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Migration News Brief for January 15, 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

COVID-19 tests: Central America’s latest tool to stop migrant caravans
Sofia Menchu, Lizbeth Diaz, Reuters, January 14, 2021
“As the first groups from Central America reached the Guatemalan border on Thursday as part of a caravan aiming to reach the United States, regional governments are using coronavirus measures as the latest tool to curtail migration. Small groups of migrants arrived in the Honduran border town of Corinto on Thursday afternoon, where they were stopped by police demanding negative coronavirus tests, according to local media.”

‘If we relax,’ 2021 pandemic in the Americas could be worse: PAHO
David Alire Garcia, Reuters, January 13, 2021
“A surge in COVID-19 cases is hitting nearly all countries in the Americas, the head of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said Wednesday, adding that the pandemic’s toll in 2021 could be worse than last year if containment efforts relax. From Canada to Argentina, coronavirus infections are spiking, with particularly alarming jumps documented across Caribbean island nations, even as the first vaccine doses are being administered, PAHO Director Carissa Etienne told reporters on a webcast news conference.”

United States

The US Must Prioritize Vaccine Distribution To Undocumented Immigrants And Immigrants In Detention Centers
Divya Manoharan, Caesar A. Lopez, Kate Sugarman, et. al., Health Affairs, January 11, 2021
“As the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine are distributed to health care workers, one question lingers: Who should be vaccinated next? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted on December 20 to recommend that next in line should be essential workers and people older than age 75. To the task forces, advisory committees, and distribution planners currently coordinating further vaccine rollouts, we have an important message: Undocumented immigrants, who compose a significant proportion of essential workers, must be included—and prioritized—in these plans. Furthermore, as calls are made to distribute vaccines to prisons, there has been little talk of a parallel distribution to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detainees, who have experienced widespread outbreaks of SARS-CoV-2.”

El Salvador

Gobierno ignoró “posible estafa” de empresa china que vendió mascarillas y terminó incumpliendo
Jimmy Alvarado, El Faro, 8 de enero de 2021
“Fosalud recomendó al Gobierno no comprar mascarillas de dudosa procedencia a una empresa China dedicada a la distribución de máquinas expendedoras de dulces y condones, pero al menos diez instituciones de Gobierno desatendieron la advertencia y le compraron más de dos millones de dólares en insumos para enfrentar la pandemia.  La empresa china no cumplió con las entregas ni con los productos prometidos.  Para subsanar sus incumplimientos, la empresa trasladó dinero a otra sociedad: Lasca Design, con sede en Miami, Estados Unidos. Ambas empresas compartían a la misma representante, una checa que niega haber tenido negocios con El Salvador. El Faro obtuvo información vía Ley de Acceso a la Información pública que narra con correos y oficios esta historia”.

Mexico

Mexico to invoke labor rule to ensure U.S. vaccines for illegal migrants
Reuters, January 13, 2021
“Mexico will invoke labor provisions in the new North American trade pact in a bid to ensure that illegal migrants in the United States receive coronavirus vaccines, the country’s top diplomat said on Wednesday. Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard told reporters at a regular government news conference that the labor provisions of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) include health protections for migrants regardless of their immigration status.”

Mexico City hospitals ‘completely saturated’ as COVID-19 surges
Anthony Esposito, Reuters, January 8, 2021
“In Mexico City, 89% of general hospital beds and 84% of hospital beds with ventilators are now filled, while the same is true for 82% of general hospital beds and 79% of beds with ventilators in the State of Mexico, according to official data. Healthcare workers say those figures are deceptive, and the grim reality is that finding an available hospital bed for those in desperate need has often seemed like an impossible feat.”

U.S. Enforcement

Lo prometido por Biden a los migrantes es de urgente cumplimiento
Daniella Burgi-Palomino, El Faro, 13 de enero de 2021
“La tarea para el presidente electo Joseph Biden y la vicepresidente electa Kamala Harris es enorme. No solamente en el tema migratorio, sino también en temas domésticos, como la justicia racial, la pandemia y la economía. A nivel global, Estados Unidos también deberá recuperar la política exterior, que en los últimos cuatro años no ha sido más que alzar la voz para decir ‘América Primero’ y presionar a otros países por medio de tuits. La dupla Biden-Harris asumirá el poder en un momento en que el país sigue fuertemente dividido y en medio de una pandemia que ya ha tomado más de 3 millones de vidas, incluyendo las de los trabajadores inmigrantes. El trabajo de revertir las políticas antiinmigrantes en medio de todas estas otras prioridades es urgente y grande, pero no imposible”.

