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Migration News Brief 3.6.20

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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

Administration asks to keep asylum policy in place while it seeks Supreme Court review
Adriane de Vogue and Priscilla Alvarez, CNN, March 3, 2020
“‘During the short period of time that the injunction was operative on February 28, the ability of CBP law enforcement officers and agents to protect against national security threats and interdict illicit materials was undoubtedly and negatively impacted,’ the declaration reads.”

Remain in Mexico: asylum seekers at border see hopes raised then dashed
David Agren, The Guardian, March 2, 2020
“Despite the confusion, the temporary invalidation of MPP offered rare hope for about 2,500 migrants living in the insecure and insalubrious tent city along the Rio Grande in the city of Matamoros, a stronghold of the notorious Gulf cartel. Dozens of asylum seekers, some clutching printed copies of the 57-page court decision, headed straight to the bridge separating Matamoros and Brownsville, Texas. They were turned back by US border guards.””

Trump’s ‘Remain in Mexico’ Immigration Policy Allowed to Proceed Temporarily
Reuters, New York Times, February 29, 2020
“A three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals granted a Trump administration request to pause its ruling from earlier on Friday, to allow the government to ask the Supreme Court to take up the issue. If it took effect, the ruling would be a blow for Trump, who has declared the policy a success in reducing the flow of hundreds of thousands of people from Central America into the United States as he campaigns for a second term in office.”

Dueling “remain in Mexico” orders cause confusion and tension in the borderlands
Julián Aguilar, Texas Tribune, February 29, 2020
“The temporary closing of downtown’s Paso Del Norte international bridge capped off a day of confusion and chaos after a federal appellate court blocked the Migrant Protection Protocols, one of President Donald Trump’s signature immigration policies. But the end of the program, also called ‘Remain in Mexico’, was short-lived after the same court, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, stayed its own order.”

Judge Says Ken Cuccinelli Was Appointed Unlawfully To Top Immigration Post
James Doubek, NPR, March 1, 2020
“The ruling invalidated a pair of directives issued by Cuccinell… The first directive shortened the length of time asylum-seekers have to prepare for ‘credible fear interviews’ with officials from 48 or 72 hours to ‘one full calendar day from the date of arrival at a detention facility.’ With the second, Cuccinelli prohibited asylum officers from granting extensions to this new policy ‘except in the most extraordinary of circumstances.’”

Children Sent to Mexico Under Trump Face Abuses, Trauma
Warren Binford and Michael Garcia Bochenek, Human Rights Watch, March 3, 2020
“Many of those we interviewed said they or their family members have experienced rape, sexual abuse, kidnapping, robbery, and other actual or threatened violence after U.S. immigration officials sent them to Mexico.”

Caged Migrant Kids and Adults at Grave Risk for Coronavirus. They Are Disposable to Trump. Not in Our Name.
Mark Karlin, BuzzFlash, March 3, 2020
“The virus has an approximately six foot radius for transmission between individuals, and the harsh, merciless confinement implemented by Trump and Miller is providing the tinder wood for rapid Coronavirus infection if it reaches any of the detention centers, among those detainees crushed together and treated as though they are being mercilessly punished for the ‘crime’ of seeking asylum or a better life.”

Serious health care lapses found in U.S. detention center housing transgender migrants
Mica Rosenberg and Ted Hesson, Reuters, March 2, 2020
“‘When people had fevers, headaches, stomach problems, we just tried to help each other by giving sips of water or buying pills in the commissary, but a lot of times we didn’t have money.’”

Giammattei asegura que arribó al país un ciudadano de México bajo el ACA
Grecia Ortíz, La Hora, 2 de marzo de 2020
“En el pasado, ya se había mencionado de las intenciones del gobierno de EE.UU., de enviar a solicitantes de asilo de origen mexicano al país, sin embargo, hasta ahora no se había conocido de un caso como tal”.

Trump says U.S. considering restrictions at Mexican border over coronavirus
Steve Holland and Ted Hesson, Reuters, February 29, 2020
“A group of 11 Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives led by Chip Roy of Texas sent a letter on Friday to top Trump administration officials that pressed for details on the plan to contain the coronavirus at the border with Mexico. ‘Given the porous nature of our border, and the continued lack of operational control due to the influence of dangerous cartels, it is foreseeable, indeed predictable, that any outbreak in Central America or Mexico could cause a rush to our border,’ the lawmakers said.”

