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Migration News Brief 4.24.20

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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.

Antonello Serino

Source: Antonello Serino/Flicker


Covid-19 in Latin America and the Caribbean: A Deadly Virus in a Vulnerable Region
Lisa Haugaard and Antonio Saadipour, Latin America Working Group, April 22, 2020
“According to the experts, Latin America is particularly vulnerable to the virus ‘given the epidemiological profile of the population, the precarious healthcare infrastructure, and the large income inequality in the region. These conditions will dramatically exacerbate the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic in terms of the number of infected people, deaths from the virus, overload of the health system, and general wellbeing of the population.’”

Honduras: Repression in the Time of COVID-19
Lisa Haugaard, Latin America Working Group, April 22, 2020
“The Honduran government began addressing the pandemic by implementing curfews and confinements of poor neighborhoods outside Tegucigalpa and other cities where COVID-19 cases first appeared. On March 18, 2020 the government then instituted a nationwide lockdown with specific days where people could leave their homes to get food. The government’s response to the pandemic was centralized, militarized, and devoid of oversight.”

Protecting Asylum Seekers & Migrants During a Global Pandemic 
Daniella Burgi-Palomino and Lauri Alvarez, Latin America Working Group, April 21, 2020
“Remain in Mexico and the ACAs were already sham processes that failed to provide asylum seekers with any sort of meaningful chance at receiving protection from the United States and that returned them to danger. But on March 20th, 2020, the Trump Administration went a step further and used the coronavirus global pandemic to implement a total asylum ban and border shutdown. Under a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) order, the administration used the public health emergency to justify barring all “non-essential” traffic at the U.S.-Mexico border–which basically means all migrants.”


Central America: Unrest, Repression grow amid coronavirus crisis
Anna-Cat Brigida, Al Jazeera, April 22, 2020
“‘Most people in this country live day by day. You sell some socks and you buy some eggs,’ said Bertha Olivia, coordinator of the Honduran human rights group the Committee of Relatives of the Disappeared in Honduras (or COFADEH, it’s acronym in Spanish). ‘They are hungry and they have to go out.’ ‘The only thing we are asking for is food,’ one protestor told Honduran media outlet La Tribuna. ‘We have taken this curfew seriously and we haven’t left.’”

Violence against women up amid Latin America COVID-19 lockdowns
Megan Janetsky, Al Jazeera, April 20, 2020
“‘The quarantine hit and all the sudden we started having more women text message us,’ the researcher said. ‘And more women were texting saying things like.. My husband is beating me up, but I’m not allowed to leave.’ But when she and other researchers went to direct them to migrant shelters, she found aht most aid organisations had closed their doors, leaving women closed in with their abusers and nowhere to go.”

In Northern Triangle, rising food insecurity tests NGO adaptability 
Teresa Welsh, Devex, April 20, 2020
“‘What is really challenging is the type of assistance, the way to reach the population, has to be extremely flexible because we have parts of the country where there’s a problem of [food] availability,’ Labande explained…WFP is working with the Honduran government on food distribution, including making sure any stocks left over in now-shuttered schools can be distributed to families and doesn’t go to waste.”

Migrants traveling to U.S., stranded in the Panamanian jungle, now face COVID-19 
Juan José Rodríguez, Tico Times, April 20, 2020
“In an atmosphere of suffocating humidity, about 1,700 people –mostly from Latin America– live together in crows in La Peñita, an indigenous town located in Darién, on the border with Colombia. COVID-19 Has also reached this remote point, with infections among migrants and local inhabitants.”

United States
U.S. is deporting infected migrants back to vulnerable countries 
Kevin Sieff and Nick Miroff, The Washington Post, April 21, 2020
“Guatemala’s health minister spoke this month of the worrying number of infected deportees sent from the United States– the ‘Wuhan of the Americas,’ he said…In some cases, repatriation workers have noticed that deportees are visibly sick as they arrive. These deportations are blamed for at least one new outbreak in a Mexican migrant shelter.”

