Americas Migration Brief - January 15, 2024
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Table of Contents
Integration and Development
Ecuador's security crisis—which reached new heights last week (see Latin America Daily Briefing)—is creating difficulties for Venezuelans living in the country, both in terms of violence and insecurity and in terms of scapegoating xenophobia. In spite of accusations made on social media and by a former high level Peruvian official, data shows that Venezuelan migrants are proportionately less likely to be perpetrators of crime in comparison to Ecuadorians. Some Venezuelans are looking to leave the country as a result of this context, as are some Ecuadorians. (Radio Noticias, El Pitazo, BNN)
A security-focused referendum proposed by president Daniel Noboa includes a question on “reforming the procedures for inadmissibility, deportation and expulsion of foreigners to ‘control migration and strengthen State security.’” Jefferson Diaz writes at Visa a cualquier parte, “When official authorities promote a narrative that mixes migration with crime, it becomes difficult to demolish myths and generalizations that affect migrants.”
As a result of government office closures, “Employers and foreign nationals will not be able to submit initial or renewal visa applications in Ecuador and will not receive adjudications on their applications until the Ministry reopens,” notes Fragomen.
🇨🇷 Costa Rica
“UNHCR and the Costa Rican Social Security Fund (CCSS) renewed, for the fifth consecutive year, the framework agreement for collective health insurance coverage for people requesting refuge, refugees, at risk of statelessness and stateless people.” (press release)
Costa Rica should register and regularize migrants in the country en masse—with the aim of preventing abuse against migrants, improving security, and generating greater economic benefits—argues Daguer Hernández at Confidencial.
An MPI report explores “compassion fatigue” and public support for Venezuelan migration in Colombia, as well as for Syrians in Turkey and Ukrainians in Europe, noting, “While compassion is extremely powerful, it is also highly vulnerable to fatigue. In the long term, politicians must anticipate the gradual ebbing of solidarity by putting in place sound policies to meet practical community needs amid large-scale migration.”
Some Venezuelans living in Argentina are looking to migrate away from the country amid rising prices and economic crisis, says Efecto Cocuyo.
Asylum, Protection, and Human Rights
Venezuelans, Colombians, and Peruvians accounted for 78% of asylum applications in Spain in 2023, reports Infobae, adding that the 163,218 total applications were the most since the Asylum and Refugee Office’s creation in 1992.
“More than 3,000 Cubans requested asylum in Spain during 2023. The figure represents more than double the requests registered in 2022,” reports DDC.
An MPI report explores migration at the US-Mexico border—as well as through Guatemala and Costa Rica—and migrant processing, access to asylum, and border enforcement. Recommendations include for the US to “Create a federal government mechanism that supplements the work of border NGOs in directing migrants who do not have U.S. ties to destinations where sponsors assist them while their legal proceedings are pending” and to “Implement asylum system reforms that result in timely and fair decisions, and adequately fund essential agencies.”
“UNICEF’s response to statelessness in Belize is as innovative as it is necessary. The organization has spearheaded the establishment of mobile birth registration clinics in Orange Walk, a community particularly vulnerable to statelessness,” says BNN.
“Peru rescues 40 Venezuelans forced into prostitution by Tren de Aragua” (El Pitazo)
IOM conducted a “Rapid assessment of women, in their diversity, refugees and migrants in sex work in Lima”
Metrópoles highlights Brazil’s efforts as a “global champion” at hosting refugees, counting over 700,000 in the country.
Despite not providing refugee status, Guyana has responded to Venezuelan migration in a humanitarian manner and welcomed both Venezuelans and Guyanese returnees, says Newsroom.
“Paraguay has granted political refuge to a total of 482 foreign citizens in 2023. Of them, 313 are Venezuelans, 15 Afghans and 154 Cubans,” reports Ultima Hora.
Increased border enforcement efforts by Mexico “are leading to family separations and the arbitrary transport of migrants away from the U.S. border, without any official processing, as well as to increased reports of abuse by Mexican authorities and criminal organizations,” says Tucson.
🇺🇸 United States
CBS covers the current status of Congressional-White House negotiations on immigration policy, noting that “Up until recently, the talks centered on tightening U.S. asylum laws, with negotiators focused on plans to allow border agents to swiftly expel migrants when a certain level in illegal crossings is reached, raise the standard to pass asylum interviews and expand expedited deportations of families traveling with children.”
