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Migration News Brief 5.14.21

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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.

Source: Lauri Alvarez

U.S Enforcement

Biden meeting with DACA recipients to highlight immigration priorities
Mike Memoli, NBC News, May 13, 2021 
“In his address to a joint session of Congress last month, Biden called on lawmakers to “end our exhausting war over immigration.” While pushing his plan to extend citizenship to more than 11 million undocumented immigrants, he also said Congress could act to secure protections for “Dreamers,” beneficiaries of the Obama-era DACA program, which enabled undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children to remain in the country. The individuals Biden will meet Friday underscore the administration’s argument for enshrining that executive action into law, highlighting essential workers in fields like education, agriculture and health care.”

The ‘ICE Kids’
Ashoka Mukpo, The Nation, May 13, 2021 
“But Rodriguez was one of a still-unknown number of teenagers who have instead been sent by ICE to juvenile jails that are often thousands of miles away from their families, and where there are no safeguards in place to guarantee that they were represented in court for the months—and in some cases, years—of their detention. Advocates say the practice is illegal and violates the Flores settlement.”

Some migrant children stuck overnight on parked buses before going to family or sponsors, advocate says
Dasha Burns, Julia Ainsley, Didi Martinez, and Anthony Terrell, NBC News, May 13, 2021
“In a vast parking lot outside the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, minors who migrated to the U.S. without their parents are waiting on buses to be sent to live with relatives or sponsors, staying overnight, eating and using the bathroom all within the confines of the bus, according to the owner of one of the bus companies and advocates for the children.”

Biden administration expands effort to identify vulnerable migrant families in Mexico for entry into US
Priscilla Alvarez, CNN, May 13, 2021
“The administration’s move appears designed to quell those concerns by addressing more families who are deemed exceptions to the policy. The latest plan is kicking off on a pilot basis, the source said, adding that families will be put in immigration proceedings. ‘As the United States continue​s to enforce the CDC Order under its Title 42 public health authority, we are working to streamline a system for identifying and lawfully processing particularly vulnerable individuals who warrant humanitarian exceptions under the order,’ said Sarah Peck, a Department of Homeland Security spokesperson.”

Can One Agency Keep the U.S. Safe and Still Be Humane? The New DHS Chief Thinks So 
Brian Bennett, Time Magazine, May 12, 2021 
“Mayorkas is the first immigrant and Latino to head the department and brings his lived experience as a Cuban refugee and son of a Holocaust survivor to the rollback of Donald Trump’s most controversial policies. But DHS is still a law-enforcement agency at its core, and Biden picked him not for his personal history but because of his reputation for being a tough prosecutor, a senior White House official and a former top transition adviser tell TIME. How Mayorkas strikes the balance will define much about how the world sees America, and America sees itself, in the post-Trump moment.”

‘Pay rent or get a dose’: Miami’s Central American, Haitian immigrant communities undervaccinated
Ana Claudia Chacin, Bianca Padró Ocasio and Jimena Tavel, The Miami Herald, May 12, 2021 
“‘I think a lot of people in this community are not making it a priority, when their lives are in chaos,’ Walsh said of the low vaccine rates among Haitians in Miami-Dade. Hospitality workers in particular have been disproportionately affected by layoffs and furloughs. I think people are hearing, ‘Oh, it could knock you out for the day or two after,’ and people say, ‘I can’t afford to, I’m not going to get paid for that,’ Walsh said.”

Migrants Take More Risky—and Sometimes Deadly—Paths to Illegally Enter U.S. 
Alicia Caldwell, The Wall Street Journal, May 12, 2021 
“Crossing into the U.S. illegally has gotten more difficult over the past year, leading more migrants to take treacherous and sometimes deadly paths as their numbers have grown substantially in recent months, border officials and aid groups say.” 

DACA recipients launch legal battle to clear hurdles from the ultimate prize: citizenship
Andrea Castillo, Los Angeles Times, May 12, 2021
“Beyond reconnecting with family, there’s a deeper reason that receiving advance parole is so significant: Returning to the U.S. through an established port of entry erases the black mark of unlawful entry that many DACA recipients live with. Immigrants who leave the U.S. after having entered without authorization are penalized. Someone who was here for six months to a year is banned from returning for three years. And someone who was here longer than a year is banned for 10 years.”

Joe Biden officially nominates Tucson police chief to lead US border agency
KTAR News, May 12, 2021
Magnus leads an 800-member police force in Tucson, which calls itself an “immigrant welcoming community” and has changed police policy to minimize the ability for officers to enforce immigration laws. Magnus offered to resign last year when a young Hispanic man, Carlos Ingram-Lopez, died in police custody and the department failed to inform the public for months. The officers involved resigned, and Magnus said he would have fired them. Mayor Regina Romero publicly supported Magnus.”

