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Migration News Brief 3.13.20

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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

US migrant deportations risk spreading coronavirus to Central America
Jeff Ernst, The Guardian, March 12, 2020
“But activists fear that the constant flow of deportees from the US and Mexico could complicate the region’s ability to contain the virus. More than 1,000 cases and 38 deaths from the virus have been confirmed in the US. ‘Those countries need to be reviewing a moratorium on deportations right now in light of this illness,’ said Elizabeth Kennedy, a migration expert based in Central America.”

Supreme Court says Trump administration may continue ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy for asylum seekers
Robert Barnes, Washington Post, March 11, 2020
“The Supreme Court on Wednesday said the Trump administration may continue its “Remain in Mexico” policy for asylum seekers while lower-court challenges continue, after the federal government warned that tens of thousands of immigrants amassed at the southern border could overwhelm the immigration system.”

Trump Officials Are Finalizing Plans For Sending Asylum-Seekers To El Salvador
Hamed Aleaziz, BuzzFeed News, March 10, 2020
“US officials were confident after the meeting, which included acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf, that El Salvador would take more than 2,000 immigrants who cross the southern border without authorization this year and that the returns could take shape by the end of March, said the source, who could not speak publicly on the matter.”

Groups: Release immigrant detainees at high coronavirus risk
Gene Johnson, Associated Press, Washington Post, March 10, 2020
“There has been increasing concern nationally about how a coronavirus outbreak in jails might affect prisoners, and immigrant rights activists in New York on Friday demanded that ICE provide information about what precautions it is taking and how it would handle an outbreak at detention facilities there.”

Salvadorans who fled to US to escape violence returned to it
Marcos Aleman and Claudia Torrens, Associated Press, ABC News, March 6, 2020
“Several years ago, Camila Díaz left her native El Salvador and went to the United States, looking for a place where she would be safer as a transgender woman. But she failed to find a sympathetic ear. Deported back to San Salvador, the nation’s capital, she was killed just over a year later.”

A Migrant Father Sends His Son To The U.S.: ‘I Know That He’s Safe’
John Burnett, NPR, March 9, 2020
“According to federal policy, only underage asylum-seekers who are unaccompanied are immediately allowed in. Adults and families must often wait in Mexico for their court dates. In the past six months, hundreds of parents have repeated this anguished farewell, some sending children as young as five-years-old with an older sibling to cross the international bridge in hopes of a better, safer life in America.”

Democrats warn Trump’s immigration policies risk aggravating coronavirus
Rafael Bernal and Mike Lillis, The Hill, March 8, 2020
“Democratic concern is centered on two areas of the administration’s policies: the various programs to slow down asylum applications — which have contributed to overpopulated and generally unsanitary refugee camps south of the U.S.-Mexico border — and the so-called public charge rule, which could discourage immigrants from seeking medical attention.”

Another Immigrant Has Died In ICE Custody. She’s The Eighth Since October.
Hamed Aleaziz, BuzzFeed News, March 8, 2020
“On Feb. 7, Ochoa Yoc de Ramirez was taken from detention to a hospital in Oklahoma, where she was admitted. Two days later, she had her gallbladder surgically removed, the source said. On Feb. 10, she was returned to a detention center in Oklahoma, then taken to the detention facility in Texas on Feb. 13, the source said. On Feb. 18, officials took her to a hospital in Texas for treatment for abdominal pain. From that point on, she remained in the care of Texas hospitals until she was pronounced dead Sunday, the source said.”

Immigration Officers Say Asylum Deal With Guatemala Is Unlawful
Zolan Kanno-Youngs, New York Times, March 6, 2020
“In an amicus brief filed in Federal District Court in Washington, a union representing 700 asylum and refugee officers with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services said the deal with Guatemala violates international treaty obligations by deporting migrants to a country where they are likely to face persecution.”

Guatemala seeks to limit migrants returned under U.S. asylum agreement
Frank Jack Daniel and Sofia Menchu, Reuters, March, 6, 2020
“However, Guatemala’s priority in ongoing talks with U.S. officials is to make sure the number sent back daily does not exceed its ‘very limited’ capacity to process new arrivals, deputy foreign minister Eduardo Hernandez told Reuters.”

Military to Be Sent to Border Before Supreme Court’s ‘Remain in Mexico’ Ruling
Zolan Kanno-Youngs, New York Times, March 6, 2020
“The officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to brief reporters on the plan, said the troops would start the temporary assignment on Saturday and remain in place for at least two weeks. They will not conduct any immigration processing or enforcement, officials said. They said the military teams were there to ensure the flow of traffic between the ports in the event that the ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy is again overturned.”

As Supreme Court Mulls Dreamers, Kushner Revives Immigration Plan
Maggie Habermann and Zolan Kanno-Youngs, New York Times, March 6, 2020
“Instead, Mr. Kushner has focused on the structure of legal immigration and immigration law enforcement. The immigration plan would create a new director position to oversee the Department of Homeland Security’s three immigration-related agencies: ICE, Customs and Border Protection, and United States Citizenship and Immigration Services.”

