Haitian civil society is clear: No Intervention, support Haitian-led solutions

Twenty-eight people have been arrested by the Haitian National Police for involvement in the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse – including 2 Haitian Americans and 26 men from Colombia, some identified as former military by Colombia’s government. The arrests followed two days of confusing reports about gunfights, attackers taking shelter in the Taiwanese embassy (which is in Petionville, near Moïse’s private residence), and the burning of vehicles thought to have been used in the attack. Colombian police have been present in Haiti for some time. In terms of an official mission, at least, some were brought in to work with the Haitian National Police to assist with confronting the recent wave of kidnappings – a program coordinated by the United States International Bureau of Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL) .

Details of the attack itself have begun to come out. Maria Abi-Habib, bureau chief for Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean for The New York Times covered many of these details on The Daily podcast this morning. As with everything else, these details leave more questions than answers. The fact that the attackers encountered no resistance in entering Moïse’s residences is of huge concern. Former Senator Steven Benoît appeared on the radio program in Haiti on Friday, and said that Moïse had been killed by his own security people, and that the Colombians had been set up. Le Noveulliste reports that the two Haitian Americans arrested claimed to have been translators, and that the units had gone to the presidential palace to arrest Moïse, not to kill him. 

Whatever the truth is, it is clear that the quick arrests conducted by Haitian National Police have not settled the question.  As Woy magazine noted on Friday, 

Many Haitians were quick to call out the irony of the Haitian National Police (PNH) being so quick to find those allegedly responsible for Moïse’s death as many previous high-profile killings, including that of Mèt Monferrier Dorval (who was shot and killed in his home which is in the same neighborhood as Moïse’s home), Evelyne Sincere, Gregory St. Hilaire, and even that of their very own colleagues who died during the Vilaj de Dye mission remain unsolved. There’s also the case of Matisan, Site Solèy and other parts of the greater Port-au-Prince region are still under the complete control of gangs, crippling parts of the capital and displacing thousands of men, women and children in the process.

Meanwhile, the international response has consisted largely of statements of shock and concern, alongside appeals for calm and condemnations of Moïse’s murder. The United Nations Security Council met on Thursday to discuss Haiti in a closed session. Following the session, Helen La Lime, who heads the UN office in Haiti, said that the government has requested more security support.

The United States Department of State held a press briefing on the situation in Haiti on Wednesday afternoon. The DOS spokesperson indicated that the US still supports Haiti sticking with the elections timeline – a position that was reiterated by Mathias Pierre, Haiti’s Minister for Elections, to The Guardian

Pierre, the elections minister, said on Thursday night that a presidential vote as well as a constitutional referendum that had been slated for 26 September before the assassination of Moïse would go ahead as planned.

“It [the vote] was not for Jovenel Moïse as president – it was a requirement to get a more stable country, a more stable political system, so I think we will continue with that,” Pierre said. He added that preparations had long been under way and millions of dollars disbursed to carry out the votes.

The Washington Post’s editorial board, which had been increasingly militant in its call for foreign intervention in Haiti – even prior to Moïse’s assassination – is now arguing for a military intervention under UN or other auspices. It is not clear how influential this line of argument will be; however, the prospect of a military intervention is clearly a concern.

A Haitian led solution

As Brian Concannon makes clear in his interview with Ian Masters, within Haiti, most people do not want to see a foreign intervention. There were more guns on the street and a severely weakened institutional framework for government when the last UN peacekeeping mission left, relative to the situation before they arrived. The UN mission also introduced cholera through carelessness, and its soldiers were involved in sexual exploitation of young people in the communities they operated in.

There is a broad consensus within Haiti that there should be no foreign military intervention. There should also be no rush to hold elections; rather, an interim authority composed of a wide range of political and civil society actors must be empowered to create the conditions for elections. A statement issued from multiple sectors, including representatives of political parties, and social movement organizations, issued a call for a conference of organizations, “to find a national compromise to resolve the crisis.”  They “ask the international sector to recognize that it is Haitians who must solve Haiti’s problems in order to bring their true solidarity to this Haitian solution.” 

