Americas Migration Brief - February 5, 2024
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Table of Contents
Integration and Development
A Salud Pública paper investigates the “self-rated health” of Venezuelan migrants in Colombia, Costa Rica, and Chile, finding that among women, “those out of the labor force and those who reported pre-existing diseases have a higher probability of expressing a deterioration in their health after the migration occurred.”
As of December 2023, 2,295,099 Venezuelans are in the process of or have regularized their status in Colombia, out of 2,864,796 total Venezuelans in the country. The total Venezuelan population decreased by 1% over 2023. (Proyecto Venezuela, Migración Colombia)
Colombia’s proposed labor reform guarantees labor rights for migrants regardless of status, but there are still areas of improvement, per La Silla Vacía, including considering access to title validation and inequalities faced by migrant women.
El Barómetro covers the trend of xenophobic claims that Venezuelan migrants were responsible for recent climate change-related forest fires in Colombia.
Mire highlights the State Conference on Migration, Refuge and Statelessness of the State of Rio de Janeiro, explaining the agreed upon proposals to be brought to the national conference in June, including promoting “Equal treatment and access to public services” and the “Creation of the Ministry of Migrations.”
A BMC Public Health paper explores access to HIV and sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing for Venezuelans in Peru, finding that “Access to HIV/STI testing among male and female migrants was 19.85% and 25.16%, respectively.” (via Forced Migration Current Awareness)
InfoMigra reviews the potential of migrant regularization in Chile.
El Estímulo highlights the role of Venezuelan health care workers in Argentina, noting as well that Venezuelan engineers have supported Argentina’s oil industry.
🇨🇷 Costa Rica
“Nicaraguans make up more than 12% of Costa Rica's tourism workforce” (Confidencial)
Canada’s federal government “announced new funding of $362.4 million to support housing for asylum claimants… This is in addition to the $212 million in national funding made available in the summer of 2023 through IHAP. The IHAP provides cost-sharing financing to provincial and municipal governments to handle unprecedented interim housing pressures caused by an increase in the number of asylum claimants.” (Immigration News Canada)
🇺🇸 United States
An MPI report “provides an overview of immigrants’ eligibility for programs and services related to general assistance, health and nutrition, employment and income, education, housing, and driver’s licenses.”
Center for Migration Studies estimates that in the US “the undocumented population grew from 10.3 million in 2021 to 10.9 million in 2022, an increase of 650,000. The increase reverses more than a decade of gradual decline.”
“Congress’s border deal talks might be ongoing, but in one essential area, legislators are moving backward: The ‘dreamers,’ undocumented immigrants who came to this country as children, have been left out of the conversation,” says Washington Post.
Asylum, Protection, and Human Rights
Danish Refugee Council’s 2023 annual report explores protection issues in Colombia, Mexico, Peru, and Venezuela, noting that “A high percentage of people interviewed have experienced protection threats while crossing borders to Colombia (39%), Mexico (49.6%) and Peru (32.5%). Extortion and threats against property are the main protection threats identified.”
“As of December 2023, more than 310,000 people are internally displaced” in Haiti, 60% of whom were displaced in 2023, says IOM, highlighting the role of rampant crime and violence and noting, “94% of internally displaced people in Haiti originated from the Ouest department, with the capital being the primary source.”
“The surge in armed violence across Haiti has triggered a profound humanitarian crisis, with the number of internally displaced children soaring to 170,000.” (UNICEF)
“During 2023 in Colombia, nearly 121,000 people were victims of massive forced displacement and confinement,” with 7% more events of forced displacement than in 2022. (press release)
Doctors Without Borders provided services to 676 sexual violence victims in the Darien Gap in 2023, including 214 in December alone.
9 Cuban migrants and 2 Guatemalans died in an accident while transiting north. (VOA)
Around Chile’s northern border near Colchane, “a group of soldiers who were guarding the border opened fire on a van that tried to evade control” due to transporting irregular migrants. (La Tercera)
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has summoned the Uruguayan state in regards to the issue of access to Uruguayan nationality and statelessness risk. “Uruguay is the only country in Latin America in which legal citizens are not natural citizens,” notes El Observador.
