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Migration News Brief for February 12, 2021

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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.

COVID-19

General

Latin America needs a new social contract
The Economist, February 6, 2021
“In Mexico City and Lima covid-19 patients are once again being turned away from hospitals with no beds to spare, while in Manaus, in northern Brazil, a new variant of the virus is killing a hundred people a day. The pandemic’s recession pushed 33m Latin Americans below the $5.50-a-day poverty line last year, according to the World Bank. Governments in the region are struggling to line up vaccines. So it may seem like a strange moment to be talking of a new social contract—an abstraction.”

Honduras

Siguen las protestas de los médicos en el norte del país
Radio Progreso, 10 de febrero de 2021
“En esta ocasión es el personal de salud que labora en el Instituto Hondureño de Seguridad Social, Ihss de San Pedro Sula. La demanda es clara: más protección con la dotación de los equipos de bioseguridad y la compra urgente de la vacuna. La acción de protesta de los médicos, enfermeras, técnicos y personal en general se desarrolla frente a las instalaciones del seguro social en la carretera salida al norte de San Pedro Sula”.

Largo confinamiento aplicado en Honduras, sirvió de poco, según el BID
El Heraldo, 6 de febrero de 2021
“Los largos confinamientos masivos como los implementados en Honduras al inicio de la pandemia del covid-19, sirvieron de poco, y según el estudio ‘COVID-19: las medidas de contención y la confianza’ del Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo (BID), no deben volver a repetirse en América Latina. Aunque el desarrollo de vacunas efectivas contra el covid-19 marcará en el 2021 un avance histórico, lo cierto es que ‘será difícil lograr la inmunidad colectiva con la misma rapidez en los países en desarrollo a través de la vacunación’, agrega el estudio elaborado por Agustina Schijman, Carolina Correa-Caro y Diego Vera-Cossio”.

Protesta del personal médico y de enfermería por pésima gestión de la salud pública
Criterio Honduras, 6 de febrero de 2021
“Personal médico y de enfermería realizó este sábado un plantón frente al Patronato Nacional de la Infancia (Pani), en el bulevar Los Próceres de Tegucigalpa, en protesta por las precarias condiciones y mal manejo del sistema de salud durante la pandemia. En los predios del Pani se encuentran varios módulos de los hospitales móviles comprados con una sobrevaloración millonaria y que siguen sin funcionar, como evidencia clara de la mala gestión de la crisis sanitaria que ha sido utilizada más bien para cometer actos de corrupción”.

Gobierno aprovecha emergencia para entregar construcción de represas a empresa privada
Radio Progreso, 4 de febrero de 2021
“Los huracanes Eta e Iota desnudaron la vulnerabilidad del país frente a estos fenómenos naturales. Este pretexto sentó las bases para que el Gobierno proponga entregar la mitigación de inundaciones a bancos y empresarios energéticos. El 6 de enero, el Diario Oficial La Gaceta publicó el PCM Ejecutivo 138-220 que expone las condiciones en las que se construirán las represas. De acuerdo al exdiputado Aníbal Cálix, este documento abre el camino a la privatización de las obras”.

Mexico

Will López Obrador continue playing with Mexicans’ health?
José Miguel Vivanco, Human Rights Watch, February 3, 2021
“Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has been a source of disinformation about the virus. Despite Mexico having one of the highest recorded Covid-19 death tolls in the world, the president refuses to wear a mask and has continued holding public events around the country, where he even hugs and kisses some supporters.”

U.S. Enforcement

U.S. continues plan to keep Central American migrants at bay
Laura Gottesdiener, Frank Jack Daniel, and Ted Hesson, Reuters, February 12, 2021
“Biden has been gradually unraveling many Trump-era immigration policies. Yet the new administration has encouraged Mexico and Guatemala to keep up border enforcement in their countries to stem northward migration, according to two Mexican officials and a U.S official, all speaking on condition of anonymity.”

Biden moves to bring in asylum seekers forced to wait in Mexico under Trump program
Ted Hesson, and Mimi Dwyer, Reuters, February 12, 2021
“The U.S. government next week will begin to gradually process asylum seekers forced to wait in Mexico under a controversial program put in place by former President Donald Trump, officials said. The moves are part of a plan by the administration of President Joe Biden to end the program, known as the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), an effort complicated by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and concerns over illegal immigration.”