Pierre Esperance, Executive Director of the National Human Rights Defense Network in Haiti, echoes this position in Just Security, writing,

Supporting Haitian solutions for Haiti is not as difficult as it sounds: civil society has known a transitional government would be necessary for quite some time. Civil society has developed a roadmap for a transition. The plan would include, among other things, the need for a transition period of sufficient length to restore electoral infrastructure, to strengthen the judiciary to credibly rule on elections, and to reinforce police capacity to counter gang violence and ensure a safe environment for elections. The Commission for a Haitian Solution to the Crisis – a body created in January 2021 with the support of more than 300 notable Haitian organizations and institutions, including the Episcopal and Protestant churches (as well as my own organization, the National Human Rights Defense Network) – is the latest iteration of this effort. This commission has already met with Haitian political parties, civil society organizations, and the private sector to build out a plan for a feasible political transition.

In short, there is a clear need for an investigation in to assassination of the president – as called for in a statement by the Coalition of Civil Society Actors on Friday, and international support for a Haitian-led solution. No intervention.

As Mamyrah Dougé-Prosper and Mark Schuller argue in an excellent analysis published by NACLA

Activists in Haiti are clear that they do not want a foreign invasion or an occupation force. Not only woefully failing at its mission of disarmament, the 15-year UN mission that introduced cholera to Haiti and a wave of sexual violence also provided stability for foreign extractivism and profiteering in tourism, agribusiness, textile, and mining sectors.

It is clear that we do not have the answers today. We may never know who was in on the plot to assassinate Haiti’s president. We need to be asking different questions. Or rather, we need to take on different actions that concretely contribute to a people’s agenda. What if instead of scrambling for news on Haiti and deciphering the real issues from the analyses and opinions of international Haiti experts, we supported the Haitian people’s efforts to tell their own stories and share their own dreams directly with us?

We will be sharing more statements from Haitian civil society organizations in the coming days. You can also check Haiti Watch’s website, which includes statements from Haitian organizations on the crisis over the past several months – most have been translated.

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Jovenel Moïse has been assassinated

Haiti’s acting president, Jovenel Moïse was assassinated this morning. Press reports are largely leaning on a brief statement by interim prime minister Claude Joseph for details. The statement reads (translation, CNN),

“At around one (1) o’clock in the morning, on the night of Tuesday, July 6 to Wednesday, July 7, 2021, a group of unidentified individuals, some of whom were speaking in Spanish, attacked the private residence of the President of the Republic and fatally wounded the Head of State. The First Lady was shot and is receiving the necessary treatment.

“Condemning this heinous, inhumane and barbaric act, the Prime Minister a.i., Dr. Claude Joseph, and the CSPN are calling for calm. The security situation in the country is under the control of the Haitian National Police and the Haitian Armed Forces.

“All measures are being taken to guarantee the continuity of the State and to protect the Nation.

“Democracy and the Republic will win.”

The Miami Herald is reporting that videos show that the attackers claimed to be with the DEA:

The assailants claimed to be agents with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, according to videos taken by people in the area of the president’s home. Moïse, 53, lives in Pelerin 5, a neighborhood just above the hills in the capital.

On the videos, someone with an American accent is heard yelling in English over a megaphone, “DEA operation. Everybody stand down. DEA operation. Everybody back up, stand down.”

Sources said the assailants, one of whom spoke in English with an American accent, were not with the DEA.

“These were mercenaries,” a high-ranking Haitian government official said.

Residents reported hearing high-powered rounds fired with precision, and seeing men dressed in black running through the neighborhoods. There are also reports of a grenade going off and drones being used.

Moïse’s assassination comes amidst an escalation of violence in the capital. Over the last month, armed groups have been fighting over control of parts of Port-au-Prince, leading to the displacement of thousands of people in Martissant, Grand Ravine, and Delmas. The southern part of the country has largely been cut off from the capital as a result. During one night last week, June 30, fifteen people were murdered including reporter Diego Charles and opposition activist Antoinette Duclair. 

