Now Don’t Qualify Because of New Trump Rule
Dara Lind, ProPublica, July 22, 2019 

“One little-noticed consequence of the new policy is that those who decided against entering the US illegally are now paying a price for having followed the rules. Had they simply crossed into the U.S. illegally when they arrived, they would have had their asylum claims heard under the rules in place at that time.”

U.S. Government’s ‘Remain in Mexico’ Policy is Expanding, Stranding More People in a Dangerous Mexican City
Nomaan Merchant, Times, July 19, 2019 

“The Department of Homeland Security said Friday that it would implement its Migrant Protection Protocols in Brownsville, Texas, across the border from Matamoros, Mexico. DHS says it anticipates the first asylum seekers will be sent back to Mexico starting Friday.”

ICE Quietly Expands Immigration Detention in the Deep South
Katie Sheperd, Immigration Impact, July 18, 2019 

“Ramping up ICE detention in the Deep South is particularly problematic given the remoteness of the facilities, and their distance from available attorneys, expert witnesses, and loved ones.  The region is notorious for particularly harsh immigration judges. Many of the hearings are likely to be heard by video teleconference (VTC), which disadvantages immigrants.  Attorneys and advocates have complained that video technology often breaks down, and the lines may have bad sound quality.”

Homeland Security chief: Family border separations are down
Colleen Long, AP, July 18, 2019 

“Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan said fewer than 1,000 children have been separated from families out of 450,000 family groups that have crossed the border since October. He said they are separated because of health and safety concerns, among other reasons. That tally does not include children who come with older siblings, or aunts and uncles and grandparents and are separated under long-standing policy meant to guard against human trafficking. McAleenan said Congress would need to amend laws to allow border officers more discretion to keep those groups together.”

Civil Servants Who Process Immigration Applications Are Being Asked To Help ICE Instead
Hamed Aleaziz, Buzzfeed News, July 17, 2019

“The email to staffers, sent Wednesday by USCIS deputy Mark Koumans and obtained by BuzzFeed News, asked employees to volunteer for administrative work in ICE field offices across the country, including processing files that are part of a program forcing immigrants seeking asylum to remain in Mexico as their cases are adjudicated, and supporting public document requests. ‘Current conditions are placing extreme stress on our colleagues at Immigration and Customs Enforcement … USCIS has agreed to seek USCIS volunteers to provide ICE with support,’ Koumans said in his message. ‘I appreciate your willingness to consider helping our colleagues fulfill the DHS mission.’”

A Border Patrol Agent Reveals What It’s Really Like to Guard Migrant Children
Ginger Thompson, ProPublica, July 17, 2019  

“When asked about Pence’s comments, the agent said the damning descriptions of the facilities are ‘more substantiated than not.’ And, while he didn’t embrace the term concentration camp, he didn’t dispute it either. He searched out loud for a term that might be more accurate. Gulag felt too strong. Jail didn’t feel strong enough. He came around to this: ‘It’s kind of like torture in the army. It starts out with just sleep deprivation, then the next guys come in and sleep deprivation is normal, so they ramp it up. Then the next guys ramp it up some more, and then the next guys, until you have full blown torture going on. That becomes the new normal.”

‘Vulnerable’ Migrants Should Be Exempt From ‘Remain In Mexico,’ But Many Are Not
Joel Rose, NPR, July 17, 2019

“More than 15,000 migrants — including roughly 5,000 children — have been returned to Juarez and other border cities under the so-called “Remain In Mexico” policy. The migrants are waiting in those cities for their day in U.S. immigration courts… ‘It seems like a joke,’ said Giovani, who asked that we not use his family’s last name because he worries that speaking out would hurt his immigration case. ‘My family did everything right. We didn’t hop over the fence or cross the river. But despite all that they’re still sending everybody back,’ he said.”

Confusion, fear spread on Mexico border with new US policy
Maria Verza, AP, July 16, 2019 

“Asylum-seekers gathered in Nuevo Laredo, across the border from Texas, grappled to understand what a new U.S. policy that all but eliminates refugee claims by Central Americans and many others meant for their bids to find a better life in America amid a chaos of rumors, confusion and fear.”

ACLU, others file suit in San Francisco federal court to halt Trump asylum ban
Nick Miroff, Washington Post, July 16, 2019

“The attorneys suing the government argued in their complaint that the Trump administration lacks the authority to exclude asylum seekers who arrive across the U.S. southern border because U.S. immigration law states clearly that the government cannot disqualify applicants on the basis of how they arrived. As part of our nation’s commitment to the protection of people fleeing persecution and consistent with our international obligations, it is long-standing federal law that merely transiting through a third country is not a basis to categorically deny asylum to refugees who arrive at our shores…”

How America Got to ‘Zero Tolerance’ on Immigration: The Inside Story
Jason Zengerle, New York Times, July 16, 2019

“But the Department of Homeland Security’s mission had increasingly been telescoped into a single, all-encompassing concern. ‘Under Trump,’ says Juliette Kayyem, a professor at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government who served as an assistant secretary at the department under President Barack Obama, ‘it’s a department that looks at homeland security only through a lens of border enforcement.’”

