Mexico Fails to Comply with the Recommendations of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination Related to the Protection of Migrants and Asylum Seekers

 

[Original PDF Spanish, and English]

June 1st 2021

We call on Mexico to implement the recommendations that various human rights mechanisms have made in the context of the protection of human rights of migrants, asylum seekers and human right defenders that work with them.

In the context of the 103rd Session of the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) – and its follow-up letter to the Mexican government – our organizations join the Committee’s findings on the lack of implementation and the insufficient implementation of some of the recommendations made in 2019. In particular, after almost two years, the implementation of recommendations related to migrants, asylum seekers and those requiring complementary protection is inadequate and the current situation is, in fact, a regression.

The lack of implementation of the CERD recommendations by Mexico is framed in the context of migration policies towards militarization, criminalization, systematic detentions and use of force that incite discrimination against migrants and asylum seekers. This context has been aggravated after the implementation of measures to control the Covid-19 pandemic.

We have witnessed an increased number of security forces, including the military and the National Guard Forces (NGF), in migratory verification and control tasks. From June 2019 to December 2020, the military and the NGF detained 152 thousands migrants in the southern border. The National Defence Ministry (SEDENA) – and not the NGF – conducted 67% of this detentions, including the detention of 27 thousands children.

We have identified an excessive, arbitrary, and indiscriminate use of force during the “caravans” with multiple human rights violations. The same pattern has been identified against protests inside migration detention centers when migrants tried to fight for their rights and better conditions during their detention. Sometimes these protests occur with irreparable consequences, like the death of a Guatemalan migrant in the Migrant Detention Center in Tenosique in April 2020.

We have also documented how the National Institute of Migration (INM) has denied access to the asylum-seeking procedure for those needing international protection. Those who have expressed the  intention to access this proceeding have on many occasions been sent to detention centers without appropriate revision of their requests. Our organizations have even documented that people with asylum-seeking requests, or with recognized refugee status, have been detained and deported to countries where their lives are at risk.

Furthermore, with the arrival of African and Asian migrants, as well as from Haiti, the Mexican government has not adopted an integral migration policy to respond to their needs, such as adequate interpretation and enough human rights information.

The racism against people and families from Haiti – for those who have been victims of violence, trauma and family separation – is institutional. One of these cases is Maxene André who died on the 6th of August 2019 inside the Migration Centre “Siglo XXI” in Tapachula, Chiapas. André was sick and isolated for 15 days out of the 20 days that he was in detention.

The response by the Mexican government and institutions has incited xenophobia and discrimination against migrants entering through the southern border, particularly by deploying the INM at the borders in collaboration with the NGF and members from the SEDENA to stop migrants and asylum seekers to enter, especially through the southern border. These practices have been documented and published in different press-releases and reports, in which the criminalization of people entering to Mexico in “irregular” migration status, and allegedly carriers of a disease, is evident. This situation was more evident with the sanitary measures implemented in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, which have been not only discriminatory but also with the purpose to deter migration.

On the other hand, there are around 1500 people, mainly from Central America, in vulnerable and risky situations in the camp installed since the 18th of February 2021 in Tijuana city, known as “El Chaparral”. In this camp there are inappropriate sanitary, hygienic, and secure conditions, and a lack of health services and adequate food. In addition, the spread of racist, discriminatory and xenophobic messages and actions creates stressful and tense environments in the camp. Until now, the local and federal authorities have not implemented any humanitarian assistance or preventive measures to address these acts of discrimination.

We also raise awareness of the particular situation of non-accompanied children. On the 11th of November 2020, a Decree was officially published, which modified and reform several articles on migrant children of the Migration Law and the Law on Refugees, Complementary Protection and Political Asylum. However, in practice, the detention of non-accompanied children continues, particularly detentions in inadequate places; being separated from their families, the lack of access to the right to request asylum for themselves. Until now, there are no adequate regulations, protocols, or operative manuals that would effectively implement the reforms.

Lastly, in addition to the widespread context of strengthening migratory policies, our organizations have witnessed intense months of hostilities, harassment, surveillance, defamation and aggressions against human right defenders, shelters and spaces attending migrants. On the 19th of January 2021, during a human rights monitoring activity carried out by the “Colectivo de Observación y Monitoreo de Derechos Humanos del Sureste Mexicano”, human right defenders were followed and kept under surveillance by members of the NGF, SEDENA and the Marine. This happened in a context were human right defenders, shelters and civil society organizations are the ones providing humanitarian assistance and protecting migrants.

During Covid-19, and in addition to acts and statements that criminalize human right defenders, there has been a use of the health emergency to falsely argue that accompanying migrant and defend human rights pose a “risk” of contamination to the local communities. This has been the case in various shelters and for human right defenders such as in the “El Chaparral” camp in Tijuana. For this reason, we are concerned that Mexico did not provide information to the CERD on the implementation of the recommendations related to the protection of human right defenders working with people on the move.

The lack of governmental actions to implement the Committee’s recommendations is just a sign of the systemic denial of the fundamental rights of thousands of migrants and asylum seekers who are discriminated against because of their nationality.

We call on Mexico to comply with its international obligations and particularly to implement the recommendations that various human rights mechanisms have made in the context of the protection of human rights of migrants, asylum seekers and human right defenders that work with them.

Signed by,

Centro de Derechos Humanos Fray Matías de Córdova A. C.
Franciscans International
Programa de Asuntos Migratorios, Universidad Iberoamericana Ciudad de México Red Franciscana para Migrantes en Centroamérica, México y Estados Unidos
Red Franciscana para Migrantes en México
Red Jesuita con Migrantes Centroamérica y Norteamérica
Servicio Jesuita a Refugiados México

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In the wake of Supreme Court TPS decision Congress should pass the Dream and Promise Act

Yesterday the Supreme Court ruled that people who currently have Temporary Protected Status, but who entered the United States without having been “inspected,” are not eligible to become permanent residents. 