Adding to the confusion is the question of succession. According to the 1987 constitution, the president of the Court of Cassation (Haiti’s Supreme Court) is supposed to take over as an interim authority, but the head of the court, René Sylvestre, recently died with COVID-19. Moïse had just announced the appointment of Ariel Henry on Monday as the new prime minister, but he has not been approved by the Council of Ministers yet; there is no acting parliament which would normally have to approve a new Prime Minister. Claude Joseph is standing as interim prime minister and will have to work with the Council of Ministers to craft a way forward.  

The United States Press Secretary said, “It’s a horrific crime and we’re so sorry for the loss…we stand ready and stand by them to provide any assistance that’s needed.”

Andy Levin, who chairs the House of Representative’s Haiti Caucus, said, “The murder of Jovenel Moïse is a devastating if not shocking example of the extent to which the security situation in Haiti has unraveled. For months, violent actors have terrorized the Haitian people with impunity while the international community—the United States included, I fear—has failed to heed their cries to change course and support a Haitian-led democratic transition.”

Meanwhile, citing a fear of further instability, the president of the Dominican Republic, Luis Abinader, ordered the Haiti/Dominican border closed.

As this is a developing story, consider checking for regular updates on the Haiti Watch Twitter account. 

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A Franciscan Family Response to Eta and Iota: Psychosocial Intervention in Shelters

In December, the Quixote Center delivered funding to one of our partners in the Franciscan Network on Migration for a project called “Psychosocial Intervention in Shelters: A Response to Eta and Iota.”

To understand how this work addresses and supports migrants, it is important to take a step back and consider factors that drive mass migration. The immediate causes of migration are varied, but weather and other disasters have driven many large-scale migrations. Hurricane Mitch is well known to the friends of the Quixote Center, given the massive impact it had in Nicaragua. Neighboring Honduras experienced dramatic upheaval as well. Within the country, a study published six year later showed that more than 90% of the working-age population was living in a municipality different from the one in which they had been born. More than 80,000 Hondurans who sought safety abroad have been granted Temporary Protected Status in the United States since Mitch.

When hurricanes Eta and Iota swept through Central America in November 2020, the effects were likewise devastating and Honduras was flooded in several regions. Many displaced families ended up in congregate settings such as shelters and the effects of such trauma in childhood can be especially serious. While immediate physical needs were being met, there were also attending risks of both unaddressed emotional trauma and further victimization that frequently target vulnerable populations. 

Raquel Rodas, a Honduran leader in the Franciscan Network and a trained psychologist, worked together with a team to elaborate a project to address and mitigate some of these risks. Recruiting and training advanced undergraduate students in psychology from the National Autonomous University of Honduras, there were two key elements:

  • 48 volunteers facilitated a total of 45 workshops spread out over 15 days at 5 shelters, reaching 280 children. Each child participant received a kit designed for therapeutic “play” activities as well as meals.
  • Created and printed posters that were installed in each of 13 shelters, detailing types of abuse and report hotline numbers as well as public health information.

Check out the project’s “Transparency Portal” to see a photo gallery and additional documentation and video testimonials in Spanish.

Click here to support the Franciscan Network on Migration to make future projects and initiatives possible.  

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Franciscan Network on Migration Participates in UN Dialogue on Human Rights of Migrants

One June 24, 2021 the Advisory Committee of Franciscan Network on Migration collaborated with Franciscans International and together with 30 other organizations (including the Quixote Center) to make a joint Declaration on the harsh reality faced by migrants in Mexico, Guatemala and the United States. The statement as delivered by Ana Victoria López Estrada is below in English and Spanish.

47th Session of the Human Rights Council

Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants

23 June 2021
Delivered by: Ana Victoria López Estrada

Thank you Madame President,

We thank the Special Rapporteur for his report on “pushbacks” and their impact to the human rights of migrants.

We agree with the Special Rapporteur that the principle of non-refoulement is characterized by its absolute nature without any exception. However, we are concerned that the practice to return migrants is performed without an individual assessment and in contexts of militarization of borders, particularly in the United States, Mexico and Guatemala.

We have witnessed an excessive increase of military and security personnel in migratory verification and control tasks.

