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Americas Migration Brief - February 13, 2023
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Table of Contents
Integration and Development
Uruguay is set to introduce a fee of over $3,400 for residency applications for citizens of Mercosur member countries. The fee is expensive and will reduce access to the process, particularly for thousands of recently arrived Venezuelan migrants, reports El Observador.
Social worker and researcher Marielena Groos highlights at Oxford’s Border Criminologies blog the case of the northern Chilean city of Iquique, exploring local residents’ efforts to support migrants and refugees. But Groos says that solidarity has received pushback and become criminalized: “the legal ground for the criminalization of solidarity is the implementation of a new law in 2022, which criminalizes aiding or abetting entry and transit in which the profit motive is no longer necessary to justify an administrative sanction. Even though this development is recent, it affects the work of civil society organizations and the life of their members in different ways (e.g., job loss, obstacles in carrying out activities, physical attacks).”
🇦🇬 Antigua and Barbuda
Antigua and Barbuda is considering providing residency and work permits—but not citizenship—to West African migrants and asylum seekers in the country. The opposition UPP party protested the announcement last week, reports Observer. Observer also reports that the “Government said last week that 637 of the more than 900 people who touched down between November and January remained in Antigua. Many of them are Cameroonians fleeing a bloody conflict back home.” (see last week’s AMB)
🇺🇸 United States
There were multiple pieces this past week about immigrants finding jobs by filling labor shortages. WSJ highlighted well-paying jobs in construction, restaurants, and other services; the American Immigration Council explored health care jobs, noting increasing demand, but also a trend of underemployment.
“We must leave behind the idea of the massive return of Venezuelans to Venezuela, while recognizing that migration has gone from being an unprecedented phenomenon for Colombia, to being a transforming and renovating process of society. In addition, there are pending challenges that cannot be addressed with political improvisation,” writes researcher María Clara Robayo L. at El Espectador.
Asylum, Protection, and Human Rights
El País reports that the United Nations has found that Panamanian officials have committed sexual assault against migrants in transit at Migrant Reception Centers run by the Panamanian government. Among other findings, the UN also says that shelters housing migrants planning to return to Venezuela shared returnees’ personal information with Venezuelan authorities without their consent. Prensa Latina notes that the Panamanian government has rejected the UN’s findings, although Infobae reports that Panama has indicated it will investigate the sexual assault allegations.
“The Mexican government said (last) Monday it is opposed to a possible restart of the U.S. immigration policy known as "Remain in Mexico" which required asylum seekers to wait for U.S. hearings in Mexico,” reports Reuters. This follows a lawsuit in December from the US states of Texas and Missouri in an attempt to maintain the program, although the Biden administration has indicated that it will continue to look to end the program.
Nicaragua’s government exiled 222 political prisoners last week, stripping them of their citizenship. They were then flown to the United States and granted two years of humanitarian parole, with the ability to apply for asylum in the country. Spain will reportedly offer the exiles a pathway to citizenship. (CNN)
🇩🇴 Dominican Republic
“The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, criticized this Friday the repatriation of Haitians by the Dominican Republic, despite the acute crisis in the country,” reports Acento.
The country’s proposed Law on Human Trafficking, Exploitation, and Smuggling of Migrants, introduced last December, has generated comments and controversy this past week. Some have criticized the bill for facilitating irregular migration or allowing irregular migrants to stay in the country—although some of these same critics admitted to not actually reading the document yet. The law creates new penalties for human and sexual trafficking and exploitation, reportedly establishing protection against deportation for victims of such crimes. (Diario Libre1, Diario Libre2, El Nuevo Diario, Senado)
Mexico deported 91 children and adolescents—86 unaccompanied—to Guatemala, reports El País.
Amnesty International has published a new report, Curaçao: Little improvement in the Protection of Venezuelans. They write, “Amnesty International acknowledges that the authorities have taken small steps to address the situation: the Curaçaoan government has made some effort to improve the quality of interviews and assessments of protection needs; access to legal assistance has slightly improved; and new and better facilities have been built to improve conditions in the immigration detention centre, the Foreigners Barracks. But most of their plans to bring their policy into line with international human rights standards – such as by improving access to information, legal assistance and a complaints procedure for people in immigration detention – have not been implemented.”
🇺🇸 United States
CBP has introduced a Haitian Creole version of the CBP One App (see AMB 1/30/23 on initial reports of lack of access), but the app reportedly “does not recognize dark-skinned people, barring many from seeking asylum, according to nonprofits working at the Mexican border.” (Border Chronicle)
There have been a lot of stories over the last few weeks about people rushing to try to take advantage of the opportunity for legal migration to the US through the Biden administration’s humanitarian parole policy for Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans, and Venezuelans. For example, Reuters published a piece this past week about residents of a Cuban fishing village considering—and pursuing—the move.
