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Migration News Brief for July 31 – August 7, 2020

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Migration News Brief for August 7, 2020 

Source: LAWG Intern/Box

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.

PS – We will be taking a two week break so stay tuned for more updates! 


Defending Tomorrow
Global Witness, July 29, 2020
“For years, land and environmental defenders have been the first line of defense against climate breakdown. Yet despite clearer evidence than ever of the crucial role they play, far too many businesses, financiers and governments fail to safeguard their vital and peaceful work. Our annual report into the killings of land and environmental defenders in 2019 shows the highest number yet have been murdered in a single year.”



Virus-hit prisons still full of human rights defenders, as attacks continue
Amnesty International USA, August 6, 2020
“Governments who were lauded for releasing prisoners in response to COVID-19 outbreaks have excluded human rights defenders from the measures and continue to make new arrests of activists, journalists and critics, Amnesty International said today.”

Averting a Coronavirus-Induced Ethnocide in Latin America
Stephanie Burgos, OXFAM, August 5, 2020
“The effects of the health and economic crisis caused by the pandemic are further exacerbating the structural inequalities and social exclusion long suffered by the indigenous population in Latin America. They now face the pandemic in conditions of racism and discrimination, a result of historical inequalities and extreme precariousness in basic health and social services.”

Latin America coronavirus death toll surges past 200,000
Marco Aquino, Reuters, August 2, 2020
“Apart from the United States, Brazil and Mexico have racked up more fatalities from the virus than any other country and together they account for around 70% of the regional death toll. Both have struggled to balance the need to curb the spread of the virus with restrictive safety measures while trying to reopen the economies which have been battered by the crisis.”

Latin America is Facing a ‘Decline of Democracy’ Under the Pandemic
Anatoly Kurmanaev, New York Times, July 29, 2020
“The gradual undermining of democratic rules during an economic crisis and public health catastrophe could leave Latin America primed for slower growth and an increase in corruption and human rights abuses, experts warned. This is particularly true in places where political rights and accountability were already in steep decline.”

United States

There’s Been A Major Increase in the Use of Force Against Immigrants at ICE Detention Centers During the Pandemic
Hamed Aleaziz, Buzzfeed News, August 5, 2020
“Jail guards pepper-sprayed the units as immigrants lay down on the ground, screaming and coughing. The officers shot pepper ball rounds that ricocheted off jail tables, broken pieces striking a detainee’s eye. Fumes lingered in the air and made it hard for the detainees to breathe.”

Trump’s Public Charge Rule Is Blocked Again Over Impact of COVID-19
Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, Immigration Impact, July 30, 2020
“A federal judge in New York has once again put the Trump administration’s “public charge” rule on hold, but only for the duration of the COVID-19 national emergency. This rule, which went into effect in February after the Supreme Court stepped in, has restricted the ability of low-income immigrants to obtain green cards. But it’s also sent fear through immigrant communities across the country, a fact that led to a new order blocking the rule for now.”


Guatemala supera los 54 mil casos de coronavirus y se registran otros 835 contagios
Oscar Garcia, Prensa Libre, 6 de agosto de 2020
“El primer caso de coronavirus en Guatemala fue reportado el 13 de marzo recién pasado y a la fecha 2 mil 119 personas han fallecido por este virus. La cantidad de casos recuperados estimados es de 42 mil 70; mientras que la cifra de casos activos estimados es de 10 mil 150. Según Salud, en las últimas horas se efectuaron 3 mil 483 pruebas para detectar coronavirus. Los datos de esta última actualización corresponden al 5 de agosto de las cero a las 23.59 horas.”

Giammattei afirma que ahora el coronavirus en Guatemala “ya es problema de la gente”
Irving Escobar, Prensa Libre, 6 de agosto de 2020
“El presidente Alejandro Giammattei dijo este 6 de agosto, a 146 días del inicio de la emergencia sanitaria, que el coronavirus ‘ya es problema de la gente’, la cual ‘si se quieren cuidar, se cuidan’. En reunión con varios alcaldes para discutir temas de construcción de obras municipales, Giammattei habló sobre la pandemia y que desde la Presidencia ‘ya está saliendo’ del tema del coronavirus para ocuparse de otras atribuciones del Gobierno.”