Estudio: la población indocumentada en EEUU se redujo en 1.2 millones en 10 años
Jorge Macías, Univisión Noticias, 29 de febrero de 2020
“Sanabria indicó que las medidas punitivas de la administración Trump, además de ‘la complicidad del gobierno de México y los países del Triángulo Norte de Centroamérica (Honduras, Guatemala y El Salvador) también han contribuido para reducir significativamente el flujo migratorio a EEUU’”.

Guatemala’s former top prosecutor finds refuge in U.S. — and in her fellow migrants
Monique Madan, Miami Herald, February 28, 2020
“‘If she wanted to, she would have a private airplane, millions and millions of dollars at her disposal, but she preferred to come [to the U.S.] and be ripped apart from her family with no money, all to flee corruption,” Ochoa said. “How can the Guatemalan migrant community not help the only person fighting for the justice of our mainland?’”

New Border Program Puts Asylum Seekers on Fast Track to Deportation
Michelle Hackman, Wall Street Journal, February 28, 2020
“The program, known as the Prompt Asylum Claim Review, or PACR, streamlines the process of applying for asylum so that applicants receive a decision in a matter of days, rather than the months or years it typically takes for a case to work its way through the backlogged immigration-court system. The U.S. government quietly launched the PACR program in El Paso in October and is expanding it across the southern border this month.”

She told the U.S. immigration agent she was HIV-positive and requested asylum. She was sent back to Mexico, without medication
Kevin Sieff, Washington Post, February 28, 2020
“U.S. Customs and Border Protection has said exemptions will be made for asylum seekers with severe medical conditions. But the experience of asylum seekers with HIV/AIDS shows just how unevenly enforced — and how dangerous — the new asylum infrastructure is for migrants with life-threatening diseases.”

The Absurdity and Danger of Trump’s Deal to Send Asylum Seekers to Guatemala
Noah Lanard, Mother Jones, February 28, 2020
“‘When I asked a shelter operator whether he had noticed anybody who was particularly vulnerable who had been sent back, he responded simply, “Everybody is in a serious state of vulnerability.”’”

Trump administration sued over plan to allocate additional DOD funds for border wall
Rachel Frazin, The Hill, February 28, 2020
“The new lawsuit claims that the administration has ‘acted to circumvent Congress’s exclusive control over appropriations” and that its action “will have devastating effects on the environment.’”

Meet the immigration attorney trying to serve 2,000 asylum-seekers
Henry Gass, Christian Science Monitor, February 27, 2020
“Today, in a fundamentally transformed U.S. asylum system, it has meant working out of a former dentist’s office in Matamoros, Mexico. There are roughly 2,000 migrants (a specific number is difficult to pin down) in the city. Ms. D’Cruz commutes every morning from Brownsville, Texas. She is one of the only full-time U.S. immigration lawyers working in the city.”

Trump Can Withhold Millions From ‘Sanctuary’ States, Court Rules
Annie Correal, New York Times, February 26, 2020
“The decision comes amid an escalating crackdown by the administration on so-called sanctuary policies, which limit the extent to which state and local law enforcement agencies can help federal immigration authorities.”

Justice Dept. Establishes Office to Denaturalize Immigrants
Katie Benner, New York Times, February 26, 2020
“The move promises to further expand a practice that was once used infrequently, but that the Trump administration has increasingly turned to as part of its immigration crackdown. It has raised alarms among some department lawyers who fear denaturalization lawsuits could be used against immigrants who have not committed serious crimes.

Mexican Enforcement

Stranded in southern Mexico, migrants struggle to make U.S. court dates
Lizbeth Diaz, Julia Love, and Kristina Cooke, Reuters, March 4, 2020
“Many migrants board the buses desperate to leave Mexico’s northern border, where they risk falling prey to gangs that target and kidnap migrants. But once in Chiapas, some have been unable to reach the United States for their hearings, advocates consulted by Reuters said. The busing program started last summer and was ongoing at the time of publication. It is one of a series of policies, including a major deployment of Mexican National Guard on border duties, adopted by Mexico to reduce the number of migrants – mostly Central Americans – reaching the U.S. border.”

