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Migration News Brief for February 28, 2019

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Date: Feb 28, 2019

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: lfolkerts@lawg.org.

Credit: The Hill

U.S. Enforcement

Thousands of migrant children report they were sexually assaulted in U.S. custody
Alan Gomez, USA Today, February 26, 2019

“‘These documents detail an environment of systemic sexual assaults by staff on unaccompanied children,’ said Deutch, a Democrat from Florida, in a House Judiciary Committee meeting Tuesday. ‘These documents tell us that there is a problem with adults, employees of HHS, sexually abusing children.’”

DHS extends immigration protection for four countries amid court battles
Rafael Bernal, The Hill, February 28, 2019
“The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is extending Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for U.S. residents from Sudan, El Salvador, Haiti and Nicaragua, as President Trump’s orders to reduce the program languish in court.”

US Sending Central American Migrant Minors Back to Mexico
Associated Press, February 25, 2019
“National Immigration Institute Commissioner Tonatiuh Guillen had said last month that Mexico wouldn’t accept migrants younger than 18 while they await the resolution of their U.S. asylum claims. But Guillen said Monday that Mexico is accepting children who are accompanied by their parents, saying the numbers remain small.”

Honduran Teen Fled Gangs at Home Only to be Murdered while Stranded at the U.S.-Mexico Border
Julia Gavarrete and Heather Gies, The Intercept, February 23, 2019
“A week after we spoke outside the shelter, Jorge’s body was found with 37 stab wounds and strangle marks around his neck, dumped alongside a second victim, a 17-year-old from Honduras. A third Honduran teenager managed to escape alive. The boys were on their way from the youth shelter where they stayed to visit a camp of migrants in central Tijuana on December 15, when assailants lured them to a room, demanded money, and — finding they had none — brutalized them.”

A 24-year-old Honduran woman’s pregnancy ended in a stillbirth at an ICE detention center
Reis Thebault, The Washington Post, February 25, 2019
“In a statement, officials said the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees ICE and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, doesn’t count stillbirths as in-custody deaths; rather, they’re recorded in their own category, along with miscarriages. An ICE spokesman said stillbirths are very rare, but the announcement drew swift public condemnation from advocates and migrant rights groups.”

Border Purgatory: Trump Administration’s Latest Effort to Deter Refugees
Isaac Bloch and Anne Dutton, News Deeply, February 22, 2019
“Many asylum seekers can’t come in legally; if they try, this administration doesn’t always let them stay, despite the harms they’d face in Mexico or in their home countries. While volunteering at the border this winter, we observed that asylum seekers are no longer allowed to approach the U.S. port of entry. Instead, they’re told they must first request a number from what is known as ‘the list’ and wait, often for weeks, until it’s their turn.”

58 ex-national security officials to denounce Trump’s emergency declaration
 Quint Forgey and Anita Kumar, Politico, February 24, 2019
“In a 13-page joint statement by various diplomats, intelligence chiefs, Cabinet secretaries and senior government personnel from previous administrations, the former civil servants said they ‘are aware of no emergency that remotely justifies’ Trump’s invocation of emergency powers on Feb. 15, according to a copy of the document obtained by POLITICO.”

Former GOP lawmakers push Republicans to block Trump’s emergency declaration
Caitlin Oprysko, Politico, February 25, 2019

“Nearly two dozen former Republican members of Congress have penned an open letter to GOP lawmakers, urging them to reject President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border. In the letter, the former members wrote that the president’s move undermines the constitutional authority given to Congress to make federal appropriations, and argue that the emergency declaration would set a precedent for future presidents that could one day come back to bite them.”

U.S. official sends a warning to migrants: Stay home
Caitlin Dickson, Yahoo News, February 22, 2019
“In the clip, which was obtained by Yahoo News, Edgar Ramirez, the Department of Homeland Security’s attaché to the embassy, warns the migrants, who are mostly from Central America, about increased security at the border and potential criminal prosecutions they could face by trying to cross illegally.”

