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Migration News Brief for March 8, 2019

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Date: Mar 08, 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: Vox

Spotlight: International Women’s Day

Infographic: Sexual & Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) Against Central American Migrants
Latin America Working Group and Kids in Need of Defense, March 8, 2019

In honor of International Women’s Day, this infographic highlights the resilience of individuals and migrants facing sexual and gender-based violence at home in the Northern Triangle of Central America, in transit through Mexico, and at the U.S. southern border.

U.S. Enforcement

Why border crossings are at an 11-year high, explained in 500 words
Dara Lind, Vox, March 6, 2019

“Almost two-thirds of Border Patrol apprehensions are of parents and their children. While we don’t have complete historical data, it seems likely that more families are coming to the US without papers than ever before. Additionally, a large share of migrants (both families and single adults) are expressing a desire to seek asylum.”

Rep. Barragán’s heated exchange with Nielsen for her department’s treatment of asylum seekers
The Washington Post, March 6, 2019

“During a March 6 hearing on border security, Rep. Nanette Barragán (D-Calif.) had a heated exchange with Secretary of Homeland Security Kirsten Nielsen on how asylum seekers are being treated at the southern border.”

Guidelines ask agents to target Spanish speakers at border
Elliot Spagat, AP News, March 7, 2019

“The program initially applied only to those who turned themselves in at official border crossings. But a memo from a division chief of the Border Patrol’s San Diego sector says it expanded Friday to include people who cross the border illegally. The guidance includes instruction about various groups of immigrants who are not to be sent back to Mexico and instead go through the traditional asylum process in the U.S. immigration court system. They include pregnant women, LGBT migrants and people suffering medical issues. Authorities said previously that Mexican asylum seekers are excluded, as are children traveling alone.”

Source: Leaked Documents Show the U.S. Government Tracking Journalists and Immigration Advocates Through a Secret Database
Tom Jones, NBC 7 San Diego, March 6, 2019

“Now, documents leaked to NBC 7 Investigates show their fears weren’t baseless. In fact, their own government had listed their names in a secret database of targets, where agents collected information on them. Some had alerts placed on their passports, keeping at least three photojournalists and an attorney from entering Mexico to work. The documents were provided to NBC 7 by a Homeland Security source on the condition of anonymity, given the sensitive nature of what they were divulging.”

JPMorgan backs away from private prison finance
David Henry and Imani Moise, Reuters, March 5, 2019

“Prison finance is a small business for JPMorgan, the biggest bank in the United States by assets. JPMorgan was a leader in 1,153 loan deals worth $354 billion across all industries, according to Refinitiv data. Prison companies account for about 10 percent of federal and state prison beds, according to Moody’s Investors Service. But about two-thirds of people held by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement are in private detention centers, S&P Global Ratings estimated last year.”

Judge orders Trump administration to act on young Central American refugees left in limbo
Andrea Castillo, The Los Angeles Times, March 5, 2019
“A federal judge in San Francisco has ordered the Trump administration to resume processing the applications of more than 2,700 young Central Americans and family members who were left in limbo after the government abruptly ended a program designed to help them reunite with relatives in the United States.”

Trump policy that sends asylum seekers back to Mexico is about to be expanded to Texas
Alfredo Corchado, Dallas News, February 28, 2019

“The proposed policy, facing a lawsuit by the ACLU, is expected to take effect soon in other parts of California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas, according to sources, including U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-El Paso, who was earlier briefed by Customs and Border Protection officials and has been informing local leaders in the region.”

‘Remain in Mexico’: Trump’s quietly expanding crackdown on asylum seekers, explained
Dara Lind, Vox, March 5, 2019

“On Tuesday, according to multiple sources who were not authorized to speak to press, the US will return some asylum seekers to Mexico who had entered the US illegally, were apprehended by Border Patrol agents, and sought asylum. Since many more asylum seekers enter between ports of entry than are allowed to enter at official crossings, this could vastly expand the number of migrants forced to wait in Mexico under the new policy.”

Controversial ‘Remain in Mexico’ Policy for Asylum Applicants Headed to El Paso
Robert Moore, Texas Monthly, March 1, 2019

“Politico reported on Thursday that implementation of MPP could begin in El Paso on Friday, but officials in the conference call said such plans weren’t imminent. ‘I would just say obviously we’re looking at El Paso but at this point in time I’m unable to tell you when we would start at that location,’ another senior official said on the call, also on the condition of anonymity. Officials declined to identify other border cities being considered for what the administration initially called the ‘remain in Mexico’ policy.”

