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Migration News Brief 5.15.20

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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.

Source: PCM Peru Peru/Flickr



Latin America’s Outbreaks Now Rival Europe’s. But Its Options Are Worse.
Anatoly Kurmanaev, Manuela Andreoni, Letícia Casado and Mitra Taj, The New York Times, May 12, 2020
“And while the catastrophes in Europe and the United States were closely monitored, playing out under intense international media scrutiny, much of Latin America’s pain is unfolding far from global view, under governments that can’t — or won’t — offer a full tally of the dead.”

Women, migrants, minorities to suffer most in Latin America as coronavirus rages: U.N. agency
Natalia A. Ramos Miranda, Reuters, May 12, 2020
“Unequal access to potable water, sanitation, healthcare and housing could also mean higher rates of infection and death among these higher-risk populations, the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) said in the report.”

Universal Basic Income to Help Most Affected by COVID-19: ECLAC
TeleSUR, May 12, 2020
“The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) said Tuesday that to face the socio-economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, governments must guarantee immediate temporary monetary transfers to satisfy basic needs, sustain the consumption of households and achieve a solid and relatively rapid recovery in the region.”

How to Measure Coronavirus’ Criminal Impact in the Americas? Wait.
Parker Asmann and Chris Dalby, InSight Crime, May 11, 2020
“Criminal groups have responded differently to the coronavirus since it first landed in the region in late February. For now, it’s too early to tell how exactly the global pandemic will impact homicide rates, although the national quarantines ordered to try and fend off the virus do seem to be lowering levels of crime with fewer people in circulation.”

COVID-19 and Migration in the Americas
Meredith Watkins, Duke Today, May 11, 2020
“‘It’s harder to get legal visas some places, it’s harder to get on an airplane for those that are traveling through legal routes. And for those who were planning an unauthorized journey going through informal routes, you would rather stay with your family there that can at least survive through solidarity then start a journey to the United States.’”

Latin America’s indigenous shield elderly ‘cultural guardians’ from coronavirus
Cassandra Garrison, Marina Lammertyn, and Anthony Boadle, Reuters, May 11, 2020
“From the rocky Patagonian regions of Argentina to the lush Brazilian Amazon and the Andean villages of Colombia, indigenous groups are barricading villages against outsiders and doling out harsh punishment to members who violate quarantine rules. Latin America is home to 42 million indigenous people, making up about 8% of the population, according to World Bank data, yet their way of life is already threatened by rapid development in mining, oil extraction and deforestation.”

UNHCR warns stateless people risk being left behind in coronavirus response
UNHCR, May 11, 2020
“Without citizenship, stateless people often do not have access to essential services, including health care, and now may also be precluded from or face obstacles in accessing coronavirus testing and treatment. Others may refrain from accessing services for fear that their legal status can put them at risk of detention or deportation.”

Costlier Food Hits Latin America’s Poor and Adds to Unrest Risk
Matthew Malinowski and Matthew Bristow, Bloomberg, May 8, 2020
“A jump in food prices across Latin America is bringing added misery to the poorest families hit by the coronavirus pandemic and increasing the chance of social unrest. Food and beverage costs outpaced headline inflation in Brazil, Mexico, Chile and Colombia last month, even as other products and services saw slower price increases or even became cheaper.”

United States

The Trump Administration’s Deportation Policy Is Spreading the Coronavirus
Jonathan Blitzer, The New Yorker, May 13, 2020
“There are two broad ways of understanding the public-health dangers posed by current U.S. immigration policy. One is as a reflection of the Administration’s callous and politically shortsighted disregard for the wider region. “Decisions are always screened through the lens of whether or not they help potus’s reëlection,” an American official told me….The second way concerns the management of American detention centers, in which some thirty thousand people are being held in substandard conditions that heighten the risk of spreading disease.”

Trump Administration Plans to Extend Virus Border Restrictions Indefinitely
Michael D. Shear and Zolan Kanno-Youngs, The New York Times, May 13, 2020
“But a new order under review by several government agencies is intended to extend the restrictions indefinitely. Once issued by Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the director of the C.D.C., the border restrictions would stay in effect until he decides the virus no longer poses a threat.”

Trump ramps up expulsions of migrant youth, citing virus
Nomaan Merchant and Sonia Pérez D., Associated Press, May 13, 2020
“In interviews with The Associated Press, two recently expelled teens said border agents told them they wouldn’t be allowed to request asylum. They were placed in cells, fingerprinted and given a medical exam. Then, after four days, they were flown back to their home country of Guatemala.”