Immigrants are suffering in detention. They need adequate healthcare now
Altaf Saadi, The Los Angeles Times, February 25, 2019
“For example, in one detention center I met and reviewed the medical records of a man who had been thriving and holding steady employment for years while on schizophrenia medications. Then he was picked up and detained by ICE. In detention, he told me, ICE personnel abruptly stopped his medications. After a nearly two-week delay, an alternative medication was prescribed, but it was not as effective. His mental health deteriorated, and he experienced worsening auditory hallucinations and suicidal thoughts. He attempted suicide four times.”

En cuatro meses, han sido detenidos 60 mil guatemaltecos en Frontera Sur
Grecia Ortíz, La Hora Voz del Migrante, 22 de febrero de 2019
“No han transcurrido ni seis meses desde que inició el año fiscal para Estados Unidos y ya suman más de 60 mil detenciones de guatemaltecos en la Frontera Sur de EE. UU., cifra cercana a la del año fiscal de 2018, cuando se alcanzó una cifra superior a las 72 mil personas”.

Mexican Enforcement

As US begins sending migrant families back to Mexico, Tijuana struggles to accommodate them
Rafael Carranza, Arizona Republic, February 23, 2019
“But their hopes [of asylum-seeking families] for a speedy entry into the U.S. are dashed quickly. When they arrive, there already are about 2,600 people in line, meaning they are looking at a two-month wait in Tijuana before even talking to U.S. immigration officials… Last week, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security began sending back certain Central American families to Tijuana to await in Mexico the outcome of their asylum claims. Previously, U.S. authorities would release them into the custody of relatives already in the United States.”

Is Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador helping Donald Trump?
Daniel González, Arizona Republic, February 22, 2019
“In Tijuana, immigrant advocates have accused the Lopez Obrador administration of accommodating the Trump administration’s new ‘Remain in Mexico’ program despite publicly claiming the U.S. acted unilaterally. The program forces asylum-seekers to stay in Mexico while their asylum claims are pending in the United States. It has drawn legal challenges from multiple groups in the U.S. who contend the program violates the law and puts migrants in danger.”

Haremos una ‘limpieza general’ en el Instituto Nacional de Migración: Olga Sánchez Cordero
Vanguardia, 26 de febrero de 2019
“En respuesta a lo publicado por MILENIO respecto a la auditoría contenida en la Cuenta Pública 2017, la cual señala que existen vacíos de ‘integridad ética’ en el Instituto y se recomienda una ‘reingeniería profunda’ del organismo, Sánchez Cordero expresó: ‘Vamos a hacer una limpieza general. Estos vacíos éticos y legales que se tenían, por supuesto que lo estamos revisando’”.

Olga Sánchez Cordero se reunirá con su homóloga Kirstjen Nielsen
Teresa Moreno, El Universal, 25 de febrero de 2019
“Señaló que el gobierno de Estados Unidos le extendió la invitación para participar en esta reunión con la secretaria Nielsen, y añadió que irá acompañada del director del Instituto Nacional de Migración (INM), Tonatiuh Guillén. No se abordará el tema del muro pero se tratarán las caravanas de migrantes y la diversificación de la inmigración que atraviesa México para llegar a Estados Unidos”.

Refuerza Gobierno Mexicano atención a personas refugiadas
Alejandro Encinas, 26 de febrero  de 2019
“Para mejorar la atención a las personas extranjeras que soliciten el reconocimiento de la condición de refugiadas y que reciben protección complementaria, el Instituto Nacional de Migración (INM) y la Comisión Mexicana de Ayuda a Refugiados (COMAR), firmaron un convenio para establecer mecanismos de coordinación que garanticen el pleno respeto a sus derechos humanos”.

ONG acusa ataques y hostigamiento de las autoridades mexicanas contra defensores que ayudan a migrantes
Animal Politico, 27 de febrero de 2019
“La organización defensora de derechos humanos Front Line Defenders, condena los ataques, detenciones arbitrarias y hostigamiento, que han sufrido, desde el pasado 7 de febrero, al menos siete activistas por apoyar a la caravana migrante centroamericana que se encuentra en México y busca llegar a Estados Unidos”.

