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Migration News Brief 9.4.20

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Source: Lauri Alvarez

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.




As COVID-19 rocks Latin America, unemployment and food shortages near a crisis point
Natalie Alcoba, The Globe and Mail, August 31, 2020
“The government has promised a 60-point plan to reactivate the economy but Dr. Kalos worries that Argentina simply won’t have the necessary resources to end the merry-go-round of crises. ‘We can’t get out of this without knowing that as a society, and as the state, we’re going to have to keep supporting families that have been hit hard,’ he said. The government has recently introduced other measures, including a freeze on internet, TV and mobile service prices, and has proposed a one-time ‘solidarity’ tax on the wealthy to drum up revenue during the crisis.”

CABEI approves $400 million loan to Central American nations for vaccine
Gustavo Palencia & Drazen Jorgic, Reuters, August 31, 2020
“Latin American nations have worried they will be left at the back of the queue when a vaccine is developed as wealthier nations such as the United States and Britain have sought to buy early supplies from leading vaccine manufacturers.”

United States

ICE arrests 2,000 immigrants in largest sweep of the pandemic 
Camilo Montoya-Galvez, CBS News, September 1, 2020
“As part of the operation, ICE agents made ‘at large’ arrests, which could take place at residences, worksites and traffic stops, across the country, including in large metropolitan areas like Los Angeles, where the ICE field office apprehended the most immigrants. ICE said the operation targeted undocumented immigrants and others subject to deportation who had been charged or convicted of a crime involving a victim.”

Deportation flights helping spread pandemic, says Witness at the Border 
Madeleine Davison, National Catholic Reporter, September 1, 2020
“In July alone, Witness at the Border identified 29 ICE flights to Mexico, 18 to Honduras, 13 to Guatemala, and nine to El Salvador, along with other countries. The number of flights deporting immigrants to Latin America and the Caribbean dipped in late spring, but July’s number was just 10% lower than it was in March, when lockdowns first took effect in the U.S.”

A 50-Year-Old Honduran Immigrant Who Died In ICE Custody Had Tested Positive for COVID-19
Hamed Aleaziz, Buzzfeed News, August 30, 2020
“The preliminary cause of death, according to a source, was respiratory failure due to COVID-19. The man is the 19th detainee to die in ICE custody during the 2020 fiscal year, which ends on Sept. 30. The total number of ICE deaths so far this fiscal year is the highest total since 2006, when 19 immigrants died, according to ICE records.”

El Salvador

Bukele destaca sostenido descenso de COVID-19 en El Salvador 
France 24, 30 de agosto de 2020
“‘Los efectos de la reapertura económica los veremos entre mañana (lunes) y dentro de 11 días, tiempo máximo de incubación del virus y de presentación de síntomas, de los primeros contagios, al inicio de la reapertura”, advirtió el mandatario”.


Septiembre inicia con 1,888 muertes y 61,769 contagios de covid-19 en Honduras
El Heraldo, 1 de septiembre de 2020
“En la visita constataron que ambos hospitales ya están siendo cargados y acarreados hacia el puerto, mientras el quinto hospital- que se destinará a la ciudad de La Ceiba- está en la etapa final de construcción y no se descarta que parta la próxima semana”.


Her Son Died of COVID-19 In New York. Like Others In Mexico, She’s Now Struggling To Make Ends Meet. 
Karla Zabludovsky, Buzzfeed News, September 1, 2020
“The possibility of reuniting with his mother one day allowed Mantilla to keep working long shifts far from home. Instead, he died alone on April 15 in a hospital in Brooklyn, a month after contracting COVID-19. Jiménez, who continued sending him text messages even after he was sedated, received his ashes in mid-July, the day after Mantilla would have turned 35. ‘He never returned on his own two feet,’ said Jiménez. ‘He came back to mes as dust.’”

U.S. Enforcement

Trump Wants To Force Immigrants To Submit Eye Scans, Voice Prints, And DNA
Hamed Aleaziz, BuzzFeed News, September 1, 2020
“According to parts of a draft policy obtained by BuzzFeed News, the government would be allowed to request biometrics from immigrants who have received some benefit like a green card or work permit, at any point up until they are a US citizen to ensure continuous ‘vetting’.”

Jailed Asylum Seekers Report Unlivable Conditions in Wake of Hurricane Laura 
Mike Ludwig, Truthout, September 1, 2020
“The asylum seeker, who asked to remain anonymous due to an ongoing immigration case, said people in the jail were living in fear of the coronavirus and had been without running water since the storm hit. She said immigration prisoners were using toilets filled with feces and urine and have been unable to take showers or access clean clothing.”

Louisiana ICE Detention Facilities Out of Power And Water, Detainees Report
Rosemary Westwood, WWNO, August 31, 2020
“The reports of conditions are ‘horrible,’ with some describing knee-deep sewage, Lopez said. ‘No electricity. No fans, no air conditioning. Sewage has backed up and is overflowing. Some folks had to remove clothing because they were suffocating,’ she said.”

