Walls and Bridges: Del Rio and immigration policy in the age of spectacle

We live in a global society of spectacle. Capitalism in its latest stage is fueled by the production of the imaginary. Business, activism, and politics are all played out in virtual spaces, while the world we physically live in becomes experienced primarily in reference to images; the more spectacular, the more entertaining, or the more shocking, the more engaged we become. 

In this society of the spectacle, immigration policy has been turned into an absurdity, almost entirely divorced from the world. It is difficult to assemble and respond to all of the ways in which immigration policy is an illogical manifestation of an obsession with spectacle. However, we can look at the situation unfolding in Del Rio, Texas as a start.

Over the last week, we are told that up to 14,000 people have crossed the Rio Grande and are now under a bridge between the river and the Del Rio port of entry. While the people under the bridge come from all over the world, the media is focused primarily on Haitian migrants who make up the largest portion.

The media circus that has resulted is what one would expect with people in a desperate situation, crowded, overheated, without access to sufficient sanitation and so on.

Republicans line up to denounce Biden for being too lenient, using the people under the bridge as a backdrop.

Democrats assure everyone that they do not support an open border, and to make that point, have begun to deport people to Haiti at a pace unheard of even during the nadir of the Trump administration.

It is a spectacle to be sure. So, just to clarify:

The Bridge

The people who are under the bridge in Del Rio crossed the river at a port of entry. They are not “illegal” immigrants; they are seeking authorized admittance into the United States.

More to the point, for those seeking asylum, under US law they have a legal right to do so once inside the United States, no matter how they arrived.

Through the end of August, Haitians made up less than 1.8% of all CBP encounters so far this fiscal year.

Del Rio has become the sector where folk from Haiti (as well as Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela and elsewhere) have increasingly attempted entry. 

At the Del Rio crossing, the percent of people encountered who are Haitian is thus higher than the national average—but still a small portion of the 251,000 people encountered in the sector.

In other words, the scene at the bridge has nothing to do with border crossing trends seen in recent months—and one must wonder why it is now that a crisis is declared and that Haitians are the face of it. 

To Republicans hand wringing over conditions, a reminder that two years ago the bridge was in El Paso, and the conditions were allowed to ferment for months under a Republican president.

To Biden, note that the horrible treatment meted out to the migrants in 2019 did not stop people from coming. Their desperation outweighs our cruelty. Sending 3 to 4 deportation flights to Haiti a day will not solve anything.

This is not a crisis born of leniency from the Biden administration.

The Wall

That right to seek asylum has been set aside under a public health order issued by the CDC in March of 2020. The public health disaster unfolding under that bridge is the result of this CDC order.

The reason? Under this public health order, which is referred to as “Title 42,” people are denied access to asylum except under a very narrowly read provision regarding request for protection under the Convention Against Torture.

Operational guidelines from DHS on implementing this order require that people be removed immediately through expulsion to the country from which they arrived.

Haitians, Venezuelans, Cubans, and others cannot be so removed—Mexico will not accept them. And so they are stuck between a river they cannot cross back over, and a port of entry where, with few exceptions, they will not be processed for any other reason than expulsion under Title 42.

Biden never halted deportations to Haiti, and he never made a public commitment to do so, despite being pressed to do this by members of Congress, human rights organizations, and others. There was a brief pause in removal flights following the assassination of President Moïse, and another after the earthquake in August. 

Deportation flights to Haiti had already resumed last week before the situation under the bridge in Del Rio blew up in the media.

Biden has continued to enforce Title 42, and has sent his emissaries far and wide with a simple message to people from Haiti and Cuba, to Guatemala and Honduras – DO NOT COME!

Far from being too soft, Biden has summarily expelled far more people than Trump during his last year in office—and though this is certainly the result of an increase in migration, the policies themselves have hardly changed.

The Migrant Protection Protocol was ended briefly—but MPP had already become marginal compared to the scale of Title 42 expulsions. Now, a court is forcing Biden to reinstate MPP.

Conditions

There is a tremendous amount of information in the media about the situation in Haiti – a political crisis, a spike in violence, the earthquake and its impacts, and an ongoing crisis of food insecurity made worse by all of the above.

More spectacle.

The Biden administration is well aware of all of this. For these reasons, his administration re-designated Haiti for Temporary Protected Status in July. TPS does not cover anyone under that bridge right now, and does not mean that deportations to Haiti were halted. TPS is not automatic.

Amidst the spectacle, what is not talked about is the grassroots movement for democratic reform in Haiti, and how the United States under both Trump and Biden have set aside the concerns of this movement and their proposals for solutions.

Amidst the spectacle, what is not talked about is the movement against violence from Haitian activists and civil society. A movement manifested in multiple strategies from longstanding intentional work against gender-based violence to impromptu protests against kidnappings. 

Amidst the spectacle, what is also not talked about is how weapons fueling this violence are almost all from the United States – which has not only failed to address, in any meaningful way, gun control within its borders, but refuses to address the US gun industries’ complicity in fomenting violence throughout the Americas.

The problem is not that the United States doesn’t care about what happens in Haiti. The problem is that the US government cares about the wrong things.

“The poorest….”

Every newspaper article about Haiti references the fact that Haiti is the “poorest country in the western hemisphere.” But almost none of those articles will mention the US colonization of Haiti from 1915 to 1934, the system of pillage therein established, and how the United States maintained that system of pillage by sponsoring dictatorship for decades. 

Rarely will these accounts mention the “independence” debt, whereby France demanded reparations for the lands and the human beings formerly treated as property by French colonists. If this is mentioned at all, never will the follow-up be how the National City Bank of New York assumed that debt in a process engineered by the US State Department, or that this debt was not paid off to the National City Bank of New York until 1947.

Articles never mention how multilateral lenders strangled the elected governments of René Préval and Jean-Bertrand Aristide, only to then funnel hundreds of millions of dollars to the US-installed regime of Gérard Latortue, and the PHTK governments under Martelly and Moïse – both elected, but in processes widely viewed as illegitimate and dominated by US pressure.

In other words, Haiti’s impoverishment is the direct result of 100 years of United States government interference and pillage. Haiti surely has many internal contradictions and tremendous inequality as a result of this. Yet, the biggest obstacle to democracy in Haiti remains the US government.

Continue Reading

President Biden re-starts deportations to Haiti

Screenshot of iAero Flight 3540, San Antonio to Port au Prince, September 15

September 14 marked one month since a devastating earthquake struck the southern peninsula of Haiti, leaving over 2,200 people dead and 137,000 homes damaged or destroyed. On September 15, the Biden administration marked the passing of the month by deporting dozens of families, including infants and young children to Haiti. Though not particularly surprising, I certainly share my colleagues’ disgust with this blatant disregard for the well being of the people involved.

The flight on September 15 came after an appeal organized by the Haitian Bridge Alliance, and signed by 344 organizations, including Human Rights Watch, the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti and yours truly at the Quixote Center, calling on the administration to halt all removal flights to Haiti. Over 40 members of Congress issued their own call to the administration to halt removals to Haiti. There have been multiple such appeals over the last two years. 

On September 15 we got our answer, the same answer we always get, which is basically “f*ck off, we’re sending the flights anyway.”