U.S. immigration authorities will collect DNA from detained migrants
Abigail Hauslohner, Washington Post, March 6, 2020
“‘Regardless of whether an immigration detainee, at the time he is booked, has previously committed a crime in the United States, the benefits of DNA-sample collection include the creation of a permanent DNA record that may match to DNA evidence from a later crime, if the detainee remains in or later reenters the United States and commits such a crime,’” the Justice Department wrote in the rule published Friday.

Trump border crackdown stalls as illegal crossings increase for first time in 9 months
Nick Miroff and Abigail Hauslohner, Washington Post, March 5, 2020
“While the number of migrants arriving in family groups continues to decline, the number of single adult migrants from Mexico and unaccompanied children rose last month, the figures show.”

Officials ignored child separation warnings, report finds: “I was called a broken record”
Graham Kates and Camilo Montoya-Galvez, CBS News, March 5, 2020
“At the highest levels in the agency tasked with caring for unaccompanied migrant children, those concerns were largely ignored, and employees were even warned not to put their concerns in writing, according to a scathing report released Thursday by the HHS Inspector General.”

Legal Experts Say Immigration Directives Issued Under Cuccinelli Are Vulnerable
Aline Barros, VOA News, March 5, 2020
“Immigration law experts say the broader question then becomes whether other guidelines approved by Cuccinelli can also be challenged… Paoletti, founder of the Transnational Legal Clinic, said they are looking into other directives such as proposed fees for asylum applications and rescinding work authorization for asylum-seekers.”

ICE officials in Texas are keeping migrants in jail with potentially illegal blanket parole denials
Felipe de la Hoz, The Intercept, March 3, 2020
“Instead of being allowed to join family or sponsors and work on their cases in the U.S., many migrants are being held without a chance of release while they wait for court dates.

Lawyers struggle to remotely represent asylum-seekers in ‘Remain in Mexico’ progra
Jack Herrera, PRI, March 2, 2020
“The attorneys say being unable to meet their clients in person introduces unprecedented difficulty to their jobs — and could violate clients’ rights to due process under US law. They have difficulty staying in contact with clients. Some lawyers have even had to buy phones for their clients. And when clients do make it to court in the US, the newly instituted “video teleconference” courts on the border add new hurdles to an already tense situation.”

Mexican Enforcement

Guardia Nacional se reúne con agentes de seguridad de EU y Canadá
El Debate, 6 de marzo de 2020
“En dicha reunión estuvieron presentes representantes de Estados Unidos, quienes coincidieron en la importancia de crear una planeación estratégica para priorizar acciones bajo el esquema de la Iniciativa Mérida, de acuerdo a información oficial.”

Más de 9000 migrantes están varados en México a la espera de obtener asilo en EE. UU.
Reuters, El Universo, 5 de marzo de 2020
“Al igual que Yesenia, otros más de 9000 migrantes bajo el polémico programa Protocolo de Protección a Migrantes (Mpp), que obliga a solicitantes de asilo en Estados Unidos a esperar en México, han sido llevados a Chiapas desde las ciudades fronterizas de Matamoros y Nuevo Laredo bajo un programa pagado por el gobierno de México, según muestran documentos del gobierno que Reuters obtuvo.”

Root Causes 

El Salvador’s Justice System Takes on a Historic Case
Anna-Catherine Brigida, Foreign Policy, March 9, 2020
“Three police officers currently stand trial for Díaz Córdova’s killing, which is being prosecuted as a hate crime in a historic case for the country. If the trial ends in conviction, it would be the first homicide conviction classified as a hate crime in El Salvador.”

U.S. Violence Prevention in Honduras: Help or Hypocrisy?
Antonia McGrath, NACLA, March 9, 2020
“Gang Resistance Education and Training, known as Project GREAT, is a police-taught gang and violence prevention program architected in Phoenix, Arizona, which has been exported in recent years from the United States to Central American countries, including Honduras. The program’s website describes it as ‘an evidence-based and effective gang and violence prevention program built around school-based, law enforcement officer-instructed classroom curricula.’”

Conflicts Over Indigenous Land Grow More Violent in Central America
Alexander Villegas and Frances Robles, New York Times, March 9, 2020
“From Mexico to Brazil, Indigenous tribes moving against stop ranchers, loggers, miners and other business interests — sometimes aggressively — are hoping to reclaim their community land. Sometimes, they are dying for it. And when they do, the newcomers to Indigenous lands rarely seem to pay a legal price.”

Guatemala Court Overturns Government’s Civil Society Restrictions
Reuters, New York Times, March 7, 2020
“‘We will respect the ruling and call on Guatemalans to unite, to promote a culture of transparency, prosperity and development,’” Guatemala’s government said.

Cada 21 horas asesinan una mujer en Honduras: OV-UNAH
Proceso Honduras, 7 de marzo de 2020
“Los números presentados son en base a los hechos registrados durante 2019 tiempo en el cual murieron 406 féminas de manera violenta, y se establece que una mujer de entre 15 a 29 años de edad es la víctima común.”