Mexico frets over U.S. plans to take divisive asylum policy to new cities
Lizbeth Diaz, Reuters, March 1, 2019

“The head of Mexico’s National Immigration Institute (INM), Tonatiuh Guillen, warned Mexico’s border cities would struggle to look after vulnerable asylum seekers for long periods.[…] The government of Ciudad Juarez said on Feb. 19 that U.S. border officials had told it that an average of 10 asylum seekers per day would be sent back to the city within two weeks, and would be expected to remain there for three to four months.”

Border at ‘Breaking Point’ as More than 76,000 Unauthorized Migrants Cross in a Month
Caitlin Dickerson, The New York Times, March 5, 2019

“More than 76,000 migrants crossed the border without authorization in February, an 11-year high and a strong sign that stepped-up prosecutions, new controls on asylum and harsher detention policies have not reversed what remains a powerful lure for thousands of families fleeing violence and poverty.”

Border Patrol Facilities Put Detainees With Medical Conditions at Risk
Sheri Fink and Caitlin Dickerson, The New York Times, March 5, 2019

“Six adults died in C.B.P. custody in the fiscal year ending in October, at least three of whom had a medical emergency shortly after being apprehended. Another, who had serious chronic diseases and was hospitalized, died from health complications last month. In December, two migrant children — Jakelin Caal Maquin, 7, and Felipe Gómez Alonzo, 8 — died within three weeks of each other after showing signs of illness while being held and transported by Border Patrol agents in Texas and New Mexico.”

Ankle bracelets, court hearings, no work, homelessness: This is what Mexican asylum seekers face in the U.S.
Rebecca Plevin and Omar Ornelas, Desert Sun, March 3, 2019

“The Desert Sun followed three women from Guerrero — Evelia, Rosa and Romina — through different parts of the asylum process. Their experiences provide a glimpse into how the process works behind the gates of migrant shelters and detention centers and the closed doors of immigration courts. ”

A Mother and Daughter Both Have H.I.V. The U.S. Lets in Only One.
Beth Fertig, The New York Times, March 6, 2019

“[…]A mother and a daughter with virtually identical circumstances try to immigrate to the United States. Each has an interview with an asylum officer that could alter their lives forever. One persuades her interviewer that returning to Honduras was too dangerous; she enters the country to pursue an asylum claim. The other, an 18-year-old, fails that same test. As a result, she is separated from her only family and sent back, alone, to an environment where she feels threatened every day.”

‘You Have to Pay With Your Body’: The Hidden Nightmare of Sexual Violence on the Border
Manny Fernandez, The New York Times, March 3, 2019

“The stories are many, and yet all too similar. Undocumented women making their way into American border towns have been beaten for disobeying smugglers, impregnated by strangers, coerced into prostitution, shackled to beds and trees and — in at least a handful of cases — bound with duct tape, rope or handcuffs.”

Democrats to reintroduce Dream Act on March 12 with TPS and DED protections
Lindsey McPherson, Roll Call, February 28, 2019

“The rollout of Roybal-Allard’s legislation next month will also feature Pelosi and other party leaders along with New York Reps. Nydia M. Velázquez and Yvette D. Clarke, the other lead sponsors of the bill, according to Roybal-Allard’s office. ”

‘No More Deaths’ Volunteers Face Possible Jail Time For Aiding Migrants
Joel Rose, NPR, February 28, 2019

“Four of the group’s volunteers were convicted of misdemeanors after leaving water and other supplies in the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge near Ajo, Ariz. They face up to six months in jail. At their trial last month, prosecutors accused the volunteers of giving ‘false hope’ to migrants.”

Infants as young as 5 months old are being detained by ICE, groups claim
Kate Smith, CBS News, February 28, 2019

“The advocacy groups alleged the infants have been subject to ‘lengthy delays in receiving medical attention and lack of appropriate follow-up treatment.’ They said one infant has been detained for over 20 days.”

2,800 mexicanos murieron tratando de cruzar la frontera con EU, en los últimos 10 años
Animal Politico, 1 de marzo de 2019

“Sin embargo, el estudio señala que los 2 mil 837 casos registrados no son el total de personas migrantes que han muerto por cruzar la frontera, pues no existen reportes acerca de los cuerpos que son encontrados por agentes no fronterizos o civiles, que podrían estar relacionados con este fenómeno”.