Reuters examines the development of a new proposal from the Biden administration to revamp asylum processes, including noting that “The legislation - which remains in a conceptual phase - could also include different procedures for asylum seekers based on nationality, with migrants from countries with typically higher rates of approval given more freedom of movement while they await the outcome of their cases.”
WOLA’s Adam Isacson highlights stories related to the US-Mexico border and human rights at the Beyond the Wall weekly update, highlighting new CBP data on migrant deaths at the border between 2017 and 2021 and including multiple charts with the data.
🇨🇷 Costa Rica
“Nicaraguan refugee applications in Costa Rica decreased by 50 percent in the last month of 2022, while the number of resignation or cancellation of these processes increased as of November of that same year, after President Rodrigo Chaves announced new migratory measures to not admit more migrants for ‘economic reasons,’” reports La Prensa.
Víctor Ramos, president of SOS Discriminación Internacional, calls for Argentina to provide asylum to any refugee fleeing Russia or Ukraine because of war, reports Perfil. His comments relate to controversy over a recent trend of Russian women traveling to Argentina to give birth, with Urgente24 reporting that many enter the country for “tourism purposes” without a return ticket; the outlet also covers the networks that are helping organize—and profiting from—the trend. (see AMB 1/9/23) -- Florianopolis, Brazil is also a new leading destination for Russians, according to FT.
“Immigration Minister Sean Fraser says Canada may fast-track applications to come to Canada from people in the earthquake zones of Turkey and Syria,” reports Global News.
Regional and Bilateral Cooperation
With support from the OAS General Secretariat and in collaboration with the Inter-American Dialogue, Chile and Colombia hope to host a meeting during the OAS General Assembly on June 23 with “the purpose of safeguarding the rights of migrant and refugee children and adolescents.” (see last week’s AMB on the Dialogue’s new report on the subject)
“Top Caribbean leaders are expected to debate Haiti’s spiraling chaos and its impact on the region during a biannual [CARICOM] meeting this week, with some complaining bitterly about a constant stream of migrants arriving on their shores as they flee poverty and worsening violence,” reports AP.
🇨🇼🇻🇪 Venezuela and Curaçao
Venezuela and Curaçao will reopen their borders on April 3 for the first time since February 2019, reports Observador.
“In the last decade, Canada has fostered an influx of new immigrant STEM workers and university students while the U.S. has done the opposite and is increasingly trending towards fewer immigrant STEM professionals working here,” write John Feeley and Dick Burke at The Hill, arguing that Mexico has followed Canada’s lead over the last few years, particularly in relation to highly skilled remote workers.
🇪🇸🇭🇳 Honduras and Spain
More than 500 Hondurans will travel to Huelva, Spain to work in the agricultural sector as part of the Circular Migration Program, reports SwissInfo.
🇺🇸🇸🇻 El Salvador and the United States
So far, 3,622 Salvadorans have found jobs in the US through the Labor Mobility program run by the government of El Salvador and USAID, reports Diario La Huella.
Migrants in Transit
More than 31,000 irregular migrants have crossed the Darien Gap so far in 2023, reports El Espectador, noting that this nearly reaches the 33,819 that did so over the first five months of 2022.
Chinese migrants are increasingly traversing the Darien Gap in an effort to get to the United States, reports the BBC. Last month, Milenio reported that Chinese migrants were increasingly arriving to the southern Mexican state of Chiapas.
“Migrant smugglers are using social media and instant messaging applications to promote and provide their illegal services, according to a study published by the International Organization for Migration (IOM). The study found that digital technology has made it easier for migrant smugglers to exchange money, goods, and information. Most of these activities occur on commonly used services and applications rather than on the dark web,” reports IOM.
🇺🇸🇨🇦 Canada and the United States
“U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is investigating reports that some of its border patrol agents are driving Quebec-bound asylum seekers to the irregular border crossing on Roxham Road in exchange for money, picking up groups of people in nearby Plattsburgh, N.Y., while off duty,” reports CBC. New York City has been bussing migrants to Plattsburgh, among other locations, which has “surprised” Canadian officials, according to BBC. Migrants in transit use Roxham Road because the Canada-US Safe Third Country Agreement requires automatic return to the US if they had entered at an official port of entry—by entering irregularly through Roxham Road, they are able to then apply for asylum, notes GlobalNews; some Canadians are calling for an end to the Third Country Agreement. At the same time, “the number of migrants crossing the border from Canada into the U.S. is rising,” reports NBC, noting that migrants fly to Canada and then cross the US-Canada border by land.