Haitian source says three deportees from U.S. have coronavirus 
Sarah Marsh and Andre Paultre, Reuters, April 20, 2020
“A major outbreak of the novel coronavirus could be devastating for Haiti, which has around 100 ventilators for 11 million residents and where the healthcare system was already collapsing. Haiti’s water and sanitation system are also in shambles. While the government has closed borders and declared a state of emergency, many Haitians have continued to go about their daily lives as usual given they live hand to mouth and cannot afford to stay home.”

Immigration advocates seek protections for TPS recipients. Many work on front lines of pandemic
Jacqueline Charles, Miami Herald, April 20, 2020
“‘We are in a war and the enemy is the virus and the soldiers are not the U.S. Army. They are the healthcare providers, and I can tell you that many, many TPS recipients are on the front lines,’ said Ponthieux. ‘They are the soldiers fighting the virus…and I am one of them.’”

U.S. Deportation Policies Are Spreading COVID-19 
Jeff Abbott, El Faro, April 18, 2020
“The Health Minister, however, told reporters on Tuesday, April 14, that at least 50 percent of the total 41 people deported on a single flight on March 26, which departed from Mesa, Arizona, tested positive for the virus. While the Guatemalan Health Ministry has not made exact numbers public, they have confirmed four COVID-19 positive cases among migrants deported on the March 26 flight, including one case that was found to be asymptomatic.

US using coronavirus pandemic to unlawfully expel asylum seekers, says UN
Nina Lakhani, The Guardian, April 17, 2020
“‘We understand that in the current global Covid-19 public health emergency, all governments have an obligation to enact measures to protect the health of their populations. While this may warrant extraordinary measures at borders, expulsion of asylum seekers resulting in refoulement should not be among them,’ said Chris Boian from the UN Refugee Agency.”

Preocupa exclusión y discriminación hacia migrantes indígenas en EU por Covid-19
Diario Marca, 17 de abril de 2020
“Organizaciones indígenas de pueblos originarios, piden al gobierno de los Estados Unidos que aquellos connacionales que encuentran el centros de detención bajo la custodia de la Patrulla Fronteriza, reciban la atención necesaria porque están siendo discriminados por la pandemia del COVID-19, afirmó Romualdo Juan Gutiérrez Cortez, Vice Coordinator Binacional del Frente Indígena de Organizaciones Binacionales (FIOB)”.

COVID-19 and the coming epidemic in US immigration detention centres
Jaimie P Meyer, Carlos Franco-Paredes, Parveen Parmar, Faiza Yasin, Matthew Gartland, The Lancet, April 15, 2020
“The combination of a captive population exposed to a highly infectious disease and substandard care has the potential to increase the incidence of infection and case fatality rates among detained individuals, puts the public at greater risk, and consume substantial medical and financial resources.”

El Salvador
El Salvador defiende a Estados Unidos y niega que estén llegando deportados con COVID-19
Gabriela Cáceres y Roxana Lazo, El Faro, 23 de abril de 2020
“César Ríos, director del Instituto Salvadoreño del Migrante (Insami), también cuestiona la falta de información sobre el estado de salud de los salvadoreños deportados. A Insami, Migración solo les permitió presenciar, hace un mes, el funcionamiento del protocolo de salud que se le practicó al primer grupo de retornados que llegaron al Centro Atención al Migrante, ubicado en la colonia La Chacra en San Salvador, el 17 de marzo”.

Imprisoned, quarantined women need hygiene supplies in El Salvador 
United Nations Population Fund, April 21, 2020
“Living in tight quarters, detainees typically rely on hygiene items supplies delivered by relatives during visitation days – which have halted due to the global pandemic…The quarantine centre distributed a package of sanitary pads to each woman. ‘However, each woman experiences her menstrual period differently, some more intensely than others.’”

El Salvador’s President Disregards Top Court Rulings on Coronavirus 
Reuters, The New York Times, April 16, 2020
“The five magistrates of the Constitutional Chamber said Bukele was not authorized to deprive people of liberty nor send them to confinement centers unless Congress approves a formal law empowering the measure. ‘I don’t understand their morbid desire that our people die,’ Bukele wrote on Twitter.”