Albergues para migrantes en México, en zonas estratégicas: BBVA Research
Julio Gutiérrez, La Jornada, 2 de marzo de 2020
“‘En estas tres principales rutas hacia el norte, muchas de las casas del migrante, albergues y comedores se ubican en las principales ciudades de tránsito de la migración, ya sea por carretera o por ‘La Bestia’, o en las principales ciudades de destino a lo largo de la frontera norte, en donde generalmente esperarán los migrantes hasta intentar internarse a Estados Unidos’, apuntó”.

ACNUR y gobierno de México condenan xenofobia contra migrantes en Palenque
La Redacción, Proceso, 3 de marzo de 2020
“En un comunicado conjunto emitido esta tarde, el Consejo Nacional para Prevenir la Discriminación (Conapred), la Comisión Mexicana de Ayuda a Refugiados (Comar) y el Instituto Nacional de Migración (INM) expresaron su rechazo al ‘brote de violencia’ y afirmaron que ‘la discriminación, el discurso de odio y la violencia no son justificables contra ningún grupo de población, y menos contra aquéllos que están en mayor vulnerabilidad’”.

Migrantes buscan casarse con mexicanos para regularizar su situación
Agencia Informal, El Imparcial, 2 de marzo de 2020
“Enrique Maciel Cervantes, delegado del Instituto Tamaulipeco del Migrante (INM), señaló que el proceso para que un extranjero que se casa con un mexicano obtenga su residencia permanente en el País no tarda más de dos meses”.

At a Bar ‘Made by Africans,’ Migrants Put Down Roots in Mexico
Kirk Semple, New York Times, February 28, 2020
“Because of the policy shift, many migrants, faced with the possibility of deportation and no easy route to the United States, are now seeking asylum or some other legal status in Mexico. And new migrant communities are popping up as people from around the world put down roots in Mexico.”

Root Causes 

Accused Honduran drug trafficker conspired with President of Honduras, feds say
Jeff Ernst and David C. Adams, Univisión, March 3, 2020
“Geovanny Fuentes, 50, is accused of conspiring with high-ranking Honduran politicians and police, including President Juan Orlando Hernandez and his brother Juan Antonio ‘Tony’ Hernandez,’ to operate ‘unimpeded’ a cocaine lab in Honduras and transport shipments of cocaine by air and sea.”

Data shows scale of gang killings in Central America
Ben Parker, The New Humanitarian, February 28, 2020
“Gang violence, intimidation, and economic precarity have created an urban humanitarian crisis in the region and also helped to drive migration, particularly through Mexico to the US border, while fuelling an epidemic of abuse of women too.”

How Mexico and Central America’s femicide epidemic drives and complicates the migrant crisis
Julia Westbrook, The New Humanitarian, February 27, 2020
“Such vulnerability is even greater for migrant women, many of whom flee dangerous situations in the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador only to face sexual violence, extortion, and human trafficking on their journeys north.”

‘Striped of Basic Human Dignity’: Inside El Salvador’s Prisons
Thiago Dezan, Washington Post, February 20, 2020
“At the Zacatecoluca prison, inmates said they hadn’t had any visitors in years. (Family visits are prohibited by law at maximum-security prisons.) Some said they hadn’t seen the sun in months as they huddled in the dark, humid cells. Several prisons in El Salvador are overflowing with over 600 percent capacity.”

How Latin America Can Find Opportunity in Its Migration Challenge
Isabel de Saint Malo de Alvarado, Americas Quarterly, March 3, 2020
“Migration and immigration cannot and should not be stopped, for economic, security and, above all, humanitarian reasons. We should, however, aim to achieving more orderly, legal and safe migration. Governments, civil society and the private sector should collaborate with this objective in mind.”

Deportación de hondureños aumentó 23.7 % en 2020
Proceso Honduras, 3 de marzo de 2020
“La deportación de inmigrantes hondureños, principalmente de Estados Unidos y México, aumentó un 23.7 % entre enero y febrero de 2020, comparada con el mismo periodo de 2019, informó este martes una fuente oficial en Tegucigalpa”.

Territorios libres, el mayor acto de justicia para Berta Cáceres
COPINH, 2 de marzo de 2020
“Este proceso a tratado de librar una lucha más allá de la disputa legal, profundizando la lucha en defensa de los territorios amenazados por proyectos hidroeléctricos, mineros, de generación de energía, privatizadores de las playas e invasores de los territorios indígenas, garífunas y campesinos”.