Biden admin to begin processing asylum-seekers who were forced to ‘Remain in Mexico’ under Trump
Julia Ainsley and Merritt Enright, NBC News, February 12, 2021
“Next week, the Biden administration will begin processing immigrants who have been waiting, often in poor conditions, under the Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” policy, and allowing them to live in the U.S. while they await rulings on their asylum cases, administration officials said Thursday. The policy, also known as Migrant Protection Protocol or MPP, began in January 2019 and has been criticized as inhumane by international organizations as Central Americans often went without adequate shelter and became the targets of violence in Mexico as they waited months or more than a year before they were allowed to make their case for asylum in a U.S. court date.”

REFILE-Reports of migrants trapped in truck prompt U.S. immigration investigation
Ted Hesson, Kristina Cooke, Reuters, February 11, 2021
“U.S. authorities are investigating reports that approximately 80 migrants may have been trapped in a tanker truck on Monday and were struggling to breathe, an official with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) said on Thursday. The official said ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations unit was looking into 911 calls placed on Monday around San Antonio, Texas. During one of the calls, a male caller was breathing heavily as someone else shouted ‘help’ in Spanish, according to a recording. Moans of others could be heard in the background.”

Biden Is Planning To Bring Back Immigrants Who Were Forced To Wait In Dangerous Mexican Border Towns
Hamed Aleaziz, BuzzFeed News, February 11, 2021
“Immigrants who were forced by former president Donald Trump to wait in dangerous conditions in Mexico while they tried to gain asylum will soon start being allowed to enter the US at certain ports as the Biden administration attempts to wind down the controversial policy, according to documents obtained by BuzzFeed News. The unprecedented effort, which is expected to be rolled out within the next two weeks, is the beginning of President Joe Biden’s promise to end the Trump administration’s ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy — formally known as the Migration Protection Protocols (MPP). The policy led to tens of thousands of asylum-seekers being forced to stay in Mexico as they waited for their day in a US court. Often left with nowhere to go but squalid camps in Mexican border towns, human rights advocates reported cases of the immigrants being kidnapped, raped, and tortured.”

U.S. to resettle more child refugees fleeing violence around the world
Camilo Montoya-Galvez, CBS News, February 11, 2021
“As part of its overhaul of U.S. refugee policy, the Biden administration is planning to offer humanitarian refuge to more children fleeing violence around the world, according to a government report obtained by CBS News. The report, prepared by the State Department to notify the House and Senate Judiciary Committees of President Biden’s proposal to increase admissions of refugees, committed the U.S. to resettling more unaccompanied refugee minors going forward. Arrivals of these refugee children, who don’t have parents or legal guardians who can care for them, decreased sharply during the Trump administration — and were effectively halted this fiscal year.”

Guatemala: acuerdo con EE.UU. no otorgó ni un solo asilo a migrantes
Eugenia Sagastume, Voz de América, 9 de febrero de 2021
“La negociación de los acuerdos de solicitudes de asilo, conocidos como ACA, implementados por el gobierno del presidente Donald Trump, se inició con Guatemala. El primer acuerdo se firmó el 26 de julio de 2019 por el ministro de Gobernación de Guatemala en ese momento, Enrique Degenhart y Kevin McAleenan, quien fungía como secretario de Seguridad Nacional de Estados Unidos. Dos meses después, el 20 de septiembre, se firmó el acuerdo con El Salvador y apenas cinco días después, el 25 de septiembre se concretó también con el gobierno de Honduras”.

ACLU sues over Trump-era Title 42 immigration rule, cites case of child expelled from Massachusetts to Guatemala
Jackson Cote, MassLive Media, February 9, 2021
“Pointing to the case of a child expelled from the Bay State to Guatemala, the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts announced Tuesday it is suing the federal government over a Trump-era policy expelling asylum-seekers from the United States under the auspices of a public health act. The ACLU of Massachusetts and Fish & Richardson P.C., a Boston-based law firm, have filed a new lawsuit challenging former President Donald Trump’s policy using the Public Health Service Act in Title 42 of the U.S. Code to expel asylum-seekers from the country’s southern border, even if they are fleeing danger, according to a statement from the civil liberties advocacy organization.”

Biden and Mexico to Cooperate on Migration Despite Tension
Juan Montes and José de Córdoba, The Wall Street Journal, February 9, 2021
“Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador became an unlikely ally of former U.S. President Donald Trump’s migration policies, deploying thousands of soldiers across Mexico to stop Central American asylum seekers heading toward the 2,000-mile border. Now, President Biden is preparing to undo much of Mr. Trump’s immigration legacy, while also facing differences with the Mexican populist over a range of other bilateral issues like security cooperation and climate change.”