A new France24 video report (in Spanish) highlights the struggles of migrants transiting through Guatemala, noting that “migrants often report extortion and humiliation by the authorities to let them cross.” Resumen Latinoamericano discusses abuses and extortions against migrants transiting through the country, too.
The Honduran government has set up a new temporary assistance shelter for migrants entering the country at the border city of Danlí, reports CNN. Nearly 19,000 migrants entered Honduras irregularly in January 2023, an increase of almost 1,000% from January 2022—according to official statistics. Fines for irregular transit migration remain waived until June, reports El Heraldo.
Hospitality and solidarity have been crucial for migrants in transit in Mexico, write researchers Rafael Alonso Hernández López and José Pablo Mora Gómez at Nexos.
The Colombian government is considering creating “humanitarian corridors” to help Venezuelans in the country to return to Venezuela voluntarily, reports Proyecto Venezuela.
🇧🇴🇵🇪 Peru and Bolivia
The continued blockade of the Peru-Bolivia border has impeded migrants in transit across South America. “It’s horrible,” said one Venezuelan migrant en route to Argentina to France24.
Borders and Enforcement
🇲🇽🇺🇸 United States and Mexico
The Washington Post reports, “The Biden administration is negotiating an agreement with Mexico that could allow U.S. authorities to carry out large-scale deportations of non-Mexicans back across the border for the first time, according to four current and former U.S. officials familiar with the discussions.”
WOLA’s Adam Isacson writes on Twitter, “Mexico has drawn down the number of military personnel assigned to counter-migration missions. From over 32,000 in November to just under 28,000 now.”
In an interview with BioBioChile, the former advisor of then president Sebastian Piñera, Mijail Bonito, accuses the Boric administration of hypocrisy and not complying with the law, citing unfulfilled expulsion orders and a lack of conducted deportations.
🇹🇨 Turks and Caicos Islands
At the Latin America Daily Briefing, Jordana Timerman writes, “The Turks and Caicos Islands warned would-be Haitian migrants against traveling to their territory, promising to pursue undocumented migrants and to target employers who harbor, hire and employ them, reports the Miami Herald.”
Climate change and a difficult economic outlook have prompted growing internal migration from rural, agricultural communities to other parts of Bolivia, reports El País, noting that the migration means that some rural schools may be forced to close. Emigration and the reduction of youth populations is having a similar effect on schools in Honduras, too. (El Heraldo1, El Heraldo2)
🇺🇸 United States
More than 3 million adults were internally displaced in the US because of a natural disaster in 2022, reports E&ENews. MPI’s Lawrence Huang highlights on Twitter that more than 500,000 of these adults displaced by disasters in the last year did not return home, while over 400,000 took over six months to return home.
11,518 temporary residence permits were granted to US citizens in Mexico last year, an increase from 9,086 in 2021 and 5,393 in 2020. Nearly 7,000 of the permits granted in 2022 were for students. (CNN)
San Pedro Sula’s immigrant population fell from 12,000 to 7,535 from 2016 to 2023, reports La Prensa, attributing the drop to pandemic-related restrictions. The majority are from the United States, followed by Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Mexico.
More on Migration
IOM has published a new migration governance profile on the municipality of Boca Chica in the Dominican Republic, near Santo Domingo. The profile covers approximately 90 indicators to evaluate migration governance and identify both well-developed areas and areas for further development.
At the Latin America Daily Briefing, Jordana Timerman writes, “U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris announced almost $1 billion in new pledges by private companies to support communities in Central America. The effort is part of the Biden administration’s effort to stem record numbers of migrants arriving at the country’s southern border, reports the New York Times.”
An email that circulated on social media claiming that the Chilean presidency and Jesuit Migrant Service were working to organize the transit of irregular migrants to Santiago was fabricated, reports Yahoo, highlighting migration-related disinformation.
🇰🇾 Cayman Islands
“The backlog of permanent residency applications based on length of stay continues to grow as officials focus their attention on the problem of sham marriages. The majority of PR applications are by work permit holders or residents who have been here for eight years and apply via the points system, but the government’s priority is investigating the relatively few applications based on marriage to a Caymanian. The government believes marriages of convenience are on the rise and resources are being diverted to investigate these applications and other issues,” reports CaymanNewsService.