Root Causes

Action: Stop U.S. weapons from reaching human rights abusers in Mexico!
Latin America Working Group, February 25, 2019
“The United States exports a growing number of military weapons to Mexico. There are virtually no controls on where they go. When weapons end up in the hands of abusive security forces or organized crime, they fuel a crisis of human rights and impunity in Mexico. And when this happens, the United States is complicit in contributing to human rights violations in Mexico. Call your representative today and ask them to sign a dear colleague letter that helps prevent U.S. guns from reaching human rights abusers and organized crime!”

Build Central America, Not a Wall
Editorial Board of The New York Times, February 25, 2019
“Plagued by corruption, violence and gang terror, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras need stronger and more honest judges and police officers, better schools and economic development. Elites control much of the land and avoid taxes, even at some of the lowest tax rates in Latin America. Bribery is rampant, and too often leaders lack the interest, competence or will to manage such problems.”

Honduras President Selective When Targeting Criminal Crackdowns
Parker Asmann, InSight Crime, February 27, 2019
“While he cracks down on gangs, the president of Honduras has largely ignored drug trafficking charges leveled at his family members and officials within his governing party, raising questions about his desire to take on corruption that implicates his inner circle.”

Una mujer ha sido asesinada por día en lo que va del año en El Salvador
Cecila Fuentes,  El Salvador, 14 de de febrero de 2019
“La Policía Nacional Civil (PNC) registró 46 casos de homicidios de mujeres hasta el 13 de febrero de este año. La cifra superó-por 5 casos más- los datos correspondientes al mismo período del 2018, en el que fueron reportados 41 casos”.

Indigenous Xinka march over contested Guatemalan mine
Sandra Cuffe, Al Jazeera, February 26, 2019
“Residents of municipalities around the region, including indigenous Xinka communities, had been voicing their opposition to the project for months. They were concerned a mine could cause water shortages and pollution, potentially impacting the health and economy of residents largely dependent on farming.”

An amnesty for crimes against humanity? Guatemalan proposal stirs outrage.
Sandra Cuffe and Mary Beth Sheridan, The Washington Post, February 24, 2019
“The legislative push comes as other Latin American countries are finally reckoning with the counterinsurgency tactics used by military forces against civilians during the Cold War. In Argentina, hundreds of human rights abusers have been convicted in the past 15 years. In El Salvador, where an amnesty law was struck down in 2016, 18 military officers are on trial for the massacre of nearly 1,000 people in El Mozote in 1981 — one of the worst atrocities in Latin American history.”

Guatemala amnesty bill stirs fears of impunity and revenge of ex-military
Leila Miller, The Los Angeles Times, February 25, 2019
“Verdicts between 2008 and 2018 resulted in more than 30 convictions of military officials and state actors, as well as one of a guerrilla fighter, according to Burt. That included the 2013 sentencing of former dictator Gen. Efrain Rios Montt for genocide and crimes against humanity. (His conviction was later overturned and he died while he was being retried last year.) But those backing this bill have found support in the party of Morales, who was elected in 2015. They have recently stood by Morales in his clashes with institutions tasked with investigating crime and corruption.”

Luis Arreaga: La lucha contra la corrupción en Guatemala sigue; «es una amenaza a nuestra propia seguridad»
Enrique Naveda, Plaza Pública, 26 de febrero de 2019
“Luis Edmundo Arreaga Rodas (1952), el embajador de Estados Unidos en Guatemala, es un diplomático silencioso. Se manifiesta poco en público, y cuando lo hace procura ser muy formal y poco estridente. En el año y medio que ha pasado desde que tomó el mando de la misión estadounidense en Guatemala, su manifestación más atípica no fue una declaración, sino una imagen. En medio de las iras del Gobierno contra la Cicig, su embajada tuiteó una fotografía: sonrientes Arreaga y el comisionado Iván Velásquez, con sendos adhesivos que decían «Yo amo Cicig»”.