The ruling came in the case Sanchez vs Mayorkas. Sanchez, originally from El Salvador, entered the United States without inspection in the mid-1990s. As a result of El Salvador’s TPS designation in 2001, Sanchez became lawfully present in the United States, and was granted temporary status to work. In 2014 Sanchez applied for lawful permanent residence and was denied because he had never been formally inspected at the border and granted a lawful entry. 

The Supreme Court upheld that decision in a unanimous ruling yesterday arguing that “eligibility for LPR status generally requires an “admission,” the lawful entry of the alien into the U.S. after inspection and authorization by an immigration officer. Sanchez did not enter lawfully and his TPS does not eliminate the effect of that unlawful entry.”

Advocates had argued that because TPS requires an application and review, such a process was in essence the equivalent of a lawful inspection at the border. The Court disagreed. 

It is important to underline that the decision was concerning the ability of someone who had entered the country unlawfully to later apply for permanent residency. The ruling was not about TPS directly, and does not affect anyone’s TPS status. The Court simply said that the process of applying for TPS can not stand in for a border inspection under the current legal requirements for becoming a permanent resident.

So, under current law, if someone entered the country lawfully and with an inspection, even if they later overstayed their visa, and are now lawfully present as a result of TPS, they can apply for permanent residency. If they did not enter the country lawfully, they cannot.

Summary from Justia of the ruling

Full text of the ruling

Key takeaways:

  1. This ruling does not impact anyone’s current TPS status
  2. This ruling does not impact the Biden administration’s decision to redesignate Haiti for TPS in any way. People from Haiti present in the U.S. on or before May 21, 2021 will still be able to apply for TPS once it is published in the Federal Register.
  3. This ruling does make clear the need to change the law so there is a pathway to permanent residency and citizenship for people living in the United States, regardless of how they arrived…The Dream and Promise Act would do this. Justice Kagan actually notes this in the ruling (p. 8-9),

Congress, of course, could have gone further, by deeming TPS recipients to have not only nonimmigrant status but also a lawful admission. Legislation pending in Congress would do just that. See American Dream and Promise Act of 2021, H. R. 6, 117th Cong., 1st Sess., §203, p. 29 (introduced Mar. 3, 2021) (amending §1254a(f)(4) so that a TPS recipient shall be considered “as having been inspected and admitted into the United States, and” as being in, and maintaining, lawful status as a nonimmigrant”

Let your Senators know that you support HR6: The Dream and Promise Act, which will extend a path to citizenship for TPS holders as well as Dreamers [people who “unlawfully” arrived in the United States as children, and have qualified for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)]. The Congressional switchboard is (202) 224- 3121.

The Dream and Promise Act passed the House last year as well, and then died in the Senate. It may not be taken up for a vote any time soon in the Senate, but always good to let your Senators know you support it.

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Law school clinics at Harvard, Yale and NYU call on Biden to denounce controversial constitutional referendum

The Moise government in Haiti has once again postponed a controversial constitutional referendum. The chair of the electoral counsel announced on Monday, June 7 that the referendum, re-scheduled for June 27, would be indefinitely postponed due to the current COVID-19 outbreak in Haiti..

There is widespread opposition to the referendum in Haiti. First, the referendum seems to clearly violate the current constitution, which does not allow amendment via referendum. Secondly, people are being asked to simply vote yes or no on what is an entirely new form of government. For example, the proposed constitution would concentrate power in the presidency, by eliminating the senate, and also end Haiti’s dual executive form of government, where the president shares power with a prime minister. Finally, there is little trust in Moise, who has ruled by decree since January of 2019 and who many, including members of Haiti’s Supreme Court, argue should have stepped down on February 7, 2021 when his tenure ended in favor of an interim authority to oversee elections.

As the security situation in Haiti continues to decline, the human rights law clinics of Harvard, Yale and New York University School of Law issued a statement calling on the Biden administration to “unequivocally” denounce the referendum, saying it should not simply be postponed, but “should never be held.” The Law Clinics’ joint announcement on the statement’s release reads:

The Global Justice Clinic, the International Human Rights Clinic at Harvard Law School, and the Lowenstein International Human Rights Clinic at Yale Law School issued a statement on June 8, 2021, calling on the U.S. government to heed civil society’s demand and cancel the planned constitutional referendum in Haiti.  The referendum, which will ask Haitian people to vote “yes” or “no” on a new Constitution, is illegal.  It is the most recent, bold effort by President Jovenel Moïse to consolidate power and comes on the heels of dozens of presidential decrees that undermine checks on the executive. Haitian civil society has widely denounced the referendum, noting its illegality and emphasizing the impossibility of holding a vote under the current administration.  International actors are increasingly recognizing the illegitimacy of the referendum, and the danger to democracy that it poses.  However, continued technical support and provision of aid to the government of Haiti to hold elections means that international actors, including the United States government, are tacitly supporting the unconstitutional vote.  With long experience working in solidarity with Haitian civil society, and building off our February statement, the clinics urge the U.S. government to urgently and publicly call to cancel the referendum.

You can read the full statements (and share) in English and Haitian Creole

 

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Haiti: COVID-19 update and the ongoing political crisis

Haiti is experiencing a third wave of COVID-19 infections, and it is quickly emerging as possibly the worst one. Infections were initially concentrated in the north and in Port-au-Prince, but are quickly emerging everywhere. Near our program site in Gros Morne, there are cases at the local hospital, though for now, still manageable. A long overdue shipment of masks from Germany arrived – just as infections were increasing. However, in Port-au-Prince resources are strained. For example, at St. Luke’s hospital, they have run out of beds, and are having difficulty securing oxygen as prices for tanks have increased with the spike in demand.

Graduation ceremonies for the schools have been suspended and exams delayed, though classes themselves have not yet been halted. This could change, or course, but clearly there is a strong desire to finish the school year, already truncated by COVID-19, political protests and security concerns.

