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Migration News Brief 5.8.20

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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.

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Trump admin monitoring coronavirus conditions in Latin America, weighing next steps
Priscilla Alvarez and Geneva Sands, CNN, May 5, 2020
“The Trump administration is tracking coronavirus conditions in Mexico and Latin America amid concerns that the situation might deteriorate and drive migration north as cases in the region increase. As the virus sweeps through Latin America, the Department of Homeland Security has focused its attention on hospital capacity in the region, and whether the health infrastructure is equipped to adequately test and treat patients.”

Getting Ahead of the Curve: Why the United States Needs To Plan for the Coronavirus in the Americas
Trevor Sutton, Dan Restrepo, and Joel Martinez, Center for American Progress, May 5, 2020
“The uncontrolled spread of the novel coronavirus in the region is likely to hamper the United States’ efforts to contain the pathogen, impede domestic economic recovery, and intensify the political instability and human suffering that have contributed to high levels of forced migration in recent years. To avoid these outcomes, the United States will need to work with its regional partners to forge a coordinated approach to the pandemic.”

United States

GOP senators press Trump to suspend visas over coronavirus job losses
John Bowden, The Hill, May 7, 2020
“Four GOP senators are urging President Trump to suspend immigration for guest workers as the U.S. economy struggles to recover from the coronavirus outbreak. Politico first reported a letter from Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) calling on Trump to suspend guest worker visas for 60 days and prevent some workers from returning to the U.S. for up to a year.”

U.S. suspends protections for migrant kids at border, expelling hundreds amid pandemic
Camilo Montoya-Galvez, CBS News, May 6, 2020
“For the first time in decades, children like Jesús who show up at the southern border without their parents or legal guardians are being summarily expelled and denied access to protections that have been afforded to them under U.S. law. The shift is being justified under a 17-page public health order the Trump administration believes allows border officials to bypass asylum, immigration and anti-trafficking laws.”

First ICE detainee dies from COVID-19 after being hospitalized from Otay Mesa Detention Center
Kate Morrissey, San Diego Union-Tribune, May 6, 2020
“Escobar Mejia had been at Otay Mesa Detention Center since January. That facility has become the biggest hot spot for the coronavirus among immigration detention centers nationwide.”

Migrants deported by U.S. make up more than 15% of Guatemala’s coronavirus cases
Cindy Carcamo and Molly O’Toole, Los Angeles Times, May 4, 2020
“Guatemalan officials said Monday they would begin routinely accepting U.S. deportation flights again after being promised that every passenger would first have to test negative for the novel coronavirus.”

DOJ hiring changes may help Trump’s plan to curb immigration
Tanvi Misra, Roll Call, May 4, 2020
“The hiring plan documents show shortened hiring timelines and suggest preference given to judges with records of rulings against immigrants. The documents also demonstrate the influence held over the board by the political leadership of the Executive Office for Immigration Review, the Justice Department agency that oversees the nation’s immigration court system, particularly its director, James McHenry.”

Coronavirus pandemic highlights role of DACA recipients in critical jobs, daily life
Daniella Gomezcastro, Denver Post, May 1, 2020
“The current public health crisis brings new salience to these arguments, especially as Trump prepares to deport Dreamers like me, if the court allows. Although much attention is rightly focused on the Supreme Court, President Trump also has the power to ensure Dreamers can contribute to the only country many of us have ever known.”

Guatemalan Immigrants Are Caught Between ICE Detention Or Deportation. Either Way, They Fear Getting COVID-19.
Adolfo Flores, BuzzFeed News, April 30, 2020
“Guatemalans facing deportation from the US are looking at two potentially dire fates: Either wait in Immigration and Customs Enforcement jails and risk exposure to the coronavirus, or be deported back to their country where they are quarantined inside a makeshift hospital with few resources.”

ICE agrees to free 6 women who sued for release over COVID-19 fears
Robert Moore, El Paso Matters, April 29, 2020
“Seven detainees and one employee at ICE’s El Paso Processing Center have tested positive for COVID-19, the agency has said. Nationwide, ICE reports 425 detainees and 36 employeeshave tested positive in its detention facilities as of Tuesday. ICE does not provide counts of positive tests among contract workers, who often make up the bulk of the workforce at the detention facilities.”

60% of ICE Detainees Tested Have Coronavirus
Jeffery Martin, Newsweek, April 28, 2020
“Recent data from ICE indicates that 425 individuals have tested positive for coronavirus. However, only 705 detainees have received the tests out of approximately 40,000 total individuals. That works out to just over 1 percent of all detainees being tested for coronavirus. However, 60 percent of those tested have tested positive.”