Coronavirus en Guatemala: Ipala amanece con comercios cerrados y prohibiciones de locomoción
Miguel Barrientos Castañeda, Prensa Libre, 5 de agosto de 2020
“Las medidas prohíben el funcionamiento de comercios, a excepción de los que ofrecen artículos y servicios de necesidad básica, como farmacias o ventas de alimentos y abarrotes. También está prohibido el tránsito y permanencia de personas en áreas verdes del municipio, como en parques municipales, plazas y bulevar principal. Las autoridades resaltaron que las personas pueden movilizarse libremente hacia sus trabajos y actividades diversas que se llevan a cabo en el municipio.”


The newest way to silence journalists: Jail them during a pandemic
Jason Rezaian, The Washington Post, August 3, 2020
“Mohamed Monir in Egypt, David Romero in Honduras and Azimjon Askarov in Kyrgyzstan came from very different parts of the world. But each had spent his life expressing dissent and criticism in places where doing so invited great personal risk. Their avoidable deaths drive home the point that no other event or political trend in recent memory has been more destructive to press freedom than the covid-19 pandemic. Keeping journalists in prison or arresting them for covering current events has radically different implications in the current health crisis. Detainees are far more likely to get ill or even die due to a lack of adequate care.”

Cierre de la economía ya no es opción, dice Umaña que pide más triajes y aplicación de PCR
Proceso Digital, 2 de agosto de 2020
“Igualmente mencionó que los casos reales de coronavirus rondan más de 70 mil y no los 42 mil 600 de los registros oficiales. Lamentó que haya escasez de pruebas rápidas para detectar COVID. “Esto desnuda la capacidad operativa de Sinager y la triste realidad del país”, cuestionó. Umaña reconoció que existe en estos momentos una meseta de casos en las principales ciudades del país: San Pedro Sula y Tegucigalpa, lo que no significa que haya bajado la enfermedad porque la ocupación hospitalaria se mantiene en 90 por ciento.”


Coronavirus surprise: Remittances to Mexico rise during pandemic
Kevin Sieff, The Washington Post, August 6, 2020
“It was an intuitive prediction, supported by virtually every expert who had studied the subject: As the coronavirus pandemic caused the global economy to tumble, remittances to Mexico and Central America would crash. It turns out the forecast was wrong. Instead of collapsing, remittances to Mexico were up year-over-year in five of the first six months of 2020. In June, payments to El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras also increased compared to the same period in 2019, after a dip earlier this year.”

Mexico Strives to Combat Growing Food Insecurity amid Pandemic
The Latin America Herald Tribune, August, 2020
“Millions of people have been plunged into extreme poverty by the coronavirus crisis in Mexico, where a relief organization is combating a burgeoning hunger problem by providing food and nutritional advice to the neediest. Official figures released prior to the pandemic indicated that over 40 percent of the population – or more than 53 million people – stood below the poverty line.”

U.S. Enforcement

Appeals Court Blocks Immigrant Wealth Test in the Northeast
Zolan Kanno-Youngs, The New York Times, August 4, 2020
“A federal appeals court on Tuesday blocked the Trump administration’s efforts to deny permanent residency to legal immigrants who make even limited use of public benefits like Medicaid, food stamps or housing vouchers, but restricted the injunction to New York, Connecticut and Vermont.cThe 114-page ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed an earlier decision from October of last year.”

Migrants at ICE detention centers are sitting ducks because of an inhumane policy
Editorial Board, The Washington Post, August 4, 2020
“COVID-19 HAS exploded at migrant detention centers nationwide, infecting detainees and employees alike and seeding the disease aboard deportation flights to countries ill-equipped to respond, especially in Latin America. The facilities, run by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, are petri dishes of contagion, and the residents — many of whom have no serious criminal record — are sitting ducks in the crosshairs of an inhumane policy. A federal judge has ordered the release of migrant children at two ICE family detention centers in Texas and one in Pennsylvania, having found them at risk to the virus and to spotty enforcement of safety measures.”