Biden and Mexico must work together to help migrants. Here’s where to start.
León Krauze, The Washington Post, January 12, 2021
“President-elect Joe Biden is under pressure to deliver on his promise to dismantle Trump’s nativist machinery in earnest. On Friday, he said he would introduce an immigration bill “immediately” upon taking office. This is the right thing to do. Even if, given the Democrats’ slim Senate majority, comprehensive immigration reform remains unlikely, Biden should still send a bill to Congress in the first 100 days of his presidency as a matter of principle. “He would be planting a flag on the mountain top, telling the country that this is where we are heading, and it’s only a matter of when,” immigration activist Frank Sharry told me.”

Entrevista exclusiva: Kamala Harris habla de reforma migratoria y asegura que todos los inmigrantes tendrán acceso a la vacuna
Ilia Calderon, Jorge Cancino, Univision, January 12, 2021
“La vicepresidenta electa de Estados Unidos, Kamala Harris, dijo este martes al Noticiero Univision que el nuevo gobierno que será encabezado por Joe Biden y que asume la próxima semana ‘tiene planeado’ presentar y enviar al Congreso un plan de reforma migratoria que incluirá un camino a la ciudadanía para millones de indocumentados. Entrevistada por la periodista Ilia Calderón, copresentadora del Noticiero Univision, Harris también dijo que todos los inmigrantes, ‘sin importar cuál sea su estado migratorio’, serán vacunados contra el covid-19”.

Trump rushes to enact asylum restrictions ahead of Biden presidency
Camilo Montoya-Galvez, CBS News, January 11, 2021
“As part of an 11th hour blitz of regulations, the outgoing Trump administration has finalized several asylum restrictions that are set to take effect shortly before or after President-elect Joe Biden takes the oath of office in nine days. The rules represent President Trump’s last major effort to reshape the U.S. asylum system, which his administration has argued is abused by economic migrants. One set of rules, which was slated to take effect Monday until a federal court blocked it last week, would erect restrictions throughout the asylum process and generally disqualify victims of gender-based persecution, domestic abuse and gang violence from U.S. refuge.”

Remains of more than 250 migrants found along southern border in 2020
Salvador Rivera, Border Report, January 11, 2021
“According to the U.S. Embassy in Mexico, the Border Patrol recovered the remains of more than 250 migrants who died along the U.S.-Mexico border last year. The victims are believed to have died while attempting to illegally cross into the United States.”

Biden Says He’ll Introduce Immigration Bill ‘Immediately’
Jordan Fabian, Emma Kinery, Josh Wingrove, Bloomberg, January 8, 2021
“‘I will introduce an immigration bill immediately,’ he said in a news conference on Friday. He said that the Justice Department will determine responsibility for the family separation program, which led to more than 2,600 children being taken from caregivers after crossing the U.S. southern border, and whether it was criminal. ‘There will be a thorough, thorough investigation of who is responsible, and whether or not the responsibility is criminal,’ Biden said.”

DHS Publishes Final Rule To End H-1B Visa Lottery
Stuart Anderson, Forbes, January 8, 2021
“The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has published its controversial regulation to end the H-1B visa lottery as a “final rule,” leaving it to the Biden administration or a lawsuit to stop a significant change in U.S. immigration policy. The rule, published January 8, 2021, goes into effect in 60 days. The regulation would authorize U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to end the H-1B lottery and instead grant petitions based on registrations starting with the highest salary level and working down.”

New delay in census process probably ends Trump’s plan to exclude undocumented immigrants from apportionment
Brittany Renee Mayes, Tara Bahrampour, The Washington Post, January 6, 2021
“President Trump is unlikely to be able to implement his plan to exclude undocumented immigrants from being counted for a decade’s worth of congressional apportionment because the Census Bureau has projected it won’t be able to get state population totals to him before he leaves office. Trump’s historically unprecedented plan, announced in July, probably would have given House Republicans a political advantage. It sparked a flurry of lawsuits, and three federal courts ruled that it was illegal. The Supreme Court said last month that it was too early to rule on it.”

Mexican Enforcement

Mexico Lays Down New Rules for US Agents South of the Border
Latin American Herald Tribune, January 14, 2021
“The Mexican government published on Thursday new norms regulating the activity of foreign agents in the Aztec nation three months after a diplomatic spat with Washington over the arrest in the United States of Mexico’s former army chief at the initiative of the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). ‘Foreign agents who commit offenses or infractions to violate the legal dispositions that prohibit them from exercising functions reserved to Mexican authorities will not benefit from any kind of immunity,’ according to the announcement in the official gazette.”

Root Causes

Migrant caravan on the move in Honduras in uncertain times
Claudio Escalon, The Washington Post, January 14, 2021
“Honduran migrants began walking toward the Guatemalan border before dawn Friday, driven by deepening poverty and the hope of a warmer reception if they can reach the United States border. They quickly dispersed along the heavily-trafficked highway to the border town of Agua Caliente, but estimates of their number ranged from 2,000 to more than twice that. Around 4 a.m., young men and entire families carrying sleeping children set out. Some quickly caught rides while others walked along the highway escorted by police.”

