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Migration News Brief 11.26.19

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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.


Press Release: LAWG Deeply Concerned over Implications of New Rule Signaling Beginning of Implementation of Safe Third Country Agreements
Latin America Working Group 
“The Latin America Working Group (LAWG) is deeply concerned over the implications of the new “interim final rule” on asylum seekers’ rights to protection that was published last week. The rule signals the implementation of the “safe third country agreements” referred to by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) as “Asylum Cooperative Agreements,” or ACAs, between the United States and Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. Media reports confirmed the first return of a Honduran asylum seeker from the United States to Guatemala last Thursday, Nov. 21st, starting the implementation of the Guatemala agreement, which was signed between Guatemala and the United States in July 2019 and was only made public by DHS last week.”

US Enforcement

The long, cold wait for asylum
Angela Kocherga, Albuquerque Journal, November 24, 2019 

“Mexican asylum seekers are so worried about losing their place in line that they’d rather camp out in the cold than go to overcrowded shelters. ‘We try to bundle up the children,’ said Felipe Gonzalez as he watched his son and nice play with a donated toy train while his sister swept the dusty road outside the tents.”

Humanitarian Volunteer Scott Warren Reflects on the Borderlands and Two Years of Government Prosecution
Ryan Deveraux, The Intercept, November 23, 2019

“That Scott Warren still feels shaken by what he’s been through should not come as a surprise. His acquittal does not erase the fact that, for nearly two years, the U.S. Department of Justice tried to send him to prison for his efforts to end death and suffering in the Sonoran Desert. Not only did the federal government choose to retry him after a hung jury split eight to four in his favor, but it assigned the No. 2 prosecutor in Arizona, Glenn McCormick, to the case. On Wednesday, as the two sides laid out their closing arguments, U.S. Attorney for Arizona Michael Bailey, who was appointed by President Donald Trump, made a surprise appearance in the courtroom. Hands clasped behind his back, Bailey stood in the back of the room as Assistant U.S. Attorney Nathaniel Walters made the case for incarcerating Warren.”

The Trump Administration Was Ordered to Let These Migrants Seek Asylum. It Didn’t Tell the Judges Hearing Their Cases.
Dara Lind, ProPublica, November 22, 2019

“The Trump administration appears not to have informed immigration judges or prosecutors about a federal court ruling this week that ordered it not to block asylum for migrants who had agreed to wait at the U.S.-Mexico border. As a result, immigration judges are still hearing these migrants’ cases without realizing they are eligible for asylum — and some asylum-seekers may have had their claims erroneously denied.”

In a Private Facebook Group, California Police Brag About Breaking State Law to Help ICE
Darwin BondGraham, The Appeal, November 22, 2019

“‘Are CHP officers being prohibited from working with ICE?’ the retired officer asked. Multiple current and retired CHP officers replied that they are willing to break the law to help ICE deport people. ‘We were told do not call them,’ CHP Officer Tony Ramborger wrote in response to the question. ‘I said BS i will call them if I get a load vehicle,’ he continued, referring to a car containing drugs or other contraband. ‘That A-hole in sacto can charge me and I will have the weight of the federal gov. When i am found not guilty i will sue for wrongful termination and go to work for Fox news.’”

‘Remain in Mexico’ to shuttle migrants from Tucson to El Paso
Arelis. R. Hernandez, Nick Miroff and Maria Sacchetti, The Washington Post, November 22, 2019

“Homeland Security officials plan to announce as soon as Friday that they will expand the “Migrant Protection Protocols” program to the Tucson region, one of the last major areas on the border that has not been diverting asylum seekers to Mexico to await their immigration court hearings. Officials estimate DHS will send at least one busload each day from U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Tucson sector to the Texas border city of El Paso, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the internal plans. Migrants will have interviews to determine if they would be at risk in Mexico, and if not, will be sent to Ciudad Juárez to await their U.S. immigration court hearings.”