Mexican Enforcement

Trump’s Surprising New Ally in Mexico? The Government
Azam Ahmed and Kirk Semple, The New York Times, March 1, 2019

“Officials inside the administration of Mexico’s new president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, have called his stance on migrants a strategic decision not to anger President Trump. He doesn’t believe he can change Mr. Trump’s mind, they contend. Furthermore, the officials say, Mr. López Obrador has not wanted to jeopardize other aspects of the deeply interconnected relationship between the two countries, ranging from elaborate regional trading arrangements to information sharing on border security, transnational crime and terrorism. So he has avoided a bruising and potentially costly public fight over the issue.”

Definen hoy si extranjeros esperarán aquí asilo en EU
Hérika Martínez Prado, El Diario mx, 1 de marzo  de 2019

“Hasta la tarde de ayer sumaban 5 mil 639 migrantes los que habían ingresado por esta frontera a través del puente internacional Paso del Norte, a solicitar el asilo político en Estados Unidos, y aunque hace unos días en una reunión que sostuvieron los tres niveles de gobierno con la Oficina de Aduanas y Protección Fronteriza (CBP, por sus siglas en inglés), se les dijo que a partir de la próxima semana comenzarán a retornar a 10 migrantes no mexicanos diariamente a Ciudad Juárez, hoy se verán todos los detalles”.

Lanzan operativo en frontera sur
Edgar Hernández, Reforma, 4 de marzo de 2019

“Fuerzas federales y locales lanzaron este lunes el operativo Costa Chiapas para combatir el tráfico de drogas, el robo de combustible y a la Mara Salvatrucha”.

Root Causes

Trump Is Sending Guns South as Migrants Flee North
Alex Yablon, Foreign Policy, March 8, 2019

“Photos published in the Miami Herald showed officers shooting some protesters in the back. They also revealed something else: The troops were using U.S.-made M4 rifles, the military version of the AR-15. The United States provides more small arms and ammunition to Central America than any other country does. The market in the region expanded steadily during former President Barack Obama’s time in office and appears set to increase under President Donald Trump as well, according to customs data collected by the United Nations Comtrade program.”

Honduran prosecutors allege fraud in dam project
AP News, March 4, 2019

“Honduran prosecutors working with an anti-corruption mission from the Organization of American States say that 16 former government officials and ex-representatives of the dam’s developer Desarrollos Energeticos, DESA, could face fraud-related charges.”

Another Month in Honduras…
Daniel Langmeier, Honduras Forum Switzerland, February 2019

“Four human rights defenders violently lost their lives in February in Honduras, two of them should have benefited from special protection measures granted by the IACHR. Instead of promoting the security of HRDs, the JOH regime continues to criminalize them and announced an increase in state security forces – the source of over 20 still not prosecuted assassinations between November 2017 and January 2018. The former president Pepe Lobo, whose son is in a US prison and whose wife is accused of corruption, now himself faces corruption charges.”

Bachelet urges El Salvador´s legislators to refrain from reinstating amnesty for serious human rights violations
Press Release from Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, March 6, 2019

“UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Wednesday warned that a draft National Reconciliation Law under discussion in El Salvador´s Legislative Assembly would in effect reinstate an ‘absolute and unconditional amnesty’ for some of the most serious human rights violations committed in El Salvador during the 1980-1992 armed conflict.”

Human rights groups warn of proposed amnesty in El Salvador
AP News, March 6, 2019

“Human rights defenders are warning that legislation being debated in El Salvador’s Legislative Assembly would establish an absolute amnesty for those who committed serious crimes during the country’s armed conflict in the 1980s and early 1990s.”

Central Americans confront amnesty for war crimes
Sandra Cuffe, Al Jazeera, March 6, 2019

“In Guatemala, a bill to reform the National Reconciliation Law passed in the wake of the 1996 peace accords is making its way through a divided congress. The second of three readings of the amnesty bill took place on Wednesday, sparking passionate interventions on both sides… In neighbouring El Salvador, a similar legislative initiative is the subject of growing controversy. An ad hoc commission of politicians is working on a draft bill to grant amnesty to perpetrators of war crimes.”

