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Migration News Brief 1.15.20

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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: lalvarez@lawg.org.

US Enforcement

Lawmakers from both parties criticize White House plan to take $7.2 billion in Pentagon funding for Trump’s border wall 
Paul Sonne, Jeff Stein, and Nick Miroff, The Washington Post, January 14, 2020 

“For the second year in a row, the White House is planning to obtain the majority of the funding it wants for Trump’s barrier project by defunding construction and maintenance projects on military bases at home and abroad and taking money from elsewhere in the Pentagon’s budget by funneling it through the counternarcotics program.”

Chairman Nadler Announces House Judiciary Investigation into Trump Administration’s “Remain in Mexico” Policy
U.S. House of Representatives, January 14, 2020 

“The House Judiciary Committee has held hearings, sent oversight letters, and participated in a variety of staff-level briefings in which administration officials have been unable or unwilling to answer basic questions relating to MPP. A comprehensive review of the policy, its implementation, and its impact on vulnerable populations is necessary.”

The U.S. is putting asylum seekers on planes to Guatemala — often without telling them where they’re going 
Kevin Sieff, The Washington Post, January 14, 2020 

“When the migrants land in Guatemala City, they receive little information about what it means to apply for asylum in one of the hemisphere’s poorest countries. Those who don’t immediately apply are told that they must leave the country in 72 hours. The form is labeled ‘Voluntary Return.’”

Border Wall Threatens National Wildlife Refuge That’s Been 40 Years in the Making 
John Burnett and Marisa Peñaloza, NPR, January 14, 2020 

“To build the massive border barrier through sensitive areas, the Department of Homeland Security has suspended 31 federal laws that protect environmental and cultural features.”

Living Between A Rock and A Hard Place: The Militarized U.S.-Mexico Border
Michael Seifert, ACLU of Texas, January 13, 2020 

“Indeed, if many Rio Grande Valley residents are feeling unsafe, it is more likely because of the enormous number of uninformed agents running around with guns on their belts. Some of the most horrific crimes in our otherwise peaceful region have been committed by federal agents: In 20214, near Mission, Texas, a border patrol officer sexually assaulted and attempted to murder three young women — two of them 14-years-old.”

Immigration “Tent Courts” Aren’t Allowing Full Access To The Public, Attorneys Say 
Aldolfo Flores, BuzzFeed News, January 13, 2020 

“‘I don’t know why they put us in these tiny rooms to hold the hearings other than to say there’s no space for anyone else to be present,’ she told BuzzFeed news. ‘These hearings are being scheduled with these judges intentionally to be able to conduct them without any oversight.”’

Protesters picket migrant judicial tent courts, launch daily South Texas vigil against MPP
Sandra Sanchez, Border Report, January 12, 2020 

“‘They call these courts? Courts are places where justice is administered. These are where people injustice,’ lead organizer Joshua Rubin chanted into a megaphone as he led the group across the street from Xeriscape Park to the sidewalk in front of the judicial tent cities.”

Border Patrol Is Detaining Asylum-Seeking Families At A Texas Facility For Longer Than The Law Allows
Adolfo Flores, Buzzfeed News, January 13, 2020 

“‘Children shouldn’t be held this long. And the reason the government violates the law consistently on this is when you have a child with a parent, if they release them, they have to release the parent as well.’”

US-Honduras finalize implementation steps on asylum deal 
Marlon González, The Washington Post, January 9, 2020 

“In exchange, the U.S. has agreed to invest in the region’s economic development, an exchange Wolf highlighted Thursday. ‘As you continue to do more to secure your borders, dismantle gangs and cartels and implement our asylum agreement, the United States government will continue to invest in and support the economic growth in Honduras,’ he said.”

Tent Court on the Border: Migrants Face a Judge on a Screen and a Lawyer They Can’t See 
Alicia A. Caldwell, Wall Street Journal, January 9, 2020 

“In one of the first such hearings to be open to the public, four migrants showed up for immigration court in a giant tent near the border this week to face a judge on a video screen and a lawyer they couldn’t see.”