A Top US Immigration Official Threatened To Fire Employees For Leaking Information To The Media
Hamed Aleaziz, BuzzFeed, November 21, 2019

“‘We have the responsibility to protect the information that the agency and the public have entrusted to us and it is imperative that we not betray that trust through the unauthorized disclosure (‘leaking’) of any such information,’ he wrote. ‘…recent unauthorized disclosures of sensitive, for official use only, and internal use only information by USCIS personnel to media outlets have brought this issue to the forefront.’He added that staff would be reprimanded and potentially suspended for two weeks for a first offense, another two weeks for a second offense, and terminated or removed from their job for a third leak.”

Asylum Officers Were Told Of Killings And Violence In Guatemala. They Were Ordered To Send People There Anyway.
Hamed Aleaziz, BuzzFeed, November 21, 2019

“Guatemala is one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere and has the sixth-highest rate of malnutrition in the world. Nearly half of the country suffers from chronic malnutrition, with the prevalence reaching about 70% in some indigenous areas, according to a 2018 report from USAID.”

No son acuerdos de tercer país seguro, son acuerdos de exportación de solicitantes de asilo
Helena Ochoa, FactUm, 24 de noviembre de 2019

“El gobierno anunció que el acuerdo se inició con la devolución de un hombre hondureño que llegó a Estados Unidos a pedir asilo y que fue enviado contra su voluntad a Guatemala, donde expresó que no quería pedir asilo y que prefería retornar a su país. Se anunció que, en las próximas semanas, llegarán incluso vuelos completos de personas solicitantes de asilo en Estados Unidos enviadas a Guatemala”.

Acuerdo de Asilo: Actuación del Gobierno genera críticas y reacciones
Margarita Giron, La Hora, 21 de noviembre de 2019

“Según expertos y una migrante consultada, tal acción, incurre en un tipo de ilegalidad, pues nunca se conocieron los anexos del mismo y no se siguió el procedimiento que la CC indicó debía realizarse, luego que otorgara la revocatoria al amparo provisional que limitaba al presidente, Jimmy Morales, a realizar negociaciones para convertir a Guatemala en un Tercer País Seguro”.

Desoyendo a la CC y sin publicar anexos, arriba primero centroamericano
Grecia Ortiz, La Hora, 21 de noviembre de 2019

“Degenhart insistió que no se necesitaba aprobación del Congreso para echar a andar el acuerdo, aunque así lo determinó la Corte de Constitucionalidad al resolver un recurso de revocatoria planteado por el Ejecutivo a un amparo provisional relacionado a este tema, la Corte se basó en los propios argumentos del Gobierno para determinar que el convenio debía ser aprobado por el Legislativo.”

Hundreds of Documents to be Released Detailing Plans to Build Migrant Detention Facilities at Contaminated Fort Bliss Site
EarthJustice, November 21, 2019

“‘These documents we’re releasing today reveal an alarming effort by the Army and DHS to rush plans to build a family detention center at Fort Bliss without taking the necessary steps to make sure the site was free of toxic hazards. Despite known pollution on the site, the Army planned to build a detention center there without completing a full investigation of the extent of contamination or verifying that the waste had been cleaned up,’ said Earthjustice attorney Melissa Legge. ‘This should signal to lawmakers, journalists, and the public how unscrupulous this administration can be while pursuing ill-conceived and dangerous anti-immigration policies.’”

New acting Homeland Security secretary Chad Wolf visits border in El Paso
Robert Moore, The Washington Post, November 21, 2019

“Wolf, the fifth DHS secretary since Trump took office in 2017, joined other administration officials in praising Mexico’s efforts to cut northbound migration since a major surge earlier this year. He called the U.S. relationship with Mexico ‘excellent’ and said he expects the country to do more to keep Central Americans from traversing the country on their way to the United States.”

ONU habilita plan de retorno para migrantes en Guatemala y Belice
El Pais, 21 de noviembre de 2019

“El plan se ejecutará hasta octubre del 2020 y cuenta con financiamiento de 10,3 millones de dólares del gobierno de Estados Unidos. El programa de asistencia humanitaria y de Retorno Voluntario Asistido “beneficiará a las personas migrantes que voluntariamente soliciten regresar a su país, pero que no cuentan con los medios para poder hacerlo”, señaló la OIM en un comunicado.”