To be clear, the situation in the southern departments of Nippes, Grand Anse and Sud remains critical. While a number of larger NGOs have landed and taken photos in and around Les Cayes to promote their work in funding appeals, communities throughout the three departments hit worst by the quake have seen very little outside help.

Though community members themselves have organized, alongside Haitian professionals, doctors and more, who have created volunteer brigades that are beginning to reach people, the international non-governmental sector is looking much like it did back in 2010 – preening for cameras and sucking all the oxygen (and funding) out of the relief efforts. The government of Haiti’s agency for coordinating relief efforts estimates that only 46% of the 650,000 people in need of assistance have received “some kind” of humanitarian relief – most of those clustered in larger cities. Meanwhile, hundreds of millions of dollars is being pledged

Violence in Martissant continues to impact the delivery of assistance, while also driving people from their homes. The number of people displaced by gang violence continues to rise. Kidnappings are increasing again as well. The police remain unable (or unwilling) to intervene.

The political crisis continues its twists and turns. The latest, the sitting interim prime minister, Ariel Henry, has been accused of participating in the plot that led to the murder of president Jovenel Moïse back on July 7.  Henry has since fired the prosecutor who leveled the charge as well as the Minister of Justice.

The assassination of Moïse garned even more media attention than the earthquake has, and led Biden to suspend deportations as well – also for one month. In the week of August 9-13, two deportation flights landed in Haiti. On August 14 the earthquake. 

The media has moved on now to the debacle in Afghanistan, the recall election in California and the ongoing insanity that is the Texas state government. Haiti is forgotten.

And so the deportations have begun again, even though the crisis in Haiti is worse now than when the flights were briefly suspended 4 weeks ago. In the calculus of the administration one month seems to be a sufficient amount of time for the usual US American amnesia about the rest of the world to set in following a dramatic crisis. Probably they are right.

Meanwhile in Haiti, people are problem solving, and the US is more or less just getting in the way. The Commission for a Haitian led Solution to the Crisis, issued its own road map for a transitional government. Representing a broad sector of civil society, professional associations, and even opposition party leaders, the Commission’s hard won consensus is probably the best path to a transition that might be viewed as legitimate. Henry has reportedly agreed to meet with the Commission, and another coalition Henry assembled to discuss a path forward. For its part, the Biden administration has appeared nonplussed by the Commission. The US State Department has adopted the language of “Haitian led” processes, while ignoring what Haitian organizations are actually proposing.    

People throughout the southern peninsula of Haiti continue to dig out friends, build temporary shelters, and work together to repair what can be repaired with the limited supplies at hand. The Haiti Response Coalition has offered an update on community assessments that are underway. HRC works with the Konbit Journalis Lib, a Haitian journalism collective assisting with the outreach efforts, and also documenting the stories of Haitians impacted by the storm. USAID could actually help if it cared about using its resources to bolster Haitian led reconstruction efforts. But, no, USAID is funding the usual US based suspects.

Haiti certainly has its own internal contradictions. We do no one any favors by pretending otherwise. But the US leans into these contradictions to widen them. And that is unacceptable. When people are forced to flee the resulting turmoil, we capture them and send them back. The U.S. blocks Haitians trying to leave. The U.S. gets in the way of Haitians trying change the course of their own government in participatory way.  And, of course, the U.S. won’t ever, ever take responsibility for what a century of U.S. sponsored pillage and violence has sown in Haiti.

We need to continue speaking out against these removal flights, and demanding an end to the Title 42 policy under which these families were expelled without access to asylum. And we have to remain cognizant of the conditions that people in Haiti are fleeing, and the ways the United States has contributed to the creation of those condition.

The White House needs to hear from us. You can call the White House comment line [202-456-1111] with a simple message: “Halt deportations to Haiti.”  You can also remind the administration that in declaring Temporary Protected Status for Haiti, the administration recognized that conditions in Haiti warranted halting deportation proceedings.

Continue Reading

Migration from Nicaragua 

There has been a notable increase in migration from Nicaragua toward the United States in recent months. According to an Associated Press review of Customs and Border Statistics, the number of Nicaraguans who have been picked up by Border Patrol during the current fiscal year is 33,000, with 7,325 encounters just in June and 13,000 arriving in July [Note: Updated figures with graphs at end of post]. This represents a significant increase over recent migration from Nicaragua. Indeed, for most of the period since the Sandinistas returned to power in 2006, annual encounters of Border Patrol with Nicaraguans hovered around 1,000.

The only reason for the increase in migration from Nicaragua explored in AP and Reuters investigations is the claim that people are fleeing political persecution. This has become the latest media narrative on Nicaragua – i.e., a political crackdown is leading to an exodus from Nicaragua. Like many other narratives over the last three years, this is not really true, or, at least it is far from the whole story. It is true that there has been a spate of arrests of political opposition figures since June. One can argue about the validity of these arrests, but they’ve clearly happened and have been widely condemned outside the country. There has also been an increase in people leaving Nicaragua, represented by an increase in people arriving at the US/Mexico border. The fact that both things are happening does not mean one is causing the other, as anyone who survived a freshman statistics class can tell you – correlation is not causation.

The increase in people seeking asylum from Nicaragua is undeniable. Since the political crisis erupted in April of 2018, the number of Nicaraguans seeking asylum around the world has risen dramatically. In 2015, for example, the number of people from Nicaragua seeking asylum across the globe was 1,232; in 2017 it was 2,722. In 2018, however, the number jumped to 32,000 and then peaked in 2019 at 67,000. The number of asylum seekers has actually fallen since. The majority of these claims have occurred in Costa Rica, with significant numbers of people also seeking asylum in Spain, Mexico, Panama, and the United States. While there was an increase in border crossings in the United States during the 2018-2019 crisis, it was far below the current bump – and the situation was far more volatile then.  

As high as these numbers have been by Nicaragua’s recent standards, when compared to other countries in Central America the figures are low. The chart below shows UN data for different categories of forced migration, internal and external, in Central America for 2020. Not only is Nicaragua well below all of its northern regional neighbors concerning the number of people seeking asylum, and/or claiming refugee status, there is basically no internal displacement, and few “other” categories of concern in Nicaragua. Compare this to Honduras, for example, where internal displacement approaches 250,000 people on top of the 180,000 combined asylum and refugee claims. 

Honduras is, of course, not a standard of good governance for anyone I know. Nevertheless, it is noteworthy that the United States continues to tiptoe around abuse in Honduras, as well as Guatemala, (with its own new restrictive NGO law) and El Salvador (where President Bukele has been locking up opposition political figures as well). 

It is also instructive to compare the number of asylum claims vs the total number of people migrating. Doing so makes clear that asylum is not the main reason people are leaving Nicaragua – not even during the worst of the political conflict. The case of Costa Rica is somewhat unusual but still instructive. The tens of thousands of asylum claims from Nicaraguans in Costa Rica need to be viewed alongside the annual 800,000+ border crossings between Nicaragua and Costa Rica that were the norm before COVID-19 as Nicaraguans routinely sought temporary work in Costa Rica. Indeed, the majority of asylum claims in 2018 were from people already living in Costa Rica at the time of the crisis who did not want to return. They were not all people fleeing the turmoil, though clearly many did not want to be pushed into it.