From June 2019 to December 2020, the military and the Mexican National Guard detained 152.000 migrants on the southern border, including 27.000 children.3 In Guatemala, the Border Patrol has detained and immediately returned migrants, especially during the “caravans” in September 2020 and January 2021, without allowing them to request international protection. These detentions and returns are made with an excessive, arbitrary, and indiscriminate use of force. For these reasons, we are concern by current negotiations between the United States, Mexico and Guatemala on increasing the militarization of their borders. 

Finally, there are hostilities, harassment, surveillance, defamation and aggressions against human right defenders, shelters and spaces supporting migrants, even during the pandemic.

It is urgent that the Council calls on Mexico, the United States and Guatemala to comply with their international obligations and to stop detaining and returning migrants and asylum seekers.

Thank you Madam President.


47° Sesión del Consejo de Derechos Humanos

Diálogo Interactivo con el Relator Especial de los derechos humanos de los migrantes

23 Junio 2021

Presentada por: Ana Victoria López Estrada

Gracias Sra. Presidenta,

Agradecemos el reporte del Relator Especial sobre las “devoluciones en caliente” y su impacto en los derechos humanos de las personas migrantes.

Coincidimos con el Relator en el carácter absoluto e incondicional del principio de no devolución. Sin embargo, nos preocupa que las devoluciones de personas migrantes se realizan de forma masiva sin una evaluación individual y en contextos de militarización de las fronteras, particularmente en Estados Unidos, México y Guatemala.

Somos testigos de un aumento excesivo de las fuerzas armadas militares y de seguridad, en tareas de control y verificación migratoria. De junio de 2019 a diciembre de 2020, las Fuerzas Armadas y la Guardia Nacional Mexicana detuvieron a 152 mil personas migrantes en la frontera sur, incluidos 27 mil niños y niñas.1 En Guatemala, la Patrulla Fronteriza ha detenido y deportado de inmediato a personas migrantes, especialmente durante las “caravanas” de septiembre de 2020 y de enero de 2021, negándoles el derecho a buscar protección internacional. Estas detenciones y devoluciones se hacen con un excesivo, arbitrario e indiscriminado uso de la fuerza. Por eso nos preocupa las negociaciones entre Estados Unidos, México y Guatemala de incrementar la militarización de las fronteras.2

Por último, hay una intensa hostilidad, acoso, vigilancia, difamaciones y agresiones en contra de personas defensoras de las personas migrantes; así como de albergues y espacios de atención a personas migrantes incluso durante la pandemia.

Es urgente que este Consejo exija a los gobiernos de México, Estados Unidos y Guatemala a cumplir con sus obligaciones internacional y abstenerse de continuar con las detenciones y devoluciones de migrantes y solicitantes de asilo

Gracias Sra. Presidenta.

Organizations / Organizaciones

  1. Asamblea Ciudadana contra la Corrupción y la Impunidad – ACCI

  2. Acción Ecuménica por los Derechos Humanos(AEDH)

  3. Asistencia Legal por los Derechos Humanos A.C. (ASILEGAL)

  4. Centro de Derechos Humanos “Fray Francisco de Vitoria O.P” A.C

  5. Centro de Derechos Humanos Fray Matías de Córdova A.C.

  6. Colectiva Luna Celaya

  7. Colectivo de Observación y Monitoreo de Derechos Humanos en el Sureste Mexicano

  8. Congregations of St. Joseph

  9. Dominicans for Justice and Peace

  10. Equipo de Reflexión, Investigación y Comunicación (ERIC-SJ)

  11. Franciscans International

  12. Frontera con Justicia A. C. [Casa del Migrante Saltillo]

  13. Fundación Arcoiris por el respeto a la diversidad sexual.

  14. Grupo belga ‘Solidair met Guatemala’

  15. Jesuit Conference Office of Justice and Ecology

  16. JPIC Familia Franciscana – Guatemala

  17. JPIC HFIC Provincia de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe

  18. JPIC México- Hogar Franciscano

  19. Kino Border Initiative

  20. La 72, Hogar-Refugio para personas migrantes

  21. Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic, Inc.