Mobile COVID-19 hospital erected for vulnerable migrants on U.S.-México border
Abraham Pineda Jácome, Vida en el Valle, May 12, 2020
“A mobile COVID-19 hospital erected in recent days in this Mexican border city has become a symbol of solidarity for the roughly 2,000 United States-bound migrants stranded there while awaiting hearings on their asylum applications. That hospital was set up earlier this month by the international medical non-governmental organization Global Response Management (GRM) to ensure the availability of medical treatment for migrants with coronavirus symptoms”

Trump is continuing deportations during the pandemic. It’s causing the coronavirus to spread.
Nicole Narea, Vox, May 12, 2020
“Several countries in Central American and the Caribbean have reported positive cases of coronavirus among immigrants deported by the US: more than 200 cases in Guatemala, at least two cases in Mexico and at least three cases in Haiti.”

Trump Is Using the Pandemic to Flout Immigration Laws
Lucas Guttentag and Stefano M. Bertozzi, The New York Times, May 11, 2020
“The administration’s order expelling refugees and children tarnishes the C.D.C., does nothing to protect public health, targets the most vulnerable, tramples their rights and cloaks the deportations as fighting the coronavirus in order to escape accountability. ‘Flattening the curve’ should not be an excuse for dismantling the law.”

ICE deportation flights continue out of El Paso airport despite COVID-19
Honora Spicer, El Paso Matters, May 9, 2020
“Plenty of the people inside of the ICE buses have been living and working in the United States for years. Being forcibly transported to Honduras is far from “going home.” I am told that if there is a white van beside the ICE buses, it means that there are unaccompanied minor children who are being sent on the flight alone. Today there is a white van beside the ICE buses.”

Group tracks ICE deportation flights, questions why they continued during pandemic
Sandra Sanchez, Kark.com May 8, 2020 
Witness at the Border’s report says expulsion flights should have been halted due to the virus, but cites these flights dropped by less than 40% since the pandemic began. The report states that ICE Air flew 324 deportation flights from Jan.1 to April 30, and of those flights, 200 were flown in the ‘pre/early COVID period’ and 124 in the ‘in-COVID period,’ — a reduction of 76, or 38%.”

20,000 migrants have been expelled along border under coronavirus directive
Camilo Montoya-Galvez, CBS News, May 7, 2020
“Citing the emergency directive by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), border officials sent more than 14,000 migrants to Mexico or their home countries in April, according to new government data. In the last 11 days of March, more than 6,400 were expelled under the order, which the administration says allows officials to bypass laws and policies that govern the processing of migrants and asylum-seekers, including children who arrive at the border without their parents or legal guardians.”

El Salvador

Las autoridades dijeron que murió de covid-19, pero cuando abrieron el ataúd, estaba esposado y con señales de tortura
Héctor Manuel Castro, Univision Noticias, 12 de mayo de 2020
“La víctima era un hombre de 30 años que trabajaba en El Salvador como payaso y que según sus allegados no tenía condiciones médicas preexistentes. La prensa había reseñado días atrás su arresto junto a otras nueve personas en un caso de homicidio”.

“Pedimos el plan de emergencia, la reorientación de fondos, pero nunca recibimos un informe”
Jimmy Alvarado, El Faro, 12 de mayo de 2020
“Cinco integrantes del comité de emergencia, nombrados por la Asamblea Legislativa para vigilar el manejo de los $2,000 millones vía empréstitos, renunciaron aduciendo que el Gobierno ha hecho un manejo opaco de los recursos para combatir la pandemia. Omar Serrano, el representante de la UCA, verbaliza la queja generalizada de los miembros de la sociedad civil en ese comité: el Gobierno los marginó de la toma de decisiones. En la circunstancias actuales, dice, ese comité no puede garantizar un manejo transparente y técnico del fondo de emergencia”.

Gobierno aún no informa sobre gasto de $7 millones en comida y hoteles
Violeta Rivas y Eugenia Velásquez, ElSalvador.com, 9 de mayo de 2020
“Todavía no informa a la Asamblea ni al público de quiénes son esos proveedores. Los plazos de entrega de información han sido suspendidos por la emergencia, pero instituciones anticorrupción insisten en la necesidad de hacer pública esta información”.

Who’s Afraid of Coronavirus?
Carlos Dada, Confidencial, April 27, 2020
“Today in El Salvador we face a triple crisis: health, economic and democratic. The first caused by a virus; the second from the measures required to combat the virus; the third by an undemocratic government. We need to resist, and survive, all three.”


Guatemala: “¡No, no se debe poner en toque de queda a los medios!”
Reporteros Sin Fronteras, Prensa Comunitaria KM169, Medium, 8 de mayo de 2020
“El presidente de Guatemala y algunos funcionarios locales han mantenido una actitud abiertamente hostil frente a la prensa. Reporteros Sin Fronteras (RSF) denuncia esta postura y hace un llamado a las autoridades para que demuestren mayor transparencia, a fin de que los periodistas puedan realizar su labor informativa sobre la pandemia del coronavirus”.