U.N. in talks with U.S. on Central American refugees applying for asylum from home
Oliver Griffin, Reuters, February 9, 2021
“The United Nations Refugee Agency has held initial talks with U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration about Central American asylum claimants being processed in their own countries, but it is too early to estimate how many people could benefit from the policy, agency head Filippo Grandi said on Tuesday. The Biden administration has already said it plans to restore a program which allows certain children in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador to apply for refugee status in the United States from home.”

Biden ending Trump-era agreements with Central American countries around asylum
NBC News, February 8, 2021
“The Biden administration is withdrawing the U.S. from agreements with three Central American countries that restricted the ability of people to seek asylum at the southwest border, part of a broad effort to undo the the immigration policies of President Donald Trump Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Saturday the administration had notified El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras that it had started the formal process of terminating agreements that had been part of Trump’s effort to restrict asylum.”

Outcry as more than 20 babies and children deported by US to Haiti
Ed Pilkington, The Guardian, February 8, 2021
“US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (Ice) deported at least 72 people to Haiti on Monday, including a two-month-old baby and 21 other children, as the Biden administration made clear it would press on with expulsions of newly-arrived migrants, pending a review of immigration policy. The children were deported to Haiti on Monday on two flights chartered by Ice from Laredo, Texas, to the Haitian capital Port-au-Prince. The removals sent vulnerable infants back to Haiti as it is being roiled by major political unrest.”

Revealed: US citizen newborns sent to Mexico under Trump-era border ban
Tanvi Misra, The Guardian, February 5, 2021
“At least 11 migrant women were dropped off in Mexican border towns without birth certificates for their days-old US citizen newborns since March of last year, an investigation by the Fuller Project and the Guardian has found. Based on multiple conversations with lawyers who work with asylum seekers at the border and a review of hospital records and legal documents, multiple US citizen newborns were removed to Mexico after their mothers were subject to a Trump-era border ban that the Biden-Harris administration has been slow to rescind.”

International case over border killing accuses high U.S. officials of cover-up plot
Kate Morrissey, The San Diego Union Tribune, February 4, 2021
“Law enforcement officials at all levels of the federal government participated in an illegal cover-up of what happened in the 2010 killing of Anastasio Hernandez Rojas, according to court filings in an international human rights case. Some of those involved have now been promoted to the highest ranks in their agencies, including the chief of U.S. Border Patrol. The filing is with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, part of the Organization of American States. Hernandez Rojas’ case is the first the international tribunal is hearing about an extrajudicial killing by U.S. law enforcement. It has heard cases about extrajudicial killings by many other governments in the Americas.”

Risking Everything to Come to America on the Open Ocean
C. J. Chivers, The New York Times, February 3, 2021
“The fiberglass skiff Lazora idled on the darkened Pacific Ocean a few miles south of American waters. It was roughly 25 feet long and seven feet wide, unlit, overloaded and offering no shelter from the elements. Twenty people were crammed aboard. Most were seated on narrow benches. A few huddled on the vomit-splattered deck. Some had opened slits in plastic garbage bags and pushed heads and arms through, flimsy protection against the damp October chill. Few life jackets were visible. At the boat’s stern, two Mexican men tended a 200-horsepower outboard engine and 10 plastic barrels of fuel. They were in the final hour of ferrying a load of undocumented migrants toward American land, in waters nearly three-quarters of a mile deep: human smugglers, running a boat through a seam where black sea met black sky.”

Mexican Enforcement

Mexico Arrests Police Officers Over Massacre
Oscar Lopez, The New York Times, February 9, 2021
“Authorities in Mexico have arrested a dozen police officers for the massacre of 19 people, including several migrants, an incident which the country’s interior minister said Wednesday was part of a larger pattern of migrant abuse at the hands of government agents. The 12 officers, part of the police force of Tamaulipas, a state along the United States-Mexico border, were arrested on Tuesday and charged with homicide, abuse of authority and providing false information, authorities said.”

Root Causes

Honduran president, a Trump ally implicated in drug trafficking, tries to win over Biden
Kevin Sieff, The Washington Post, February 12, 2021
“Hernández and his aides have tried to charm Democratic lawmakers, fired their lobbying firm, welcomed a new U.N. office focusing on drugs and crime and revived talking points on climate change. The controversial asylum pact Hernández signed with Trump? Now he described Trump’s approach as “aggressive.” Hernández, by his own account, was ready to move on.”