Ley de ONG: CC ampara a organizaciones y suspende decreto 4-2020
Irving Escobar y Dulce Rivera, Prensa Libre, 2 de marzo de 2020
“La Corte indica, además, que la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos ha subrayado que los derechos a la libertad de reunión y asociación brindan protección contra la interferencia del Estado y son “‘fundamentales para la existencia y funcionamiento de una sociedad democrática’”.

Guatemala approves civil society restrictions despite U.S. pressure
Sofia Menchu, Reuters, February 27, 2020
The law requires NGOs to register, report donations and allow their accounts to be inspected. Under the rules, several government bodies have powers to cancel the licenses of the groups if they determine their activities ‘alter public order.’ Giammattei said he would not bow to foreign pressure. ‘This is a sovereign country, and we hope that friendly nations respect our decisions,’ Giammattei told reporters at a signing ceremony at the presidential palace.”

More Mexicans flee for the U.S. due to insecurity
Yucatan Times, March 2, 2020
“And while the U.S. has successfully pressured Mexico to crack down on Central American migrants, analysts say the Mexican government hasn’t created the economic and security conditions that might keep its own people from leaving. The country is struggling with its highest-ever level of homicides and a stagnant GDP, while a booming U.S. economy simultaneously creates a powerful draw north.”

Children as young as eight picked coffee beans on farms supplying Starbucks
Jamie Doward, The Guardian, March 1, 2020
“The Dispatches team said some of the children, who worked around eight hours a day, six days a week, looked as young as eight. They were paid depending on the weight of beans they picked, with sacks weighing up to 45kg. Typically, a child would earn less than £5 a day, although sometimes it could be as low as 31p an hour.”

El Salvador aprueba una ley de reconciliación rechazada por las víctimas de la guerra civil
Carlos Salinas Maldonado, El País, 27 de febrero de 2020
“La legislación reduce hasta en un 75% las penas a quienes confiesen haber cometido crímenes durante el conflicto y pidan perdón, a la vez que permite a los jueces conmutar las condenas cuando se alegue problemas de salud o edad. Organismos internacionales han rechazado la nueva ley, que, dicen, es un retroceso importante en el camino de este país centroamericano para lograr justicia para las víctimas de una sangría que dejó más de 70.000 muertos según organizaciones de derechos humanos”.

Kushner Seeks Investors to Help Curb Central America Migration
Justin Sink, Eric Martin, and Saleha Mohsin, Bloomberg, February 19, 2020
“The White House’s hope is that fresh investment and aid to the three countries would serve as both reward for their governments’ cooperation with Trump’s push to stem the flow of migrants and incentive for citizens of the region to stay in their home countries.”

Actions, Alerts, Resources 

How border apprehensions, ICE arrests and deportations have changed under Trump
John Gramlich, Pew Research Center, March 2, 2020
“So how has immigration enforcement changed under Trump? Here’s a look at the data on three key measures – border apprehensions, interior arrests and deportations – based on the latest available full-year statistics from Customs and Border Protection (CBP), Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The analysis also includes data about how various immigration policies and agencies are perceived by the U.S. public, based on Pew Research Center surveys.”

Metering Update
Strauss Center, February 2020
“Since November 2019, asylum seekers have continued to arrive at the U.S.-Mexico border, although in lower numbers than in previous months. This February 2020 metering update estimates that there are currently around 15,000 asylum seekers on waitlists in 11 Mexican border cities.”

Immigration Hearings by Video: A Threat to Children’s Right to Fair Proceeding
Young Center for Immigrant Children’s Rights, January 2020
“Hearings-by-video, or video-teleconferences (VTCs), pose significant risks for children in adversarial immigration proceedings… As the independent Child Advocate (best interests guardian ad litem) for vulnerable immigrant children, we recommend the immediate discontinuation of VTCs and urge the government to abandon all plans to expand the use of VTCs for children, including families in MPP proceedings.”

Why Border Patrol Agents and CBP Officers Should Not Serve as Asylum Officers
Josiah Heyman, Jeremy Slack, and Daniel E. Martínez, Center for Migration Studies, June 19, 2019
“In addition, many resent immigrants in general, and display racism toward Mexicans and other Latin Americans, as well as prejudice on the basis of sexual orientation. This suggests that the proposal to make Border Patrol agents asylum officers could lead to imbalanced and adversarial decision-makers, the opposite of what is called for in law.



*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.