We continue to monitor the situation in Gros Morne, but we are not a medical non-profit. For those wishing to provide direct support for medical response to COVID-19 we encourage you to look into St. Luke‘s, which has an historic relationship with the hospital in Gros Morne.  Our own work in Gros Morne in support of ecological programs continues, of course, and we are also part of a team with the Haiti Response Coalition that monitors and reports on the political crisis. Your support for that work is also quite welcome. 

Referendum on the Constitution

Meanwhile, preparations for a constitutional referendum – itself likely unconstitutional – continue. Despite widespread opposition to the referendum within Haiti, and multiple statements of concern from without, the referendum is set for June 27 barring a delay over COVID-19. Jake Johnston from the Center for Economic Policy Research wrote an excellent new piece for the CEPR blog dissecting the role of the “international community” which is implicitly supporting the referendum, despite public statements to the contrary. Jake writes,

The international community has remained largely silent on the question of the referendum. The Core Group, which consists of the US, Canada, Brazil, France, the EU, the UN, and the OAS, among others, issued a statement in April noting that the process was not sufficiently transparent or inclusive. Nevertheless, international actors have refrained from explicitly calling for its cancellation or even its delay. Further, both the UN and the OAS are actively providing support for the referendum, despite their public statements of concern. 

These two multilateral organizations have provided technical assistance to the commission tasked with drafting the new text since it was formed last fall. The OAS even helped with revisions to the text in an attempt to remove some of the more controversial aspects in the original. The UN, meanwhile, has helped to procure sensitive voting materials for the electoral council overseeing the referendum and has an agreement in place to provide logistics for holding the vote. The UN is also helping to advise the national police on an electoral security strategy. 

Constitutional changes and upcoming elections are obviously closely tied together. For example, proposed constitutional changes would eliminate the senate and thus, change the parameters of the elections completely. So, in addition to the controversy over the referendum itself, there is widespread confusion about what it means for long overdue national elections now scheduled for November.

In the lead up to the referendum, opposition politicians are mobilizing – or encouraging others to mobilize – in an effort to block the vote. For example, Jean Danton Léger, a former member of Parliament, representing Léogâne, called on “all citizens to mobilize to thwart the organization of this referendum, which, he said, was aimed not only at building a presidential monarch, untouchable with permanent immunity and not accountable….but also to institutionalize impunity, legalize gangsterism, and deliver the country entirely to neo-settlers.”

The PBS NewsHour did a program on Haiti which provides a good overview of many of the current concerns regarding elections and the referendum. Though they give a few moments to current U.S. policy, the one weakness here and in much Haiti coverage, is the lack of attention given to historic U.S. responsibility, including efforts by the Obama administration that led to Moise and his predecessor, Michel Martelly, being in power to begin with. That said, it is still worth watching, as Haiti rarely gets this kind of coverage. You can watch the program here.

Elections and the OAS

Finally, the Organization of American States is organizing an official delegation to Haiti. The Permanent Council approved the delegation last week. From the Miami Herald:

The Organization of American States agreed Wednesday to send a five-member delegation to Haiti no later than mid-June to see if they can help the Caribbean nation break a crippling political impasse that could derail presidential and legislative elections this year.

The highly anticipated OAS mission will unfold over three days in Port-au-Prince, cost about $24,000 and consist of the representatives of five member states: Canada, Costa Rica, Ecuador, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the United States. The U.S. has agreed to pick up most of the tab following the OAS Permanent Council’s unanimous offer in March to the Haitian government to help facilitate a political dialogue.

According to Wednesday’s [May 26] resolution approved by the permanent representatives of the OAS after negotiations, delegation members will be participating in their own capacity but with the permission of their respective governments. They also will be joined by a representative of the general secretariat of the OAS on the trip. The mission will present a report with its conclusions and recommendations within two weeks of its return.

Given the deep polarization in Haiti, the idea of a delegation to offer mediation toward a more sustained dialogue sounds like a great idea. However, the concern is that the delegation could well end up parroting official U.S. policy 1 which would simply reinforce Moise’s position, and the U.S. demand for elections in the fall. The delegation is not going to be discussing the referendum in any official capacity, though it is hard to see how it does not come up.

 

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Quixote Center delegation and other immigration updates

Temporary Protected Status Update

The biggest news we have shared in recent weeks is the redesignation of Haiti to receive Temporary Protected Status. This happened on May 22, and impacts people from Haiti who were in the United States on or before May 21. People who qualify for TPS are allowed to stay and work in the United States until it is decided that it is safe for them to return to Haiti. The program is reviewed every 18 months. 

Of course, as with all policy, getting agreement to do something is only half the battle. Getting it done correctly and quickly requires a certain amount of vigilance as well. The Quixote Center joined in with 130 organizations on this letter to the administration asking for TPS to be handled quickly and as inclusively as possible. Please feel free to share among your networks. 

Meanwhile, the campaign to get TPS extended to Central America continues. Nicaragua was one of several countries for whom the Trump administration sought to cancel its TPS designation. The administration was ultimately successful in the case that impacted Nicaragua’s TPS designation (there were several court challenges to Trump’s effort to cancel TPS). So, at the moment, Nicaraguans that have been approved for TPS are still able to stay and work in the United States, but absent a renewal, or redesignation, their protected status will end in October of 2021.

Alianza Americas is leading a coalition effort to get a new TPS designation for countries in Central America impacted by hurricanes Eta and Iota, which hit the region within two weeks of each other in November, as well as ongoing violence. The call is for redesignation for Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador, and designation for Guatemala (which has not received TPS before). 

There is a week of action under way. You can check Alianza Americas and Presente.org’s toolkit for social media posts and other ideas, and to sign their petition here. 

