Americas Migration Brief - December 11, 2023
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Table of Contents
Integration and Development
An Oxfam report on perceptions of Venezuelan migrants in Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru finds, “Although people show empathy for the causes that have forced the mobilization of migrants, and some show concern for xenophobia, most hold that migrants should return to Venezuela once the situation improves there. Among the findings, the perceptions of migrant women are ambivalent, but with a predominance of negative beliefs related to their sexuality.” The impact of migration on crime was a greater concern among surveyed Peruvians (40% expressing concern) than Ecuadorians (23.6%) or Colombians (21.2%).
“Promoting the labor inclusion of migrants must be a priority in addressing migration,” says ECLAC, exploring data across Latin America and the Caribbean.
Chile’s “government is struggling to provide adequate shelter for rising numbers of migrants, predominantly from Venezuela. The number of families living in informal settlements in Chile reached 114,000 in 2023, a 142% spike since 2019… Chile's housing ministry says the number of migrants in these settlements has grown steadily, now totaling nearly 40% from just 1.5% in 2011,” reports Reuters.
“In a statement sent to Reuters, Chile's housing ministry said it aims to reduce the number of families in informal settlements with a two-pronged approach - offering subsidies to some families, and formalizing some settlements by building lacking infrastructure.”
Migration has increased housing prices and contributed to the growth of informal settlements due to a lack of sufficient housing supply, per a Núcleo Milenio MIGRA-affiliated study, notes El Mostrador.
A Jesuit Migrant Service report explores migration in Chile, including labor inclusion, access to services, and protection pathways.
MigraMundo highlights Brazil’s National Network of Welcoming Cities and its efforts to improve local immigrant integration, adding that there are immigrants in 3,876 of Brazi’s 5,570 municipalities, as of 2018.
An R4V report explores the interiorization strategy to voluntarily relocate and help integrate Venezuelan migrants in Brazil.
A survey by Pólis of Venezuelans in the country finds that, on average, interiorized Venezuelans make more than five times the monthly income of non-interiorized Venezuelans in the border state of Roraima. (AgênciaBrasil1, AgênciaBrasil2)
See also my recent special edition on Brazil’s experience with Venezuelan migration.
“Getting degrees recognized helps refugees follow their dreams in Brazil: A network of universities in Brazil is supporting the government’s welcoming approach to refugees by revalidating their qualifications, enabling refugees to rebuild their academic and professional lives.” (UNHCR)
Fundación Colsecor explores the economic contribution of immigrants in Argentina, explaining that the fiscal benefits outweigh the costs, and highlighting the contribution of 2,300 Venezuelan doctors to the country’s healthcare system, among other contributions to labor shortages by other immigrant groups.
Americas Quarterly highlights Mexico’s growth as a country of destination for migration, adding, “Tijuana’s Haitian diaspora services other hopeful Haitians, but they’ve also begun to integrate into the local community. They’ve introduced the city to fritay, a popular dish often made up of fried pork, plantains and pickled vegetables, but also forced the city to confront a deep-seated racism. A not uncommon cause of death for members of the Haitian community is being denied healthcare at local hospitals.”
The Ecuadorian government has denounced recent cases of xenophobia against Venezuelans in the country and “activated protocols to protect Venezuelan citizens against acts of xenophobia,” reports EFE.
El Barómetro explores xenophobic social media discussions in Peru, noting that crime was the leading topic of conversation.
Some Cubans are reportedly opting to stay in Nicaragua instead of continuing north as it is “a dictatorship that offers opportunities.” (14ymedio)
High housing costs and difficulty adjusting are leading to an increasing number of immigrants in Canada leaving the country, reversing a four year trend of decreasing emigration, reports Reuters.
Asylum, Protection, and Human Rights
UNHCR explores the state of internal displacement in Colombia, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, and Mexico.
Mexico received 136,934 asylum applications in the first 11 months of 2023, breaking 2021’s year-end record figure of 121,648. Haitians (43,459), Hondurans (40,142), and Cubans (17,686) represented the leading nationalities. (El Economista)
🇨🇷 Costa Rica
A forcibly displaced Indigenous Nicaraguan woman who had applied for refugee status in Costa Rica died after being “constantly denied medical care” because of her lack of immigration documents, reports La Prensa.
