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Migration News Brief 4.3.20

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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.

Spotlight

How Corruption Fuels Human Rights Abuses & Forced Migration: The Case of Honduras
Lisa Haugaard, Latin America Working Group, March 26, 2020
“A district project fund for Honduran legislators became a slush fund for political campaigns and vote-buying, channeling taxpayer money to fake nonprofits, including two run by President Hernandez’s family.  The “Pandora’s Box” cases, uncovered with the help of the anti-corruption agency MACCIH, drained funding intended to build roads, schools, and other projects in poor rural areas.”

 

US Enforcement

How coronavirus has halted Central American migration to the US
Jeff Ernst, The Guardian, April 2, 2020
“Border closures and strict lockdowns prompted by the Covid-19 crisis have disrupted the migrant trail through Central America and Mexico, forcing some would-be migrants to postpone their journeys – and stopping many others in their tracks.”

No Masks, Disinfectant, or Soap. This is Detention Amid a Pandemic
Kate Goldman, New York Times, April 2, 2020 
“The detainees I talk to are afraid of being deported, or being held indefinitely. Some are sick over being separated from their children, and unable to protect them from harm. Over the past few days, these concerns are increasingly being eclipsed by the fear of being infected with the coronavirus and dying alone in jail.”

Trump Administration Has Turned Immigration Court into ‘Public Health Hazard’ 
Sam Brodey, Daily Beast, April 2, 2020 
“The Trump administration has refused to allow immigration courts and visa hearings to comply with the same social isolation standards followed by nearly every other aspect of government, and has not allowed for previously scheduled hearings to be postponed. The administration has also issued little in the way of guidance for judges, immigration attorneys or immigrants, whose hearings—which often take years to schedule—directly conflict with stay-at-home orders across the country.”

Removing Barriers for Immigrant Medical Professionals Is Critical To Help Fight Coronavirus
Silva Mathema, Center for American Progress, April 2, 2020
“Paradoxically, COVID-19 has actually heightened the barriers faced by badly needed immigrant medical professionals. For instance, office closures and the suspension of visa services at consulates overseas are severely hampering the ability of health care professionals to get medical licenses, obtain visas, and remain in status.”

Deported amid coronavirus: US sends Guatemalan family home to face new threat
Valeria Fernández and Jude Joffe-Block, The Guardian, April 2, 2020
“For deported asylum seekers like María, the crisis means many are returning to even more dire situations than the threats they originally fled. In Guatemala, the local economy is paralyzed by the pandemic, with businesses and many government offices shuttered. For those arriving on deportation flights, finding jobs and housing has become all but impossible.”

Covid-19 no frenará migración centroamericanos al norte
Roberta Hernández Quesada, Una Comunica, 1 de abril de 2020 
“La enfermedad covid-19 profundizará las condiciones de pobreza y violencia de los centroamericanos, por lo que las migraciones no se detendrán a pesar de los cierres de los puestos fronterizos oficiales, advirtió Guillermo Acuña, especialista en migraciones del Instituto de Estudios Sociales en Población de la Universidad Nacional (Idespo-UNA)”.

The missing piece in the coronavirus stimulus bill: Relief for immigrants
Nicole Narea, Vox, April 1, 2020
“But although unauthorized immigrants are no more immune from the effects of the current crisis, the stimulus bill conspicuously leaves them out in the cold — potentially putting them at greater economic and health risk, and impeding public health efforts to stop the spread of coronavirus.”

U.S. again postpones immigration hearings for migrants in Mexico due to coronavirus
Ted Hesson, Reuters, April 1, 2020
“The U.S. government said on Wednesday that due to the coronavirus outbreak it had postponed court hearings for non-Mexican migrants waiting in Mexico. The departments of Justice and Homeland Security said in a joint statement that the hearings would be postponed through May 1. The departments had previously announced a suspension through April 22.”

Guatemala Asks U.S. to Halt Deportations of Guatemalans to Prevent Spread of Coronavirus
Juan Montes, José de Córdoba, and Alicia A. Caldwell, Wall Street Journal, March 31, 2020
“‘We have asked in the kindest terms, knowing that we are friends and allies, to stop deportations during this crisis to not make things worse,’ the official said, adding that negotiations are continuing and the U.S. has yet to respond to the request. A U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokeswoman said deportation flights to Central America are ongoing.”

Border Wall Work in Arizona Speeds Up, Igniting Contagion Fears
Simon Romero, New York Times, March 31, 2020
“Around the country, some states have cut back on construction activity to curb the spread of the coronavirus, and hotels and restaurants in many cities have closed. But here in Arizona, the federal government is embarking on a frenetic new phase of construction of the border wall.”