Migrant children held in mass shelters with little oversight
Garance Burke, Juliet Linderman, and Martha Mendoza, AP News, May 11, 2021 
“Confidential data obtained by the AP shows the number of migrant children in government custody more than doubled in the past two months, and this week the federal government was housing around 21,000 kids, from toddlers to teens. A facility at Fort Bliss, a U.S. Army post in El Paso, Texas, had more than 4,500 children as of Monday. Attorneys, advocates and mental health experts say that while some shelters are safe and provide adequate care, others are endangering children’s health and safety.”

‘Get Back on Offense’: Immigration Advocates Look to Biden’s Next 100 Days
Claire Hansen, U.S. News, May 10, 2021 
“Hincapié says she sees the next 100 days as ‘being really critical as well, in terms of being able to have President Biden move his political capital, and using all levers of government to deliver on his campaign promises to enact a 21st century immigration system that truly reflects the values that we aspire to as a nation and our role as a global leader.’”

Family reunites under Biden program that has let 10,000 asylum seekers enter the U.S.
Camilo Montoya-Galvez and Sean Gallitz, CBS News, May 10, 2021 
“Meanwhile, Lazaro and Dayana are looking forward to starting a new life with their daughter in the U.S. Like other asylum-seekers admitted into the U.S., they still have to continue their immigration proceedings to pursue asylum or other forms of permanent legal status.‘We hope to push forward in this country. To work and raise the baby,’ Lazaro said. ‘May she grow up loving her country, loving her homeland. She is one more American that we have here.’”

Mexican Enforcement

Mexico and UNHCR analyze rise in refugee applications
Prensa Latina, May 13, 2021
“Half a million migrants, who aspire to obtain a visa to work in the United States and secondarily in this country of transit. Most of them lack immigration coverage, but others have it and that allows them to stay in Mexico and even to regularize their situation, the undersecretary of Human Rights, Migration and Population at Mexico’s Interior Secretariat, Alejandro Encinas, pointed out.”

Más de 90,000 personas solicitarán asilo en México este año
Telemundo, May 13, 2021 
“Además, señaló que en el país ya se encuentran más de 78 nacionalidades distintas, aunque el 90.38% de las personas solicitantes de asilo proviene únicamente de seis países: Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Cuba, Haití y Venezuela. El norte de Centroamérica, compuesto por Guatemala, El Salvador y Honduras, es una de las regiones más pobres y violentas del planeta, según diversos estudios de organismos internacionales.”

Indigenous diaspora: The arduous journey from Guatemala through Mexico
Puente News Collaborative, Borderzine, May 10, 2021
“When crossing Mexico to reach the United States, Central American migrants are susceptible to xenophobic discrimination, but Indigenous migrants are even more vulnerable and are frequently targetted by scammers. In the case of Indigenous women, they are also targetted for sexual abuse and rape, said Sergio Luna, director of the shelter La Sagrada Familia in Tlaxcala, Mexico.Luna said that the most prominent challenges experienced by Indigenous migrants at the shelter are related to language barriers and lack of Western education.”

Root Causes 

The U.S. role in the El Mozote massacre echoes in today’s immigration 
Nelson Rauda and John Washington, The Washington Post, May 12, 2021
“News out of Central America rarely appears in U.S. media. Central Americans fleeing the carnage are only seen as embodying the border crisis and domestic issue, with little regard as to what sent them north. Rarely acknowledged is the past and current role of the United States in Central America.”

Removal of Salvadoran Judges, Prosecutor Unconstitutional, U.S. Special Envoy Says
Nelson Renteria, U.S. News, May 12, 2021
“He warned that a lack of judicial independence would affect the investment climate in the country and said he would discuss ‘next steps’ with the White House, State Department and U.S. Congress on his return to Washington. During a previous visit to El Salvador, Bukele declined to meet with Zuniga.”

Guatemala’s top court backs controversial NGO law, overturns past ruling
Sofia Menchu, Reuters, May 12, 2021
“Guatemala’s Constitutional Court on Wednesday overturned an earlier ruling that stopped controversial legislation targeting non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from becoming law, in a move likely to alarm rights groups and the United States.”

Foro Internacional por los Derechos Humanos en Honduras: Estamos vigilantes,  ¡justicia para Berta!
CEJIL, 12 de mayo de 2021
“Desde el Foro Internacional, reconocemos la importancia de este hito para la causa de Berta Cáceres y toda la sociedad hondureña, al tiempo que sostenemos que este proceso en sí mismo no representa justicia pues los autores intelectuales del crimen permanecen impunes y las comunidades Lencas y COPINH continúan enfrentando las violentas políticas de un Estado extractivista”. 