Cut off by coronavirus: Hondurans in packed prison suffer mental toll 
Sarah Kinosian, Reuters, May 14, 2020
“‘Taking away visits is the worst thing that can happen. It’s what they need most because, more than anything, it gives them hope,’ says Jacinto Hernández, La Esperanza’s psychologist. ‘I fear it could turn violent as the virus spreads and anxieties increase. Aggressions already run high; they barely have room to breathe.’”

Indigenous, Afro-Honduran communities join together to fight pandemic
UNFPA, May 11, 2020
“As countries grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, indigenous and Afro-descendant communities are among the most vulnerable, with many facing poverty, poor health-care access and limited information. In Honduras, members of these communities are joining together to ensure information and resource reach the most vulnerable.”

En medio de “toque de queda” se han perpetuado siete masacres
El Pulso, 11 de mayo de 2020
“El pasado sábado 14 de marzo, el Gobierno de la República decretó Estado de Emergencia a causa de la pandemia del Covid-19, desde esa fecha hasta este momento, 391 personas han sido asesinadas de forma violenta. Según datos del Observatorio de la violencia de la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Honduras (ONV-UNAH), se han registrado 12 masacres desde enero a la fecha sumando un total de 44 personas asesinadas en los hechos, siete de esas masacres han sido en medio de la cuarentena y el confinamiento obligatorio.”

Mujeres con menos acceso a la salud durante pandemia
Vienna Herrera, Contra Corriente, 8 de mayo de 2020
“La atención a mujeres en salud reproductiva y en casos de violencia sexual siempre ha sido restringida en Honduras…. Si bien no hay cifras oficiales por casos de violencia sexual durante la pandemia, organizaciones e instituciones que atienden a las mujeres aseguran que hay un aumento, y con las medidas de confinamiento, el acceso a la salud y a la justicia es cada vez menor.

In clash with riot police, Hondurans block burial of coronavirus victim
Jorge Cabrera, Reuters, May 7, 2020
“Riot police fired tear gas when the residents armed with rocks burned tires and blocked a road leading to the Amor Enterno Cemetery with stones and construction material in the La Era neighborhood, the witness said.”

Honduran President, Echoing Trump, Promotes Unproven Treatment for COVID-19
Jennifer Ávila, El Faro, May 7, 2020
“While neither the United States nor any other developed country in the world—nor Honduras—have produced any rigorous studies indicating the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine in treating or preventing COVID-19, its use has already been included in the Honduran government’s guide for treating patients with COVID-19, a document approved by the Honduran Ministry of Health. The guide—a medical document—shows how hydroxychloroquine, in combination with azithromycin and microdacyn, can be administered in the throat.”

In Honduras, Coronavirus Lockdown is Enforced at Gunpoint
Eimhin O’Reilly, InSight Crime, May 7, 2020
“Honduran authorities, particularly the PMOP, have come under fire on numerous occasions for the excessive use of force. Yet now in the middle of a pandemic, the flaws in a public security apparatus built around meeting violence with more violence are further exposed.”


With Coronavirus Spreading, Mexico Vowed to Empty Detention Centers–But Migrants Were Thrust Into Chaos and Danger
Maya Averbuch, The Intercept, May 11, 2020
“Since the U.S. began the expulsions, on March 21, it has sent over 20,000 migrants back, mainly to Mexico. About a third of them are Central Americans. The health of those migrants has been endangered for weeks, as they have been ping-ponged between detention centers, flown to countries they had fled, or bused to southern Mexican states with instructions to walk if they wished to get home.”

Mexican border town uses ‘sanitizing tunnels’ to disinfect US visitors from Covid-19
Dan Hernandez, The Guardian, May 11, 2020
“The United States’ troubled response to the coronavirus pandemic is such that the Mexican border city of Nogales, Sonora, has set up “sanitizing tunnels” to disinfect people leaving the US through Nogales, Arizona. On the Mexican side of two major border crossings, drivers coming from Arizona must exit their vehicles and step into an inflatable tunnel that sprays them with a cleansing solution.”

U.S Enforcement

They Lost Their Jobs. Now They May Have to Leave the U.S. 
Miriam Jordan, New York Times, May 13, 2020
“Now, he is scrambling to find another job before the 60-day grace period for transferring his visa to another employer expires early next month. He is not optimistic. The lives of tens of thousands of foreign workers on skilled-worker visas, such as H-1Bs, have been upended by the economic fallout from the COVID-19 crisis. Many have been waiting in a backlog for several years to obtain permanent legal residency through their employer, and now face the prospect of deportation.