Within the United States, the notable increase in Border Patrol encounters of Nicaraguans reported on by the AP and Reuters (up to 33,000 so far this fiscal year) is also dwarfed by encounters from Honduras (242,000),  Guatemala (218,000) and El Salvador (73,000). In all three cases, the numbers this year represent a dramatic increase over already high numbers from previous years. Encounters with people from Honduras are up 600% over the same time period last year, for example. In total, 1.2 million people have been encountered by Border Patrol during the current fiscal year, which doesn’t end until September 30. It is already the highest total in nearly 20 years. 

So, what we are witnessing at the US border is an increase in migration across the board from Central America, as well as Haiti, Cuba, Venezuela, countries of Africa and South Asia – not just Nicaragua – and within this increase, encounters with Nicaraguans remain well below those of countries in northern Central America, much as they have for nearly two decades now. Political conflict is part of the explanation for migration from all of Central America, including Nicaragua. But it is pretty clearly far from the whole story.

So what else is going on?

From a regional perspective, there are a number of rather obvious push factors leading to an increase in migration over the last 6-12 months. So obvious, in fact, that one must wonder how they escape the investigative framework of journalists trying to isolate Nicaragua. Firstly, COVID-19 has led to a squeeze on domestic markets, disrupted international trade, and wrecked tourism, which had become a significant generator of employment for Nicaragua in particular. Secondly, there is widespread environmental devastation that is affecting nearly every corner of the globe. In Central America, this has translated into recurrent droughts, and more recently, the widespread destruction of crops by hurricanes Eta and Iota in November last year.  Less an issue in Nicaragua, but devastating in Guatemala has been the explosion of parasites that have destroyed coffee harvests – an infestation largely blamed on shifting climate patterns. 

All of these trends place added stress on people who see their livelihoods threatened or destroyed. In Nicaragua over the last two years, the government has also been under further pressure as the result of US sanctions, which have taken a bite out of multilateral financing for social programs. Even during the worst of COVID-19, the health sector in Nicaragua received nothing from the World Bank, while the Inter-American Development Bank provided only limited support. Nicaragua’s rightly celebrated gains in reducing poverty, extending free healthcare and education, investing in affordable housing and so on, are under threat as a result of all of this.  

For Nicaraguans out of work, Costa Rica has historically been a place they can go for seasonal employment in agriculture and in the service sector. This is no longer the case. Costa Rica has been hit hard by COVID-19, especially in areas like tourism. There are now more Nicaraguans returning from Costa Rica than traveling there, and overall border crossings are way down. From 800,000+ crossings, split between coming and going, in 2018 and 2019, in 2020 the number of crossings was just over 270,000, with 143,000 Nicaraguans returning, versus 130,000 going to Costa Rica. The numbers for this year are not complete, but show a similar trend.

Far from a mass exodus to escape persecution, the people who are leaving Nicaragua today are mostly escaping a context of increased impoverishment, made worse by US sanctions, COVID-19 and natural disasters. All of this, coupled with an effective shutting down of temporary work opportunities in Costa Rica, means more people are heading north. It is, thus, a huge oversimplification to identify the source of migration as people fleeing a “crackdown” while ignoring these other factors. And compared to the rest of the region, Nicaragua is still doing better.

What the simplistic narrative does do is feed into the idea that the solution to migration from Nicaragua is a change in government. The reality is quite the opposite: If we want to see an actual surge of migration from Nicaragua, increasing sanctions or employing other interventions to force a change in government is the way to do it. People throughout the region are fleeing economic collapse and political instability – far fewer from Nicaragua, where the government has done demonstrably better at providing a safety net.  So, if migration is the concern, squeezing Nicaragua further makes no sense. As it is, journalists from the US should at least be asking what the impact of US policy has on these trends, and other regional dynamics. Singling out Nicaragua in this way makes no sense.  

UPDATED Numbers, Tables showing trends for the year

Note all countries have seen a dramatic increase in FY 2021 over FY 2020. Also note that from every country there is a significant bump in February/March. This is just to make the point that the increase in migration from Nicaragua is part of a regional trend – and not a unique increase in migration.

Over all year to date

 

By month, by country

Nicaragua

Honduras

Guatemala

El Salvador

Continue Reading

Franciscan Network on Migration demands respect for right of migrants in Mexico

Image: Red Franciscana de Migrantes

English Translation (en Español abajo)

To the Mexican Authorities
To the National Human Rights Commission
To Franciscans International
To all people of good faith

The Franciscan Network on Migration (FNM), as well as various groups and civil organizations defending the human rights of migrants, have monitored the spontaneous detentions and deportations of migrants on August 13, 31 and September 1, 2, 7, 8 2021, carried out to the detriment of people being moved from Mcallen, Texas to Ceibo, at the Guatemalan border, as well as from different places in Mexico such as Villahermosa and Tenosique, Tabasco.

In this sense, those of us with the FNM are concerned about the various human rights violations carried out by the National Institute of Migration and the National Guard in the south of the Mexican Republic, such as persecution, massive detentions, threats, expulsion towards the southern border of Mexican territory as well as the execution of all kinds of violence against migrants regardless of their immigration status, actions aimed not only at violating their rights, but also at criminalizing them.

The immigration policy of detention and expulsion taken by the Mexican government translates into actions that do not take into account the social context of the migrant population, therefore:

  • We condemn the various forms of violence, aggression, mistreatment, family separation, detentions and illegal deportations of migrant women and their families by the National Guard and the National Migration Institute.
  • We demand that the Mexican State respect all the human rights enjoyed by migrants and asylum seekers established both by its Constitution and by various international standards.
  • We demand full respect for the human rights of defenders and journalists, who by their profession monitor and make visible the dramatic migratory situation.
  • We call on the Mexican authorities at all three levels to seek effective responses that protect the human rights of migrants and asylum seekers, as well as those human rights defenders who work with them.

Franciscan Network on Migration


Original press release here

10 de septiembre de 2021

A las Autoridades de mexicanas
A la Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos
A Franciscans International
A todas las personas de buena fe

La Red Franciscana para Migrantes (RFM), así como diversos colectivos y  organizaciones civiles defensoras de los derechos humanos de las personas migrantes,  hemos monitoreado desde el 13, 31 de agosto y 1, 2, 7 y 8 de septiembre de 2021, las detenciones y deportaciones en caliente en agravio de las  personas en contexto de movilidad humana desde Mcallen, Texas dirigidas al Ceibo,  Frontera de Guatemala, así como también desde diferentes lugares de México hasta  Villahermosa y Tenosique, Tabasco. 

En este sentido, desde la RFM estamos preocupados por las diversas acciones violatorias de  derechos humanos realizadas por el Instituto Nacional de Migración y la Guardia Nacional en el sur  de la República mexicana, tales como persecuciones, detenciones masivas, amenazas, expulsión  hacia la frontera sur del territorio mexicano así como la ejecución de todo tipo de violencia contra las

personas migrantes sin importar su estatus migratorio, acciones encaminadas no solo a violentar sus  derechos, sino también a criminalizarlos.  