Guatemalan deported from US tests positive for COVID-19: Official
Jeff Abbott, Al Jazeera, March 30, 2020
“A spokeswoman for the Guatemalan Health Ministry told Al Jazeera the 29-year-old man from Momostenango, Totonicapan, was deported last Thursday on a flight chartered by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. The flight, with at least 40 others on board, originated in Mesa, Arizona, according to the Guatemalan Migration Institute.”

The Trump Administration Is Now Deporting Unaccompanied Immigrant Kids Due To The Coronavirus
Hamed Aleaziz, BuzzFeed News, March 30, 2020
“In a major departure from previous practice mandated by federal law, the Trump administration has begun quickly deporting immigrant children apprehended alone at the southern border. Administration officials say they are following public health orders designed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in the US, but opponents say they are using the health orders to skirt federal laws that govern the processing of unaccompanied minors.”

Under coronavirus immigration measures, U.S. is expelling border-crossers to Mexico in an average of 96 minutes
Nick Miroff, Washington Post, March 30, 2020
“The pandemic has allowed the U.S. Border Patrol to implement the kind of rapid-fire deportation system President Trump has long extolled as his preferred approach to immigration enforcement. Under the new rules, U.S. agents are processing migrants from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras “in the field” before they are able to set foot inside a U.S. Border Patrol station. The migrants are then whisked back to the border and sent into Mexico.”

Judge Urges Release of Migrant Children After 4 Test Positive for Coronavirus in Detention
Miriam Jordan, New York Times, March 29, 2020
“In her ruling on Saturday, the judge declined to order an immediate release of all the detained children, given current travel restrictions and the need to ensure that children are released to suitable sponsors, most often family members. She said, however, that both of the agencies operating migrant children detention facilities must by April 6 provide an accounting of their efforts to release those in custody.”

Asylum Seekers Must Get Bond Hearings, Ninth Circuit Rules
Nicholas Iovino, Courthouse News, March 27, 2020
“U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman in Seattle granted a preliminary injunction in April 2019, requiring the release of asylum seekers from detention unless they are given bond hearings within seven days of requesting one. In a 2-1 split, a Ninth Circuit panel affirmed Pechman’s ruling, finding the U.S. Constitution guarantees detained immigrants a right to due process.”

‘Dreamers’ Tell Supreme Court Ending DACA During Pandemic Would Be ‘Catastrophic’
Adam Liptak, New York Times, March 27, 2020
“‘It’s imperative that the Supreme Court take account of conditions that did not exist back in November,’ he said. ‘It seems nonsensical to invite even more chaos into an already chaotic time.’ The status of health case workers like Mr. Martinez was the subject of an unusual Supreme Court filing on Friday, one that urged the justices to take account of a new reality.”

Asylum Seekers Stranded in Mexico Face a New Danger: COVID-19
Ashoka Mukpo, ACLU, March 26, 2020
“Meanwhile, many asylum seekers have been stuck in dangerous border cities for months waiting for those hearings. Health workers say that now they are vulnerable to the COVID-19 pandemic in ways that would have been avoided if they had been admitted and released into the U.S. for their proceedings.”

Los inmigrantes que cultivan frutas y verduras en EE.UU. se exponen al coronavirus. ¿Los protegen sus empleadores?
Milli Legrain, Noticias Telemundo, 26 de marzo de 2020
“Estados Unidos ha restringido la llegada de empleados temporales para el campo, pero frente al lobby de los productores agrícolas el gobierno procura procesar la mayoría de visas de trabajo H-2A. En época de pandemia, los que sí han podido venir están improvisando medidas caseras para protegerse del coronavirus ante la inacción de sus empleadores”.

‘Maybe if I Had Papers, It Would Have Been Different’: Undocumented During a Pandemic
Heather Gies and John Washington, The Nation, March 25, 2020
“Worried that he was infected with the coronavirus, Raúl sought help at a Queens hospital on Tuesday, March 17. “I saw they were doing the tests,” he said, “and I asked what I needed to do to get the test. I told them I had a fever.” He said that when he told medical staff he didn’t have an appointment, they sent him home for 14 days of quarantine. “Maybe if I had papers it would have been different,” he said.”

How the Coronavirus Is Disrupting USCIS Processing of Immigration Applications
Katy Murdza, Immigration Impact, March 25, 2020
“USCIS later closed all of its offices to the public (including field offices, asylum offices, and Application Support Centers) from March 28 until at least April 7. Given the current status of the coronavirus outbreak, the closure is almost certain to be extended. Staff continue to perform work that does not require public interaction and provide limited emergency services. Applicants with appointments during the closure will receive notices in the mail with a rescheduled appointment date.”