Judge blocks asylum screening by border protection agents
Elliot Spagat, AP News, August 31, 2020
“Leon, who was appointed by President Geroge W. Bush, said CBP employees get two to five weeks of distance and in-person training, while asylum officers get at least nine weeks of formal training. Leon also cast doubt on whether CBP, a law enforcement agency that includes the Border Patrol, could do screenings in a non-adversarial manner, as regulations require.”

Chad Wolf says he didn’t know naturalization ceremony would be seen at convention 
Allie Bice, Politico, August 30, 2020
“The email was to serve as a reminder of the Hatch Act, a 1939 law that prohibits most employees of the executive branch from participating in political activities. A department spokesperson said such reminders are sent out frequently to employees during election season. Democrats called for an investigation into Wolf’s potential violation of the Hatch Act.”

She fled detention and torture in Nicaragua for asylum in the United States. The government put her on a plane back home. 
Kevin Sieff, Washington Post, August 28, 2020
“Her backpack was full of documents to show U.S. immigration officials that he government appeared ready to kill her. The officials wouldn’t look at them. When she landed back in Nicaragua, it felt as if she was carrying a ticking bomb, proof that she was trying to flee and accuse the government of abuse. ‘I thought, ‘Okay so they’re going to torture me straight back in jail,’ Alemán said. ‘I’m going to be tortured all over again.’”

The US Immigration  System Won’t Come To A Halt After Massive Work Furloughs Were Canceled
Hamed Aleaziz, BuzzFeed News, August 25, 2020
“In a statement, Joseph Edlow, acting head of USCIS, confirmed the decisions, but said ‘averting this furlough comes at a severe operational cost that will increase backlogs and wait times across the board, with no guarantee we can avoid future furloughs.’”

Mexican Enforcement

Caen solicitudes de refugio hacia México 50% informa, Comar 
Jorge Butrón, La Razón, 3 de septiembre de 2020
“‘Al cierre de agosto la Comar ha registrado 24 mil 271 solicitantes de la condición de refugiado este año. En agosto solicitaron 2 mil 029, es decir 10.6 por ciento mas que en Julio. El repunte continúa. Sin embargo, por la pandemia en comparación con 2019, el número es menor’, Andrés Ramírez, titular de la Comar”.

Thousands of asylum seekers now turning to Mexico amid long waits in US court
Julian Resendiz, Border Report, September 2, 2020
“According to the Mexican government, a total of 5,637 foreigners requested to stay in Mexico as refugees from March 1 to June 30. Since September 2019 to the end of June, that number stands at 28,041… ‘I have court (in El Paso,  Texas) next month, but if I had the possibility of getting papers here (Mexico), I would give up on going over there, but so far I don’t have that either,’ said Vanaia Marzo Gomez, a Cuban working construction jobs in Juarez.”

Migrants Expelled Under COVID-19 Rules Land In Mexico City
Antonio Cueto, HPPR, August 31, 2020
“‘They are expulsions,’ Jacome said. ‘There are also some [migrants] that have been detained for three, four months, and there are others that are being detained because of COVID and expelled right away.’ Some of the passengers aboard the flights are deportees who have been detained for months. Others are recent expelled migrants who only spent two or three days detained in the U.S.”

Mexican government forces out over 1,000 immigration officials accused of corruption
Yucatan Times, August 15, 2020
“As part of an administrative modernization plan, the National Migration Institute (INM) installed video surveillance systems at its offices that have since detected irregularities that ranged from immigration officials extorting migrants, to workers sleeping on the job. INM chief Francisco Garduno said ‘more than 1,040 INM public servants have had to resign or have been subject to an internal review.”

Root Causes

US official warns El Salvador’s president that aid at risk 
Joshua Goodman, AP News, September 3, 2020
“With Congress considering whether to extend a Sept. 9 deadline for spending the U.S. aid, the criticism reflects growing concerns among mainly Democratic lawmakers that Bukele is taking his country down an authoritarian path, such as his use of troops to intimidate legislators and his rejection of high court ruling against tough pandemic restrictions.”

Diversas voces de la comunidad internacional piden liberación de defensores de Guapinol
Criterio Honduras, 1 de septiembre de 2020
“La alianza global de organizaciones de sociedad civil CIVICUS, también se sumó a las voces que abogan por los defensores del ambiente, difundiendo una campaña en las redes sociales donde insta a la ciudadanía a exigir la liberación de los líderes que guardan prisión”.

Tres acusados van en septiembre a la corte de Nueva York
Fernando Maldonado, El Heraldo, 31 de agosto de 2020
“El mes de septiembre será decisivo para tres hondureños acusados de narcotráfico que se encuentran encarcelados en Estados Unidos. De acuerdo con la agenda de la Corte Federal del Distrito Sur de Nueva York, el exdiputado nacionalista Juan Antonio ‘Tony’ Hernández acudirá  el 16 de septiembre ante el juez Kevin Castle para conocer su condena”.

