JPIC Franciscan Family of Honduras Statement on Free Trade Zone Law

Photo: Protest in Roatan against the ZEDE project “Honduras Prospera”. Citizen photography, originally in El Faro

[The Justice Peace and the Integrity of Creation Committee of the Franciscan Family of Honduras is a fellow member of the Franciscan Network on Migration. The new free trade zone law in Honduras continues the current government’s pattern of providing open access to Honduras’ natural resources and exploitation of workers. Speaking out against such “reform” is crucial. This kind of liberal investment environment, promoted as a means to address the “roots of migration,” will likely make things worse in the long run by dislocating communities and undermining labor.]

JPIC STATEMENT OF THE FRANCISCAN FAMILY OF HONDURAS

“We reject the expropriation of the common home” 

Monday, July 12, 2021, Santa Rosa de Copán To all the Honduran people:

The Franciscan Commission on Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC), faced with the problematic situation confronting the Honduran nation in light of the imposed law of the so-called “Zones of Employment and Economic Development ”(ZEDES), sees a proposal that affects territorial sovereignty and the Rights of Peoples, the care of biodiversity, ecosystems and hydrographic basins; it also deteriorates democracy, nullifies citizen participation and increases the impoverishment of households, including that of native peoples and the rural population.

The magisterium of the church in numeral 2420 of the Catechism states: “The church expresses a moral judgment, in economic and social matters,’when the fundamental rights of the person or the salvation of souls demand it’ (GS 76,5).” Pope Francis in the encyclical Laudato Si, expresses that, This sister now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will[…]This is why the earth herself, burdened and laid waste, is among the most abandoned and maltreated of our poor; she “groans in travail” (Rom 8:22).”

Considering that the Bicentennial of Independence is celebrated this year, we ask our representatives (diputados) to imitate the founders and heroes of this nation, who fought and defended our territory against colonialism and illicit and dishonorable forms of appropriation by ill-intentioned and unscrupulous people against the common good.

Therefore, we express our feelings:

  1. We are concerned about the rights of indigenous peoples who are being violated, threatened and dispossessed, which makes them lose their territories, their livelihoods and their culture.
  1. We reject the decision taken by the National Congress and ratified by the Judiciary, which violates popular sovereignty, and all this again shows the interest of a political and economic class that is taking over the property of the common home in Honduras.

  2. We reject the neo-colonialism of the government, which hands over control with treachery, premeditation, malice and advantage, and without prior consultation with the sovereign Honduran people.
  1. We strongly demand that the National Congress nullify said law, since it is not legitimate, valid or lawful.
  2. We join the courageous mayors, Dioceses, parishes, institutions, professional associations, Universities (UNAH), CNA, ASONOG, FOSDEH, indigenous peoples in resistance (Garífunas, Lencas, Chortis), and many more who have raised their voices against this unpatriotic, harmful and exclusive project.
  1. We call on all brothers and sisters to join us in opposing this project to the detriment of the nation, so that the sovereignty, peace and integrity of our Honduran territory prevail.

The Franciscan JPIC invites the Honduran people, and especially young people “to be God’s today”, as Pope Francis expresses it in Christus Vivit # 64; to be the present and the future of the nation, being people who propose solutions or are active subjects of the transformation of the current reality, and in whose adulthood may well enjoy contributing to the nation.

“Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Mother Earth, 
who sustains us and governs us and who produces 
varied fruits with coloured flowers and herbs.”
Saint Francis of Assisi

The original untranslated statement in Spanish is available here.  

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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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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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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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Contact Us

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

Directions to office:

6305 Ivy Lane, Suite 255. Greenbelt, MD 20770

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