Former López Obrador administration official Tonatiuh Guillén López sharply criticizes at Proceso that amid US Congressional negotiations focused on restricting asylum, “the Mexican government has apparently assumed its possible consequences unconditionally, reiterating the passive attitude it has shown with the application of previous initiatives by the US government such as the well-known “Stay in Mexico” and the express expulsions justified by the health emergency due to the covid pandemic (“Title 42”) during the Trump administration. It is foreseeable that the new initiatives of the Biden government will involve converting (even more) Mexican border cities into massive camps and narrow funnels of a human flow characterized by hopelessness and a deep social crisis.”
🇺🇸 United States
Last night, following weeks of negotiations, three Senators released their immigration deal that has received White House backing despite criticisms from both Republicans and Democrats. Expect more information in next week’s AMB (and check out previous Weekly Briefs for more). The bill is available here.
“U.S. President Joe Biden’s early commitment to show compassion to migrants “have largely been set aside as chaos engulfs the border and imperils Mr. Biden’s re-election hopes,” reports the New York Times. “The number of people crossing into the United States has reached record levels, more than double than in the Trump years. The asylum system is still all but broken.”” (via Latin America Daily Briefing)
“Seeking asylum has become the surest way for migrants to stay in the U.S. The underfunded immigration system can’t keep up, so cases languish for years” (New York Times)
The CBP One app, used to reserve appointments to enter the US at a port of entry and seek asylum, has improved since early glitches last year, but “migrants are still forced to wait months to secure appointments,” reports KPBS.
CBS dispels the myth that the president could “shut down the border,” explaining the nuances of the debate and noting, “The president, however, does not currently have the legal authority to unilaterally suspend U.S. asylum law… Only Congress can change U.S. asylum law.”
“Trump tried it 2018. He issued a travel ban that suspended the entry of all migrants crossing the border, then combined it with a regulation that banned people from seeking asylum if they had crossed the border in violation of a presidential proclamation. This was struck down in court as a violation of the right to seek asylum.” (Slate)
“ICE Subjected Immigrants in Detention to Unnecessary Surgeries, Report Finds” (Immigration Impact)
“As long as the border is in chaos, Mr. Trump bets voters will continue to prefer him on this issue. He’s almost certainly right. But perhaps it’s chaos, not immigration per se, that upsets voters, and Mr. Biden can curb the chaos by letting more immigrants come to the United States legally,” argues Cato’s David Bier at New York Times.
WOLA’s Adam Isacson highlights stories related to the US-Mexico border and human rights at the Weekly Border Update, explaining, “CBP data confirm that December set a monthly migration record.”
Al Jazeera highlights Canada’s program for humanitarian family reunification pathways for Palestianians, including explaining criticisms of unusually in-depth requirements and confusing messaging, particularly around alleged caps on numbers of applications. (see last week’s AMB)
Migratory Institutions and Regional and Bilateral Cooperation
Ecuador’s current security crisis will have key impacts on human mobility in the Americas, both through the emigration and displacement of Ecuadorians and of immigrants that had previously found refuge in Ecuador, I write in a special edition of the AMB. “Much as we have seen with other displacement crises both regionally and globally, governments and stakeholders across the Americas must coordinate effectively at a regional level and invest attention and resources in order to develop a successful response providing migrants the protection and support they need.”
Heads of Caribbean nations’ Citizenship by Investment programs met with European Union officials “to discuss the future of visa-free Schengen travel, EU concerns about the CBIs, and other matters.” (Dominica News Online)
The US praised Suriname’s new endorsement of the regional Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection following the Third U.S.-Suriname Strategic Dialogue. (press release)
🇻🇪🇺🇲 United States and Venezuela
Venezuela “will stop accepting repatriation flights from the U.S. if ‘economic aggression’ intensifies,” such as through the reimposition of sanctions due to a ban on a leading opposition presidential candidate. (Reuters)
Since October 2023, approximately 2,100 Venezuelans have been deported from the US, in comparison to nearly 58,000 Venezuelans arriving to the US border in the month of December 2023 alone, notes WOLA’s Carolina Jimenez Sandoval on Twitter.