The Biden Administration formally ends the “Remain in Mexico” program

Of the many things the Trump administration did to gut the United States’ asylum system, one of the better known, and often brutal, tactics was the Orwellian named “Migrant Protection Protocol.” Under the provisions of this program people seeking asylum at the U.S./Mexico border were made to wait on the Mexico side of the border for a hearing with U.S. immigration judges. People were forced to wait for months, and ultimately years once hearings were suspended due to COVID-19 restrictions last March. MPP ultimately directly impacted over 71,000 people.

People waiting in Mexico were frequently victims of cartel violence and kidnappings. Human Rights First documented 1,500+ cases of people enrolled in MPP who were attacked while in Mexico.

When the Biden administration came into office, they immediately halted new enrollments into MPP. At the time, new enrollments were fairly limited because most asylum seekers were (and still are) removed under a different program, the public health order currently keeping the border locked down to asylum seekers: Title 42. The January suspension did signal the beginning of Biden’s DHS clearing MPP cases – or, allowing those still waiting in Mexico a chance to register and enter the U.S. to await asylum hearings here.

On June 1, 2021, DHS Secretary Mayorkas announced the formal closure of the Migrant Protection Protocol, ending one (of many) of Trump’s border debacles. 

With MPP formally closed, it seems that Biden should now begin the process of winding down Title 42 expulsions. 

Detentions going up, and up

With the end of the Migrant Protection Protocol, and a lower percentage of people being expelled under Title 42 (though still huge numbers overall), the number of people in detention is going up rapidly. While Biden entered office with a commitment to minimize the use of detention, the U.S. immigration system is sadly designed as an inherently punitive system, and detention has been its centerpiece since the early 1980s. So more people are being admitted, but many of them are being placed in detention while being processed.

Because of Title 42 expulsions, and a modest slowdown in internal enforcement operations in the spring of last year, the number of people held in immigrant detention facilities fell to an all time low by the end of January in 2021 – less than 13,000 for the first time in over 20 years.

As of May 28, 2021 that number is up to 23,107  As outlined by TRAC, the increase is almost entirely the result of people being redirected to ICE detention by Border Patrol. 

The Quixote Center and Franciscan Network on Migration: “Delegation and Witness at Mexico’s southern border”

September 19 to 25, 2021
Tenosique, Salto de Agua, and Palenque in Mexico and
El Ceibo,
Guatemala (dependent on border restrictions)

Join the Quixote Center and the Franciscan Network on Migration on a delegation to southern Mexico to examine the impact of U.S. policy on Mexico’s immigration enforcement on its southern border. The Franciscan Network on Migration connects the work of migrant shelters run by Franciscans in Central America and Mexico. The Quixote Center is a member of the network, and also works with community groups in Nicaragua and Haiti.

The focus of the delegation: Under pressure from the United States, Mexico has cracked down on migration along its southern border with Guatemala: The result is an expansion of security forces patrolling in border states, changes to visa rules, increased us of detention, and since March 2021, the closure of the border with Guatemala to all but “essential” travel. These pressures have come from both Trump and the Biden administration, and have been further complicated by COVID-19 travel restrictions. 

Join us, as we visit the border to see first hand the impact of these policies, and to meet with immigration rights advocates providing shelter and other relief to migrants crossing into Mexico in this new environment.

The delegation will begin in Tenosique, Tabasco. We will spend a couple of days with people at migrant shelter, La72. We will also meet with UN refugee offices in the area, and if travel restrictions have been lifted, we will visit shelters just across the border in Ceibo, Guatemala. We will also visit shelters in Salto de Agua and Palenque, both in Chiapas. 

How to get involved

The cost of the trip is $995 and includes meals, hotel, all in-country transportation, and translation. The cost of international travel is not included. Delegates must arrive at the airport in Mexico City on Sunday, September 19th. From there we will travel together to Villahermosa, Tabasco (the cost of the connecting domestic flight from Mexico City to Villahermosa is included in the delegation fee). 

You can apply to participate on the delegation here. A deposit of $250 is required by July 1, with balance due August 15.

We require that everyone participating on this delegation provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination.  

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Haiti Re-designated for Temporary Protected Status

One of the goals you have been working on with us and a host of other organizations was finally achieved this weekend. The news was first announced on Buzzfeed News:

The Biden administration will grant more than 100,000 Haitians in the US the opportunity to gain temporary protected status, shielding them from deportation and allowing them to obtain work permits, according to a Department of Homeland Security document provided to BuzzFeed News.

The decision, which immigrant advocates have been pushing for several months, comes as Haiti suffers from a growing political crisis after the opposition party’s calls for the president to step down failed. Reports of increased gang violence and kidnappings have roiled parts of the country, which is already struggling to deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

The official announcement came on Saturday – and underlined the date of re-designation – May 21, 2021. Only people already here on or before that date are able to apply for TPS (it is not automatic). From the official announcement from the Department of Homeland Security:

WASHINGTON – Today, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas announced a new 18-month designation of Haiti for Temporary Protected Status (TPS). This new TPS designation enables Haitian nationals (and individuals without nationality who last resided in Haiti) currently residing in the United States as of May 21, 2021 to file initial applications for TPS, so long as they meet eligibility requirements.

“Haiti is currently experiencing serious security concerns, social unrest, an increase in human rights abuses, crippling poverty, and lack of basic resources, which are exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Secretary Mayorkas. “After careful consideration, we determined that we must do what we can to support Haitian nationals in the United States until conditions in Haiti improve so they may safely return home….”

….It is important to note that TPS will apply only to those individuals who are already residing in the United States as of May 21, 2021 and meet all other requirements. Those who attempt to travel to the United States after this announcement will not be eligible for TPS and may be repatriated. Haiti’s 18-month designation will go into effect on the publication date of the Federal Register notice to come shortly. The Federal Register notice will provide instructions for applying for TPS and employment authorization documentation.

A lot of people have been working on this issue for a long time. Thank you for taking part in the effort. We do not get a lot of victories in this work, so we celebrate the ones we do achieve.