Federal agents are expelling asylum seekers as young as 8 months from the border, citing COVID-19 risks
Lomi Kriel, The Texas Tribune, August 4, 2020
“Similar actions have played out along the border for months under an emergency health order the Trump administration issued in March. Citing the threat of COVID-19, it granted federal agents sweeping powers to almost immediately return anyone at the border, including infants as young as 8 months. Children are typically entitled to special protections under the law, including the right to have their asylum claims adjudicated by a judge.”

Her Rapist Threatened to Make Her “Disappear.” Instead of Asylum, ICE Put Her in a Hotel and Sent Her Back.
Lomi Kriel, ProPublica, August 3, 2020
“Thousands of migrant children — including babies — have been expelled by the Trump administration since March. Some have been held in hotels without access to lawyers or family. Advocates say many are now “virtually impossible” to find…Citing the threat of COVID-19, it granted federal agents sweeping powers to almost immediately return anyone at the border, including infants as young as 8 months. Children are typically entitled to special protections under the law, including the right to have their asylum claims adjudicated by a judge.”

Trump order aims to curb US agencies’ use of foreign workers
Brett Samuels, The Hill, August 3, 2020
President Trump on Monday signed an executive order aimed at blocking U.S. agencies from outsourcing jobs to foreign workers, a move partly sparked by outrage among some conservatives over outsourcing plans from the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). The order specifically targets the use of H-1B visas and requires federal agencies to prioritize hiring U.S. residents and green card holders before outsourcing contract jobs to foreign workers. The Department of Labor will also finalize guidance to prevent employers from moving H-1B workers to job sites that would displace American workers.”

Border Patrol raids migrant aid camp in Arivaca
Curt Pendergast, Arizona Daily Star, August 1, 2020
“Border Patrol agents in an armored vehicle, two helicopters, and two-dozen vehicles raided a migrant aid camp near Arivaca Friday evening, detaining more than 30 migrants and seizing the phones of volunteers, No More Deaths volunteers said Saturday. “For two hours, in darkness, they detained and chased people receiving care while a Border Patrol cameraman filmed the scene,” according to a news release Saturday from No More Deaths, a Tucson-based humanitarian aid group that has worked in the deserts of Southern Arizona since 2004.”

The cost of becoming a U.S. citizen just went up drastically. And asylum is no longer free
Daniel Shoer Roth, The Miami Herald, July 31, 2020
“The Trump administration announced on Friday an exorbitant increase in fees for some of the most common immigration procedures, including an 81% increase in the cost of U.S. citizenship for naturalization. It will also now charge asylum-seekers, which is an unprecedented move. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published on Friday a final rule in the Federal Register that details the new cost for dozens of immigration and naturalization applications, a further change in immigration policy to curb legal immigration of low-income foreign nationals.”

Lured to America — then trapped
Suzy Kim, Daniella Silva, NBC News, July 29, 2020
“As the H-2A program has expanded, it has left more guest workers vulnerable to abuse, an NBC News investigation has found. Over the course of six months, NBC News visited more than a dozen H-2A sites in Georgia and North Carolina; interviewed dozens of H-2A workers, labor advocates, industry leaders and former labor officials; and reviewed hundreds of pages of court documents.”

Mexican Enforcement

Se cumplen medidas sanitarias en estaciones migratorias: INM
Fabiola Martinez, La Jornada, 6 de agosto de 2020
“El Instituto Nacional de Migración (INM) dijo que en todo momento ha cumplido con las medidas sanitarias ante el Covid-19 y, en ese sentido, rechazó el reporte de grupos civiles acerca de un desacato judicial en el trato a las personas alojadas en las estaciones del organismo. Dijo que no tiene, a la fecha, el registro de algún caso de contagio de COVID-19 entre la población migrante alojada en estaciones migratorias o estancias provisionales.”

22 mil 192 personas buscan asilo en México: COMAR
La Razón, 5 de agosto de 2020
“La Comisión Mexicana de Ayuda al Refugiado (COMAR) reportó que, de enero a julio de 2020, se tiene registro de 22 mil 192 personas que han solicitado su condición de refugio o asilo en el país. El titular de la dependencia, Andrés Ramírez informó que tras los primeros siete meses del año 4 mil 431 niños, niñas y adolescentes han solicitado la condición de refugiado en México de los cuales, 438 no son acompañados. El total de menores representó el 19.97 por ciento del total de solicitantes. “En el 2019, este porcentaje fue de 27.23 por ciento”, destacó en sus redes”.