 

Mexican Enforcement

Mexico still accepting asylum applications as U.S. asylum system grinds to halt
Kate Morrissey, San Diego Union-Tribune, April 1, 2020
“Still, the head of COMAR, Andrés Ramírez Silva, said even with Mexico’s tightening recommendations on movement amid the growing public health crisis, he would keep doors open to asylum seekers for as long as he could… He considers his agency to be among the essential government offices that need to stay open even as everything else closes for the foreseeable future.”

Migrant Dies in Mexico Detention Center Riot Over Virus Fear
Associated Press, New York Times, April 1, 2020
“A Guatemalan migrant died during a riot at an immigration detention center in Mexico, where detainees burned mattresses to protest conditions they say could expose them to the new coronavirus, officials said Wednesday.”

Un solicitante de asilo muere tras protestas en el interior de la estación migratoria de Tenosique
Alberto Pradilla, Animal Politico, 1 de abril de 2020
“Héctor Rolando Barrientos Dardón, guatemalteco de 42 años, murió en la noche del martes en la estación migratoria de Tenosique, Tabasco, tras un incendio registrado cuando migrantes encerrados protestaban por sus condiciones de encierro”.

Activistas mexicanos denuncian violencia contra inmigrantes que protestan por temor a coronavirus
Julia Love, Reuters, 26 de marzo de 2020
“Docenas de migrantes en el centro de detención más grande de México, en la frontera con Guatemala, protestaron esta semana por temor a contraer el coronavirus en la instalación…  La protesta chocó con una violenta represión por parte de la policía federal y la guardia nacional, según organizaciones mexicanas de derechos humanos”.

 

Root Causes 

Lockdown broken in El Salvador as crowds gather for government aid
Anastasia Moloney, Reuters, Yahoo News, March 30, 2020
“Police in El Salvador on Monday used pepper spray to disperse crowds of people seeking government subsidies to help them survive the coronavirus pandemic, drawing criticism about the way financial aid was being distributed. In long queues stretching across streets, thousands of people stood close to one another in the capital city of San Salvador, defying government orders to stay at home to help stop the spread of the virus.”

Pandillas amenazan a quien incumpla la cuarentena
Carlos Martínez, Óscar Martínez y Efren Lemus, El Faro, 31 de marzo de 2020
“Al miedo que ya genera el expansivo contagio de la enfermedad y a la incertidumbre sobre las medidas paliativas tomadas por el gobierno, se suma ahora el aviso de estas organizaciones criminales: han decidido imponer por la fuerza un “toque de queda”, como ellas mismas lo han llamado, a las comunidades que viven bajo su control”.

¿Medidas para proteger a grupos vulnerables en la emergencia?
Celia Medrano, El Mundo, 31 de marzo de 2020
“Por ejemplo, ¿Cuáles medidas extraordinarias se han tomado para garantía y protección a mujeres, niñas, niños y adolescentes con antecedentes en registros, avisos o denuncias de violencia intrafamiliar o violencia sexual? Estas personas están sufriendo o están en riesgo de sufrir violaciones graves a sus derechos dentro de sus mismas casas y sus posibilidades de pedir ayuda son aún más limitadas actualmente”.

El Salvador se enfrenta al COVID-19 con improvisación militarizada
Alba Miriam Abaya, DW, 31 de marzo de 2020
“La credibilidad del presidente de El Salvador, Nayib Bukele, está en juego y se fortalecerá —o erosionará — dependiendo del avance de la COVID-19 en los denominados ‘centros de contención’ y de su capacidad de gestionar un ambicioso plan de subsidios. A la fecha, según el análisis de especialistas, la Administración Bukele está caracterizada por la improvisación y el populismo, en el marco de un estado de excepción impuesto para hacerle frente a una pandemia”.

Fiscales del Ministerio Público tramitan más de 80 denuncias por violencia doméstica durante cuarentena por covid19 en Honduras
Francisco Morazán, Ministerio Público de Honduras, 30 de marzo de 2020
“Según los informes recibidos sólo en San Pedro Sula, 53 mujeres acudieron a la Fiscalía en busca de que se aplique la ley en contra de sus agresores, esta misma oficina presentó cinco Requerimientos Fiscales por el delito de violencia intrafamiliar, uno de estos casos es contra un hijo que cometió el delito en perjuicio de su madre”.

Fiscalía de Nueva York pide que se dicte sentencia de Tony Hernández a más tardar el 15 de mayo
ProHondurasNetwork, Criterio, 30 de marzo de 2020
“Finalmente, la fiscalía solicita que la sentencia que actualmente está programada para el 15 de abril de 2020, se realice sin nuevo retrasos a más tardar el 15 de mayo de 2020, considerando que, en caso de ser nombra un nuevo abogado, este no necesita más de un mes de aplazamiento para prepararse para la sentencia”.