That said, the work never stops. Guerline Jozef, Director of the Haitian Bridge Alliance, who has been everywhere one can be talking about TPS and removals to Haiti, was on MSNBC this morning explaining the decision – and the people not included.

Some other statements on the decision

From the Family Action Network Movement (FANM) statement:

Marleine Bastien, Executive Director of Family Action Network Movement (FANM), stated, “We applaud and commend the Biden Administration’s decision to redesignate TPS for Haiti. During a recent march in Washington on May 18th and a meeting with White House and DHS officials Thursday evening, I sent a strong message to President Biden that given the deteriorating political situation in Haïti including state sponsored massacres, kidnapping/killing of political opponents , widespread raping of women and girls , it was time to redesignate Haiti for TPS and that “Justice Delayed is Justice Denied.””

Steve Forester, Immigration Policy Coordinator for the Institute for Justice & Democracy in Haiti (IJDH), said, “Haiti’s redesignation for TPS recognizes that extraordinary conditions of political and social crisis and insecurity make deportations to Haiti unsafe and redesignation appropriate. We applaud the administration, which since February 1 has expelled about 2,000 Haitians on 34 flights, for this long overdue and entirely appropriate action.”

Legal Defense Fund: Raymond Audain, Senior Counsel at LDF, issued the following statement following the president’s announcement:

“We are encouraged that President Biden has redesignated Haiti for Temporary Protected Status – and that members of the Haitian TPS community now have the security and stability they were unjustly denied for three years as Haiti’s status remained in limbo. While Haiti should have unquestionably received TPS redesignation due to the country’s concerning humanitarian situation alone, the blatantly racist nature of the Trump administration’s decision to revoke its status speaks even further to the rightfulness of today’s decision to undo this deeply discriminatory and shameful action.

Alianza Americas and Presente.org

“We commend the Biden-Harris administration for their decision to provide a new TPS designation for Haitian nationals. This has been one of the demands that many Latin American and Caribbean immigrant communities made early on. The situation in Haiti has been deteriorating with human rights violations, poverty, and social unrest caused by the pandemic, further limiting the ability of Haitians to return safely to their country. Over 100,000 Haitians residing in the U.S. will now be able to live without the fear of being detained and deported back to the country they fled from,” said Oscar Chacón, executive director of Alianza Americas. 

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Immigrant detention is increasing again and so are COVID-19 infections

Throughout the last year, the number of people being held in immigration detention facilities fell. Starting at about 38,000 last March, the number of people being held in detention at the end of February this year was just below 13,000. As we reported throughout the year, the decline was the result of border policies, specifically Title 42 – a controversial public health order under which people are denied access to regular immigration processing, including the right to request asylum. Under Title 42, people have been summarily expelled when encountered at the border- almost all of them within 2 hours of being picked up. A smaller number of people, primarily those who cannot be returned to Mexico, including those from Haiti, are detained for a few weeks before being expelled. 

Under Trump, over 600,000 people were expelled under Title 42 – which meant 600,000+ people that would have been detained for some amount of time under “normal” circumstances, never entered the system.

Since President Biden came into office, Title 42 expulsions have continued, but the percentage of people expelled under Title 42, versus those placed into regular immigration processing channels (“Title 8”) has fallen off – even as the total numbers have gone up all around. In October, 91% of Border Patrol arrests led to immediate removal under Title 42. In March and April, 63% of arrests led to Title 42 removal.

 

The result of more people being redirected into Title 8 processing is an increase in detention. The number of people being held in detention at the end of the first week in May was over 19,000. This represents a 50% increase in detention since Biden took office. This is true, even though Biden issued new enforcement parameters that have seriously reduced internal enforcement arrests (“ICE” in the chart below). As we can see from the table, the increase in detention is all the result of border arrests and transfers from Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

As detention numbers increase, it raises concerns again about exposure to COVID-19 inside detention facilities. Over the course of last year, ICE did very little to adjust its procedures to protect people. It continued to transfer people from facility to facility, it continued to deport people, and within facilities, there was little access to protective equipment and COVID testing. The result was that ICE detention centers became COVID-19 hotspots, leading to the highest annual death rate in years. An investigative report by Detention Watch Network concluded that “between May 1 and August 1 [2020]….ICE detention facilities were responsible for over 245,000 Covid-19 cases throughout the country.” 

Finally, the New York Times reported on the spread of COVID-19 around the world as a result of ICE detention practices and deportations.

Given ICE’s track record, we are rightly concerned about the health of those incarcerated. For one thing, ICE has NO uniform vaccination program. Indeed, even though a federal agency, it has left vaccination decisions to the states and/or localities where its detention facilities are located. So, unlike the Federal Bureau of Prisons, which provided vaccines for federal prisoners, ICE has provided none for those in its custody. The predictable result is that very few people in detention have received a vaccine. Indeed it was during the first week of May, that the first known vaccines for anyone in ICE custody in Texas were provided by Houston’s public health department; 130 doses delivered to the Houston Processing Center.  Meanwhile, in Texas, 402 people are in isolation after testing positive for COVID-19.

System wide, there are currently 2,123 people who have tested positive in ICE custody – or 1 out of 9 people in custody. 

Physicians for Human Rights wrote a letter to the Secretary Mayorkas of the Department of Homeland Security saying,

The number of COVID-19-related deaths in custody, and immediately following release, continues to increase. Although release of people from immigration detention is the most appropriate solution to this crisis, it is also an urgent human rights issue to ensure that detainees have timely access to the potentially lifesaving COVID-19 vaccine. PHR submits this letter based on more than 30 years of experience documenting health and mental health risks in immigration detention, providing medical and psychological evaluations for individual clients, and producing peer-reviewed articles and national research reports, including one based on interviews with 50 people held in ICE detention during the pandemic that shows ICE’s cruel and callous treatment of detainees and failure to ensure safe conditions.