Root Causes

Death of a transgender asylum seeker in Guatemala highlights increased risk in protection needs for LGBTI community
UNHCR, August 6, 2020
“UNHCR urges states to bring to justice those responsible for crimes against people on the basis of their gender and sexual orientation while taking decisive steps to prevent future crimes of this nature. In El Salvador, three policemen were sentenced to 20 years in prison last week for the murder of Camila Díaz Córdova. This is the first ever conviction in El Salvador in a homicide of a transgender person.”

US charges ex-Guatemala economy chief with money laundering
AP News, August 5, 2020
“The U.S. The Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida alleges that Acisclo Valladares Urruela helped to launder nearly $10 million in ill-gotten money between 2014 and 2018. His alleged co-conspirators included a drug trafficker, a corrupt politician and a back employee.”

David Castillo, an intellectual author of the crime against Berta Cáceres, would be released due to delaying actions of his defense and expiration of the pretrial detention.
COPINH, August 2, 2020
“David Castillo, one of the intellectual authors of Berta Cáceres’ assassination, was captured on March 2, 2018. His pretrial detention expires on September 2, 2020, after two and a half years in which the Honduran justice system has not carried out the corresponding trial. This delay is due to the dilatory actions developed by Castillo’s defense as part of a strategy to delay the judicial process and take advantage of this time to influence decisions that allow impunity. This with the permissiveness of the authorities of the judiciary. The actions of Castillo’s defense seek to end preventative detention and release him.”

Al menos 16 personas LGBTI han muerto de forma violenta durante el 2020
Criterio.hn, 1 de agosto de 2020

“Las muertes violentas de personas LGBTI en Honduras siguen incrementándose. Hasta julio de 2020 se registraron 16 asesinatos de la diversidad sexual, situación que ha generado preocupación en las organizaciones que defienden los derechos de estos grupos en Honduras. Ocho homosexuales, siete mujeres transexuales y una lesbiana han sido asesinados en este 2020. Solo en julio, tres personas LGBTI perdieron la vida. La primera fue la abogada transexual Monic Martínez (44), quien fue apuñalada en el baño de su hogar en la colonia Centroamérica de Comayagüela el sábado 25 de julio del 2020, según información del Ministerio Público”.

El Salvador police sentenced in nation’s first trans murder convictions
Oscar Lopez, Reuters, July 31, 2020
“A court in El Salvador has sentenced three police officers to 20-year prison sentences for the murder of a transgender woman, the nation’s first convictions in a homicide case involving a trans victim. The verdict was a welcome development in the conservative Central American country, where gay and trans people face rampant discrimination and abuse, rights supporters said. A sentencing tribunal in the capital of San Salvador convicted the three officers of aggravated homicide this week for the killing of trans woman Camila Diaz in January 2019, according to the attorney general’s office.”

Actions, Alerts, and Resources

Daring to Stand Up for Human Rights in a Pandemic
Amnesty International USA, August 7, 2020
“Despite the important and necessary work human rights defenders do all over the world, Amnesty International has documented scores of different attacks on those who defend human rights since the outbreak of COVID-19 in early 2020. Many states around the world including those who have long advocated for the protection of human rights, have targeted human rights defenders and other critical voices who have spoken up against their handling of the public health crisis.”

 July 2020 & YTD #ICEAIR #DeathFlights
Witness at the Border, August 4, 2020
“In the midst of the global pandemic ICE Air continues to initiate and facilitate the seeding, spreading, and exporting of COVID within the US web of 200 detention centers and to other countries through a total of 2,808 likely ICE Air flights including 1,760 domestic flights, and 536 deportation flights to 15 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.”

DACA Supreme Court Case Summary & Practice Update
Immigration Legal Resource Center (ILRC), August 4, 2020
“On July 28, 2020, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) instructed U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to reject all initial DACA applications, reject advance parole applications from DACA recipients except in exceptional circumstances, and shorten the DACA renewal and work authorization period from two years to one year. In this practice update, we provide background on DHS’ new announcement, what this means moving forward, and what advocates can do now, and other takeaways from this announcement.”

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