Guatemala to tap $26 million from fund to help poor amid coronavirus crisis
Anthony Esposito, Reuters, March 29, 2020
“‘For the most vulnerable in the country … we have decided to withdraw 200 million quetzals ($25.8 million) from the emergency fund and we are going to give families aid of 1,000 quetzals ($129) to help pay for electricity, water and supplies,’ Giammattei said.”

Con o sin pandemia: a los migrantes solo les queda el monte
Óscar Martínez, El Faro, El País, 28 de marzo de 2020
“No es lo mismo una pandemia si no tenés qué cenar. No es prioridad cumplir una cuarentena si en esos días alguien te prometió tu muerte. El norte de Centroamérica está repleto de barrios dominados por pandillas que pueden aterrorizar mucho más que cualquier virus”.

“If I Stay Home, I’ll Starve”
Carlos Barrera, El Faro, March 27, 2020
“Abandoning work and lying low under self-imposed lockdown as the coronavirus runs its course are luxuries largely beyond the reach of those working in El Salvador’s informal economy—a hefty 7 out of 10 Salvadorans, according to an October 2018 study by the Salvadoran Foundation for Economic and Social Development.”

In El Salvador, quick COVID-19 response fuels fears of an iron fist
Whitney Eulich, Christian Science Monitor, March 26, 2020
“‘The government is taking advantage of an emergency and that will affect democracy now and later,’ he says. Mr. Bukele has sky-high approval ratings, hovering around 90%. A central concern is whether, if the president can curtail rights without much pushback today, he could take that as a green light for other extreme steps in the future.”

El Salvador’s Black Widows – Female Leadership in MS13
Abigail Zislis, InSight Crime, March 25, 2020
“The Black Widows’ case represents a type of covert violence less frequently seen in the region, as it relies on female trickery, deception, and psychological control. This type of human trafficking has received comparatively little attention in the country.”

Hondureños dejan de enviar remesas a sus familiares
Juan Carlos Rivera, La Prensa, 25 de marzo de 2020
“Hace un mes, Arita envió a su familia en Honduras $300 y ahora, cuando la economía de Maryland ha entrado en un proceso de parálisis a causa de la propagación del COVID-19, no tiene idea si volverá a realizar transferencias”.

 

Actions, Alerts, Resources 

Human Rights Watch Letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Department of Homeland Security Regarding Orders Related to Suspending Travel Across US Borders
Alison Leal Parker, Human Rights Watch, April 1, 2020
“Even in times of emergency, governments remain obliged to protect refugees from return to a threat of persecution, exposure to torture or inhuman and degrading conditions, or threats to life and physical security. Contrary to the DHS Order, travel by refugees fleeing threats to their life and safety constitutes essential travel, as it can mean the difference between life or death.”

The rights and health of refugees, migrants and stateless must be protected in COVID-19 response
OHCHR, IOM, UNHCR, and WHO, March 31, 2020
“More than ever, as COVID-19 poses a global threat to our collective humanity, our primary focus should be on the preservation of life, regardless of status. This crisis demands a coherent, effective international approach that leaves no-one behind. At this crucial moment we all need to rally around a common objective, fighting this deadly virus. Many refugees, displaced, stateless people and migrants have skills and resources that can also be part of the solution.”

COVID-19 and the Displaced: Addressing the Threat of the Novel Coronavirus in Humanitarian Emergencies
Refugees International, March 30, 2020
“As the pandemic spreads, the coronavirus will disproportionately impact the world’s most vulnerable, among them refugees, asylum seekers, and internally displaced people (IDPs). These populations must be included in the global response to the virus. This is essential to protecting not only these communities, but societies at large.”

Trust deficit: Guatemala’s new president must overcome skepticism to improve press freedom
Committee to Protect Journalists, March 27, 2020
“With a new president in office, Guatemala has the opportunity to reverse years of declining press freedom after the country’s journalists endured obstruction, legal harassment, orchestrated online attacks, and threats of violence. To win back trust, the administration will need to make a strong commitment to transparency and provide enough resources to combat impunity in attacks on the press.”

Courting Catastrophe: How ICE is Gambling with Immigrant Lives Amid a Global Pandemic
Setareh Ghandehari and Gabriela Viera, Detention Watch Network, March, 2020
“Now facing a global health crisis, ICE’s shameful record of medical negligence, limited and rotten food provisions, poor sanitation, and demonstrated inability to properly respond to past infectious disease outbreaks means that there is a serious risk of COVID-19 outbreaks at immigration detention centers.”

The Way of Asylum
Michelina Nicotera-Taxiera
“This website was created to be able to make accessible the inspiring art, the reflections, and information regarding asylum seekers and the urgent need for all people of conscience to open their hearts, be moved, and be inspired to act in the name of justice.”