La política migratoria de detención y expulsión tomada por el gobierno mexicano se traduce en  acciones que no toman en cuenta el contexto social de la población migrante, por lo que:

  • Condenamos las diversas formas de violencia, agresiones, maltratos, separación familiar, detenciones y deportaciones ilegales de mujeres migrantes y sus familias por parte de la Guardia Nacional y el Instituto Nacional de Migración.
  • Exigimos al Estado mexicano el respeto de todos los derechos humanos que gozan las personas migrantes y solicitantes de asilo establecido tanto por su Carta Magna, como por los diversos estándares internacionales.
  • Exigimos el respeto pleno de los derechos humanos de las personas defensoras y periodistas, quienes por su profesión monitorean y visibilizan la dramática situación migratoria.
  • Hacemos un llamado a las autoridades mexicanas en sus tres niveles a buscar respuestas efectivas que protejan los derechos humanos de las personas migrantes y solicitantes de asilo, así como de los defensores de los derechos  humanos que trabajan con ellos. 

Red Franciscana para Migrantes

Continue Reading

Statement of CLAMOR on crisis in Southern Mexico


 

MEXICO CITY, SEPTEMBER 8, 2021

Lic. Andrés Manuel López Obrador

Constitutional President of the United Mexican 

Lic. Marcelo Ebrard Casaubón

Secretaryof Foreign Affairs

Lic. Alejandro Encinas Rodríguez

Undersecretary for Human Rights, Population and Religious Affairs

The Latin American and Caribbean Ecclesial Network on Migration, Shelter, Displacement and Trafficking (CLAMOR) of the Latin American Episcopal Council, which brings together more than 600 Catholic Church organizations in Latin America and the Caribbean, has seen in recent days the expansion of the operations of the National Migration Institute and the National Guard in the south of the Mexican Republic in order to contain migrants in the city of Tapachula, Chiapas.

We are aware of a profound migration crisis that is taking place on the southern border of the country, where hundreds of people from the northern countries of Central America, Cuba, Venezuela, and now a considerable number from Haiti, await a favorable resolution to their requests for refugee status, supplementary protection, or access to immigration regularization.

Overcrowding, the lack of hygiene measures, food, basic supplies, coupled with the slowness of resolutions from the National Institute of Migration and the Mexican Commission for Refugee Aid, place people in a situation of vulnerability, affecting the exercise of their fundamental rights.

Shelters, migrant houses, and soup kitchens for migrants are saturated and at the limit of their capacity; the efforts of local churches, parishes, and dioceses are being overwhelmed in the absence of a migration policy in accordance with human rights standards, strategic planning, and the scarce or non-existent resources of the Federal Government.

We strongly regret and reject the repressive, violent, and restrictive measures to contain migration on the southern border, particularly in Tapachula. These measures have been implemented on previous occasions with net negative results. For that reason, we call for alternative solutions that go beyond the short-term vision, prioritizing dialogue with migrants and civil society organizations in such a way that they can articulate responses that correspond to their needs and guarantee their human rights.

We see in the recent events at the southern border – the containment of migrants and summary deportations – measures related to the policy of externalization of the border promoted by the United States. The political decisions of both governments affect both the local population and migrants, who are left at an impasse. We are concerned that the only option for regularization of immigration status in Mexico is the application for refugee status and that free passage through the National Territory will be prevented for those who already have a favorable ruling of their legal status in Mexico.

For all of the above, we urge the competent authorities, principally the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the National Institute of Migration and the Mexican Commission for Refugee Assistance, to carry out concrete actions to attend to people in the context of mobility, respecting due process and, in this way, avoiding and preventing human rights violations.

Finally, we demand that authorities at all levels respect Article 11 of the Constitution, which enshrines free passage, so that, for those who already have a legal status in Mexico, they are allowed the right to passage through the country in search of options for residence and employment that allow them to live with dignity and access to basic services.

We urge the Mexican government, faithful to its history as a people originating from many migrants, to grant clear signs of hospitality and welcome, and based on the powers granted to it by law, to establish new alternatives to regularization that allow the migrant population to have access to the human rights to which they are entitled by virtue of their dignity as persons, and in this way, contribute their richness of character to their host communities.

This crisis is at the same time an opportunity for the Mexican government to demonstrate regional leadership by responding to the challenge with respect and the guarantee of human rights. Enough with repression, the use of violence, and excessive abuse of authority; these are not just migrants, but also human beings who need an opportunity to live with dignity.

We invite the Mexican government, before repressing and containing migrants, to address the root causes that cause thousands of Mexicans to continue to live through the tragedy of displacement and to face migration in order to seek security and the conditions necessary for life in another territory, which they cannot find in their own country.

As the Church in Latin America and the Caribbean, we feel deeply committed to the welcoming, protection, promotion, and integration of migrant peoples, and we reiterate our commitment to the defense and protection of their human rights. At the same time, we are ready to collaborate with the authorities in order to find humanitarian aid mechanisms coordinated toward solving this profound crisis that is taking place on the Southern border of Mexico.

Sincerely,

+ Mons. Gustavo Rodríguez
Archbishop of Yucatán, México Presidente de la Red CLAMOR

+Alvaro Leonel Card. Ramazzini
Bishop of Huehuetenango, Guatemala

+ Mons. J. Guadalupe Torres Campos
Bishop of Cuidad Juárez, Head of the Ministry of Human Mobility Mexico

+ Guido Charboneau
Bishop of Choluteca, Head of the CLAMOR Network in Central America

[Link to original in Spanish]

Continue Reading

The migration crisis in southern Mexico boils over, US policy is making things worse

“What is happening is that human rights are being violated here, refugees are people who left their country because of threats. If we are here it is because we are looking for a better life. People who have papers- they can not take them, put them on a bus and take them to Guatemala, that is a violation of human rights. There are people who have one-year visitor cards, who have residency, who have a document that says Tapachula, Chiapas, those same people are grabbed and taken to Guatemala. That should not be, that is racism, that is a violation of human rights, that is why we are fighting. The caravan is for that, even though we spent a week demonstrating all day, so that we can move around and look for work, because we have to pay for a house, we have to eat, and there are people who are sleeping in the park and are looking for work all day in the rain. Women with children, pregnant women. […] the caravan is because they don’t want to make a decision with us. […] We are looking for a way to get out of Chiapas because in Chiapas there is no way to live because people are treating you like animals, your rights are being violated. So if we are refugees we are fighting so that we can get out and looking for a way to live so that we can eat. ” Haitian migrant statement to the Colectivo de Observación y Monitoreo de Derechos Humanos en el Sureste Méxicano

Over the past several weeks the situation for Haitians and other migrants in southern Mexico has reached crisis proportions. Last week Haitians, many of whom had been stuck in Tapachula, Chiapas for over a year, launched protests in front of Siglo XXI, Latin America’s largest immigrant detention center. On Saturday hundreds of Haitians, joined by others from Venezuela, Central America, and Africa, left Tapachula in a caravan. Motivations varied. Many expressed the intent to reach Mexico City in the hopes of accelerating their asylum cases, and for others, the goal was simply getting out of Tapachula. 

The caravan has repeatedly been met with violence from the INM and from Mexico’s recently (2019) formed National Guard.  