El Salvador

Mass arrests and overcrowded prisons in El Salvador spark fear of coronavirus crisis
Miranda Cady Hallett, The Conversation, May 6, 2020
“The mass detentions put further stress on the country’s already overburdened penal system, creating conditions ripe for a public health crisis. In 2018, a special observer sent by the United Nations described the conditions of El Salvador’s jails and prisons as ‘hellish.’”

Salvadorans in Government Confinement Protest Coronavirus Handling
Reuters, The New York Times, May 4, 2020
“At least 300 people held in two centers set up by the Salvadoran government to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus protested on Monday, demanding to be released and given the results of their tests.”

Life and Death in a Government Quarantine Facility in El Salvador
Carlos Dada, El Faro, May 1, 2020
“Carlos Henríquez Cortez, a 67-year-old engineer, returned to El Salvador on March 12 after a two-day trip to Guatemala. Five weeks later, he became the eighth person to die from Covid-19 in El Salvador. In the interlude, the quarantine authorities served him a lethal dose of chaos, negligence, and misinformation. His son shares the story of those five weeks.”

El Salvador’s president is using covid-19 as an excuse to abuse his power
The Editorial Board, The Washington Post, May 1, 2020
“The following day — we suspect not by coincidence — Mr. Bukele managed to score a phone call and a friendly tweet from President Trump, who said the Bukele government has “worked well with us on immigration on the southern border.” The message to Salvadorans was clear: The Trump administration will ignore the president’s authoritarian behavior so long as he cooperates — as he has — with the White House’s draconian steps to prevent Central Americans from crossing the southern border.”

El Salvador Backs U.S. Claims that Ongoing Deportation Flights Are Coronavirus-Free
Gabriela Cáceres and Roxane Lazo, El Faro, May 1, 2020
“Whereas Guatemala called off all deportation flights after confirming 50 cases of Covid-19 among deported migrants, El Salvador continues to back the claims of U.S. officials that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is not deporting anyone testing positive for Covid-19 to El Salvador.”

El falso dilema entre los derechos humanos y el control del COVID-19
Erika Guevara Rosas, El Faro, 30 de abril de 2020
“De la mano de una estrategia publicitaria, este enfoque coercitivo puede generar la falsa percepción de que las autoridades están poniendo todos los recursos necesarios para controlar la propagación del virus. Pero también puede minar la efectividad de la respuesta estatal, debido a que se enfoca en castigar a los individuos en vez de atender las condiciones estructurales que favorecen la propagación”.


Maya villages in Guatemala spurn U.S. deportees as infections spike
Sofia Menchú, Reuters, May 1, 2020
“Guatemala’s indigenous Maya towns are spurning returned migrants, threatening some with burning their homes or lynching as fear spreads about more than 100 deportees from the United States who tested positive for the new coronavirus.”

“¡Que se vayan!”: guatemaltecos temen contagiarse de coronavirus por migrantes retornados
Sofia Menchú, Reuters, 1 de mayo de 2020
“Hacia la tarde, se esparció el rumor de que algunos migrantes, supuestamente con coronavirus, habían escapado del refugio. Inmediatamente, decenas de vecinos se congregaron a pedir que trasladaran a los repatriados por miedo a contagiarse, dijeron a Reuters autoridades y residentes de la zona”.


Honduras: Múltiples masacres en 2020 se registran durante la cuarentena
Jonathan Jared, Tiempo Digital, 2 mayo de 2020
“Según las cifras provistas por la entidad vigilante de la violencia, 38 personas han muerto en lo que va de 2020 tras 10 masacres. Por tanto, se deduce que al menos cinco de esos crímenes múltiples se reportaron tras una clara violación a las ordenanzas de permanecer en casa”.

Trabajan en acciones contra la violencia doméstica durante cuarentena
La Prensa, 1 de mayo de 2020
“En una reunión virtual que se desarrolló entre autoridades gubernamentales, se acordó fortalecer las campañas de concientización a través de medios de comunicación, para la difusión de información, consejos y acciones a realizar para mantener la sana convivencia intrafamiliar en tiempos de cuarentena”.

COVID-19 and Central America: a Learning Moment?
James Phillips, CounterPunch, April 28, 2020
“But the current COVID19 pandemic has exposed significant differences in the responses of Central American countries and examples of gross disaster opportunism and the double standard applied to different countries. Compare two neighbors—Honduras and Nicaragua. The difference between these countries is stark.”


Remittances to Mexico surge to record high in March
Reuters, May 4, 2020
“‘The significant acceleration of remittances in March is difficult to square with labor market conditions and sentiment in the U.S.,’ Alberto Ramos, economist at Goldman Sachs, wrote in a note to investors. ‘We speculate that perhaps fearing a significant deterioration of the employment and income prospects in the U.S., many workers may have capitalized on a favorable USD/MXN level to send part of their accumulated savings in the U.S. back to Mexico,’ Ramos added.”