The recommendations in the letter are:

  1. Issue an unequivocal public statement that all people in immigration detention should be vaccinated as a priority population. While acknowledging the important role states and localities play in vaccine rollout, there must be an indication from federal authorities that vaccinating people in immigration detention is a priority. As the agency responsible for ensuring the health and safety of people in immigration detention centers, DHS must play a clearer role in ensuring access to vaccines and coordinating with the appropriate state and local authorities. 
  2. Ensure that vaccine supplies are reserved for people in immigration detention. Consider direct allocation of federal vaccine supplies to detention centers, as the Bureau of Prisons already does for people in other federal detention facilities. Alternatively, or additionally, ensure that state public health authorities dedicate a specific proportion of their vaccine allocations to people in immigration detention facilities located in their states. 
  3. Provide community legal and social service providers and advocates with access to detention facilities to communicate with detainees about the vaccine. Clear messaging on vaccination plans must be delivered to people in detention by trusted sources.  

The full letter is here.

You can help elevate these demands by calling the Department of Homeland Security comment line at 202-282-8495 and let them know you support insuring that all people held in ICE custody receive a vaccine – and that they be released as soon as possible!

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Haiti’s Third COVID Wave?

Reports are beginning to emerge of a new wave of COVID-19 infections in Haiti, as hospitals scramble to find scarce supplies. Haiti, like many other impoverished countries, has no clear vaccination program in place. The government suffers from a lack of legitimacy on many fronts, and it is unlikely it could mobilize people on a wide scale to get vaccinated. There is a high level of distrust about COVID in Haiti already, and Moise will certainly have a hard time countering that for the purposes of a vaccination campaign. 

That said, at this point there are no vaccines to give anyway. The multilateral source for donated vaccines (COVAX) is severely under served in general. There were 750,000+ AstraZeneca vaccines available to Haiti several weeks ago, but the government turned them down due to concerns about side effects (AstraZeneca has not been approved in the United States). Given the recent bump in cases some health officials in Haiti, such as Dr. Jean William Pape, director of the GHESKIO Center, argue that the government should rethink its position.**[Update below] 

Haiti is generally viewed as having escaped the worst of the pandemic – thus far. However, the true toll that COVID-19 has taken on the country is clearly unknown. Official numbers are well below the Dominican Republic, for example, but there is also no comparison regarding testing, which has been almost non-existent outside of Port au Prince. So, while things clearly could have been much worse in Haiti, given the fragility of its health infrastructure, there have probably been many times more deaths from COVID than are recognized. This is of course true everywhere (including the United States).

The third wave is evident in the trend lines for cases and deaths. Though not yet as severe are earlier peaks, hospitals in Port au Prince are seeing an increase in cases and shortages of supplies. Father Rick Frechette CP of St. Luke’s wrote over the weekend,

We were never closed since June 2020, but we never needed more than 10 beds.

Now the dramatic upswing with 65 beds, and we expect that 120 beds will again soon be necessary.

The Haitian Ministry of Health has announced variants from Amazon region of Brazil, and from the United Kingdom.

The United Kingdom itself is, according to the NY Times, taking measures against the variant in India that is causing enormous suffering and death.

I spent the morning at Cite Soleil, with Raphael, Fr David (from France), Fr Jean Baptiste (from Haiti) trying to evacuate the wounded from todays gang wars, waged for control of votes for upcoming elections, in this vast and populous area.These are not isolated events. A few days ago, such a gang war took place where the oxygen used for COVID patients is produced. This was a nightmare- we need 240 tanks per day at our current bed level.

In Gros Morne where we work, they are not seeing an increase yet – nor are they seeing an increase in precautions. One saving grace is that people spend a great deal of time either outside, or in spaces that have open air flow. 

 

A gobal dilemma

The Economist published research indicating that the true death count from COVID-19 globally is likely 10 million thus far, and that two-thirds of those deaths have occurred in poor countries where undercounts have also been the largest. Giving some sense of what is at stake, they write,

[I]n the short run vaccines will fuel the divide between rich and poor. Soon, the only people to die from covid-19 in rich countries will be exceptionally frail or exceptionally unlucky, as well as those who have spurned the chance to be vaccinated. In poorer countries, by contrast, most people will have no choice. They will remain unprotected for many months or years.

The world cannot rest while people perish for want of a jab costing as little as $4 for a two-dose course. It is hard to think of a better use of resources than vaccination. Economists’ central estimate for the direct value of a course is $2,900—if you include factors like long covid and the effect of impaired education, the total is much bigger. The benefit from an extra 1bn doses supplied by July would be worth hundreds of billions of dollars. Less circulating virus means less mutation, and so a lower chance of a new variant that reinfects the vaccinated.

Though the Economist is editorially suspicious that a much debated WTO waiver on patents and other intellectual property rights for COVID vaccines and technology will offer much of a solution – at least the short term. For one thing, no agreement on a waiver is likely to happen prior to December, if it happens at all. That would be 15 months after South Africa and India first proposed it in October of 2020. But that does not mean wealthy countries cannot help. They suggest, 

[i]f Mr Biden really wants to make a difference, he can donate vaccine right now through covax. Rich countries over-ordered because they did not know which vaccines would work. Britain has ordered more than nine doses for each adult, Canada more than 13. These will be urgently needed elsewhere. It is wrong to put teenagers, who have a minuscule risk of dying from covid-19, before the elderly and health-care workers in poor countries. The rich world should not stockpile boosters to cover the population many times over on the off-chance that they may be needed. In the next six months, this could yield billions of doses of vaccine.  

Thus far, the United States and Europe have offered money – Biden has pledged the U.S. to $4billion to support COVAX (though the first half of the funds will not be delivered until next year), but they have not donated much needed vaccines. The United States has agreed to loan Mexico 2.5 million vaccines from the U.S. stockpile of AstraZeneca, but in doing so it also leveraged concessions from Mexico for stricter immigration enforcement along its southern border with Guatemala. (Mexico closed its border with Guatemala shortly after the vaccine discussions in March). The fact that the U.S. has stockpiled 10 million doses of a vaccine it is not using is disturbing in and of itself. 