Saturday, the caravan left Tapachula with people walking 41 kilometers northwest to Huixtla. Along the way, some members of the caravan were beaten and arrested. In an interesting article juxtaposing the treatment of Haitian and Central American migrants with the reception given to Afghan refugees also arriving on Saturday, Vice News reporters spoke with a few of the people whose attacks by INM appeared in cell phone footage circulating on social media. 

“If we stay here, we are going to die of hunger, and we will be sleeping on the street,” Theoburn Derino….told VICE World News. He fled Haiti because of violence and political conflict, and had spent a month in Tapachula before trying to make his way to Mexico City. “I just want to find a place where I can work, and where my daughter can sleep peacefully.”   

INM issued a press release condemning some of the actions that had been caught on film. But the attacks did not stop.

Sunday, the caravan continued from Huixtla to Escuintla, and then onto Mapastepec. Along the road near Sesecapa, anti-riot trucks and INM busses were spotted. Then around 3:00 p.m. on the road section between Ruiz Cortínez and Mapstepec, an anti-riot team from the National Guard was mobilized alongside elements of INM and attempted to trap the caravan between temporary fencing. About half were arrested. Some of those who made it to Mapastepec were attacked Tuesday morning, arrested and detained. From Colectivo de Observación y Monitoreo de Derechos Humanos en el Sureste Méxicano (COMDHSM):

In less than 20 minutes, they dismantled the small camp. Those who were not detained sought shelter in houses, premises and the Catholic Church; the elements of GN and INM followed them and, in some cases, entered to apprehend them. Approximately 80% of the people in this group were apprehended, leaving their belongings behind and without knowing their whereabouts.

While the INM was beating and arresting refugees in Mapastepec, the government was proposing establishing “humanitarian camps” for Haitian migrants, and trying to enlist the support of the church office on migration – which opposes this.  The Dimensión Episcopal de Pastoral de la Movilidad Humana (DEPMH) of the Episcopal Conference of Mexico is calling instead for the regularization of migrant status, and respecting their freedom of mobility. Likewise COMDHSM is demanding that the government respect the rights of migrants, and provide humanitarian support. In their statement issued on September 1, 2021, they write:

  • Humanitarian aid is urgent to attend to people, in particular pregnant women, children and adolescents who walk. There is not enough water or food, and the absence of instances that provide medical attention stands out. This is aggravated as people have been walking for several days.
  • We denounce the strong presence of the National Guard, the Mexican Army and the National Migration Institute and their absolutely disproportionate and violent action towards people in order to encapsulate and detain them at different points along the way.
  • We demand the cessation of surveillance, harassment and attacks on human rights defenders and the press
  • There is concern about the impact of these violent detentions on people who also forcibly left their countries seeking protection and a dignified life.
  • We demand an end to the abuse of power and acts of repression against people.

Underlying the crisis is ongoing pressure from the Biden administration on Mexico, as well as countries in Central America, to stop as many migrants from reaching the US/Mexico border as possible. This, coupled with the Biden administration’s new strategy of expelling Central Americans and others via plane to Tapachula and Villahermos under Title 42, most of whom eventually end up being expelled by INM to Guatemala, has created a humanitarian disaster in southern Mexico.

Indeed, the mobilizations over the last week by Hatiain migrants was the result of Haitians with asylum claims pending in Mexico being removed to Guatemala anyway amidst this new wave of expulsions.  

The Mexican government has a backlog of 80,000 asylum claims. The government is being pushed by the United States to limit mobility in order to keep people in Mexico, while also being pressed by a dramatic increase in the numbers of people migrating north as the result of a combination of ongoing political instability and COVID-19 induced economic recession. The result of all of this is that people are forced to wait in cramped, unsanitary conditions for months, and for some over a year.

From Dallas Morning News Spanish editor AlDiaDallas:

Haitians now make up the second largest group of people seeking asylum in Mexico. Only Hondurans have a higher number of claims. Yet, much like in the United States, Haitian claims to asylum in Mexico are denied at a much higher rate than other countries. It is creating an untenable situation for people – who are clearly now desperate to leave Tapachula.

We certainly join in the call for the Mexican government to stop the violence against migrants, and to establish an alternative path for people to regularize migration status. However, we equally denounce the Biden administration’s ongoing support for Title 42 expulsions, the new policy of removals to southern Mexico, and ongoing pressure this administration has asserted on countries from Mexico to Colombia, to detain migrants on their journey north. The administration’s stated goal of creating a “Collaborative Migration Management Strategy” with countries in Central America and Mexico is currently looking more like a coordinated war on migrants than an effort to instill collaborative and humane policy processes.

Continue Reading

Haitians, others in caravan attacked in Mexico

On Saturday a caravan of migrants formed in Tapachula in the state of Chiapas, Mexico. The group was mostly composed of Haitians, but included others from Venezuela, Central America, and Guinea. The caravan tried to leave Tapachula in protest of the refusal of the Mexican government to grant asylum – or even render a judgement – after a year or more of waiting. The situation in Tapachula has been aggravated by the United States government launching a new round of deportation flights to Tapachula and Villahermosa (in neighboring Tabasco). Those flown in are being bussed to the border with Guatemala and left. In the context of this new round of expulsions, Haitians with legal documentation to stay in Mexico – most having applied for refugee status – have also been removed to Guatemala. 

On Friday we shared a joint statement from groups in Mexico protesting both the US and Mexican governments for their treatment of people seeking a better life.

The caravan in Tapachula was not trying to reach the United States. Rather, people were trying to move to another location within Mexico where they could find work.

“The important thing we need is to leave Chiapas, because there is no work in Chiapas. In Chiapas there is no way to live, people are treating us like animals. If we are refugees, what we are looking for is a way of living to be able to eat,” explained one of the migrants, before starting the caravan.

During the week that passed, the migrants held protests outside the offices of the National Institute of Migration (INM) and COMAR, to ask for the speeding up of their refugee procedures.

As noted most had documentation that would allow them to move within Mexico. Nevertheless, the caravan was brutally attacked on the road between Tapachula and Huixtla on Saturday.

According to the Colectivo de Observación y Monitoreo de Derechos Humanos en el Sureste Mexicano (COMDHSM) those who made it to Huixtla were now appealing to the government of Mexico to provide transport and safe passage for them to Mexico City. The Colectivo further demanded that the government:

  • Activate inter-institutional mechanisms for the care of people along the route, particularly with regard to medical care and humanitarian aid (footwear, food, hydration and medicines).
  • Collaboration between local authorities and Civil Protection for the reception and care of people in places of rest.
  • Maintain the presence of the National Human Rights Commission and international organizations of the United Nations system for the observance of human rights.

This afternoon the caravan is approaching Mapastepec, along the coast in Chiapas (see pin in map to the right). COMDHSM continues to call for the government to respect the rights of the people in the caravan and those journalists who are accompanying them. 

[COMDHSM  reported earlier that another caravan was planning to leave Tapachula this morning, but I have not seen coverage of that yet today.]