Cuatro adolescentes guatemaltecos dan positivo a coronavirus tras ser deportados de México
Sofia Menchú, Reuters, 7 de mayo de 2020
“La funcionaria comentó que cuando los adolescentes, parte de un grupo de unos 13, llegaron a Guatemala el lunes, traían consigo un certificado del gobierno mexicano en el que constaba que no tenían síntomas y que podían realizar el viaje. Sin embargo, al llegar al país centroamericano y practicárseles un hisopado, se constató que eran positivos al COVID-19, la enfermedad transmitida por el coronavirus”.

The U.S. wants Mexico to keep its defense and health-care factories open. Mexican workers are getting sick and dying.
Kevin Sieff, The Washington Post, May 1, 2020
“But as the first coronavirus cases hit Mexico, workers here began raising concerns that they were risking their lives to provide for the U.S. defense and health-care industries, along with other sectors north of the Rio Grande.”

Mexico’s gang violence appears to rise during pandemic
Associated Press, Yahoo News, April 24, 2020
“The violence has touched health workers, for reasons directly related to the pandemic. A series of verbal assaults and other incidents — like people dousing nurses with bleach — may be related to fears of contagion.”

U.S Enforcement

A Former Farmworker on American Hypocrisy
Alfredo Corchado, The New York Times, May 5, 2020 
“Tino, an undocumented worker from Oaxaca, Mexico, is hoeing asparagus on the same farm where my family once worked. He picks tomatoes in the summer and melons in the fall. He told me his employer has given him a letter — tucked inside his wallet, next to a picture of his family — assuring any who ask that he is ‘critical to the food supply chain.’ The letter was sanctioned by the Department of Homeland Security, the same agency that has spent 17 years trying to deport him.”

Before Covid-19, Trump Aide Sought to Use Disease to Close Borders
Caitlin Dickerson and Michael D. Shear, The New York Times, May 3, 2020
“From the early days of the Trump administration, Stephen Miller, the president’s chief adviser on immigration, has repeatedly tried to use an obscure law designed to protect the nation from diseases overseas as a way to tighten the borders. The question was, which disease?”

‘It’s like a shell game’: Immigration lawyers move to close ICE loophole in federal ruling
Monique O. Madan, Miami Herald, May 2, 2020
“‘It’s like a shell game,’ said Mark Prada of the Miami law firm Prada Urizar, one of the lead attorneys on the case. ‘If the goal is to reduce the population at these three centers to a safe level by simply transferring detainees to other locations, then that’s not curing the issue but just shifting the problem to another place.’”

US Can Soon Start Sending People Seeking Asylum to Honduras
Associated Press, U.S. News & World Report, April 30, 2020
“The agreement is similar to one with Guatemala and is part of an administration effort to reduce the flow of migrants across the southwest border by making it harder to gain entry to the United States with an asylum claim. The text of the agreement was released Thursday, a day before it is published in the Federal Register and takes effect. At the moment, the new agreement would seem to be unnecessary because the U.S. is quickly expelling most people it encounters along the U.S.-Mexico border under an emergency public health order signed by President Donald Trump last month in response to the coronavirus outbreak.”

Mexican Enforcement

México y EU usan pandemia para acelerar ‘política deportadora’: especialista
José Antonio Román, La Jornada, 7 de mayo de 2020
“En el caso concreto de México, la académica consideró que con el pretexto de vaciar las estaciones migrantes por ser espacios de confinamiento, México ha optado por deportar a la población migrante, en lugar en garantizarles regularización migratoria y un espacio seguro y en libertad en donde puedan pasar el confinamiento”.

Migrantes y refugiados, entre los más afectados por el Covid-19
Maria Clara Calle Aguirre, France24, 5 de mayo de 2020
“Vivir en campamentos temporales sin agua ni jabón y quedar en las calles tras el cierre de fronteras son algunos de los agravantes que enfrentan durante la pandemia las miles de personas que huyeron de sus países y que hoy viven en condiciones en las que el virus puede propagarse rápidamente”.

Por Covid-19, el flujo migratoria a México es el más bajo en lo que va del siglo: SRE
Pedro Villa y Caña y Alberto Morales, El Universal, 30 de abril de 2020
“En conferencia de prensa en Palacio Nacional, el canciller señaló que todos los días han tenido vuelos para repatriar a migrantes originarios de El Salvador, Guatemala y Honduras”.

Root Causes 

Young Leader Vowed Change in El Salvador but Wields Same Heavy Hand
Natalie Kitroeff, The New York Times, May 5, 2020
“‘People who praised him and trusted him in the past are now realizing that we are confronting a president who is authoritarian, irresponsible and immature, who could do irreparable damage to the country,’ said Celia Medrano, a Salvadoran activist with the human rights group Cristosal.”