Mexican man kills himself on bridge after being refused entry to US 
Tom Phillips, The Guardian, January 9, 2020

“This week’s suicide again cast a light on the bleak conditions facing the growing number of migrants being turned away from the US’s southern border and the dangers facing them back home, in crime-ridden communities in Central America and Mexico.”

Trump’s ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy is traumatizing kids. Bring asylum-seekers here to heal. 
Steven Berkowitz and Alisa R. Gutman, USA Today, January 6, 2020 

“Exposing these children to brutal attacks on their family members, while they are living in stressful and traumatizing shelter environments, makes them prone to regress to earlier developmental stages and potentially lose bladder control, stop speaking, cry uncontrollably and even lose touch with reality.”

The Trump Administration Will Begin Deporting Asylum-Seekers From Mexico to Guatemala
Hamed Aleaziz, Buzzfeed News, January 6, 2020 

“‘Mexico is dangerous; Guatemala is even more so. This expansion of the [agreement] continues to prevent legitimate asylum-seekers from having their cases heard by the US and foists them upon the Guatemalan system which has about a dozen staff,’ said one asylum officers, who was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.”

Some “Remain in Mexico” migrants will have to travel 340 miles for U.S. court hearings 
Camilo Montoya-Galvez, CBS News, January 2, 2020 

“‘This choice presents enormous obstacles to asylum seekers,’ Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, a policy counsel at the American Immigration Council, told CBS News. ‘Nogales is seven to eight hours from Ciudad Juárez and the journey for many can be dangerous, as it requires going through cartel-controlled territory.’”

A Translation Crisis at the Border 
Rachel Nolan, The New Yorker, December 30, 2019 

“President Trump placed blame for their deaths on the children’s fathers who had signed intake waives stating that their children did not need medical care. The waivers were in English, and officials provided a verbal Spanish translation—two languages that the fathers did not speak fluently or at all.”

Mexican Enforcement

Yielding to U.S. Pressure, Mexico Clamps Down on Migrants
Nadja Drost and Bruno Federio, Pulitzer Center, January 11, 2020 

“Until recently,  Mexico had little interest in stopping extra-continental migrants from traversing the country to reach the U.S. Border. But then, in the summer of 2019, the U.S. threatened Mexico with trade tariffs if it didn’t drastically stem the flow of migrants. Mexico, clamped down, sending 6,000 National Guard troops to its southern border.”

El muro mexicano aumenta las deportaciones de salvadoreños en un 67%
Nelson Rauda Zablah, El Faro, 12 de enero de 2020 

“Esos números no lucen en ningún spot publicitario del gobierno pero hablan de un aumento generalizado del 41% en la cantidad de deportados a El Salvador, en su mayoría de Estados Unidos y México. La cifra pasó de 24,842 en los primeros 11 meses de 2018 a 35,129 en el mismo periodo de 2019”.

Alden Rivera: Mexico deporto a 70,275 hondureños en 2019 
Jonathan Jared, Tiempo Digital, 1 de enero 2020 

“El embajador también lamentó la difícil situación que pasan los hondureños que están en el norte de México, esperando llamados de cortes estadounidenses para evaluar sus solicitudes para una estadía permanente.”

Falta de políticas eficaces agrava crisis humanitaria de migrantes en México 
Inés Amarelo, La Vanguardia, 18 de diciembre de 2019 

“‘Nos preocupan las consecuencias de las políticas y hemos notificado un mayor número de personas con situaciones complejas y diferentes’, detalló a Efe la coordinadora del programa de migración de la oficina regional del Comité Internacional de la Cruz Roja (CICR), Lorena Guzmán. Para el CICR, algunas de las consecuencias más preocupantes son la mayor presencia de familias y menores no acompañados y la reactivación del uso de la violencia”.

Root Causes 

More than 300 human rights activists were killed in 2019, report reveals 
Nina Lakhani, The Guardian, January 14, 2020

“Colombia was the bloodiest nation with 103 murders and the Philippines was second, followed by Brazil, Honduras and Mexico.”