Mexican Enforcement

Mexico boasts of cutting Central American migrant flow to US by a third
David Agren, The Guardian, July 22, 2019

“Figures from the National Immigration Institute showed an average of 4,156 migrants entered Mexico daily through its southern border during the week of 1-7 June. That figure fell to roughly 2,652 people a day during the week ending 19 July.”

México, en la mira de EU otros 45 días por pacto migratorio
Ana Langner, La Jornada, 22 de julio 2019 

“En un encuentro privado, los funcionarios acordaron dar continuidad durante los próximos 45 días a la estrategia migratoria convenida el pasado 7 de junio en Washington, cuando ambos gobiernos llegaron a diversos compromisos para frenar las amenazas del presidente Donald Trump de imponer aranceles a las importaciones de productos mexicanos”.

US notes advance in Mexican migration enforcement
Amy Guthrie & Peter Orsi, AP, July 21, 2019 

“During the meeting, Pompeo thanked Ebrard for Mexico’s ‘increased immigration enforcement efforts, which initial indications suggest is leading to reduced flows of illegal immigrants arriving at the U.S. southern border.’ The U.S. Department of Homeland Security reported a 28% drop last month in the number of migrants encountered by Customs and Border Protection at the U.S.-Mexico border compared to May.”

Gobiernos de Trump y AMLO presumen éxito de plan para reducir inmigración de indocumentados
Jesus Garcia, El Diario, 21 de julio 2019

“El secretario Ebrard puntualizó que, en virtud de dichos avances, no considera necesario iniciar ningún tipo de negociación con respecto a un eventual acuerdo de Tercer País Seguro entre México y Estados Unidos’, indican la Administración mexicana”.

Mexico says US noted ‘significant advances’ in curbing migration
Al Jazeera, July 21, 2019

“Ebard said considering the advances Mexico has made, it was not necessary to ‘initiate any type of negotiation on a safe third country agreement’ between Mexico and the U.S…. ‘Mexico has sent thousands of national guard troops to its northern and southern borders, an increase of about 88 percent over the last 42 days.”

Mexico tells U.S. it’s not ready for ‘safe third country’ deal: ambassador
Alexandra Alper, Reuters, July 18, 2019 

“Martha Barcena rejected the so-called ‘safe third country’ agreement days before the clock runs out on a deal struck with U.S. President Donald Trump in June. Under that commitment, Mexico averted punitive tariffs by promising to stem the flow of illegal migrants from Central America by July 22. If it failed, Latin America’s second largest economy would have to accept safe-third-country status.”

Sube 112% migración de menores rumbo a EE.UU.
El Salvador, 17 de julio 2019

“Las cifras preliminares indican que han sido presentados ante la autoridad migratoria 33,122 niños y adolescentes, de los cuales se encontraron acompañados 24,597, en tanto que 8,525 estaban no acompañados; mientras que en el mismo periodo de 2018 la cifra de menores presentados fue de 14,279’, informó el Inami en un comunicado”.

Root Causes

The Guatemalan City Fueling the Migrant Exodus to America
Jose de Cordoba, Wall Street Journal, July 21, 2019

“Since the beginning of the year, schoolteacher Teresa Quezada watched her boys and girls vanish. One by one, eight of 27 second- and third-grade students stopped showing up.”

Mexico tree plan in El Salvador aims to stem migration
AP, July 19, 2019

“The program known as “Sowing Life” offers farmers $250 a month to plant fruit or timber trees, and whatever they harvest belongs to them. Mexico donated $31 million to fund the plan in El Salvador, and authorities say it should create 20,000 jobs. “Sowing Life” comes amid a wave of people fleeing Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador to escape poverty and violence.”

El Salvador to Omit Key Data From Official Homicide Tally
Parker Asmann, InSight Crime, July 18, 2019 

El Salvador’s national police explained to President Nayib Bukele that the homicides registered in the country will no longer include victims of alleged confrontations between security forces and suspected gang members, nor those found dead and buried in graves, El Mundo reported.”

Top Americas rights commission condemns Honduras LGBT+ murders
Anastasia Moloney, Reuters, July 18, 2019

“Twenty-one LGBT+ people have been murdered since January, according to local watchdog group Cattrachas, up from 18 in the same period last year. More than 300 gay and trans people have been murdered since 2009,’ the LGBT+ rights group said. ‘The IACHR has followed with serious concern the increase in violence against trans women in Honduras,’ the human rights arm of the 35-member Organization of American States said in a statement.”

How to address the causes of the migration crisis, according to experts
Jen Kirby, Vox, July 17, 2019 

“But identifying what those root causes are and crafting effective policies to address them is a lot harder than it sounds. In general, most agree that any solution will likely have to involve substantial US foreign aid to the affected countries to promote good governance and the rule of law, improve security, and reduce poverty. But what that assistance looks like in practice and how it’s implemented are far more complicated questions. ‘The devil’s in the details,’ Elizabeth Oglesby, a professor at the Center for Latin American Studies at the University of Arizona, told me. ‘Where is this money going? Who is it shoring up?’”