  22. Peace Brigades International

  23. Programa de Asuntos Migratorios Universidad Iberoamericana Ciudad de México

  24. Protección Internacional Mesoamérica

  25. Quixote Center

  26. Red Franciscana para Migrantes en Centroamérica, México y Estados Unidos

  27. Red Jesuita con Migranres Centro Norteamérica (RJM-CANA)

  28. Red Jesuita con Migrantes – Guatemala

  29. Red Jesuita con Migrantes LAC

  30. Red Nacional de Organismos Civiles de Derechos Humanos “Todos los Derechos para Todas y Todos” – México

  31. Servicio Jesuita a Refugiados

  32. Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur

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US Migration Policy Under Biden: Signs of Hope and Cause for Concern

As a candidate Biden promised, and seemed poised early on, to chart a new path toward a more people-centered reform agenda.  As president he has taken many hopeful steps, but still leans on deterrence and criminalization to a degree that is concerning.

Biden entered the presidency prepared to take quick action on immigration. His very first day in office, the administration announced a moratorium on most deportations, new enforcement guidelines for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and halted new enrollments in the controversial Migration Protection Protocol (“Remain in Mexico” program). During the first week new legislation was introduced to provide a path to citizenship for unauthorized migrants living in the United States, expand support to Central America to address the “roots of migration” and re-write visa rules for temporary workers. 

Several signs suggest hopeful change in policy toward refugees and asylum-seekers: 

The Migration Protection Protocol (MPP) has been formally ended

MPP was one of Trump’s more controversial policies. People seeking asylum in the United States were forced to wait in Mexico for their asylum hearings, ultimately just over 70,000 people. Beginning in April of 2020 these hearings were suspended because of COVID-19. By the time Biden took office, some families had been waiting over two years in Mexico. Human Rights First documented 1,300 victims of violent crimes among those forced to wait in Mexico under MPP. 

Following the decision to halt new enrollments in the program in January of 2021, Biden’s new border policy team established a screening process to get people with asylum claims out of the temporary and often dangerous camps and shelters they had been living in, and into the United States to await their hearings. As of May, most of those who still had asylum claims under MPP had been admitted. In June, MPP was formally ended.

Biden’s Attorney General overturns Sessions efforts to limit grounds for asylum

In 2018, Donald Trump’s Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, instituted new rules that limited the grounds upon which one could seek asylum. Sessions targeted people who were fleeing violence perpetrated by non-state actors, under the general claim that if people were not fleeing political persecution they would not qualify as refugees. In separate rules, he limited the ability of women fleeing domestic violence to qualify for asylum, and denied asylum to those fleeing gang violence. 

Attorney General Merrick Garland overturned these rules last week, reversing decisions Session had made in cases involving asylum claims from Guatemala and Mexico. From Reuters: “The significance of this cannot be overstated,” said Kate Melloy Goettel, legal director of litigation at the American Immigration Council. “This was one of the worst anti-asylum decisions under the Trump era, and this is a really important first step in undoing that.”

Central American Minors Program reinstated/expanded

In 2015 the Obama administration established a program that allowed children from Central America to apply for asylum while still in their home country, before risking a dangerous journey through Mexico and an uncertain future at the border. The program was widely viewed as a promising step, but was never able to process enough children – leading to a massive backlog of applications. When Trump became president, he cancelled it – leaving 2,700 children already approved in limbo.

In March 2021, the Biden administration re-opened the Central American Minors Program (CAM), which specifically seeks to reunite children in Central America with a parent in the United States. The first phase of the program was revisiting applications that were in process at the time Trump ended the program in 2017. Last week, CAM was expanded to take on new applications.

In the face of all this good news, it is still important to point out where work remains to be done. These are some areas that offer cause for concern:

Title 42 enforcement remains a huge problem

In March of 2020 the Centers for Disease Control and Protection issued an order citing authority to limit migration under Title 42 of the U.S. code on public health grounds. As a result, the Trump administration had been denying everyone encountered at the border a chance to seek asylum – including unaccompanied children. People thus denied, have been summarily expelled – most into Mexico. Biden has continued to employ Title 42 to expel most people encountered at the border. Even here, there are a few rays of light, as the administration has ended the expulsion of children, and slowed the expulsion of families. Until Title 42 is ended, however, it will remain the primary hurdle facing people seeking asylum in the United States.