Why I Quit My Job Carrying Out Trump’s Immigration Policies
Doug Stephans, The New York Times, November 20, 2019

“Mr. Stephens is not the only asylum officer who has grappled with following orders. In interviews with a half-dozen current and former asylum officers across the country, The Times learned of individuals leaving their posts, requesting job transfers and falling into deep depression.”

Guatemala bishops’ ministry: Bad idea to send asylum seekers to jungle
David Agren, Angelus, November 20, 2019

“‘It’s undeniable, the interest, the pressure and threats of the United States president so that countries in the region turn into safe third countries. We remind people that we are the most violent region which is not at war,’ the bishops’ statement continued. ‘Peten does not have the ability nor the infrastructure at this time to welcome, protect and integrate asylum-seekers and refugees,’ it added. Under a Trump administration ruling Nov. 18, beginning in December, the U.S. will have a new screening process to determine if the U.S. or Guatemala will hear the case for an asylum-seeker.”

Senators And Presidential Candidates Are Demanding the DHS Report on a Controversial Asylum Policy
Hamed Aleaziz, BuzzFeed News, November 19, 2019

“To that end, the program requires immigrants to affirmatively tell CBP officers that they fear for their safety in Mexico in order to have a chance of avoiding being returned to the country. In those cases, CBP officers should refer immigrants to be interviewed by asylum officers with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services. The recommendations, however, indicate that asylum-seekers have not been allowed to be interviewed by those officers, who have faced pressure from CBP to rule against those seeking protection.”

‘Remain in Mexico’ policy faces internal critiques at House hearing
Tanvi Misra, Roll Call, November 19, 2019

“The hearing, hosted by the subcommittee on Border Security, Facilitation, and Operations, spotlights the human cost of a highly controversial policy that the Trump administration argues has been the most effective in reducing migration at the southwestern border.”

In squalid Mexico tent city, asylum seekers are growing so desperate they’re sending their children over the border alone
Kevin Sieff, The Washington Post, November 19, 2019

“‘It’s becoming clear to us that this whole thing is a lie,’ said Reyna, 38, who sent her 15-year-old daughter, Yoisie, across the border last week. ‘They tell us to wait and wait and wait, but no one here gets asylum.’”

Migrant Women Fleeing Violence Are Being Revictimized in the US
Zorayda Avila, Truthout, November 19, 2019

“Yet today, women fleeing from violence across Central America and Mexico are being victimized at home and then again by the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant policies. After making the brave choice to escape abusers — and in many cases, suffering other forms of social, economic and even political violence along the migration route — they are revictimized all over again by the very process that should guarantee their safety. Migration officials look us in the face, hear our stories and decide we are not enough.”

My city used to welcome refugees. ‘Remain in Mexico’ means we can’t anymore.
Taylor Levy, The Washington Post, November 19, 2019

“The El Paso community — with support from around the world — became a shining example of generosity and hospitality. Catholic nuns and evangelical missionaries volunteered alongside radical atheists; former Border Patrol agents served meals cooked by the local LGBT center; students and retirees bonded over bumbling Spanish and children’s laughter. We came together to welcome those in search of refuge and wished them well as they continued on the next step of their journeys. Today, most of this has come to an end.”

Why forbidding asylum seekers from working undermines the right to seek asylum
Yael Schacher, The Washington Post, November 18, 2019

“Upholding the right of asylum seekers to work is an essential component of humanitarian protection. And this is a right that was fought over and ultimately won through debate and litigation in the 1970s and 1980s. Revisiting that history can help us see why the proposed rule would be so destructive. The arguments against this basic right, then and now — claiming that asylum seekers were frauds, that they were stealing jobs from Americans and that they needed to be deterred by any means — ring hollow.”

Mexican Enforcement

Trump’s Anti-migrant Rampage Migrates South
James Frederick, Current Affairs, November 21, 2019

“The arrangement was squishy and vague. As you can see, it included face-saving words like ‘humanitarian emergency’ and ‘durable solution’. But it was an awful deal for Mexico that contained no specific benchmarks and no potential benefits. For Trump, it was a new achievement in his most successful and enduring political platform.”