El Salvador Protects Accounts of Suspected Money Launderers
Shane Sullivan, InSight Crime, January 13, 2021
“The head of El Salvador’s financial regulatory agency has instructed banks not to close the accounts of suspected or formally accused money launderers, the latest in a long line of incidents that expose the country’s hollow fight against graft. In December, Héctor Gustavo Villatoro, the head of El Salvador’s Financial System Superintendence (Superintendencia del Sistema Financiera – SSF) released a memo forbidding banks from severing commercial ties with alleged financial criminals. The memo state that banks ‘cannot terminate commercial relations founded in a decision of presumed culpability,’ directly opposing the country’s chief anti-money laundering law.”

La ONU requiere 90 millones de dolares para ayudar a hondureños damnificados
Proceso Digital, 13 de enero de 2021
“El Sistema de Naciones Unidas informó este miércoles que requiere 90 millones de dólares para atender las necesidades de 1,4 millones de hondureños afectados por las tormentas tropicales Eta e Iota, cuyos daños equivalen a más de 1.800 millones de dólares según la Cepal. El Equipo Humanitario de País (EHP), también conocido como Red Humanitaria, presentó el adendum al ‘Flash Appeal por Eta’, lanzado en noviembre pasado, el cual incluye las cifras de afectación y necesidades de respuesta y financiación por Iota, indicó la ONU en un comunicado”.

El Salvador’s Payments for Faulty or Undelivered Masks Leaves Sprawling International Paper Trail
Jimmy Alvarado, El Faro, January 12, 2021
“Senior Salvadoran officials discarded internal warnings even as they recommended international mask suppliers suspected of fraud. As a result, ten separate government offices signed contracts worth millions of dollars. Much of the product never arrived; the rest failed to meet medical-grade standards. The Czech intermediary who represented both companies denies ever having done business with the government of El Salvador. Meanwhile, the public funds, as well as the promised masks, are nowhere to be found.”

Allegations Against Honduras President Add to Narco-State Case
Parker Asmann, Héctor Silva Ávalos, Seth Robbins, InSight Crimes, January 11, 2021
“With new accusations that Honduras President Juan Orlando Hernández directly brokered deals to protect traffickers in exchange for drug money, the president himself has emerged as a lynchpin in Honduras’ descent into a narco-state. US prosecutors said in a January 8 court filing that accused drug trafficker Geovanny Daniel Fuentes Ramírez met with Hernández and gave him tens of thousands of dollars in exchange for protection from law enforcement — along with military support for his trafficking activities.”

Migrantes Dicen Presente con $7,729.9 Millones en Remesas en Cierre del 2020
El País, 10 de enero de 2021
“Migrantes en el exterior dijeron presente en la reactivación económica, cuando más se necesitaba, con el envío de 5,729.9 millones de dólares en el 2020, un crecimiento de 208.6 millones de dólares (3.8%) en relación al 2019 cuando entraron 5,521.3 millones de dólares, destacó el Banco Central de Honduras (BCH)”.

Honduras president took bribes from drug traffickers, US prosecutors say
The Guardian, January 9, 2021
“US federal prosecutors have filed motions saying the Honduran president, Juan Orlando Hernández, took bribes from drug traffickers and had the country’s armed forces protect a cocaine laboratory and shipments to the US. The documents quote Hernández as saying he wanted to ‘shove the drugs right up the noses of the gringos by flooding the United States with cocaine’.”

Gobierno de EE.UU advierte que no permitirán que caravana de migrantes hondureños avance
Critero.hn, 8 de enero de 2021
“Ante el anuncio de una gran caravana de hondureños que emprenderán un nuevo éxodo hacia los Estados Unidos, el Comisionado de Aduanas y Fronteras (CBP por sus sigla en inglés), ha advertido que no permitirán que caravana de migrantes avance hacia estados unidos dice Comisionado de Fronteras, Mark A. Morgan”.

Comunidad LGTBI buscará la aprobación de una Ley Integral
Pasos de Animal Grande, 8 de enero de 2021
“Las organizaciones de sociedad civil están elaborando una propuesta de Ley Integral para los derechos de la comunidad Lésbico, Gay, Transexual, Bisexual e intersexual, LGTBI, una de las recomendaciones que han sido recalcadas a través de del Examen Periódico Universal EPU, que se le han realizado tres veces a Honduras desde el año 2010”.