UNHCR welcomes new law in El Salvador to help people internally displaced by violence 
UNHCR, January 10, 2020 

“The legislation, passed by a resounding majority in El Salvador’s National Assembly on January 9, opens the door for tens of thousands of victims of forced displacement in the country to gain access to life-saving humanitarian assistance, and to have their basic rights restored, including effective access to justice.”

Private Messages Further Link Honduras Elites to Berta Cáceres Murder
Parker Asmann, InSight Crime, January 9, 2020 

“One of the group chats included former DESA Executive Director Roberto David Castillo Mejía and Chief Financial Officer Daniela Atala Midence as well as DESA board members José Eduardo Atala Zablah and Pedro Atala Zablah. The Atala Zablahs are one of Honduras’ most powerful families with close ties to the country’s government and financial elites.”

15 mujeres han sido asesinadas en los primeros 14 días del 2020 en Honduras
Mpastrana, La Voz de Honduras, 14 de enero de 2020 

“Tres mujeres perdieron la vida de forma violenta, el la aldea Linda Vista del municipio de Colaca en Lempira”.

Fiscalía reporta un aumento de las extorsiones
Mariana Arévalo, La Prensa Grafica, 14 de enero de 2020 

“Un 17.2% aumentaron las denuncias por extorsiones que recibió la Fiscalía General de la República (FGR en 2019 en comparación con 2018, según las cifras presentadas ayer por la Dirección de Análisis, Tecnicas de Investigacion e Informacion (DATI) de la Fiscalía durante la rendición de cuentas de la institución, correspondiente al 1. De enero al 31 de diciembre del año pasado”.

Senadores de EE.UU piden ampliación de la MACCIH sin “tocar” el actual convenio 
Criterio Honduras, 10 de enero de 2020 

“La carta dice que, ‘A medida que Honduras continúa luchando con niveles desafiantes de impunidad criminal, que alimentan la violencia social y obligan a los hondureños a huir de su país, es imperativo que MACCIH, pueda continuar su trabajo para avanzar en la transparencia y la rendición de cuentas sin ningún cambio en su mandato actual’, escribieron los senadores”.

U.S. deportations of Guatemalans doubled over past decade 
Jeff Abbott, Reuters, January 3, 2020 

“‘We associated the increase with migration policies of the United States,’ Alejandra Mena  spokeswoman for the Guatemalan Institute of Migration, told Reuters. She said she expected 2020 to follow a similar pattern.”

¿Hacia dónde avanza la lucha socio ambiental en Honduras? Un balance de la coyuntura del 2019
CESPAD, 3 de enero de 2020 

“En el primer apartado, se realiza una descripción sobre los principales hechos que marcaron la coyuntura territorial de la coyuntura, valorando el proceso de ascenso y reactivación de la lucha socio ambiental, detallando cuál ha sido la reacción del régimen y la fuerza coercitiva del Estado…”.

Más de 82 mil deserciones escolares se registraron en 2019 
Jonathan Jared, Tiempo Digital, 1 de enero de 2020 

“‘El gobierno debe implementar políticas bien sustentadas para que los estudiantes obtengan el máximo rendimiento en los centros educativos en actividades académicas; asimismo un buen desempeno en actividades extracurriculares como ya lo aplican algunas instituciones del país’ explicó”.

Latin American environmentalists face looming threats of violence 
Martha Pskowski, National Observer, December 31, 2019

“Mexico’s indigenous people are routinely discriminated against in the country’s courts, and Mexican journalist Laura Castellanos found that in the past decade, two thirds of deadly attacks on land defenders in Mexico were indigenous people.

Half of Extortion Calls in Guatemala Are Made from One Prison 
Phoebe Studdert-Kennedy, InSight Crime, December 30, 2019 

“But in November, Guatemalan police spokesperson Pablo Castillo told the press that one individual prisoner, David Quineros López, alias ‘El Tijerillas,’ was found to be coordinating about 200 calls a day along with three other prisoners.