Continue Reading

Organizations in Mexico and the United States demand an end to expulsions, Title 42

Dozens of non-governmental organizations in Mexico issued a denunciation of the United States and Mexican governments policy of summary expulsions involving migrants from Central America, expelled from the US under Title 42, flown to southern Mexico to be bussed to the border with Guatemala; as well as Haitians summarily expelled from Mexico to Guatemala despite having legal status in Mexico. The Quixote Centered joined with others endorsing the statement. The English translation is presented below. The original Spanish is here.

NGO Statement: We denounce the expulsions by the governments of the United States and Mexico returning migrants, including those seeking international protection, by air and land to Guatemala

August 25, 2021

As a part of our mandate to provide oversight, on August 18th, the Collective of Organizations Monitoring and Observing Human Rights in Southeast Mexico (or Colectivo de Observación y Monitoreo de Derechos Humanos en el Sureste Mexicano, or COMDHSEM by its name in Spanish), alongside organizations belonging to the Transborder Coordination on Migration and Gender (or Mesa de Coordinación Transfronteriza Migraciones y Género, or MTMG by its name in Spanish), together with the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman of Guatemala (Procuraduría de Derechos Humanos de Guatemala), documented the arrival of four flights to the city of Tapachula, Mexico, from the United States and the northern border of Mexico that transported Guatemalans, Hondurans and Salvadorans expelled under Title 42 from the United States. The organizations also documented Haitians transferred and expelled from the southern border of Mexico into Guatemala, without respecting the administrative procedures in either country.

The expelled individuals – families, women with children and adult men and women – were transported mostly from the Tapachula airport in eleven buses of the National Migration Institute (INM), to Talismán, along the border with Guatemala, where they were abandoned on the pedestrian border bridge and forced to leave Mexico.

These flights are part of the measures taken by the Biden administration to accelerate the expulsions of migrants under Title 42, combined with actions taken by the Mexican government to contain and return asylum seekers and refugees. These expulsions, coordinated between U.S. and Mexican authorities, violate international law, lack legal and administrative grounds, and seriously impact the people subjected to them.

One of the expulsion routes identified is carried out by land from the United States to the city of Nogales, Sonora, Mexico, where INM agents in Mexico detain expelled individuals. From there, land transfers are made to Hermosillo, Sonora, and then people are transported by air to Tapachula, Chiapas, and again by land, from the Tapachula airport to the border with Guatemala.

In addition, land expulsions of people detained in Mexico’s interior, mainly of Haitian nationality, were documented. We observed that some of these migrants possessed documents that allowed them to remain in Mexico, such as refugee applications before the Mexican Commission for Refugee Assistance (COMAR- its Spanish acronym), and even paperwork demonstrating the recognition of their status as refugees. Therefore, their expulsion is totally illegal and arbitrary.

The procedure for entering Guatemalan territory is equally as irregular, without any criteria such as registration, orientation or clear information about the administrative and / or legal processes that people must follow to return to their places of origin or to resume their migratory route.

We are concerned that the United States and Mexican administrations are generating a staggered process of immediate expulsions, denying or omitting the rights of people to access regularization mechanisms, or otherwise, violating the rights of individuals who have already initiated international protection processes.

For this, we DEMAND:

To the governments of Mexico and Guatemala:

  1. Comply with the provisions of International Refugee Law and International Humanitarian Law, ensuring abidance to the principle of non-refoulement, the Best Interest of the Child, the right to listen, and access to information and communication, in the appropriate languages ​​that facilitate access to due process.
  2. Publicly clarify the development of these expulsions and specify under what agreements and legal grounds it was decided to carry them out.
  3. Guarantee that individuals, families, girls, boys and adolescents have access to clear and pertinent information on their rights. In all cases, the greatest protection of children and their families must be sought, based on the principle of the Best Interest of the Child.
  4. Do not condition regularization through refugee status in Mexico as an exclusive figure if the person has expressed interest in requesting protection in another country. 
  5. Respect domestic laws, such as Guatemala’s Migration Code (Decree 44 -2016), so that individuals have access to a regular and dignified stay in the country.
  6. Generate, through the support of shelters, the necessary conditions of care and protection for migrants in Guatemalan territory.
  7. Consult actively with civil society organizations to produce a comprehensive and adequate response to the needs of the migrant population, asylum seekers and refugees.

To the United States government:

  • Rescind the Title 42 order and all versions of its implementation, including lateral flights along the border and flights to southern Mexico.
  • Establish a process at the U.S.-Mexico border that is dignified and respectful of international law, in which unaccompanied families, adults and girls, boys and adolescents, can make their requests for protection immediately. This includes guaranteeing access to ports of entry. 
  • Stand firm in the decision to terminate the “Migrant Protection Protocols” (Remain in Mexico, or MPP) and take all possible steps to put an end to this policy.
  • Continue the processing of people previously subjected to MPP, guaranteeing their stay in the interior of the United States to allow them to continue with their asylum process.
  • Cease pressuring governments of the region to take deterrence or enforcement actions, through the militarization and externalizing of their borders.

Signatories

Colectives

Colectivo de Observación y Monitoreo de Derechos Humanos en el Sureste Méxicano

American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) – Oficina para América Latina y el Caribe, Apostólicas del Corazón de Jesús, Programa de Asuntos Migratorios – UIA,  Centro de Derechos Humanos Digna Ochoa, Centro de Derechos Humanos Fray Matías de Córdova AC., Centro de Derechos Humanos Tepeyac, Centro de Derechos de las Víctimas de la Violencia Minerva Bello, Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights (CHIRLA), Formación y Capacitación (FOCA), Iniciativas para el Desarrollo Humano A. C. (IDEHU), Kaltsilaltik, La 72 Hogar Refugio para Personas Migrantes, Médicos del Mundo – Francia (MdM), Misioneras Combonianas, Red Jesuita con Migrantes – Centroamérica y Norteamérica, Servicio Jesuita a Migrantes (SJM) – Comalapa, Servicio Jesuita a Refugiados – México (JRS), Tzome Ixuk, Mujeres Organizadas, Una Mano Amiga en la Lucha contra el SIDA, Voces Mesoamericanas Acción con Pueblos Migrantes.

Mesa de Coordinación Transfronteriza Migraciones y Género MTMG:

Capítulo Guatemala MTMG

American Friends Service Committee, Oficina Regional para América Latina y El Caribe  (AFSC); Asociación Comunitaria Multisectorial de Monitoreo Comunitario en Salud y Apoyo a Migrantes (ACOMUMSAM); Asociación Consejería Oxlajuj Ix para Centroamérica y México (CAMEX); Asociación Coordinadora Comunitaria de Servicios para la Salud-Guatemala ACCSS; Asociación de Desarrollo Social de Ixcán (ADESI); Asociación de Familiares de Migrantes Desaparecidos de Guatemala (AFAMIDEG); Asociación Lambda; Asociación Pop No’j, Consejo de Juventud para el Desarrollo Ixcoyense  (COJDI); Comisión de Migrantes; Comité Municipal de Migración; Equipo de Estudios Comunitarios y Acción Psicosocial (ECAP); Federación Guatemalteca de Escuelas Radiofónicas (FGER); Gobierno Ancestral; Jóvenes por el Cambio; Mamá Maquin; Médicos del Mundo Francia – España; Mesa Nacional para las Migraciones en Guatemala (MENAMIG);  Molanil K´inal B´e; Pastoral Social La Libertad Cristo de Esquipulas; Pop Noj’; Red  Juvenil Ak´Molam; Mesa Técnica de Migración, Ixcán; Sociedad Civil.