Desperation grows in battered Honduras, fueling migration
María Verza, AP News, February 11, 2021
“The Sula Valley, Honduras’ most agriculturally productive, was so heavily damaged that international organizations have warned of a food crisis. The World Food Program says 3 million Hondurans face food insecurity, six times higher than before. The dual hurricanes affected an estimated 4 million of Honduras’ 10 million people. The area is also Honduras’ hardest-hit by COVID-19 infections.”

Honduras is a Narco-State with a Narco-President, Says Candidate for Inter-American Commission Secretary
Julia Gavarrete, El Faro, February 11, 2021
“Medrano soon became a target for harassment from all sides, including from the now-defunct National Guard. Once, while documenting military detentions of people on a blacklist, she was apprehended in Usulután and flown by helicopter directly to military headquarters in San Salvador, ending up in a police holding cell. Medrano’s experiences as a human rights defender were subsequently documented in the Truth Commission’s report. She left the Human Rights Commission in 1995, and later worked as director of human rights and humanitarianism at the Ministry of Foreign Relations. Medrano also served as her country’s Consul General in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia.”

Bukele Learned Nothing from February 9, 2020
El Faro, February 11, 2021
“The government arbitrarily decided not to fund municipal governments since none of the mayors belong to his political party, and despite the Supreme Court ordering Bukele’s Treasury Minister to disburse the funds. The government has refused to do so in order to deny the mayors the opportunity to do work that could improve their position in the February 28 elections. In turn, there are numerous allegations of the delivery of food packages to candidates from the government’s party so that they can distribute them.”

Biden Charts a New Course in Guatemala
Anita Isaacs and Álvaro Montenegro, The New York Times, February 10, 2021
“Getting there means recognizing the multicultural character of the country, passing political reforms that broaden access to disenfranchised poor and Indigenous majorities, enacting policies and legislation that rectify Guatemala’s systemic social and economic inequalities, and the election of ethical judges committed to guaranteeing rights and ensuring accountability.”

El Salvador opposition proposes president’s removal
Marcos Aleman, AP News, February 9, 2021
“Opposition lawmakers in El Salvador on Tuesday proposed starting a process that could lead to the removal of President Nayib Bukele from office just two weeks before his party is widely expected to win a majority in legislative elections. El Salvador’s historical parties from the left and right appeared poised to unite against Bukele who ran an outsider’s campaign that carried him to the presidency less than two years ago. He maintains broad popular support, but has battled against the opposition-controlled legislature at every turn.”

Autopsia confirma homicidio de Keyla Martínez; no fue suicidio
El Heraldo, 9 de febrero de 2021
“Ahora, la versión oficial de las autoridades de Medicina Forense contradice las declaraciones vertidas por las autoridades policiales, quienes mediante un comunicado manifestaron que la hallaron atada del cuello a la puerta de la celda, utilizando como arma para quitarse la vida la blusa que vestía la noche de su detención”.

Policias tienen las manos sueltas: Postas policiales son un peligro para personas detenidas
Heidy Dávila, Pasos de Animal Grande, 8 de febrero de 2021
“En enero del 2021 las restricciones por la pandemia del Covid-19 han sido causa de detenciones y denuncias de violaciones a los derechos humanos por parte de la Policía Nacional y Militar. Las celdas se han convertido en un lugar muy peligroso donde las personas pueden perder la vida a manos de los agentes. Las mujeres pueden ser abusadas sexualmente sin que no nada, pues al entrar allí no hay nadie que controle los abusos a menos que salgan a la luz pública como es el caso de Keyla Patricia”.

U.S. Members of Congress, Invoking Trump-Incited Violence, Issue Warning to Bukele
Roman Gressier, El Faro, February 8, 2021
“The representatives also called on Bukele to deploy government resources to ensure the physical safety of humanitarian missions such as that of Doctors Without Borders, which opened a Salvadoran mission in 2018. On Sunday, as an emergency medical team responded to a call in a closed community in Ilopango in the early hours on Sunday, January 31, unknown assailants commandeered the vehicle at gunpoint, drove the team to an unknown location, and physically assaulted them.”

Honduran president target of U.S. investigation court filings show
Laura Gottesdiener, Reuters, February 8, 2021
“In a document filed Friday night in the Southern District of New York in the case of Geovanny Fuentes Ramirez, an alleged Honduran drug-trafficker, federal prosecutors said Hernandez himself was the target of an investigation, along with other ‘high-ranking officials.’ They did not say what the investigation concerned. But in the filing they accused Hernandez, who has been president since 2014, of using Honduran law enforcement and military officials to protect drug traffickers as part of a plan ‘to use drug trafficking to help assert power and control in Honduras.’”