Comunicado | El Salvador: Orgs rechazamos intento de aprobar una nueva amnistía para los graves crímenes del conflicto armado
Fundacion Para El Debido Proceso, 26 de febrero de 2019
“Las organizaciones que integramos la Mesa contra la Impunidad en El Salvador, denunciamos la reciente tentativa del diputado Rodolfo Parker (PDC), presidente de la Comisión Ad hoc, de promover una nueva Ley de Amnistía, con fines de generar un fraude a la Sentencia de Inconstitucionalidad a la Ley de Amnistía general y absoluta de 1993[1] y así anular el ejercicio del derecho de acceso a la justicia de las víctimas que sobrevivieron a crímenes atroces durante el conflicto armado.”

Risks to Mexico journalists remain despite Amlo’s promises
Marcos Martinez, BBC, February 28, 2019
“Shortly after he was sworn in on 1 December, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, or Amlo for short, said he would put an end to the murders – but at least five journalists have been killed since he took office.”

Actions, Reports, and Resources

Observatorio de Protección Internacional de la Universidad Iberoamericana Ciudad de México
Universidad Iberoamericana Ciudad de México
“Estas personas que huyen de circunstancias surgidas de un contexto de violencia en sus países de origen, cumplen en muchas ocasiones con el perfil necesario para ser reconocidas como refugiadas o refugiados. Estas personas son reconocidas como refugiadas por la Comisión Mexicana de Ayuda a Refugiados. Esta Comisión tiene como función principal (entre otras) la aplicación directa de la mencionada normativa mediante la Ley sobre Refugiados, Protección Complementaria y Asilo Político y su reglamento”.

Interfaith Letter Requesting Termination of Remain in Mexico Policy
Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., February 27, 2019
“More than 500 faith leaders and organizations called on the Department of Homeland Security to end its policy of requiring some asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while their cases proceed.”

Communities in Crisis: Interior Removals and Their Human Consequences
Kino Border Initiative, Center for Migration Studies of New York, Office of Justice and Ecology, Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States
“The CRISIS Study (Catholic Removal Impact Survey in Society) included both quantitative and qualitative elements… Survey respondents were all Mexican nationals, all but one were men, and each had been living for a period of time in the United States… The survey sought information on their US lives, the removal and detention process, and the impact of removal on them and their families.”

The Real National Emergency: Zero Tolerance & the Continuing Horrors of Family Separation at the Border
Laura Peña and Efrén C. Olivares, Texas Civil Rights Project, February 2019
“The Texas Civil Rights Project (TCRP) has been interviewing separated asylum seeking and migrant parents at the southern border since the height of the family separation crisis in the summer of 2018. This report provides a comprehensive non-governmental account of family separations at or near McAllen, Texas during a six month period after the issuance of the Executive Order purportedly ending the practice.”

FAQ: How The Administration’s Immigration Enforcement Agenda Got In The Middle Of Family Reunification
Joann Bautista, National Immigrant Justice Center, February 22, 2019
“Private companies are profiting off government contracts to jail thousands of vulnerable refugee children. How did we get here? This Q&A aims to provide a guide to the federal policies that have led to this moment, including information-sharing between the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Policy changes recently announced by HHS and legislative provisions in the 2019 DHS spending bill have mitigated some but not all of the harms. Lastly, NIJC recommends three actions the U.S. government must take to ensure the United States welcomes children in need with policies that prioritize their well-being.”

Innovation Law Lab v. Nielsen
American Civil Liberties Union, February 14. 2019
“The American Civil Liberties Union, Southern Poverty Law Center, and Center for Gender & Refugee Studies filed a federal lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s new policy forcing asylum seekers to return to Mexico and remain there while their cases are considered… The lawsuit cites violations of the Immigration and Nationality Act, the Administrative Procedures Act, as well as the United States’ duty under international human rights law not to return people to dangerous conditions.”


*The Central America/Mexico 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.