“24% of the 2022 domestic violence complaints received by the Domestic Violence Office of the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation were made by migrants. Given that migrants represent 6.7% of women living in Argentina , they are clearly overrepresented among victims of gender violence,” notes Télam.
Heavy rains have displaced over 300 in Rio de Janeiro state, reports UOL.
A GIZ report explores disaster risk, migration, and forced displacement in Colombia.
🇺🇸 United States
“The Coast Guard frames its operations in the sea as lifesaving work: Crews rescue people from boats at risk of capsizing and pull them from the water. But the agency, which is an arm of the Department of Homeland Security, also operates as a maritime border patrol, its ships as floating holding facilities… Unlike at the U.S.-Mexico border, which is closely monitored by advocates, the courts and the press, immigration enforcement at sea takes place out of public view,” explains a ProPublica and New York Times investigation, highlighting that “People intercepted at sea, even in U.S. waters, have fewer rights than those who come by land,” with access to asylum not enshrined at sea.
Furthermore, “From July 2021 to September 2023, the number of children without parents or guardians held by the Coast Guard spiked, a nearly tenfold increase over the prior two years. Most of them were Haitian… The treatment of children is perhaps the starkest difference between immigration policy on land and at sea. At land borders, unaccompanied minors from countries other than Mexico and Canada cannot simply be turned back… Not so at sea. U.S. courts have not determined what protections should extend to minors held on U.S. ships, even those detained well within U.S. waters.” Of the nearly 500 unaccompanied children that were returned to their countries of origin by the Coast Guard in the last two years, “it’s often unclear where they go once they return.”
“The Biden administration is considering getting behind new restrictions on who can seek asylum and an expanded deportation process to secure new aid for Ukraine and Israel in a supplemental funding bill,” reports Reuters.
AP explores the different topics under negotiation in Congress, highlighting “asylum standards, humanitarian parole and fast-track deportation authority.”
If passed, these proposals would actually incentivize irregular migration and make the border less secure, says Cato’s David Bier at The Hill.
“These proposed permanent changes to U.S. immigration law would make it harder for people to access asylum protection at the U.S.-Mexico border, violate the U.S. government’s obligations under international refugee law, exacerbate the unprecedented humanitarian displacement currently playing out around the globe, and place long-time community members at constant risk of rapid deportation,” says NIJC.
A whistleblower alleges that U.S. Customs and Border Protection “supervisors failed to adequately monitor the agency’s medical service contractor for staffing shortages, unsafe care and other problems before the May death of an 8-year-old girl in U.S. custody.” That same company, Loyal Source Government Services, “is a finalist for a new five-year, $1.5 billion CBP contract,” notes Washington Post.
“A federal judge in California on Friday approved a court settlement that will prohibit federal U.S. border officials from reviving the Trump-era "zero tolerance" family separation policy for the next eight years,” reports CBS.
“A backlog in cases of abused or abandoned young immigrants seeking green cards has more than doubled in the last two years,” now reaching over 100,000, reports NBC.
“The steady rise in individuals requesting asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border over the last decade illustrates one of the core problems with our immigration system: There aren’t enough ways to immigrate to the United States without a sponsor. Self-petitioning immigration programs are an important tool for a functioning, robust legal immigration system. Unfortunately, the current U.S. self-petitioning programs suffer from the same ills as the rest of the immigration system – inflexibility, poor processing, backlogs, and underfunded agencies,” says a Bush Center report.
WOLA’s Adam Isacson highlights stories related to the US-Mexico border and human rights at the Beyond the Wall weekly update, explaining, “Border Patrol apprehended more than 10,000 migrants on December 5, one of the highest daily counts ever. A September-to-October dip in migrant arrivals has reversed. Large groups are waiting, at times for days in poor humanitarian conditions, in Border Patrol’s sectors in Tucson, Arizona; Del Rio, Texas; and San Diego, California.”
““The average wait time for non-Mexicans is two months after making an account and requesting an appointment” with the CBP One app, a senior CBP official told Bloomberg. “For Mexicans, the wait time is currently a little over 3 months,” the official added, noting that Mexican citizens have daily limits to prevent them from crowding out other nationalities. This is curious, since the result is that Mexican asylum seekers are forced to wait in the same country where they face threats.” (via WOLA)
Migratory Institutions and Regional and Bilateral Cooperation
R4V has “announced partners will need at least US$ 1.59 billion to support three million refugees and migrants from Venezuela and their host communities in Latin America and the Caribbean in 2024.”