Current discussions include the potential to include the Afghan Adjustment Act to provide permanent legal status to parolee Afghans; a “plan to provide relief to the children of immigrants working in the U.S. on H-1B visas for high-skilled workers,” often known as “Documented Dreamers;” and a proposal to “make certain migrants eligible to work in the U.S. legally if they pass their preliminary asylum interviews.”
Debate over allowing the continuation of the immigration parole authority is “the main sticking point” surrounding negotiations, per CBS. Washington Post further explores the negotiation’s debate surrounding parole.
“After the Biden administration introduced humanitarian parole programs, Border Patrol encounters declined by 92% for Cubans, Haitians and Nicaraguans as a group between December 2022 (the month before the parole programs started) and November 2023 compared to an 18% increase for nationals of non-parole countries… The Trump administration’s immigration policies did not override people’s need for protection and their motivations. Pending asylum cases rose 276% between FY 2016 and FY 2020,” according to a National Foundation for American Policy report highlighting the utility of expanding legal pathways.
CFR’s Will Freeman argues at Time that reducing access to asylum and hardening immigration stances will not slow migration but instead just play into the hands of organized crime.
“While it can be acknowledged that the (Biden) administration has made strides by rolling out beneficial immigration policies for Haitians, including the extension and re-designation of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) as well as the enactment of a humanitarian parole program in which many Haitian migrants qualify, it contradicts itself by continuing the removal of Haitians to unsafe conditions,” says a Miami Herald op-ed calling for a halt to deportations to the crisis-stricken country.
“Asylum applicants must submit their claims within one year of arriving in the United States, but most migrants lack the know-how and resources to do so,” says New York Times, profiling a Venezuelan family that has sought asylum in the US “after trying to make a living in Colombia and Chile, where they said they faced xenophobia.”
New York Times published a unique data visualization exploring the 3.1 million attempted crossings at the US border in 2023, including just 2,700 grants of relief with a path towards permanent residency (such as asylum), in comparison to 1.8 million in ongoing legal proceedings or limbo due to temporary relief statuses (such as parole or TPS). In 2023, just 19% of all immigration court cases were resolved, with the average case taking nearly 3 years.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott said of his state government’s enforcement efforts, “The only thing that we’re not doing is we’re not shooting people who come across the border, because of course the Biden administration would charge us with murder,” sparking wide criticism, including from the Mexican government. (The Hill, SwissInfo)
“Canada's Immigration Minister Marc Miller says the federal government's stated 1,000-person limit on temporary resident visas for Palestinians looking to flee Gaza is not a hard cap, despite previous suggestions,” reports CTV.
“Immigration lawyers say Ottawa is asking for an unprecedented level of personal information from prospective migrants” applying through the program, notes CBC.
Migratory Institutions and Regional and Bilateral Cooperation
Last Friday, Mexico’s president “called on the U.S. to approve a plan that would deploy $20 billion to Latin American and Caribbean countries, suspend the U.S. blockade of Cuba, remove all sanctions against Venezuela and grant at least 10 million Hispanics living in the U.S. the right to remain and work legally” in exchange for greater assistance with enforcement efforts, reports NBC.
“Responding to those requests, a senior Biden administration official told NBC News that AMLO, as López Obrador is commonly called, “has a very ambitious agenda. For some of these things, we would need Congress to act. We share the vision that we need to lift up the region.””
To respond to record migration through the Darien Gap, “A stronger partnership is needed between the U.S. and Colombia, as well as municipal leaders in destination cities across the U.S., who are seeking to stem the tide of irregular migration, which is outpacing their ability to provide safe housing and social services,” writes Colombian ambassador to the US Luis Gilberto Murillo at Miami Herald.
“The president of the Parliament of Malta, Angelo Farrugia, held an official meeting with the president of the Central American Parliament, Silvia García Polanco,” discussing migration, among other topics. (Mundiario)
🇨🇦🇺🇸 United States and Canada
“Canadian customs officers could soon be posted to U.S. border posts on American soil for the first time in history, and American officers could be assigned to work from border posts in Canada,” reports CBC.