Corte de Apelaciones debió resolver el 28 de enero recurso favor de defensores presos de Guapinol
Heidy Dávila, Pasos de Animal Grande, 8 de febrero de 2021
“Carlo Jiménez, abogado defensor de los encarcelados explicó que no hay un argumento válido para que los defensores sigan guardando prisión preventiva, algo que han recalcado desde hace más de un año y que es contrario a lo que establece las leyes porque las ocho personas se presentaron voluntariamente y no hay riesgo de escapar a la justicia”.

Escandaloso incremento de homicidios en febrero
Miguel Vargas, El Diario México, 7 de febrero de 2021
“En la primera semana de febrero los homicidios subieron 156 por ciento respecto al mismo periodo del pasado mes de enero, de acuerdo con datos de la Fiscalía de la Zona Norte. Del 1 al 7 de enero las víctimas de este delito sumaron en Juárez 16, en hechos diversos documentados por la autoridad ministerial”.

Mas de 2,200 personas desaparecieron en 2020, según datos de Fiscalia
David Marroquín, elsalvador.com, 6 de febrero 2021
“La inseguridad ciudadana que vive el país provocó que 2,273 familias pasaran por la angustia y el dolor de que un pariente desapareciera en el transcurso del año pasado, según cifras de la Fiscalía General. Las desapariciones de dos repartidores de comida china y una pareja en noviembre pasado son parte de la larga lista de víctimas de ese fenómeno criminal en 2020. Los cadáveres de estas cuatro víctimas fueron hallados enterradas en fosas clandestinas casi un mes después de que se les vio por última vez”.

Honduras ha recibido 7,347 deportados este año, un 20.2% menos que en 2020
Proceso Digital, 5 de febrero de 2021
“En 2020 fue el año en que menos hondureños deportados se han registrado desde 2017, cuando fueron deportados 48,022 nacionales, y por detrás de 2018, con 75,279, y del mencionado 2019. En Estados Unidos, según autoridades de Tegucigalpa, viven alrededor de un millón de hondureños, entre residentes legales e indocumentados, que han escapado de situaciones que afectan al país centroamericano como la violencia”.

Actions, Alerts, and Resources

The Legacy of Racism within the U.S. Border Patrol
Katy Murdza and Walter Ewing, PH.D, American Immigration Council, February 10, 2021
“The Border Patrol continues to perpetuate violence in the form of killing, sexual assault, excessive force, and verbal degradation—all with impunity. Despite these problems, the Border Patrol has lowered hiring standards to pursue rapid staff expansion. The Border Patrol often perpetrates violence through less direct means, including medical abuse and neglect, inhumane custody conditions, and family separation.”

ICE Air Flights January 2021 and Last 12 Months
Tom Cartwright, Witness at the Border, February 7, 2021
“Through all of this, removal flights continued, at a reduced level for only a couple of days. It is very curious to me why the Biden Administration has to operate ICE deportations at the same pace as the Trump Administration, which is how it seems at this point. Regardless of the deportation moratorium, the work that takes place over the 100 days does not need a deportation moratorium to take place. The work to reassess removal orders and cases is an enormously welcome, necessary, and important step for justice for the 14,775 people currently being held in ICE custody.”

Biden administration issues executives orders that tackle the root causes of migration from Central America
Peace Brigades International, February 2021
“Addressing impunity for killings of defenders is a necessary first step. Yet other actions must be taken. Some of our partner organizations in Honduras are requesting that the international community, represented by the United Nations, create an impartial body that can investigate and duly prosecute acts of drug trafficking, corruption, and impunity.”

Our Stories & Visions: Gender in Black Immigrant Communities
Catherine Labiran, BAJI, February 2021
“While there are many areas of Black immigrant women and femmes’ lives that lack research, we have chosen to focus on mental health. Our research is in part motivated by the acculturation hypothesis — a phenomenon supported by research which indicates that the longer immigrants stay in the U.S., the more their mental health declines. Specifically, research shows that first generation (foreign-born) immigrants typically have better mental and physical health than immigrants who are U.S.-born. Additionally, foreign-born immigrants who move to the U.S. at an older age have a health advantage over those who move to the U.S. at a younger age.”

Hopelessness & Corruption
Joy Olson & Eric L. Olson, Florida International University Gordon Institute, February 2021
“This paper analyzes the drivers of migration hypothesizing that persistent government failure driven in large part by corruption produces a sense of hopelessness among Central Americans that contributes to and propels their decision to migrate. Traditionally, corruption and its contribution to hopelessness have not been studied as drivers of migration.”

* 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.

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