The message remains: Don’t Come

As a candidate and since taking office, the administration has focused on undoing Trump-era border policies that closed off avenues to asylum. This is an important effort, still incomplete as indicated by Biden’s continued enforcement of Title 42. 

But every step along the way, Biden and Harris have repeated the same refrain – “Don’t come to the United States.” Throughout the spring, US embassies in Haiti and Central America were posting memes of Biden telling people not to come to the United States. During a press conference in Guatemala in June, Kamala Harris said, “I want to be clear to folks in this region who are thinking about making that dangerous trek to the United States-Mexico border: Do not come. Do not come….The United States will continue to enforce our laws and secure our border.”

In addition to the continued use of Title 42 already mentioned, those who do make it across the border are also being increasingly redirected to detention facilities. The number of immigrants being held in detention has ballooned from 14,000 to 24,000 since Biden took office. Though 14,000 was an historically low number, the direct result of Trump closing off the border in 2020, the increase in detention over the last few months is the clearest indication that Biden remains committed to a punitive framework for addressing migration. With so many people displaced due to poverty, violence, and other systemic injustices and the US in a privileged position to provide support, such policies must change. 

 

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Statement on the Killing of Franciscan Friar in Mexico

On June 12, 2021, Fray Juan Antonio Orozco Alvarado, O.F.M., a Franciscan friar, headed to church to celebrate Mass in Tepehuana de Pajaritos, Durango, Mexico and was caught in crossfire between two rival gangs and died, along with several other unnamed persons. As part of our work with the Franciscan Network on Migration, we are sharing the statement put out by the advocacy team on this killing. The Statement is available in both English and Spanish below.

STATEMENT ON FRAY JUAN ANTONIO OROZCO ENGLISH

 

PRONUNCIAMIENTO FRAY JUAN ANTONIO OROZCO.docx

For some press coverage on the shooting, see these articles below:

Vatican News: Muerte violenta de un sacerdote junto a otras personas

El Universal: Muere misionero en fuego cruzado en Durango

Agenzia Fides: Priest killed in a shootout between drug trafficking cartels

 

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Quixote Center and Nou Pap Dòmi raising support for people displaced by violence in Haiti

Thousands of people have been displaced from the communities of Martissant, Fontamara, and Grand Ravine due to conflicts between rival gangs in those areas. A gymnasium in Carrefour has been turned into a shelter, and many more are simply living in Fontamara square or alongside roadways. As reported in Al Jazeera, 

On Monday, UNOCHA said gang violence had displaced about 10,000 civilians in Port-au-Prince between June 1 and 14, while the total number of internally displaced people (IDP) so far this year sits at 13,900.

The agency said less than a third of all IDPs are currently receiving assistance, due to limited resources and access, while “frequent shootings and regular roadblocks are limiting access to entire neighbourhoods and spreading fear among the population”.

Quixote Center and Nou Pap Dòmi are working with families to distribute needed emergency supplies in Martissant. You can contribute here.

UNICEF, which has a presence in Carrefour, has assembled powerful testimonies of some of the people displaced here

Gang warfare is hard to disaggregate from the political situation, and is a prime example of why so many are arguing that elections can not happen in this environment. From the St. Kitts Observer:

Pierre Espérance, executive director of the Haitian National Human Rights Defense Network, said gangs control about 60% of the country´s territory and that 12 massacres have been reported since 2018 in disadvantaged communities. However, he said he is especially worried about the most recent upswing in violence.

In this handout released Tuesday, June 15, 2021 by UNHaiti, internally displaced people sit inside a shelter at the Center Sportif of Carrefour in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Tuesday, June 8, 2021. A UNICEF report says that escalating gang violence has displaced thousands of women and children in the capital in the first two weeks of June. (Boulet-Groulx/UNHaiti via AP)

“It’s the worst we´ve seen,” he said. “Gangs have so much power, and they are tolerated. … Each day that passes with Jovenel in power, the situation is going to deteriorate.”

If you want to support humanitarian aid efforts for internally displaced Haitians, please make a financial contribution here

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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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