🇭🇹🇩🇴 Dominican Republic and Haiti
Haitian and Dominican officials met last week to discuss the Dajabón River canal dispute; migration; and the countries’ shared border, which remains closed to migration. (CNN)
🇵🇪🇵🇦 Panama and Peru
Panamanian and Peruvian officials discussed migration, among other topics, during a meeting last week. (Prensa Latina)
Mexico presented a new national strategy for migration, which considers Mexico as a country of origin, transit, destination, and return. (El Economista)
“A Bank of Canada study has revealed that restrictions on H-1B visas to the United States imposed during Donald Trump’s presidency led to a surge of 76,000 additional admissions of college-educated immigrants to Canada in 2018 and 2019,” reports Canada Immigration. (see AMB 1/1/24 for the study)
Decreasing temporary labor migration “could deepen the expected recession and subsequent recovery” of Canada’s economy, reports Yahoo.
🇺🇸 United States
“The Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Labor published a temporary final rule making available an additional 64,716 H-2B temporary nonagricultural worker visas for fiscal year 2024,” reports National Law Review.
Migrants in Transit
At least 3,000 migrants have crossed the Darien Gap in the first nine days of 2024, reports La Estrella de Panamá.
“The number of irregular migrants who cross the Darién jungle daily in the first days of the year is low compared to what was recorded last year when in August alone the figure exceeded 80 thousand travelers,” notes El Digital.
Hundreds of persons trying to cross from Bolivia into Chile at Colchane have been stranded, with some waiting for at least three days, reported Cooperativa on January 8th.
An Egyptian airline’s charter flight from Morocco landed in Nicaragua last week with more than 370 mainly Indian and Moroccan migrants, reports La Prensa, explaining the use of Nicaragua as a “springboard” for migration to the US.
A new migrant attention center in Danlí will be inaugurated around the end of February, per Canal 8.
Borders and Enforcement
Peru, Colombia, and Bolivia have militarized their borders as a result of Ecuador’s security crisis, reports Primicias. (see Integration and Development section above)
Colombia deployed nearly 180 soldiers to its border. (press release)
“The Government of Ecuador announced this Thursday that it will require the presentation of criminal record certificates from foreigners arriving through the borders of Colombia or Peru” during the country’s current state of emergency, reports Infobae.
Ecuador announced that it would deport more than 1,500 foreign convicts in the country, notes Radio Noticias.
🇺🇸 United States
“Texas state officials (last) week abruptly blocked federal U.S. Border Patrol agents from entering and patrolling a public area in the border town of Eagle Pass where they typically first encounter migrants who cross the Rio Grande illegally,” reports CBS.
“Texas officials told the Supreme Court early Saturday that the state is “working promptly” to ensure US Border Patrol agents have access to a boat ramp used to launch patrol boats into the Rio Grande, a day after the Biden administration complained to the court that the state had effectively blocked agents’ access to a key part of the US-Mexico border,” reports CNN.
“Supreme Court weighs time and date requirements for migrant removal hearings. The high court was critical of the government’s policy of deporting migrants who failed to show up at removal hearings after not initially receiving the time and date of their scheduled appearance.” (Courthouse News Service)
“Aided by electronic monitoring and data mining companies that extract, aggregate, and sell personal information from tens of thousands of private and public digital databases without the consent of individuals, the Biden administration is expanding the surveillance of immigrants to unprecedented levels—stifling dissent and political organizing and sowing fear among non-citizens and civil rights advocates,” says Prism.
“The Guatemalan Migration Institute (IGM) will impose a fine of US$3,000 on airlines that provide services to passengers who are rejected for not meeting the entry requirements to Guatemala,” reports E&N.
🇩🇴 Dominican Republic
Dominican president Luis Abinader critiqued the country’s migration law for being “‘very light and not severe,’ although he acknowledged that his administration is focused on combating the illegal entry of Haitians into the country,” reports Proceso. (see last week’s AMB on upcoming elections and border enforcement)
More on Migration
The Border Chronicle sets out its predictions for migration along the US-Mexico border in 2024, including that ports of entry—both for people and for trade—may become political pawns.
The open access Palgrave Handbook of South–South Migration and Inequality includes the following articles:
Unequal Origins to Unequal Destinations: Trends and Characteristics of Migrants’ Social and Economic Inclusion in South America
The Making of Migration Trails in the Americas: Ethnographic Network Tracing of Haitians on the Move
Inter-regional Migration in the Global South: African Migration to Latin America
Haitian Migration and Structural Racism in Brazil
Perú and Migration from Venezuela: From Early Adjustment to Policy Misalignment
Migration Governance in South America: Change and Continuity in Times of “Crisis”
🇺🇸 United States
Niskanen Center’s Neil Gross argues at Time the “conservative case for immigration,” highlighting religion, “traditional values,” and economic benefits.