Capítulo México MTMG

American Friends Service Committee, Oficina Regional para América Latina y El Caribe  (AFSC); Centro de Derechos Humanos Oralia Morales; Centro de Derechos Humanos Fray Matías de Córdova;  Coalición Indígena de Migrantes de Chiapas (CIMICH); Comité de Derechos Humano Fray Pedro Lorenzo de la Nada A.C.; Formación y Capacitación A.C. (FOCA); Iniciativas para el Desarrollo Humano A.C.; Instituto Mexicano para el Desarrollo Comunitario (IMDEC); Instituto para las Mujeres en la Migración AC (IMUMI); La 72, Hogar – Refugio para Personas Migrantes; Médicos del Mundo Francia – España, Pastoral de Migrantes; Parroquia de Frontera Comalapa; Servicio Jesuita a Migrantes  (SJM); Servicio Jesuita a Refugiados  (SJR), Servicio Pastoral a Migrantes San Martin de Porres (SEPAMI – SMP ); Una Ayuda para ti Mujer Migrante A.C.; Voces Mesoamericanas, Acción con Pueblos Migrantes, A.C. 

Grupo de Trabajo Sobre Política Migratoria-GTPM

Aldeas Infantiles SOS México, I.A.P.; Alianza Américas; American Friends Services Committee; Asylum Access México (AAMX) A.C.; Casa del Migrante Saltillo (Frontera con Justicia A.C.); Centro de Derechos Humanos  Fray Matías de Córdova, A.C.; Coalición Pro Defensa del Migrante de Baja California; Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos; Fundación  Appleseed México, A.C.; DHIA. Derechos Humanos Integrales en Acción, A.C.; FUNDAR Centro de Análisis e Investigación, A.C.; IMUMI Instituto para las Mujeres en la Migración; Iniciativa Ciudadana para la Promoción de la Cultura del Diálogo, A.C.; INSYDE Instituto para la Seguridad y la Democracia; M3 Movimiento Migrante Mesoamericano; REDIM Red por los Derechos de la Infancia en México; Sin Fronteras, IAP; Servicio Jesuita a Migrantes México; Servicio Jesuita a Refugiados; SMR Scalabrinianas:  Misión para Migrantes y Refugiados; Leticia Calderón, Analista en temas migratorios; Brenda Valdés; Elba Coria; Manuel Ángel Castillo, Investigador; IDC International Detention Coalition (Observadoras). Claudia Martínez Medrano, Jocelín Mariscal Agreda y Melissa A. Vértiz Hernández, Secretaría Técnica.

Grupo Articulador de la Sociedad Civil en Materia Migratoria:

American Friends Service Committee – Oficina Regional América Latina y el Caribe (AFSC); Asociación La Alianza ; Asociación Pop No’j, Asociación LAMBDA, Centro de Estudios de Guatemala -CEG-; Comité Central Menonita Guatemala/El Salvador; Inmigrant Worker Center (IWC- CTI); Equipo de Estudios Comunitarios y Acción Psicosocial (ECAP); Fundación Myrna Mack; Fundación para la Justicia y el Estado de Democrático de Derecho (FJEDD); Instituto Centroamericano de Estudios Sociales y Desarrollo (INCEDES); Red Jesuita con Migrantes –Guatemala a través del Instituto de Investigación y Proyección sobre Dinámicas Globales y Territoriales de la Universidad Rafael Landívar; Mesa Nacional para la Migraciones en Guatemala (MENAMIG); Misioneros de San Carlos Scalabrinianos, Casa del Migrante de Guatemala, Programa de Atención, Movilización e Incidencia por la Niñez y Adolescencia (PAMI); Red por la paz y desarrollo de Guatemala (RPDG). Aracely Martínez, Danilo Rivera y Simón Antonio.

Civil society organizations

  1. Latin America Working Group (LAWG)
  2. Red Mesoamericana Mujer, Salud y Migración
  3. Asociación para el Cambio Social JXC.
  4. Centro de Atención a la Familia Migrante Indígena AC
  5. Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS)
  6. Haitian Bridge Alliance
  7. Centro por la Justicia y el Derecho Internacional (CEJIL)
  8. Global Labor Justice – International Labor Right Forum (GLJ-ILRF)
  9. Caravana por Los Niños/Caravan for the Children, San Francisco California
  10. Quixote Center
  11. Comunidad Maya Pixan Ixim (CMPI)
  12. Movilidades Libres y Elegidas, A.C. (CoLibres) 
  13. Espacio Migrante A.C.
  14. Dignidad y Justicia en el Camino A.C. – FM4 Paso Libre
  15. ELCA-AMMPARO
  16. Oficina en Washington para Asuntos Latinoamericanos (WOLA)
  17. Jewish Activists for Immigration Justice of Western MA Casa del Migrante en Tijuana, A.C.
  18. Haitian Bridge Alliance
  19. Veterans For Peace Chapter 182 Baja Mx
  20. Guatemala Human Rights Commission USA
  21. Centro de los Derechos del Migrante, Inc. (CDM)
  22. Kids in Need of Defense (KIND)
  23. Witness at the Border
  24. National Immigration Law Center
  25. Women’s Refugee Commission
  26. Red Nacional de Organismos Civiles de Derechos Humanos “Todos los Derechos para Todas y Todos” (Red TDT)
  27. Asylum -Access México (AAMX) A.C.
  28. Border Line Crisis Center, A. C.
  29. Border Angels
  30. Psicólogos Sin Fronteras BC

Academia and individuals

  1. Carmen Fernández Casanueva, Profesora-Investigadora CIESAS Sureste
  2. Cristian Rojas
  3. Abdel Camargo
  4. Jaime Rivas Castillo
  5. Cristina Roblero
  6. Unitarian Universalist Service Committee 
Continue Reading

Haiti Earthquake Response Update #3

It has been two weeks since an earthquake struck the southern peninsula of Haiti. Assessments of the impact of the earthquake are still being developed as harder to reach communities remain isolated from relief efforts.  As of now the numbers of people killed and injured rest at 2,200 and 12,200. Over 300 people are officially still missing. Likely these numbers remain undercounts. 

The map below summarizes aid deliveries as of August 23 (at least those tracked by the government). One can see that the areas near Les Cayes have received the most attention, whereas communities in Nippes and the Grande Anse (aside from Jeremie) are still waiting for support.

In terms of Quixote Center activity, we are supporting deliveries of emergency supplies into Baradares through the Fondasyon Mapou and to areas in the south, near Les Cayes with the Kolektif pou Lakay. Both of these efforts are in process. We will share more as we get detailed report-backs from our partners.

From Kolektif pou Lakay: “Here is the list of actions we plan to take on the ground. Your contribution is always important to help people in the South.” If you are on Twitter click below to follow them.

We are also supporting the Haiti Response Coalition’s team of community organizers who are engaged in assessments in underserved communities in Nippes and the Grande Anse departments. Currently, the majority of our emergency response funds are being used to provide direct cash assistance to families in these departments. HRC community organizers are doing household surveys in communities in southern Nippes near the epicenter of the quake. Based on these surveys, funds are delivered direct to families so they can purchase immediate needs – especially food at the local markets.