Guatemala: periodismo bajo ataque
Lourdes Álvarez, Simón Antonio Ramón, Nelton Rivera, Prensa Comunitaria, 8 de enero de 2021
“El ejercicio periodístico en Guatemala se encuentra en uno de los momentos más críticos en el que la violencia y agresiones se manifiestan de diferentes maneras desde las restricción a las fuentes de información, agresiones físicas y psicológicas, persecución penal y asesinatos. Las y los responsables de las violencias y las restricciones están identificados, son autoridades y funcionarios públicos, empresas nacionales y transnacionales y grupos de poderes locales”.

Climate change is devastating Central American coffee farms, spurring migration
Kate Morrissey, StarTribune, January 2, 2021
“With coffee production in other countries driving down prices and droughts and storms wreaking havoc, coffee farmers in Central America have had to make tough choices in recent years. Coffee is one of the many industries around the world feeling the pressures of climate change. And, as people lose their livelihoods, climate change is becoming a larger impetus for forced migration.”

Las Niñas Suicidas de El Salvador
Patricia Clarembaux, Almudena Toral, Univision, enero 2021
“Un tercio de las mujeres que se suicidan en El Salvador son niñas, adolescentes menores de 19 años, como María. Más de la mitad tiene entre 10 y 24 años. Estos son los datos oficiales disponibles, pero se sabe que el subregistro es alto: hay municipios que ni siquiera contabilizan los feminicidios y mucho menos los suicidios. Y las niñas se matan porque, como a María, la violencia las lleva al límite de lo tolerable: se envenenan y se cortan los brazos para evadir el dolor de tanta impunidad y silencio cotidiano. Sin embargo, estas muertes son invisibles en el país centroamericano, uno de los que registra más homicidios del mundo”.

Actions, Alerts, and Resources

Mitos y Verdades Sobre Cambios en la Políticas de Asilo en la Frontera de EE.UU. en la Víspera del Nuevo Gobierno
Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, Latin America Working Group Education Fund, Women’s Refugee Commission, January 15, 2021

A Journey of Hope: Haitian Women’s Migration to Tapachula, Mexico
Center for Gender and Refugee Studies, Instituto para las Mujeres en la Migración, Haitian Bridge Alliance, January 2021
“This is the experience of a Haitian woman living in Tapachula, Mexico, where she and thousands like her have voyaged through seven to eleven different countries, ei- ther via Brazil or Chile after fleeing Haiti, only to find themselves isolated, unsup- ported and marginalized in profound ways. A city near the border with Guatemala, Tapachula is an in-between place for Haitian migrants as they wait for their papers to travel elsewhere, some aiming to seek asylum in the United States.”

Roadmap to Recovery
HIAS, January 2021
“The following recommendations outline actions the new administration should take before asylum seekers can enter the United States, how asylum seekers should enter the United States, and what procedures should occur after asylum seekers enter the United States to remedy the harm they suffered under the Trump administration’s policies. The report also includes recommendations for longer-term actions to eliminate discriminatory asylum regulations and policies in the future. There is an urgency to these recommendations. While measures must be in place to ensure an orderly process, every day that MPP remains is another day that thousands are subjected to danger and violence.”

20 years since the earthquakes in El Salvador and thousands of TPS holders still live in limbo, but they continue fighting for permanent protection
Alianza Americas, January 13, 2021
“On this day we remember the thousands of people whose lives changed forever due to the devastating earthquakes of 2001. We keep in our thoughts those who lost their lives, those who were forcibly displaced, and the thousands of Salvadorans who lost their homes, their jobs, and their livelihoods. This is also an important day to continue advocating for permanent solutions for the thousands of Salvadorans living in the United States of America who are protected by the Temporary Protected Status program (TPS).”

Praying for Hand Soap and Masks
Katherine Peeler, Caroline Lee, Nishant Uppal, et. al., Physicians for Human Rights, January 12, 2021
“Given the lack of transparent data and the severe health risks in congregate settings caused by the pandemic, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) staff and Harvard Medical School faculty and students sought to document conditions experienced by people recently released from U.S. immigration detention. From July 13 to October 3, 2020, the research team conducted 50 interviews of immigrants formerly detained by ICE using a standardized questionnaire covering 1) Demographics; 2) COVID-19 education; 3) Hygiene and sanitation measures; 4) COVID-19 testing and medical management; and 5) Protests and retaliation.”

Frontera Sur
El País, El Faro, enero de 2021
“El País y El Faro nos hemos unido para tratar de destripar este territorio y verterlo en relatos. Como parte de la alianza que iniciamos en abril para contar Centroamérica fuera de sus fronteras, durante los próximos seis meses equipos conjuntos de periodistas de los dos medios, más de 20 personas en total, trabajarán para desvelar las identidades, conflictos y preguntas que esconde esta zona, para narrarla por entregas y en múltiples formatos”.

* 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