Yet More Accusations Against Honduras President, But Will They Matter?
Parker Asmann, InSight Crime, May 5, 2020
“The latest accusations against Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernández are the most damning yet and add further weight to his alleged role as a co-conspirator in his brother’s drug trafficking ring, but it still remains unlikely that the United States will indict the head of state.”

Estado de Honduras invisibiliza los asesinatos a periodistas
Conexihon, 6 de mayo de 2020
“‘El CPJ tiene un índice de impunidad de países latinoamericanos que publicamos cada año y la única razón por la cual Honduras no aparece en ese índice es porque la gran mayoría de periodistas asesinados en Honduras se caracterizan como no confirmados, es decir, que no existe ningún nivel de información confiable sobre esos casos para permitirnos confirmar que sí o no tendrían que ver con la labor periodística’, explicó”.

Coyuntura desde los territorios | El PCM-030-2020 y la agudización de la crisis alimentaria en Honduras
Centro de estudio para la Democracia, 5 de mayo de 2020
“En un contexto de crisis alimentaria, uno de los campos priorizados por la élite política y el sector empresarial ha sido el campo agrario, que a través del Decreto ejecutivo PCM-030-2020 apunta a reconfigurar la actual política agraria del país a través de un mayor control y presencia del sector agroindustrial y agroexportador, a la vez que desplaza al sector campesino, pequeños y medianos productores(as) y agudiza la crisis alimentaria”.

Autoritario e incapaz
El Faro, 4 de mayo de 2020
“Diga lo que diga la propaganda oficial, la realidad que cuentan las historias periodísticas de las últimas semanas sugiere que las decisiones del Gobierno de El Salvador son más un esfuerzo por acumular y demostrar poder —y por desmantelar progresivamente nuestra democracia— que por hacer frente a la pandemia”.

Impoverished Central America threatened by Climate Change and Pandemics
America CGTN, May 3, 2020
“Comprised of parts of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, this region has been suffering severe drought conditions since 2012, exposing over two million people to food insecurity. People in the region have seen their way of life destroyed by devastating weather patterns, forcing them to abandon their homes.”

Transfemicidio: asesinan a mujer trans en la Ceiba
Nancy Paola Cruz, Criterio, 3 de may de 2020
“Rodríguez señala que las mujeres trans viven del día a día y los costos de alquiler de los hogares donde residen se siguen cobrando y que en la crisis sanitaria los desalojos están presentes. Además, que cuando salen a ejercer el comercio sexual los entes policías las detienen por 24 horas sufriendo discriminación por parte de estos”.

Actions, Alerts, and Resources 

ICE Air Deportations: Has COVID-19 Changed Anything?
Witness at the Border, May 5, 2020
“The group witnessed in the encampment of approximately 2,500 asylum seekers trapped in Matamoros, MX to await their court dates, in the tent courts void of due process, and at the airport where ICE Air flights traversed and originated multiple times a day. The objective was to witness, document, and publicize the annihilation of asylum resulting from the MPP (Migrant Protection Protocol), metering, PACR, HARP, and Asylum Cooperation Agreement (ACA) policies creeping along the border.”

Organizations Urge Governments to Protect Activists and Communities Threatened by Armed Groups During COVID-19 Pandemic
EarthRights International, May 4, 2020
“In response to the increased vulnerability of human rights defenders brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, a broad assortment of civil society organizations today urged the governments of Honduras and Colombia to adopt all measures necessary to guarantee the human rights of defenders, social leaders, and ethnic communities in those countries.”

MSF demands US ends deportations to stop COVID-19 spread to fragile health systems
Medecins Sans Frontieres, May 4, 2020
“The United States government must suspend all deportations to Latin America and the Caribbean, a process that is moving people from the epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States to lower transmission countries and which will exacerbate a public health crisis in the region, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said.”

La realidad migratoria en la coyuntura del COVID-19: Síntesis de información más relevante al 4 de mayo de 2020
Red Jesuita con Migrantes de Norteamérica y Centroamérica, 4 de mayo de 2020
“Desde la Red Jesuita con Migrantes de Centroamérica y Norteamérica (RJM CANA) elaboramos este sencillo instrumento con la finalidad de recoger de cada país la información más relevante sobre la realidad de las personas migrantes, desplazadas y refugiadas, así como conocer las respuestas institucionales que se han ido dando ante esta crisis”.

De Pena-Paniagua v. Barr: Victory for Domestic Violence Survivors
Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, April 30, 2020
“On April 24, the  First Circuit Court of Appeals overturned a lower court decision denying asylum to a domestic violence survivor, reaffirming that refugee women are deserving of protection under U.S. law… In this episode of “Asylum in the 21st Century: What’s New?” Blaine Bookey, Legal Director at the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, breaks down the significance of last week’s decision.”