Las recientes elecciones primarias y la participación política de las mujeres: una mirada con perspectiva de género 
CESPAD, May 11, 2021
“Ese ejercicio masculinizado de la política privilegia, legitima y reproduce ciertas prácticas identificadas como inherentes a los hombres. Se trata de las mismas prácticas que han configurado la actual tergiversación de la política, caracterizada, entre otros rasgos, por la opacidad, concentración y discreción en el ejercicio del poder; la demagogia en la retórica política y la progresiva primacía de intereses personales, disfrazados e impuestos con una narrativa de ‘democracia’”. 

Women Taking Bigger Role in Central America Extortion Schemes
InSight Crime, May 11, 2021 
“The report points to several examples where women were central to violent gang activities, including a woman setting off a grenade in an attack on a public bus in Guatemala, and another involved with killing a bus driver in Honduras. It also highlights a Barrio 18 gang cell in Guatemala composed mostly of women, along with a female MS13 gang ringleader in Honduras. The report provides one rare example of female leadership in El Salvador, where a woman rose in the ranks of the MS13 over twenty years.”

Invitación: Encuentro internacional contra la impunidad “Caso Keyla
Sandra Rodriguez, Defensores en Linea, 11 de mayo de 2021
“Desde la plataforma ZOOM, participará en la “webinar” Berta Oliva, coordinadora general del Comité de Familiares de Detenidos Desaparecidos en Honduras (COFADEH); Virginia Zabala, compañera laboral; Norma Rodríguez, madre de Keyla; Daniela Zelaya, Coordinadora Internacional del Observatorio de los Derechos Humanos de los Pueblos de México; Isabel Albaladejo, Representante de la Oficina del Alto Comisionado de las Naciones Unidas para los Derechos Humanos en Honduras (OACNUDH), Lilith Cálix, abogada del equipo legal que representa a la familia de Keyla; con la moderación de Maureen Zelaya, de la Plataforma por Honduras en Madrid (PHM) y la traducción al inglés de Evelin Rodríguez”.

Why People Are Fleeing Honduras for the U.S.:’All That’s Left Here is Misery’
John Burnett, NPR, May 10, 2021
“Five months after the hurricanes, locals don’t call the disaster by the storm names — like they do in the U.S. Gulf states — they call it by what it was: la llena, the fill. ‘Everything is buried in mud. We lost everything,’ Balegas said, mashing a ball of masa into tortillas. ‘We thought it was a flood like something out of the Bible. It was terrible. Dead chickens, dogs, pigs floating in the water.’ She motions to the nearly deserted streets of the neighborhood where she and her three children are living with her mother-in-law.”

Plan de Reconstrucción para Honduras requerirá 7,875 millones de dólares  
Proceso Digital, 10 de mayo de 2021 
“Añadió que el Gobierno hondureño debe seguir con el proceso de socialización para que todos los sectores se unan al Plan, incluyendo la parte política, el sector privado y la sociedad civil, y que mientras más abierto y consensuado sea, mayores posibilidades de éxito y recursos tendrá”.

El Salvador’s Bukele says he’ll donate vaccines to Honduras
Star Tribune, May 10, 2021 
“But Bukele was apparently touched by appeals made by the mayors of seven towns in neighboring Honduras who asked El Salvador for help, claiming their own government has abandoned them. Bukele said that because more shipments of vaccines were due to arrive soon, the donations would not affect El Salvador’s vaccination drive.”

Pandemic Spending Immunity Deepens El Salvador Corruption Concerns
InSight Crime, May 10, 2021
“With a new law granting immunity to El Salvador officials accused of mismanaging coronavirus funds and the resignation of a prosecutor looking into pandemic-related spending, President Nayib Bukele and allies are wasting no time undermining a major corruption investigation aimed at his administration.The National Assembly has approved legislation that makes it impossible to scrutinize direct purchases related to the pandemic and shields officials from corruption allegations linked to acquiring COVID-19 supplies.”

The U.S. should acknowledge its complicity in migrant issues
Jean Stokan, The Washington, Post, May 9, 2021
“Vice President Harris would do well to acknowledge our country’s responsibility for the furnace of violence that Central America has become and adopt a humble posture with social movements there, which are clear on needed policy changes. The administration should also follow the lead of eight U.S. senators who introduced a bill (S. 388) demanding suspension of U.S. security aid to Honduras until impunity ends and human rights are respected. Hopes of ‘would-be migrants’ might be stirred if they could experience real change in their political realities, and ours.”

Has Honduras become a ‘narco-state’?
Will Grant, BBC News, May 9, 2021
“One might expect the White House and the state department to impose sanctions or, at the very least, distance themselves from the alleged “narco-president”. Instead Washington’s economic and security interests are undoubtedly at play, especially regarding undocumented immigration. Honduras was quick to comply with President Donald Trump’s harshest policies on immigration but as his brother was convicted, President Hernández indicated that bilateral security co-operation could ‘collapse’ over the affair.”