HIAS warns that humanitarian funding in Latin America is in decline.
“If (US) lawmakers spent less time worrying about border enforcement and devoted more energy to helping to build an institutional framework enabling countries south of the border to absorb migrants, it could help the Americas cope with what is becoming a crisis for everybody. Washington should not expect Latin American countries to perform the job of a border wall, blocking migrants coming to the United States. But with enough assistance from Washington, they might become a sponge,” says The Washington Post.
The 11 member countries of the Regional Migration Conference (CRM) met last week, agreeing to reject all forms discrimination against migrants and calling for humanitarian treatment of migration. (La Vanguardia)
🇨🇷🇺🇸 United States and Costa Rica
US and Costa Rican officials are set to meet this week for “the inaugural meeting of the U.S.-Costa Rica High Level Strategic Dialogue on security, migration, and economic cooperation.” (press release)
🇭🇹🇩🇴 Dominican Republic and Haiti
“Meeting between Dominicans and Haitians over border issues in Dajabón concludes without agreements” (Diario Libre)
🇨🇷 Costa Rica
Costa Rica is deploying mobile visits of the migration directorate to regularize temporary labor migrants in the agricultural sector that entered the country since July, following a decree approved last week. (La Prensa)
“More than 8 thousand Guatemalans have benefited from the Temporary Work Program provided by the central government to promote regular migration through circular mobility,” reports AGN.
Migrants in Transit
An IMF analysis exploring the relationship between climate change and migration in Latin America and the Caribbean finds that “three additional climate disasters annually, over a five-year period, can be associated with about a 1 percent increase in people leaving their home countries in the Caribbean and (Central America and the Dominican Republic). Comparatively, the impact in South America and Mexico is relatively smaller, ranging between ¼ and 1/3 percent.” (article, report)
The analysis also finds that “origin-country” factors have become more prominent factors causing emigration in the region in recent decades, in comparison to “destination-country” and “global” factors.
“Despite various government initiatives, the brain drain of specialized healthcare personnel in hospitals has not decreased” in Suriname, reports Suriname Herald.
An IOM report explores internal mobility in Argentina.
30,870 Argentinians requested residency in Uruguay from 2019-2023. (Ámbito)
🇰🇾 Cayman Islands
“A group of 12 Cuban rafters , including a pregnant woman, arrived in the Cayman Islands on Wednesday,” reports Diario de Cuba.
Borders and Enforcement
“The head of Mexico’s immigration agency has ordered the suspension of migrant deportations and transfers due to a lack of funds amid a record-setting year for migration through the country’s territory,” reports AP.
Chile will begin “repatriations” of Venezuelans following an agreement with the latter government, says Efecto Cocuyo.
🇺🇸 United States
“‘Gotaways’ surged during the period that Border Patrol was exercising authority under Title 42 of the US health code to return crossers to Mexico,” explains Cato Institute.
“The Bolivian migration directorate has initiated a series of operations to prevent the irregular entry of foreigners into the country,” including some deportations, reports Salto Al Día.
The move has generated controversy and misinformation in the region, particularly in Argentina, but it is not a massive deportation campaign—rather a reiteration of requirements to enter Bolivia and the required exit from the country of a select group of 36 foreigners in an irregular status—says Opinión.
🇹🇨 Turks and Caicos
Following a maritime interception of 156 irregular migrants last week, Turks and Caicos has apprehended over 3,600 migrants so far this year, reports Magnetic Media.
“According to a 2017 census, there were then 86,000 Venezuelans in Chile. By 2023, that had risen tenfold to 833,000, according to latest government estimates,” says Reuters.
More on Migration
An IOM report “highlights the importance of strengthening the collection of data on environmental and climate mobility in South America, a problem that makes it difficult to formulate policies that can comprehensively address the needs of affected communities,” per a press release.
“A quarter of the remittances that arrive in Mexico are for migrants in transit” (El Economista)
🇹🇨 Turks and Caicos
“Turks & Caicos Islands Government Opens Diaspora Office in Nassau,” Bahamas (Magnetic Media)