At the Mercy of the Courts: Following One Family’s Harrowing Journey
Max Siegelbaum and Mazin Sidahmed, Documented, May 13, 2020 
“Elvis’s experience in immigration courts reflects other cases we witnessed throughout this project. He fled a violent gang in Guatemala, was represented by an attorney who, in the middle of his case, was suspended from the practice of law for a year because of misconduct towards is immigrant clients, was held for months for minor procedural glitches, and was eventually denied asylum without clear explanation by a recently hired immigration judge.”

Under Trump border rules, U.S. has granted refuge to just two people since late March, records show
Nick Miroff, The Washington Post, May 13, 2020
“The statistics show that USCIS conducted just 59 screening interviews between March 21 and Wednesday under the Convention Against Torture, effectively the only category of protection in the United States that is still available to those who express a fear of grave harm if rejected. USCIS rejected 54 applicants and three cases are pending, according to the data, which does not indicate the nationality of those screened or other demographic information.”

Trump administration temporarily amending visa requirements for foreign workers
Priscilla Alvarez and Geneva Sands, CNN, May 13, 2020 
“Workers already in the US will be allowed to stay longer without first returning to their home countries and start right away without waiting for full approval, making it easier for employers who can’t employ workers from overseas to pick from the pool in the country.”

Trump deems farmworkers ‘essential’ but not safety for them. That could threaten the food supply 
Helena Bottemiller Evich and Liz Crampton, Politico, May 12, 2020 
“Farmworkers have long lived in the shadows of the American economy, an itinerant community that includes low-income citizens, about 250,000 legal guest workers from Mexico and Central America and hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants who might travel from farm to farm with the changing harvest seasons. Now labor advocates are warning that continuing to ignore this vulnerable population not only threatens lives but endangers the food supply.”

Mexican Enforcement

A cuarentena más de 130 hondureños deportados desde México
La Tribuna, 9 de mayo de 2020
“Los inmigrantes llegaron al aeropuerto internacional de Toncontín procedentes de Villahermosa, México y tras el arribo del avión las autoridades del Sistema Nacional de Gestión de Riesgos (Sinager) procedieron a traslado al centro de aislamiento”.

Root Causes 

Nuevo Código Penal dejará en completa indefensión a mujeres víctimas de violencia
Conexihon, 11 de mayo de 2020
“Al respecto la abogada Juny Choi de la Coalición, ‘existen nuevas figuras penales, disminución de penas en algunos delitos por violencia contra la mujer y existe una falta de preparación en los operadores de justicia que no es adecuada para conocer de esos casos, porque no se les ha formado académicamente para conocer con el nuevo Código, esto va a dejar en completa indefensión a mujeres que están pasando por violencia doméstica’”.

Nuevo Código Penal entrará en vigencia carente de legitimidad y credibilidad
Radio Progreso, 8 de mayo de 2020
“A pocas horas de la puesta en vigencia del nuevo Código Penal, marcado por un escenario en el que un sector está a favor y otro se opone a su contenido y ejecución, de acuerdo a los analistas en la materia, se ha demostrado la falta de credibilidad en la institucionalidad hondureña. Lo anterior, para el abogado penalista Omar Menjivar, es un problema que afecta la normalidad del funcionamiento de un Estado de derecho, porque el funcionamiento de las instituciones democráticas se basa en la confianza que la población tiene en las instituciones y en las personas que delega su administración”.

Actions, Alerts, and Resources 

Pandemic as Pretext: Trump Administration Exploits COVID-19, Expels Asylum Seekers and Children to Escalating Danger
Human Rights First, May 13, 2020
“To gather information for this report, Human Rights First researchers interviewed asylum seekers, immigration attorneys, academic researchers, humanitarian volunteers, and legal monitors. The interviews were conducted remotely because of pandemic-related restrictions on movement in both the United States and Mexico.”

Supreme Court Ruling Could Clear a Path for Trump Administration To Strip Protections From Hundreds of Thousands of DACA Recipients
Nicole Prchal Svajlenka, Center for American Progress, May 13, 2020
“Any day now, the U.S. Supreme Court will announce its long-awaited decision on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), a policy offering work authorization and protection from deportation to hundreds of thousands of immigrants who came to the United States many years ago as children. If the court rules that the Trump administration’s termination of DACA was lawful, it will clear the path for the administration to end DACA and strip protections from these individuals after more than two years of legal challenges.”

Política migratoria en Estados Unidos: un boletín para organizaciones mesoamericanas – Abril 2020
CEJIL, 11 de mayo de 2020
“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”.

The Impact of COVID-19 on Stateless Populations: Policy Recommendations and Good Practices
UNHCR, May 2020
“This paper outlines ways in which stateless persons and persons at risk of statelessness may be disproportionately impacted by the crisis and aims to provide governments and other stakeholders with recommendations and examples of good practices in these areas.”