There Is No Democratic Tradition in El Salvador
Jorge Cuéllar, El Faro, May 8, 2021
“With the new Assembly and a brewing juridical crisis, Nuevas Ideas and its allies are using their supermajority in the Legislative Assembly to create a political climate where Bukele’s whims go functionally unopposed. No longer will Bukele’s decrees be scrutinized in the Legislative Assembly or batted down in the courts, and no longer will his power —his enlightened despotism — be questioned. Heads of state, U.S. Congresspersons, human rights watchdogs, journalists, and Salvadorans around the world have voiced their repudiation of Bukele’s actions and the breakdown of democracy. Many have called it fascism, authoritarianism, dictatorship, a power grab driven by insatiable narcissism, and yet he shrugs and carries on.”

Bukele Responds to Avalanche of International Criticism: “The People Voted for This
Gabriel labrador and Julia Gavarrete, NACLA, May 7, 2021
“Almagro has been an important voice backing Bukele in the international debate, taking an antagonistic attitude towards human rights figures like Human Rights Watch’s Vivanco who have criticized Bukele’s leadership. ‘Bukele is attacking the rule of law and seeks to concentrate all power in his hands,’ wrote Vivanco Saturday night. Almagro had already described Vivanco as a ‘hysterical voice’ baselessly criticizing Bukele. In July 2020, in an interview in which he was asked his opinion about Bukele’s coup attempt on February 9, 2020, Almagro said ‘we don’t have to invent dictatorships where there are none.’”

Ex-Guatemalan soldier deported, faces 1982 massacre charges
AP News, May 7, 2021 
“The slaughter went unpunished for years — even after Guatemalan authorities issued 17 arrest warrants. In 2009, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights demanded the country prosecute the perpetrators. Four former soldiers were sentenced in 2011 to more than 6,000 years for the killings. A year later, another suspect deported by the U.S. was sentenced. Prison terms of more than 50 years are largely symbolic, since that is the maximum sentence allowed under Guatemalan law.” 

IMF reaches staff level agreement with Honduras, proposes more support
Reuters, May 6, 2021
“The International Monetary Fund said on Thursday it reached a staff-level agreement with Honduras and proposed to raise total support to $769 million to help the central American country recover from two hurricanes and the coronavirus pandemic.”

UN human rights chief sounds alarm on violations in Latin America
Reuters, May 6, 2021
“Michelle Bachelet said in a statement that over the last two years her office had received increasing complaints from independent activist groups in the region that have been harassed and threatened by governments, lawmakers and vigilante groups. Incidents include threats against groups in Bolivia, Chile and El Salvador as well as attacks against staff of a rights group in Haiti and pressure to remove the leaders of rights institutions in Mexico and Guatemala, the statement said.”

Actions, Alerts, and Resources 

Refugees and Asylees in the United States
Kira Monin, Jeanne Batalova, and Tianjian Lai, Migration Policy Institute, May 13, 2021
“Using the most recent data available, including 2020 and historical refugee arrival figures from the State Department and 2019 asylum data from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), this Spotlight examines characteristics of the U.S. refugee and asylee populations, including top countries of origin and top states for refugee resettlement. It also provides numbers for refugees and asylees who have become lawful permanent residents (LPRs, also known as green-card holders), which refugees (but not asylees) are required to do after they have been physically present in the country for at least one year.”

Biden Administration Title 42 Expulsions of Families and Adults to Nuevo Laredo Fuel Kidnappings and Endanger Lives
Human Rights First, May 13, 2021 
“Despite the well-known and well-documented dangers for migrants in Nuevo Laredo, the Biden administration appears to be transferring families with young children, who have crossed in other areas of the Texas-Tamaulipas border to seek U.S. protection, for expulsion via Nuevo Laredo because some other Mexican ports of entry in Tamaulipas will not accept families being illegally expelled with children under seven. For instance, a 4-year-old Honduran boy and his asylum-seeking mother who had sought U.S. protection near McAllen, Texas were kidnapped immediately after the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) bused them 150 miles to Laredo, Texas and expelled them to Nuevo Laredo in March 2021, according to the Los Angeles Times.”

Addressing the Legacy of Expedited Removal: Border Procedures and Alternatives for Reform
Dr. Yael Schacher, Refugees International, May 2021
“This issue brief suggests alternative ways the United States can have a fair and efficient system that better fulfills its obligation to provide access to protect at the border. A different reception system at the border is an essential component of a new, comprehensive, protection-oriented approach to migration from Central America.”

* The 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.