Misión de Observación constata flagrante violación de derechos humanos de migrantes
Isain Mandujano, Proceso, 21 de noviembre de 2019

“Entre sus principales hallazgos encontraron un sistema migratorio rápido y eficiente para la detención y deportación, pero lento, obsoleto, corrupto y burocrático para la asistencia y la atención a trámites de regularización. Los participantes se percataron de la incorporación acelerada de fuerzas armadas –Guardia Nacional– en operativos de control, sin ninguna formación en derechos humanos”.

El INM anuncia la detención de 13 presuntos ‘polleros’ y rescate de 387 migrantes centroamericanos
Sin Embargo, 17 de noviembre de 2019

“En menos de un mes, Médicos Sin Fronteras (MSF) brindó atención a 11 migrantes que fueron víctimas de secuestro y tortura. Esta cifra es igual al número total de casos de secuestro atendidos en los primeros ocho meses del año en ese punto de atención”.

Root Causes 

Face of Guatemala’s anti-corruption fight faces threats
Sonia Perez D, Associated Press, November 25, 2019

“Ericka Lorena Aifán is used to threats after more than a decade as a judge in Guatemala, but she says the tone has intensified in recent months, such as the text message to her cellphone saying that she and her family ‘should be dead.’”

Pressure mounts for El Salvador to investigate wave of LGBT+ killings
Oscar Lopez, Reuters, November 21, 2019

“LGBT+ people face persistent discrimination and abuse in El Salvador, where local gang violence and entrenched social prejudices can be a deadly mix. Gay marriage is illegal and trans people cannot change their gender on official documents.”

Comunidad salvadorena LGTBI, en alerta y preocupada por ola de crímenes de odio
Acan-Fe, La Prensa Grafica, 21 de noviembre de 2019

“En estado de alerta y con una profunda preocupación se encuentran miembros de la de la comunidad de Lesbianas, Gais, Transgénero, Bisexuales e Intersexuales (LGTBI) de El Salvador por la ola de crímenes de odio que se han registrado en las últimas semanas contra mujeres trans y gais, según aseguraron a Efe dos defensores de derechos humanos de esta población. Desde el pasado 27 de octubre al menos cuatro personas de la comunidad LGTBI han sido asesinadas en diferentes localidades del país centroamericano, de acuerdo con información de la Asociación Comunicando y Capacitando Trans (COMCAVIS-TRANS).”

Un círculo de violencia infernal: de El Salvador a Estados Unidos
Helena Olea, Hispanic L.A.

“El periódico El Faro reveló que la niña y su familia huyeron del país en julio. La familia hizo un primer intento de escapar, pero fue detenida y deportada. A los pocos días volvieron a salir del país porque fueron objeto de amenazas por haber denunciado los hechos. Este caso refleja la vulnerabilidad de las víctimas de violencia de género y los riesgos que asumen quienes deciden denunciarla y buscan justicia.”

Matan a disparos a comunicador social en Puerto Cortés
El Heraldo, 25 de noviembre de 2019 

“El hondureño fue acribillado a balazos minutos después de salir del canal 12, en donde conducía el programa ‘La hora de la verdad’.”

Fenagh reporta perdidas del 70% en cultivos de maiz por sequia
Proceso Digital, 24 de noviembre de 2019

“Gallardo manifestó que esperan que departamentos como Yoro y Colón, que fueron perjudicados por la sequía en los meses de septiembre y octubre, se recuperen con las lluvias que se registran en noviembre y diciembre.”

Mujeres del Sur de Honduras encuentran puertas cerradas para el acceso a la justicia 
Dina Meza, Pasos de Animal Grande, 24 de noviembre de 2019

“Han pasado 22 años de la aprobación de dicha Ley, pero los avances todavía no alcanzan un promedio que saque al Estado de Honduras de su precaria actuación, al monitorear sus actuaciones que impactan directamente en la vida de las mujeres hondureñas”.