Pompeo to visit four Latin American nations in security, migration push
Lesley Wroughton, Reuters, July 16, 2019

“Pompeo will travel to Argentina, Ecuador, Mexico and El Salvador from Thursday to Sunday, the State Department said. In Mexico, Pompeo’s discussions with his Mexican counterpart, Marcelo Ebrard, will ‘cover a broad agenda’, including migration from Central America to the United States, the official said.”

Guatemala investigates $7 million corruption scandal
AP, July 16, 2019 

“Prosecutors in Guatemala are investigating more than 100 people for their alleged involvement in a corruption ring that took kickbacks for rebuilding public hospitals and padded payrolls in the health sector. The case was revealed by the U.N.’s International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala, whose mandate ends in September.”

Trump administration diverts Central America aid to U.S.-backed opposition in Venezuela
Tracy Wilkinson, LA Times, July 16, 2019

“The Trump administration plans to divert more than $40 million in humanitarian aid from Central America to the U.S.-backed opposition in Venezuela, according to an internal memo and interviews. All of the money being diverted will go to Guaido and his faction, the memo said, to pay for their salaries, airfare, “good governance” training, propaganda, technical assistance for holding elections and other “democracy-building” projects.”

Bukele defends Salvador on migration, crime, raps neighbors
Marcos Aleman, Washington Post, July 16, 2019 

“Bukele noted that Hondurans and Guatemalans have greatly outnumbered Salvadorans arriving at the U.S. border. ‘It is clear that while the issue of migration is a very serious one … the great majority of emigrations are not being created by El Salvador but by Honduras and Guatemala,’ Bukele said.”

How Trump’s Safe-Third-Country Agreement with Guatemala Fell Apart
Jonathan Blitzer, The New Yorker, July 15, 2019 

“The Guatemalans did not know what they were getting into. To this day, Morales believes this agreement is not a safe-third. They don’t want anyone to call it that,’ a Trump official noted. One reason for Morales’s confusion seems to be that there were no real examples of an analogous deal for him to use as a point of reference. The U.S. does have a safe-third-country agreement with Canada—if asylum seekers arrive at a Canadian port of entry, immigration authorities will send them back to the U.S., on the grounds that they could receive a fair hearing in the American system, and vice versa—but it’s different from anything under consideration at the southern border.”


Actions, Reports, and Resources

Restoring the Rule of Law Through a Fair, Humane, and Workable Immigration System
Tom Jawetz, Center for American Progress, July 22, 2019 

“This report sets out a framework for immigration policymaking that brings together the two visions of America, with the goal of building a fair, humane, and well-functioning immigration system in which the rule of law is restored.”

No Justification: The Administration’s Crusade to Ban All Refugees
Refugee Council USA, July 18, 2019

“RCUSA is calling on the administration to return the resettlement program to historic norms—95,000 refugees per year. Anything less is unjustifiable, cruel and immoral, and would have devastating consequences for U.S. communities, national security and foreign policy interests.”

Inicia CNDH de oficio dos expedientes de queja, por hacinamiento y sobre población en instalaciones del INM en Monterrey, y por la muerte de una persona migrante originaria de El Salvador
Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos, 17 de julio 2019 

“La Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos (CNDH) inició de oficio dos expedientes de queja sobre los hechos ocurridos este día en las instalaciones del Instituto Nacional de Migración (INM) en Monterrey, Nuevo León; uno, relacionado con las condiciones de sobrepoblación y hacinamiento en dicho lugar y otra para investigar la muerte de una persona migrante de nacionalidad salvadoreña.”

Estados Unidos establece nuevas barreras contra el asilo: ¿qué significa la regla publicada este 16 de julio?
Alianza Americas, 16 de julio 2019 

‘Este cambio adoptado por los Secretarios de Justicia y de Seguridad Interior agrega un requisito para quienes ingresen a Estados Unidos por vía terrestre por la frontera sur y hayan transitado por algún otro país: esas personas sólo podrán pedir asilo en Estados Unidos si pidieron asilo en otro país y les fue negado. Estados Unidos no podrá ser el primer país de asilo para quienes ingresen desde América Latina, excepto para los mexicanos’.

USA: Government detention of children at Homestead facility cruel and unlawful
Amnesty International, July 15, 2019

“Homestead is not a home for children,’ said Denise Bell, researcher for refugee and migrant rights and Amnesty International USA. ‘Homestead is an industrial line for processing mass numbers of children, instead of focusing on their best interests. The message from this administration is clear: if children come to the US fleeing for their lives, the government will lock them up and make it as difficult as possible to secure their release.’”


*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.

P.S. Do you know of someone who might be interested in receiving the Migrant News Brief? Tell them to email lalvarez@lawg.org