Climate Change and Political Chaos: A Deadly Mix in Honduras Dengue Epidemic
Kirk Semple, The New York Times, December 29, 2019 

“Honduras’s notorious criminality has worsened matters, too, as public health teams, already stretched thin by budget cuts and a lack of trained personnel, have been blocked by gangs from entering some of the most severely afflicted neighborhoods to educate residents and fumigate against mosquito infestations.”

Actions, Alerts, Resources 

Q&A: The Threats Facing Honduras’s Fight Against Corruption 
WOLA, January 15, 2020 

“Renewal of the mandate can be done through an exchange of letters between the executive branch and the OAS Secretary General. The delays in renewing the mission’s mandate have raised concerns that the Honduran government may be seeking to limit the powers of the mission and its ability to help investigate entrenched corruption.”

AILA Policy Brief: Public Access to Tent Courts Now Allowed, but Meaningful Access Still Absent 
AILA, January 10, 2020 

‘“Reports indicate that members of the press and public have been permitted to observe Master Calendar Hearings at the Brownsville and Laredo tent court facilities, in addition to the brick-and-mortar courts where the judges sit. However, this access has not been consistent with access allowed at other immigration courts across the country.”

Death, Damage, and Failure: Past, Present, and Future Impacts of Walls on the U.S.-Mexico Border 
ACLU Texas, Equal Voice for America’s Families, SBCC, Southwest Environmental Center, Sierra Club, Center for Biological Diversity December 2019 

“Clear evidence demonstrates that even as the number of agents doubled, then doubled again, and barriers came to line the 654 miles of the U.S. southern border, border crossers were not deterred. Border walls did however, inflict tremendous harm upon border communities, the sovereignty of Native American nations, and borderlands ecosystems.”

Border Observatory: US Immigration Court Observation Manual 
Hope Border Institute, December 2019 

“The US Immigration Court Observation Manual is meant for individuals, advocates and organizers as well as university groups and faith communities to do the critical work of monitoring immigration courts, not only at the US-Mexico border, but across the country.”

US: Mexican Asylum Seekers Ordered to Wait
HRW, December 23, 2019 

“The US Congress and federal oversight bodies and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees should urgently investigate the Trump administration’s treatment of Mexican asylum seekers at the border, Human Rights Watch said. Broder agencies should ensure they are treating asylum seekers in accordance with US and international law.”

“I Can’t Believe What’s Happening—What We’re Becoming”: A Memo from El Paso and Ciudad Juárez 
Adam Isacson, WOLA, December 19, 2019 

“These are people bearing a heavy burden, and many are traumatized by the human suffering they witness, the bottomless need for their work, and the mounting obstacles they must overcome to do it.”

The “Wall” Before the Wall: Mexico’s Crackdown on Migration at its Southern Border
Maureen Meyer and Adam Isacson, WOLA, December 17, 2019 

“Mexico dramatically intensified its migration enforcement efforts after the Trump administration threatened to impose tariffs on Mexican goods in June 2019. As a result of this crackdown, Mexican authorities’ apprehensions of migrants shot upward in June and July, more than tripling over the same period in 2018.”

RE: Implementation of the Migrant Protection Protocols (“MPP”) in Tamaulipas State 
CGRS AND ACLU, December 9, 2019 

“The MPP policy should be rescinded altogether for the reasons set forth in the district court’s order, among others. We write here, however to specifically address the implementation of the MPP in Tamaulipas State, Mexico, where as the federal government has consistently acknowledged, the extreme level of danger makes it especially unconscionable to returning migrants.”

Targeting El Paso
PBS Frontline, January 7, 2020 

“FRONTLINE investigates how El Paso, Texas became the Trump administration’s immigration policy testing ground, and then the target of a white supremacist. Interviews with current and former officials, Border Patrol agents, advocates and migrants tell the inside story from the epicenter of the border crisis.”

*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.