Cursed or unlucky? Villagers must flee again, this time from a volcano
Cindy Carcamo, Los Angeles Times, November 21, 2019

“Gonzalez hails from a community of indigenous farmworkers, ethnic Mayas who speak Popti and Mam, who fled their homes in the western highlands during the civil war that roiled Guatemala in the 1980s. The volcano is their latest misfortune. Some chalk up their troubles to corrupt and inept government officials. Others believe they are cursed and must have wronged God in some way.”

Missing activist found dead in Mexico’s troubled state of Guerrero
Yucatan Times, November 22, 2019 

“A human rights activist was found dead in the mountains of the troubled southern state of Guerrero more than a month after he disappeared, authorities and fellow activists said Wednesday.”

Indigenous Environmental Activist Irma Galinda Barrios Has Been Found Ten Days After Going Missing 
Araceli Cruz, Mitú, November 22, 2019 

“To be a journalist, an elected official, a business owner, and an activist in Mexico can be very risky…Speaking your mind, making changes, and reporting facts can cost you your life. Many people have died because of the work they do in Mexico. So, anytime anyone goes missing, people go on high-alert because it’s never just a random thing. These matters are very serious and need to be addressed.”

Actions, Alerts, Resources 

Remain in Mexico Impacts Updated Infographic
Latin America Working Group, November 2019

Emails Confirm Miller’s Twin Obsessions: Immigrants and Crime
Southern Poverty Law Center, November 25, 2019

“The two Miller emails cited earlier are emblematic of his views toward immigrants of color, apparent in the more than 900 emails McHugh shared with Hatewatch. Throughout Miller’s emails, he repeatedly portrays those immigrants as threatening or violent.”

A Guide to Policies Affecting Asylum Seekers at the Border
American Immigration Council, November 19, 2019

“For decades, adults, families, and unaccompanied children have been arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border to seek protection from harm in their home countries. U.S. law allows any noncitizen who is in the United States, or at the border, to apply for protection.  However, the Trump administration has instituted a number of new policies, many being challenged in court, designed to deter families from seeking asylum at the U.S. southern border. Policies like the Migrant Protection Protocols (also known as “Remain in Mexico”), metering, and a ban on asylum for individuals who transited through Mexico before arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border have reshaped the state of asylum at the border in 2019.  This fact sheet explains the complicated interplay and application of protection and border processing policies.”

Delivered to Danger: Trump Administration sending asylum seekers and migrants to danger
HRF, WOLA, IMUMI, WRC, LAWG, AILA, PHR, Refugees International, November 2019

“The Trump Administration falsely claims this dangerous policy is an alternative to separating families at the border and holding them in detention centers. In reality, the program is yet another move by President Trump and his administration’s leadership to block, ban, and frighten asylum seekers from asking for protection in the United States—even if those policies cost refugees their lives. The following are just a few of their stories —”

Impactos de la Política Migratoria de México en la Frontera Sur 
CMDHSE, RED TDT, GTPM, RJM CANA, Grupo Impulsor contra la Detención Migratoria y la Tortura, Alianzas Americas

“A partir de octubre de 2018, emergen en Centroamérica nuevas estrategias de desplazamiento forzado en forma de las llamadas ‘caravanas centroamericanas’ o ‘éxodos migrantes’ y la respuesta del Estado mexicano supuso graves violaciones de derechos humanos”.

As More Migrants from Africa and Asia Arrive in Latin America, Government Seek Orderly and Controlled Pathways
Migration Policy Institute, October 22, 2019
“This article draws on the author’s extensive fieldwork throughout Latin America to understand the experiences of extracontinental migrants in the region. It analyzes the reaction of Latin American governments to this migration and provides perspectives on what can be expected of this population—and the region’s policy responses—going forward. Ultimately, while several Latin American states are responding to extracontinental movements, Colombia, Panama, and Costa Rica have developed the most comprehensive procedures. However, these policy and programmatic responses are neither sufficient to meet the needs of migrants, nor sustainable as this population increases in Latin America.”

*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.