Guatemala health officials fired, investigated for corruption 
Sandra Cuffee, Al Jazeera, April 21, 2020
“Eight health officials conspired to defraud state funds during the coronavirus pandemic, according to the presidential commission against corruption. The commission filed its findings Monday with the Special Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Bureau. It was unclear whether Galdamez and Marroquin were among the eight investigated by the commission. No officials were named.”

Guatemala: Social Organizations Denounces Massive layoffs
Telesur, April 17, 2020
“Those who oppose the measure explain that it demonstrates an evident lack of protection for the population against companies, and it aggravates the poverty situation of many workers. Moreover, they classify it as a consequence of the intervention of the organized private sector.”

Guatemala Suspends Deportations From U.S. After 70 Test Positive For Coronavirus 
Molly O’Toole, All Things Considered NPR, April 17, 2020
“But all that they do is screen for obvious symptoms and take people’s temperatures. They do not test for coronavirus as opposed to the Guatemalans who’ve been testing people when they get back. So it’s very interesting that the U.S. has decided to send the CDC team to test the results that the Guatemalans are seeing given that the U.S. itself is not testing deportees before it sends them back to Guatemala.”

Fears grip Guatemala’s Indigenous groups as coronavirus sets in 
Jeff Abbott, Al Jazeera, April 16, 2020
“In rural areas, the government launched a prevention campaign about washing hands and social distancing in Indigenous languages on local radio and television. But both Hernandez Mack and Petzey said it is not enough, saying many communities still lack daily information in their languages about the crisis. ‘They have not taken sufficient necessary measures to attend the Indigenous populations that are more dispersed outside urban centres,’ Hernandez Mack said.”

Reacciones ante intolerancia hacia los retornados
Grecia Ortíz, La Hora, 16 de abril de 2020
“‘Ahora que más solidaridad se necesita entre todos se agudice más la estigmatización contra un sector tan importante como son los migrantes. Porque basicamente en ellos se respalda nuestra economía y las remesas son de gran ayuda para muchas familias aca en Guatemala’, anotó el procurador”.

16 migrants test positive for coronavirus on Mexican Border
Alfredo Peña, AP News, April 20, 2020
“Under the U.S. policy change spurred by the virus, the U.S. government has sent some 10,000 Mexicans and Central Americans back to Mexico, according to the data from the U.S. Border Patrol. The situation led Tamaulipas to ask the administration of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador to not accept anymore Central Americans delivered back across the border to Mexico from the United States.”

ACTUALIZA 3- Migrante deportado desde EEUU contagia de coronavirus a 14 en albergue de México
Diego Oré, Reuters, 20 de abril de 2020
“El gobierno del estado Tamaulipas, fronterizo con Estados Unidos, afirmó que el migrante había sido deportado de Houston y llegó al albergue de la ciudad Nuevo Laredo ‘sin conocer su condición de ser portador del virus’, pero no dio a conocer su nacionalidad”.

Mexico judge orders release of migrants vulnerable to coronavirus
Sandra Cuffe, Reuters, April 19, 2020
“The measure, ordered by a Mexico City district judge in a provisional ruling published on Friday, would apply to migrants more than 60 years of age and those who have a disability, chronic illness or other condition that places them at higher risk of contracting COVID-19.”

U.S. Enforcement

Trump May Exempt Health, Food Workers From Immigration Ban
Nick Wadhams, Jordan Fabian, Josh Wingrove, and Shaun Courtney, Bloomberg, April 21, 2020
“‘It would be wrong and unjust for Americans laid off by the virus to be replaced by new immigrant labor flown in from abroad,’ Trump said at a White House briefing on Tuesday evening. ‘We must first take care of the American worker.’”

The Long, Winding, and Painful Story of Asylum 
John Washington, The Nation, April 20, 2020
“The basic idea of asylum is simple: Someone comes to your door because they are in danger, because they are afraid. You open your door, and you share your roof. But within this simple idea lies a labyrinth constructed of different sorts of fear. Some fear is grounded in immediate physical danger, some is diffused in general conditions of oppression: some is exaggerated, some completely imagined. Some fears are unrealized, some send you to your grave.”