Honduras: MACCIH Still Trying
Aída Romero Jiménez, AULA Blog, February 22, 2019

“MACCIH, the OAS-sponsored mission to support the fight against corruption and impunity in Honduras, continues to investigate cases but with a lower profile than one year ago– and under growing political pressure… MACCIH’s progress in fulfilling its mission makes it vulnerable to attack and, possibly, non-renewal when its mandate expires in January 2020.”

They don’t want to go: How these Guatemalans avoid heading north to the U.S.
Alfredo Corchado, Dallas News, March 2, 2019

“‘I see the television images of my countrymen, humiliating themselves, alongside their children and I refuse to be one of them,’ said Barahona, 31, a bootmaker for the past 17 years. He was referring to the rising number of Guatemalan families heading north and turning themselves into U.S. authorities in the hopes of obtaining political asylum. ‘We may not seem like much here, but all we need is an opportunity to put food on the table. I make boots.’ He prefers to see Guatemalan boots head north, where they are worn, among other places, in North Texas. And he wants more opportunity for his countrymen so they can stay at home.”

Ruthless cartel violence drives a wave of Mexican asylum seekers. This family lost a son and fled
Rebecca Plevin and Omar Ornelas, Desert Sun, March 4, 2019

“In the months after Leonel’s death, Alfredo came to a realization. ‘We decided to leave, before anything worse happened to us,’ Alfredo said. ‘We had seen, with other families, that if you say something, they will destroy everyone.’ Alfredo knew where to go: The United States, where he had lived and worked without authorization on and off for six years in the late 1990s and early 2000s. On his first trip, he picked asparagus and cherries in California’s Central Valley. On later trips, he worked in plant nurseries and on Christmas tree farms in Oregon.”

3rd Anniversary of Berta Cáceres Murder in Honduras: Downward Spiral and Hope
Gregory Wilpert, The Real News Network, March 3, 2019

“The murder trial of environmental and indigenous activist Berta Cáceres leaves many issues unresolved. Meanwhile, the human rights situation in Honduras has been getting worse, even as Berta continues to inspire activists with her example.”

INFOGRAPHICS / Berta Cáceres: chronology of a political feminicide
Mesoamerican Initiative of Women Human Rights Defenders, March 1, 2019

Multimedia website that provides content on women human rights defenders in Mesoamerica.

Actions, Resources, and Reports

Negative Consequences of Ending Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for U.S. Investments in El Salvador and Honduras
Latin America Working Group, March 5, 2019

Read LAWG’s briefing points on the impacts of ending TPS for U.S. investments in El Salvador and Honduras.

Myth vs Fact: Refugees Seeking Protection at the US Southern Border
Women’s Refugee Commission

Women’s Refugee Commission released a fact sheet debunking myths of refugees at the U.S. southern border.

Informe de situación – Programa de Retorno Voluntario Asistido para las caravanas migrantes (22 febrero 2019)
Oficina Regional para Centroamérica, Norteamérica y el Caribe

“El programa de retorno voluntario asistido de la OIM tiene como objetivo lograr el retorno voluntario, ordenado y humano de los migrantes que no pueden o no quieren permanecer en sus países de tránsito o destino y desean regresar voluntariamente a su país de origen. Desde el 4 de noviembre de 2018, la OIM ha brindado asistencia de retorno voluntario a 1079 personas, de las cuales 48 son niños, niñas y adolescentes migrantes no acompañados”.

50 Civil Society Organizations and Experts Join Calls for Continued U.S. Funding of Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, March 1, 2019

“The call comes as the U.S. State Department considers curtailing funding for the IACHR, upon a request made by nine senators on December 21st, 2018. The undersigned organizations are extremely concerned that cutting or eliminating US funding would put the IACHR at a severe disadvantage in uplifting core values in the American Hemisphere—democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.”

Protecting Migrants, Defending Rights: New Website Features Interviews with Activists, Faith Leaders, and Academics Responding to This Humanitarian Emergency Across the Americas
Hemispheric Institute, March 1, 2019

The Hemispheric Institute at New York University is proud to announce the launch of the Ecologies of Migrant Care website. This digital platform features interviews with migrants, activists, faith leaders, journalists, academics, and others working transnationally to demand and defend the rights of migrants and refugees across the Americas. Along with nearly 100 interviews recorded in Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador, Mexico, and the United States, and translated into English and Spanish, the site also contains photo galleries, artistic interventions, news updates, and additional materials, including teaching resources and other items.


*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.