🇲🇽🇺🇲 United States and Mexico
“Mexico’s president suggested Thursday that talks with the U.S. government on migration and drug trafficking could suffer after media reports of a U.S. investigation into alleged drug money donations for his 2006 campaign,” reports AP.
The presidents of the two countries later spoke on the phone, discussing migration, among other topics. (press release)
🇬🇹🇺🇲 United States and Guatemala
Guatemalan and US officials met to discuss migration, among other topics. (LatinUS)
🇨🇷 Costa Rica
Costa Rica is developing a National Migration Strategy. (press release)
🇻🇬 British Virgin Islands
“UFCW Canada, the country’s leading advocate for agricultural workers for over 30 years, is calling for urgent reforms to protect the health, safety and rights of migrant workers in a new report,” reports Financial Post.
“Bangladesh on Monday requested Canada for ‘preferential treatment’ in migration for its citizens,” particularly for agricultural labor migration pathways, reports Dhaka Tribune.
“Cuban migrants seem to have found a new non-traditional destination in Russia , where they take advantage of job offers that nationals and migrants from neighboring nations do not want to take on… there are currently between 4,000 and 5,000 Cuban migrant workers in Moscow,” reports Diario de Cuba.
Center for Global Development published a report on channeling labor migration to promote “the global green transition,” including a chapter on the role Colombia could play. The report finds, “Colombia does not have an active approach to facilitating and benefiting from emigration, but could seek to establish training and migration partnerships for mutual benefit in green transition-relevant sectors.”
Migrants in Transit
New data from Colombia’s government estimates that 539,949 migrants crossed through the Darien Gap in 2023. By contrast, Panama estimates 520,085 did so, reports Efecto Cocuyo. (see the Colombian data here and Panamanian data here)
“Honduran authorities registered 545,043 citizens of other countries (not counting neighboring Nicaragua) transiting its territory irregularly in 2023. UNHCR estimated “that more than 850,000 people transited Honduras” last year when including those whom the government did not count.” (via WOLA)
The Honduran Congress approved an extension of the amnesty for irregular migrants in transit through the country; it had expired on January 1, although the Executive had taken measures to ease the situation. (Hondudiario; see last week’s AMB)
Primicias highlights the emigration of white collar professionals amid Ecuador’s security crisis, noting, “A Multitrabajos survey reveals that 17% of human resources specialists in the country believe that this year there will be a flight of talent to other countries.”
🇨🇷 Costa Rica
A UN report explores transit migration through Costa Rica and preparedness for different scenarios and themes of interest, including if migration increases or if border enforcement hardens in Central America.
Borders and Enforcement
🇺🇸 United States
An MPI report “examines the history of the federal government’s efforts to improve southwest border security in the modern era, beginning with the Clinton administration in 1993 and looking at subsequent changes during the Bush, Obama, Trump, and Biden administrations.”
🇩🇴 Dominican Republic
About a quarter of a million Haitians were deported from the Dominican Republic in 2023, in addition to about a quarter of a million that returned voluntarily to their home country on their own. (Prensa Latina)
An Ecuadorian presidential decree moves to deport foreigners that were sentenced for crimes in the country. (Primicias)
A new bill in Ecuador’s Congress proposes 14 reforms to the country’s migration law with a focus on border enforcement and securitization. “This legislative proposal also aims to supervise the activities of foreigners, as well as compliance with local and national laws, and respect for national culture and coexistence,” reports Ecuador en Vivo.
I discussed the impacts of scapegoating migrants for crime in last week’s special edition on Ecuador.
“Mexico sets up camp near San Diego border wall gap to intercept US-bound migrants… Mexican authorities said they are detaining anyone who tries to cross, sending them to a government migrant center and then transporting them south” (inewsource)
“With a ninth province now indicating it will stop housing immigration detainees in its jails, advocates and lawyers say there needs to be a focus on community-based alternatives that respect the human rights and dignity of those individuals,” reports CTV News.