Meanwhile, back in Haiti

As the case of Haiti indicates, in addition to donations of vaccines, there is also a need to support the infrastructure needed for the delivery of vaccines (refrigeration at extreme low temperatures, for example, is required for storage and transport of some vaccine), as well as public education. 

For now, the ministry of health in Haiti is once again encouraging everyone to wear masks, wash hands regularly, do regular temperature checks, and engage in social distancing as much as possible.  It has also requested the media assist in getting the word out about the importance of these precautions. Hopefully, the government can make a decision soon on AstraZeneca. However, Haiti, a country of 11 million people, needs much more than 750,000 doses.

Long term it is in everyone’s interest for the people of Haiti and other countries to get vaccinated. We are not separately raising funds at this point ourselves, but if you wish to help with supplies, you can visit St. Luke’s here. They have been supportive of the community in Gros Morne in times past with medical supplies themselves.

**UPDATE: The Government Approved use of AstraZeneca just after publication (May 19):

Dr. Jarbas Barbosa, assistant director of World Health Organization’s Americas branch, told journalists Wednesday that the president of Haiti informed them that the country will accept the AstraZeneca vaccine. The government had previously expressed concerns about the shot’s safety following reports of clotting and had banned it from being used, despite being offered free doses.

 

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Franciscan Network on Migration Annual Report

Below is a message from Br. Jaime Campos, OFM introducing the annual report of the Franciscan Network on Migration. The Quixote Center is the fiscal sponsor for the Franciscan Network on Migration in the United States, and John Marchese serves on the coordinating committee. If you would like to support this work, you can make a tax-deductible contribution to the Franciscan Network here.


On behalf of our Steering Committee, I am pleased to present to you the Franciscan Network for Migration’s 2020 Annual Report. This first report fills us with joy because it is the result of the efforts of women and men who have set out to serve migrants and have woven a network nourished by the rich Franciscan spiritual values of fraternity and minority. As we incorporate into our life and mission the attitudes of welcoming, protecting, promoting and integrating migrants and refugees, we give life to the desire for universal brother and sisterhood, and the Kingdom of God becomes present in our midst.

Forming this network has required the dedication, patience, discipline and hope of everyone involved. I warmly thank those who, along with their daily work that they carry out in grassroots communities and organizations, share their lives with others in order to rediscover and come together around the migratory crisis that a large part of the world is experiencing and that has increased with the Sars2-COVID-19 pandemic.

From this reality, between struggles and hopes, the members of the network have joined to multiply the good towards our migrant brothers and sisters; working in a network that emerges from creativity, accompaniment and prayer. At times, the terrain exposes them to stretches of reflection and unity, as well as bifurcations of an overwhelming reality. But in each segment of the journey, they contribute, build and renew with their dedication the decision to walk together in this great project.

Our efforts have focused on the region of Central America, Mexico and the United States. In the following pages you will read about how the network has been woven, about the people who have joined, about the organizations that are part of this fabric, and about the instruments that we have used to form a network of work, encounter, and fraternity that is committed to the human rights of migrants.

Br. Jaime Campos, OFM

Member of the Steering Committee

Read the full report here

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Haiti news: The conversation about dialogue, flag day events and take action on TPS

ACTION: The Biden Administration must re-designate TPS for Haiti

“It is critical for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to redesignate Haiti for Temporary Protected Status (TPS).   TPS is appropriate when extraordinary and temporary conditions in a nation make returning its nationals unsafe.  There is overwhelming political and civil society recognition that redesignating Haiti for TPS is appropriate because such conditions exist; even DHS officials in internal discussions and documents acknowledge that Haitians they return “may face harm” upon return in Haiti.  Nevertheless, and in violation of President Biden’s campaign promise to halt Haiti expulsions, DHS has expelled to Haiti since February 1 about 1700-2100 Haitians, mainly families including hundreds of children, on at least thirty three (33) flights, [This is more Haitians than President Trump expelled during all of FY2020].  This policy is inhumane and contradicts the stated values and promises of President Biden and Vice-President Harris.” [from Steve Forester at the Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti]

It is hard to imagine anyone in this administration lobbying to continue deportations and expulsions to Haiti under the current conditions, but somebody must be. Meanwhile, halting removals to Haiti is a consistent demand across the spectrum – check the New York Times, Washington Post, Miami Herald, Boston Globe, hundreds of human rights activists and organizations, and members of his own party in Congress. 

Redesignating Haiti for Temporary Protected Status would mean those Haitians in the United States could stay until the crisis at home is resolved. TPS is a policy often utilized for humanitarian purposes. It was just extended to Venezuela, for example. Because Trump tried to kill TPS for Haiti, and many other countries, Haiti’s earlier designation for TPS (2011) is still being fought in the courts. Redesignating Haiti now would make this earlier case moot, and protect more families from removal. It is the right thing to do, and there is bi-partisan cover to the extent Biden is worried about the GOP backlash.

Actions to take:

  1. Sign/share the Color of Change petition calling on the Biden administration to redesignate Haiti for TPS
  2. For organizations, you can sign/share this Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights letter asking for TPS redesignation for Haiti.

Flag Day events on Haiti

May 18 is flag day in Haiti, the anniversary of the adoption of Haiti’s flag in 1803. This year flag day will involve much more than cultural celebrations. Here are a few events to check out:

Current realities regarding the gains of Haiti’s 1987 constitution
Haitian Studies Association:
Tuesday, May 18, 4 :00 EDT (Haitian Flag Day)
Moderator: François Pierre-Louis

Participants :

Chantal Hudicourt-Ewald
Danièle Maggiore
Georges Michel
Lucien Prophète
Jean Eddy Saint Paul
One of the most current issues in Haiti is a referendum scheduled for June 17 for a new constitution called for by the current state. The proposed constitution involves a series of changes.