Union DOJ deportation appeals workers fear overcrowding
Betsy Woodruff Swan, Politico, April 23, 2020
“The union for lawyers and support staff who handle Justice Department immigration appeals says their office’s working conditions put workers’ lives in danger. And employees in the DOJ office handling those immigration appeals said many suspect it’s because the department prioritizes high deportation numbers over worker safety.”

When Safety is Danger
John Washington, El Faro, April 16, 2020
“There is no better argument for the need of asylum than, when you are not granted it, you are killed. That sort of post-mortem evidence, however, is evidence that comes too late. The point of asylum protections is that you shouldn’t need to prove your fears by seeing them realized.”

Exclusive: Trump ramps up border wall land grabs and pandemic lockdown
Nick Fouriezo, Ozy, April 16, 2020
“That’s sparking concerns among critics of the wall that the Trump administration might be using the nationwide scare of the coronavirus to push through an agenda that might otherwise have faced far greater resistance…‘They are trying to take advantage of the pandemic, when lawyers are not going to be as willing to take cases and many people are sheltering in places,’ says Ricky Garza, a staff attorney at the Texas Civil Rights Project, whose lawyers are fighting some of the administration’s eminent domain cases in court.”

Mexican Enforcement

The Hidden Mental Health Crisis at Mexico’s Border
Benjamin Russell, Americas Quarterly, April 20, 2020
“With only a handful of psychologists and psychiatrists available to treat patients in the city, migrants have few opportunities to try to come to terms with what they’ve experienced. Stigmatized and vulnerable, many female migrants fall into sex work or rely on fellow male migrants for protection, which carries its own risks.”

‘All I want is a tranquil life’: Asylum claims skyrocket in Mexico as Haitians flee to U.S. border
Lauren Villagran, El Paso Times, April 16, 2020
“Was Mexicali Simon’s forever home? Or would he try his luck crossing the U.S. border? He used the word destino to describe his plan — a physical destination, a dreamed-of destiny. ‘It depends,’ he said in Spanish. ‘I don’t have a destination in the U.S. My only destiny is to live peacefully with my family.’”


Root Causes 

FYFFES Farms Exposed: The Fight for Justice in the Honduran Melon Fields
Liana Foxvog and Gabriela Rosazza; International Labor Rights Forum, Fair World Project, and the International Union of Food Workers (IUF) Latin America Regional Secretariat; April, 2020
“Thousands of miles away from U.S. supermarket shelves, the melon workers of southern Honduras are standing up to a global fruit giant that has long used their labor but never respected their rights.”

BCIE vende su participación en el proyecto Agua Zarca y lo vende a consorcio suizo
COPINH, 20 de abril de 2020
“El BCIE vende su participación en el proyecto Agua Zarca de la Familia Atala Zablah a un consorcio Suizo, para desvincularse. Esto a 4 años del asesinato de Berta Cáceres. Se van dejando un rastro de sangre y muerte a Río Blanco exigimos que se asuma la responsabilidad de la banca internacional por el financiamiento a estos proyectos asesinos”.

El BCIE oficializa la desvinculación definitiva del proyecto Agua Zarca
Banco Centroamericano de Integración Económica, 17 de abril de 2020
“El Banco Centroamericano de Integración Económica (BCIE) anuncia la conclusión del proceso de desvinculación definitiva de la relación con el proyecto Agua Zarca en Honduras. La desvinculación definitiva pone un punto final al proceso que comenzó en 2016 cuando el BCIE cesó el desembolso de fondos al proyecto”.

Bukele, el autoritario
Óscar Martínez, New York Times, 20 de abril de 2020
“Las señales estaban ahí desde el principio, pero ha sido en estos meses de marzo y abril en los que Bukele se ha exhibido en todo su esplendor como un hombre autoritario, dispuesto a saltarse las reglas más básicas de la república y gobernar solo un país que lo sigue adorando, según las últimas encuestas”.