Blood River
Bloomberg, August 31, 2020
“The killers of Berta Cáceres had every reason to believe they’d get away with murder. More than 100 other environmental activists had been reported killed in the previous five years, yet almost no one had been punished for the crimes. In Blood River, journalist Monte Reel follows the four-year quest to find her killers – a twisting trail that leads into the country’s circles of power.”

IDB approves lines of credit to El Salvador worth $650 mln
Reuters, August 31, 2020
“The Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) said on Monday it had approved two lines of credit to El Salvador worth $650 million in total for use in areas including education and improving access to credit.”

Indigenous Communities in Guatemala Push Back Against Government Land Grabs 
Kimberly López, El Faro, 28 de agosto de 2020
“This new representative convened an assembly and then called for a vote on dividing up community territory, despite the fact that the land was legally protected from such subdivision under Guatemala’s special communal framework for Indigenous land holdings. He succeeded in obtaining the required votes by stacking the assembly with people from outside the community, successfully greenlighting the subdivision of 21 community fincas.”

Trafficking Cocaine in the Name of God: Guatemala’s Evangelical Narco Pastors 
Asier Andrés, El Faro, August 28, 2020
“The pastor had returned from his trip to the United States a day early. Security camera footage later revealed that instead of going home, he had spent the day wandering around the shopping center, as if waiting for someone. A police search of Lópéz’s vehicle, Menocal explained, found various ‘caletas’ secret compartments. Both men, the narco and the pastor, operated in the same part of the city. In fact, when Ramirez was captured a month later, police found him in a house located only seven kilometers from Lópéz’s main church.”

El Salvador: Popular Movements Join Against Bukele’s Government 
TeleSur, August 27, 2020
“El Salvador Coordinator of Popular Movements (CSMP) on Tuesday called on social organizations and Salvadoran people to join against President Nayib Bukele’s administration, due to government mismanagement and demagogy during the pandemic.‘We invite all democratic sectors and all decent, honest, and hard-working people to create the broadest alliance against autoritanism, intolerance, lack of transparency, corruption, confrontation and demagogy,’ CSMP said.”

Actions, Alerts, and Resources

5 Immediate Steps to Rein in DHS in the Wake of Portland 
Tom Jawetz, Philip E. Wolgin, and Claudia Flores, Center for American Progress, September 2, 2020
“But over the agency’s nearly 18- year lifespan, even as its abuses have grown, federal funding for DHS has increased year after year. Since at least 2006, the United States has spent more on immigration enforcement than on all other federal criminal law enforcement agencies combined, and the gap has widened significantly during the Trump administration. The budgets of ICE and CBP have nearly tripled since DHS’ founding, with the number of ICE enforcement and Removal Operations officers tripling and the Border Patrol nearly doubling in size.”

USA: Update to Amnesty International Report on COVID-19 in US Immigration Detention
Amnesty International, August 31, 2020
“Amnesty International calls on the US government to immediately release as many as possible of the over 20,000 civil immigration detainees in its custody, for the duration of the COVID-19 global pandemic. The US government should release families together. The organization also calls on the US government to immediately impose a temporary moratorium on all deportations and other forced returns of immigration detainees and to cease the unlawful expulsions of migrants and asylum-seekers and resume processing asylum-seekers’ claims in a manner while taking steps to safeguard public health.”

Metering Update August 2020
Stephanie Leutert, Savitri, and Ellie Ezzell, Strauss Center, August 2020
“In August 2020, there were approximately 15,00 asylum seekers on waitlists in 11 Mexican border cities. This is a slight increase from May 2020, when there were 14, 580 asylum seekers. Yet, these numbers only reflect the asylum seekers who are on waitlists. The total number of people waiting in Mexican border cities is likely lower.”

COVID-19 in Immigration Detention- Monthly Analysis & Update
Freedom for Immigrants, August 13, 2020
“Freedom for Immigrants (FFI) continues to express concern that the true death toll of exposure to COVID-19 in detention is greater than what ICE publicly reports, due to complete absence of reporting on the fate of people exposed to COVID-19 in detention and then released from ICE custody. FFI documented at least one previously unreported instance in which someone died shortly after being released from federal custody at a local hospital where they had tested positive for COVID-19.”

New Challenges to Addressing the Humanitarian Crisis at the U.S-Mexico Border during COVID-19 
Claudia Flores & Monique Baumont, Colombia Forced Migration & Health, July 23, 2020
“Addressing the inadequate response requires a drastic shift in how US-based organizations approach their work. Organizations that work in the U.S. typically equate humanitarian work with “global work,” which operates far outside our borders. In recognizing that we have created a humanitarian crisis on our doorstep, U.S.-based organizations must learn from humanitarian actors in other settings and actively engage in the response. The complex needs arising from conditions along the U.S.-Mexico border and new risks of COVID-19 have made clear the need for collaboration between previously siloed sectors, and between humanitarian organizations and U.S.-based organizations who work domestically.”

P.S. Do you know of someone who might be interested in receiving the Migrant News Brief? Tell them to email lalvarez@lawg.org