La historia detrás del día en que Bukele se tomó la Asamblea Legislativa
Efren Lemus, Óscar Martínez y Carlos Martínez, El Faro, 11 de marzo de 2020
“La irrupción a la Asamblea Legislativa del presidente Bukele no se debió a ningún préstamo de seguridad. Tuvo su origen en una crisis de agua y algas, en el problema de imagen que esa crisis generó al Gobierno. El Faro reconstruye lo que ocurrió alrededor de la toma del congreso”.

Mexico president’s response to historic femicide protests: more of the same
David Argen, The Guardian, March 10, 2020
“Thousands of women went on strike on Monday, in a historic protest against the murder of women and girls – and the failure of successive governments’ efforts to stop a crisis in which around 10 women are murdered every day. But asked on Tuesday if he would consider a new approach to the problem, López Obrador replied: ‘No – on the contrary, we are going to reinforce the same strategy of looking at the causes of violence.’”

Comunicado-OACNUDH Honduras
drosales@bluemas.com, 10 de marzo de 2020
“La MIG reconoce que son muchos los desafíos que enfrentan las mujeres hondureñas para el efectivo goce de sus derechos, como ser la efectiva participación política y el limitado acceso a la salud sexual y reproductiva, entre otros.  En esta fecha emblemática, deseamos llamar la atención sobre las diversas violencias por razones de género que afectan fuertemente a las mujeres y niñas en el país, así como reconocer el rol del movimiento de mujeres y feminista en Honduras”.

Guatemalan journalist Bryan Guerra shot dead in Chiquimula
Committee to Protect Journalists, March 6, 2020
“The Guatemalan Association of Journalists, a local press advocacy group, said that Guerra had reported receiving death threats but that the police and the attorney general’s office had not responded, according to news reports. The special prosecutor’s office for crimes against journalists said it had never received any report of threats against Guerra, but said the office was investigating the killing, elPeriódico reported.

El Mozote judge asks the United States for confidential documents on the massacre
Nelson Raudah Zabla, El Faro, March 5, 2020
“Even if they no longer can be found in El Salvador, it’s still possible that there are copies or records of these files in the United States, a country that was closely involved with and aware of the Army’s operations in the 80s as part of its foreign policy agenda.”

US Alleges Honduras Drug Lab Operated with Presidential Protection
Parker Asmann and Héctor Silva Ávalos, InSight Crime, March 4, 2020
“In order to ensure protection and the safe passage of drug shipments, Fuentes Ramírez allegedly bribed members of the Honduran National Police, as well as high-ranking politicians and members of congress, according to authorities. He is also believed to have reported directly to Tony Hernández, the former congressman and brother of President Juan Orlando Hernández who was convicted on US drug charges in October 2019.”

In Honduras and El Salvador, “trade union leaders are vulnerable to possible assassination at any moment”
Danielle Mackey, Equal Times, March 4, 2020
“Yet, for the past two years, the Ministry of Labour in the ruling administration of President Juan Orlando Hernández has refused to approve the unions, says Almendares. The Ministry has consistently cancelled meetings meant to advance the certification process. Meanwhile, some of the organising workers have been threatened with death or fired without cause, he says.”

Remembering the Heroism of Activist Berta Cáceres Four Years After Her Assassination: an Interview With Her Daughter
Vijay Prashad, Counterpunch, March 2, 2020
“Zúñiga Cáceres tells me that the past four years have been ‘very challenging for us’ because she and her colleagues at COPINH have had to struggle to make sure that the ‘process is not silenced.’…None of the ‘intellectual authors’ of the crime have, however, been arrested; these ‘intellectual authors’ would include the owners of DESA and members of the government.”

Actions, Alerts, Resources 

Disinformation and Spin: Trump Administration Deploys Troops to Border, Paints Asylum Seekers and Attorneys as Threat
Human Rights First, March 10, 2020
“Groups of asylum seekers with their lawyers—ranging from a few families to several dozen people and up to about 150 individuals in Ciudad Juárez—waited peacefully in Mexico at ports of entry for CBP to comply with the ruling. Instead, U.S. border officials activated armed officers on both sides of the border in what appeared to be an effort to treat – and later portray – asylum seekers and attorneys waiting in Mexico as a threat and intimidate them into leaving.”

2019 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices
US Dept. of State, March 11, 2020
“The annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – the Human Rights Reports – cover internationally recognized individual, civil, political, and worker rights, as set forth in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international agreements. The U.S. Department of State submits reports on all countries receiving assistance and all United Nations member states to the U.S. Congress in accordance with the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 and the Trade Act of 1974.”

DHS Must Suspend Certain Immigration Enforcement Practices During the Coronavirus Outbreak
Claudia Flores, Sofia Carratala, and Tom Jawetz, Center for American Progress, March 10, 2020
“Echoing the call of these experts, lawmakers in both the House and Senate have urged the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)—specifically U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)—to suspend all immigration enforcement actions at or near hospitals or other medical facilities.”


*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.