Honduras: A Democracy Shielding Criminals
Jennifer Ávila, El Faro, April 16, 2020
“‘While major U.S. news organizations have done solid reporting on JOH’s narco ties,’Frank said, ‘they have almost entirely opted not to use that information to challenge Trump or directly criticize U.S. foreign policy. For example, there is no mention of U.S. support to the Honduran military and police force, despite their clear involvement.’ She added, ‘None of the Democratic presidential candidates have challenged Trump on his policy in Honduras.’”

Fleeing from Dispossession
Vienna Herrera, El Faro, April 16, 2020
“In Aguán, weapons seem to be the answer for everything. The Guapinol conflict reached its peak after a violent eviction left several people dead— including two members of the military.This is what Carlos fled from.”

Women who migrate
Fred Ramos and Víctor Peña, El Faro, April 16, 2020
“For six months, two photojournalists from El Faro followed the experiences of women whose lives have been touched by migration. Women being displaced; women without documents; women headed north; women surrounded by the violence of Central America; and women who, in searching for a better life, have lost body parts. The result was a photography exhibit where women migrants are front and center.”

Actions, Alerts, and Resources 

Beware long-term damage to human rights and refugee rights from the coronavirus pandemic
UNHCR, April 22, 2020
“UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, estimates that 167 countries have so far fully or partially closed their borders to contain the spread of the virus. At least 57 states are making no exception for people seeking asylum. With wars and violence in many parts of the world continuing, such measures are effectively suspending the right of people to seek asylum.”

Special Report: Human Rights Violations Abound in El Salvador as President Bukele Responds to COVID-19 
CISPES, April 2020
“While human rights organizations, progressive social movements, and civil society leaders in El Salvador agree that the comprehensive and preventative measures are necessary, many are denouncing a rising tide of human rights violations stemming from the suspension of constitutional rights and use of force that has characterized the government’s response to the threat of COVID-19, as well as President Bukele’s flagrant dismissal of recent Supreme Court ruling intended to curb his detention policy.”

Política migratoria en Estados Unidos: un boletín para organizaciones mesoamericanas – Marzo 2020
CEJIL, 20 de abril de 2020
“Seguimos ante un contexto en que las decisiones políticas y judiciales de Estados Unidos generan nuevos retos – y con ellos, nuevas rutas – para la defensa de los derechos humanos de las personas migrantes en la región mesoamericana. En este documento, presentamos un resumen mensual de algunas iniciativas ejecutivas, decisiones judiciales y debates legislativos de Estados Unidos, con el fin de identificar nuevos espacios para las estrategias de promoción y protección de los derechos humanos de las personas migrantes en Centroamérica y México”.

There is No Public Health Rationale for a Categorical Ban on Asylum Seekers
Joanna Naples-Mitchell, Just Security, April 17, 2020
“This latest attack on the right to seek asylum is immigration policy masquerading as public health policy. We at PHR believe it is imperative that the public understands how little a basis the CDC order has in science. To help facilitate this, we asked six infectious disease epidemiology experts to respond to the CDC’s public health justifications for closing the border to asylum seekers.”

Southern Border Policies Harming Asylum Seekers – An Overview
Center for Gender and Refugee Studies, UC Hastings, April 17, 2020
“The Trump Administration’s assault on asylum seekers seems to know no bounds… Below is an overview of the current status of some of the most significant of these policies that harm asylum seekers.”

En breve: políticas que impactan a los solicitantes de asilo en la frontera sur de Estados Unidos
Center for Gender and Refugee Studies, UC Hastings, 17 de abril de 2020
“Los asaltos del gobierno Trump en contra de los solicitantes de asilo parecen no conocer límites… Aquí presentamos un breve repaso del estado actual de las políticas más significativas que afectan a los solicitantes de asilo”.

El Salvador’s President Should Respect the Courts and the Legislative Assembly in COVID-19 Response
Washington Office on Latin America, April 16, 2020
“El Salvador’s Legislative Assembly is currently considering extending the state of emergency, with the presidency proposing additional emergency powers that would allow Ministry of Health personnel to enter any private residences to conduct inspections. In response, WOLA President Geoff Thale issued the following statement: ‘Mitigating the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is no excuse for undermining democracy and human rights.’”