Aid Accountability: Take the Pledge

Haiti Response Coalition, working in collaboration with a collective of organizations including Nou Pap Dòmi, Ansanm pou Ayiti, Konbit pou yon Ayiti Tèt Anwo (CHW-KATA), and the Haitian Ladies’ Network, developed the Pledge for New Minimum Standards. The pledge invites organizations engaged in emergency response work to abide by a core set of principles in their work. In summary, the key principles in the pledge are:

  • We pledge to respect the dignity of the Haitian people.
  • We pledge to use respectful language.
  • We pledge to be specific, transparent and inclusive.
  • We pledge to respect Haitian leadership and reinforce Haitian capacity.
  • We pledge to support the public good.
  • We pledge to align with and support long-term efforts.
  • Above all, we pledge to hold ourselves accountable, and invite groups in Haiti, especially the communities in which we work, to hold us accountable.

We are inviting other organizations and individuals to take this pledge – which you can do on the HRC website here.

The companion petition where individuals can call upon organizations to take the pledge is here.

The full pledge is available in English and Creole.

One note on the pledge and our work. You may notice that we are not sharing photos of Haitians living in tents, and standing outside of crumbled houses. For some time we have avoided using such images, but are making this a more intentional standard, by which we do not use the images of people who have not offered their consent. We trust that you can understand the magnitude of the situation without us sharing photos of people in crisis.

If you are able to support the work we are doing, please make a donation to our Haiti Emergency Response Fund here

Continue Reading

Inverting Hanlon’s Razor: Greg Abbott and Operation Lone Star 

Hanlon’s Razor is an informal principle of logic which states, “never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.” Living in Texas for the last ten years, I have decided that one must turn Hanlon’s razor on its head to explain Texas politics. Much of the country tends to attribute Texas political grandstanding to stupidity, when in fact, what is happening is actual malice directed at people for political gain. 

Take Greg Abbott, the governor of Texas. He is on a mission. That mission is to make himself into the Lone Star Trump, possibly with an eye toward becoming a player on the national stage, while, minimally, winning over the increasingly extreme GOP primary voters of Texas. 

Toward that end, he has committed to continuing to build “Trump’s” border wall on the Texas’ state dime. To pay for the wall, Abbott pulled $250 million from the state’s prison system, which is already underfunded and understaffed, or more to the point, overpopulated with people who should be at home. With much fanfare, including a press conference at the border with Donald Trump, Abbott has pushed this agenda, knowing full well that he can only build, at best, 10 miles of wall with the misappropriated funds (Texas’ border with Mexico is over 1,200 miles long). And then, only if he can find 10 consecutive miles of land that Texas landowners are willing to cede to the state (Abbott has also committed not to use eminent domain). Good luck with that.

Sounds stupid, right? Sure. But the goal is not to actually build a wall. The goal is to give the appearance of standing up to the big bad federal government and its “open border” president. And if Abbott can appeal to Trump’s base (vital to winning the GOP primary) in the process, all the better. 

Which brings us to Operation Lone Star. 

Operation Lone Star is the latest iteration of Texas governors sending state police into border communities to hassle migrants, and inevitably, also hassle life-long Texans. Abbott’s latest twist on this twisted approach to race-baiting is to arrest migrants under state criminal trespass laws, and send them to prison for as long as possible before turning them over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or the Border Patrol for removal. Grassroots Leadership shared video of migrants being processed in a parking lot before being sent to jail, most apparently having no idea what was going on. There are no lawyers and no due process. 

Abbott has converted a state prison outside of Dilley for the purpose of holding migrants, at enormous cost to Texas taxpayers. And he is now pressuring a special session of the Texas legislature to make Operation Lone Star, heretofore the result of an executive order issued under a state of emergency, the law of the land (alongside a $1.7 billion appropriation).

Abbott justifies all of this with the claim that Biden’s “open border” immigration policy has been a bonanza for traffickers and drug dealers, which in turn threatens the lives of Texans. Please note: the targets of enforcement are people whose “crimes” have nothing to do with drugs or slavery, but rather that they walked across someone’s front yard.

This seems really stupid. But again, to assume any of this has to do with law and order misses the point. Trump’s base, which Abbott desperately wants to also be his base, mostly doesn’t live near the border. They have no idea that border communities have some of the lowest crime rates in the state. Indeed, the murder rate in Hidalgo county is lower than than murder rate in Palm Beach County, Florida where Mar-a-lago is located. They do not know that 11 of the 34 counties included in Abbott’s original disaster declaration declined to participate, including four of the most populous counties in the Rio Grande Valley, nor do they know that very few border counties have adopted their own disaster declarations at Abbott’s invitation. Trump’s base is also unaware that state troopers have been hassling border residents in Texas for years already, with no demonstrable impact on migration, and the only impact on crime being an increase in non-border communities that no longer have adequate policing (because their officers have been sent to the border). They don’t know. They don’t care. They just hate Biden.

It is also very clear that they know little about what Biden has (and more to the point has not) done as president. Biden has made some reform moves on immigration (some key ones, like ending the Migrant Protection Protocol or instating a temporary moratorium on deportations have been blocked by a federal judge in Texas in suits brought by Texas’ attorney general). Yet the core elements of Trump’s border policy remain in place, including the framework of “Title 42,” which uses public health authority to expel anyone encountered by Border Patrol immediately, with no chance to seek asylum. Indeed, Biden has actually expelled far more people in six-months than Trump did the previous year. 

Another area of non-concern for Texas policy makers is that the reason immigration has recently increased has absolutely nothing to do with border policy in the US (which, as noted, has hardly changed). In fact, migration is on the rise everywhere as the result of a global COVID-19 recession, which has slammed Central America and Caribbean in particular. This has been compounded by the destruction wrought by several hurricanes, and ongoing political violence in Honduras and Guatemala, not to mention draconian US sanctions on Venezuela and Cuba. And this is just the short list of crises that are driving people from their homes. 

So arresting people for trespassing in Texas is not going to put any kind of dent in migration. Even by the distorted logic of “deterrence,” the idea that Operation Lone Star will impact migration is laughable. Abbott knows this (no one is that stupid, right?). 

No, Abbott is being mean to immigrants because such maliciousness makes for good politics in Texas. Simply dismissing Abbott as a buffoon is thus a huge mistake. Trump won the White House this way, and if not Abbott, someone like him will try again in 2024 with the same playbook. In Texas, we are still living with the result. Trust me, one should never dismiss as stupid that which is done with malicious intent. Never. That’s how they win.

Grassroots Leadership and RAICES, among others in Texas are working to halt HB9, which would make Operation Lone Star law. If you live in Texas you can sign the petition opposing the law here. If you don’t live here but have friends that do – share it with them.

Continue Reading

Contact Us

  • Quixote Center
    P.O. Box 1950
    Greenbelt, MD 20768
  • Office: 301-699-0042
    Email: info@quixote.org

Directions to office:

6305 Ivy Lane, Suite 255. Greenbelt, MD 20770

For public transportation: We are located near the Green Belt metro station (green line)