This panel will discuss the legacy and stakes of the constitution of March 29, 1987, a national consensus after the fall of Duvalier in 1986. The 1987 constitution was written in a very specific context, to implant democracy and human rights. This panel will analyze the gains of the 1987 constitution in today’s context, comparing it with the proposed constitution, asking a range of questions for engaged Haitian citizens to make an informed decision.

Get details, and register here.


U.S. Policy on Haiti and U.S. Position on Haiti’s Elections
with Julie Chung, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere
U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Global Public Affairs Event
Tuesday, May 18, 2021 from 9:00 AM to 10:00 AM EDT
To register click here


Civil society organizations form “Commission for a Haitian Solution to the Crisis”

The political crisis in Haiti, which has deep historical roots, but is most immediately the result of opposition to the government of Jovenal Moise over the last three years, is entering a new phase with Moise insisting on holding a constitutional referendum in June and then moving forward with elections this fall. Both of these measures are opposed by broad sectors of society. While many recognize the need for constitutional reform, as well as the need for elections for a new government, Moise is not recognized as a legitimate authority to oversee these things. There was broad agreement from across the political spectrum that Moise’s tenure ended on February 7, 2021, and that he should step down to make way for a provisional authority to oversee new elections.

As we have noted, the Biden administration has by and large accepted the Trump policy of demanding elections, and has defended Moise’s argument that his tenure should extend another year (to February 7, 2022). Biden’s administration has voiced concerns about the constitutional referendum, as have a number of other external actors (the OAS and European Union, for example), but there is no sign that they will actually try to stop it.

The impasse over elections, referendum and ongoing instability, is in some manner the result of international actors backing Moise’s position, despite the widespread opposition within Haiti. Moise has often claimed a willingness to dialogue, but has not been willing to compromise much.

A possibly hopeful sign is that a coalition of civil society organizations have formalized an agreement reached back in January to form a commission to promote “Haitian solutions” to the crisis.  From the declaration:

In view of the government’s refusal to comply with constitutional imperatives despite massive popular and political mobilizations as well as the political sector’s inability to impose its views with regard to mechanisms of resolution of the crisis, the country is experiencing a political deadlock. From a perspective of change, it is therefore important for us to seek ways and means to rebuild and reestablish our institutions. In the absence of institutions of counter-power, the vital sectors of the country, in a patriotic spirit, are to take action in order to avoid the total collapse of the state and to allow the nation to emerge from this deadlock. As a matter of priority, it is about returning to the normalization of the social and political life as soon as possible via a return to the constitutional order as a guarantee to the functioning of the rule of law and a way to allow citizens to choose their leaders freely and safely in a peaceful atmosphere.

It is in the name of this objective that the Forum of Civil Society Organizations gathered on January 30, 2021 recommended to establish a Commission to work towards a peaceful resolution of the current political and institutional crisis. Based on combined criteria of affiliation to an organized sector of society, notoriety, morality, civic and patriotic commitment, competence and availability, the commission was then established in consultation with various sectors of society. These sectors, in a great display of magnanimity, agreed to contribute to this attempt to find a solution to this crisis, which has already drained the country. As a result, the Commission will devote itself to working together with all the different components of society, including political parties and groupings.

The Commission membership:

– Reverend Father Frantz Joseph CASSEUS / Église Épiscopale d’Haïti (Episcopal Church of Haiti)

– Mrs. Monique CLESCA / Independent

– Mrs. Magali COMEAU DENIS / Kolektif Atis Angaje (Collective of Committed Artists)

– Reverend Pastor, Jean Kisomaire DURÉ / Fédération Protestante d’Haïti (Protestant Federation of Haiti)

– Mr. Evens FILS / Fédération des Barreaux d’Haïti (Federation of Haitian Bars)

– Mrs. Magalie GEORGES / Collectif des Syndicats Haïtiens pour le respect de la Constitution (Collective of Haitian Trade Unions for the Respect of the Constitution)

– Mr. Louis Joël JOSEPH / Plateforme des Organisations Paysannes 4G-Kontre (Platform of Farmers’ Organizations 4G-Kontre)

– Mrs. MANIGAT / Plateforme des Organisations Féministes (Platform of Women’s Organizations)

– Mr. Maxime RONY / Plateforme des Organisations Haïtiennes des Droits de l’Homme (Platform of Haitian Human Rights Organizations)

– Mr. Ted SAINT-DIC / Independent

– Mr. Wilfrid SAINT-JUSTE / Voodoo Sector

– Mr. Michel A. PEAN

– A representative of the Haitian Forum for Peace and Sustainable Development 

 The full declaration is here.


Organization of American States Holds Special Session on Haiti

The OAS held a special session to discuss a proposed OAS Mission to Haiti to facilitate dialogue between various “stakeholders” and the government over the electoral process. The hearing was held on Wednesday and can be viewed here. The OAS had proposed the mission at an earlier session. This latest meeting followed the government of Haiti’s acceptance of the Mission. The Mission itself has not yet been formally approved. The session Wednesday gave foreign ministers an opportunity to express their support or concerns so that a final agreement outlining the terms of the mission can be drafted. It seems likely that this will come to fruition – there was little opposition to the idea.  

Dialogue is, of course, to be welcome. If this mission proceeds with full participation across a range of civil society and political groupings, it could very well help. Of course, the concern is that the OAS has thus far been pressing for elections and supporting Moise’s position on tenure. Which means this Mission could end up playing the role of defending Moise’s position and giving it international cover for an electoral process that is (under current terms) widely opposed. 

For the hardcore, the full Organization of American States Permanent Council meeting can be viewed here. The discussion on Haiti begins at 1:38 (it follows a discussion on Nicaragua).

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