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Americas Migration Brief - March 20, 2023
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A quick note: next week’s edition of the Americas Migration Brief may be delayed or canceled, as I will be in rural Ecuador and cannot be sure that I will have sufficient internet access to prepare the brief. If you don’t receive it, rest assured that the newsletter will return the following week!
Table of Contents
Integration and Development
Discussing the international solidarity conference for Venezuelans (see more below at “Regional and Bilateral Cooperation”) and calling for investment in development and integration, Ligia Bolivar explains at La Silla Vacía that Venezuelan migrants are not returning to Venezuela in any large numbers—rather than return, if they feel they must move from their country of residence, they instead choose to migrate on to yet another country in the Americas.
A new study at Journal of Humanitarian Logistics and Supply Chain Management exploring the “Operation Welcome” internalization program and the Brazilian government’s efforts to integrate Venezuelan immigrants finds that “the availability of internalization vacancies is the operation’s main bottleneck and suggests policies to boost the resettlement program. We suggest that humanitarian actors and authorities prioritize policies designed to increase the number of internalization vacancies.” The authors add that increasing interiorization would also reduce the need for shelters in the border state of Roraima and ultimately might reduce overall costs.
The World highlights stories of Venezuelan immigrants’ struggles to find jobs in Brazil, additionally noting that women have become a greater percentage of the Venezuelan immigrant population in the country than they were several years ago. Furthermore, “According to the Brazilian Federal Police, 17,397 Venezuelans entered the country in February, more than in January and an increase of almost 40% from the same month last year.”
Nearly 40,000 migrant families are currently living in encampments, reports El Desconcierto, noting that this marks a 35% increase from two years prior.
There are an estimated 800 irregular migrants in Bonaire, says Caribsch Netwerk, adding, “Migration is one of the themes in upcoming local elections in Bonaire. For a residence permit, people will have to take a compulsory Papiamento test, according to various parties, including for people from the European Netherlands.”
Asylum, Protection, and Human Rights
A new Plan International report finds that “Gender-based violence is driving adolescent girls from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Mexico to embark on journeys along one of the world’s most dangerous migration routes… The report found that sexual and gender-based violence was seen as a common reason for migration by one in five (19.1%) adolescent girls. Social violence was cited by a further 11,7% of the adolescent girls interviewed,” according to a press release.
🇺🇸🇬🇹 Guatemala and United States
A new Refugees International report explores the Central American Minors (CAM) program in Guatemala, writing, “On the second anniversary of the Biden administration’s CAM program, as thousands of Guatemalan children cross the border to unite with their parents and few use the CAM pathway, it is important to analyze why CAM has fallen short. Refugees International found that there is too little outreach to and support for Guatemalan parents eligible to apply for CAM. It is difficult for their children in Guatemala to get to their CAM program interviews, where they lack support presenting their claims so that too few are granted refugee status. Children also have difficulty getting passports to leave Guatemala and, if granted parole, are ineligible for services they need after arrival in the United States.”
A new National Immigration Forum report explores Mexico’s asylum system, writing, “Mexico is a country whose asylum legal framework, in theory, is among the world’s most inclusive and protective of asylum seekers. In recent years, Mexico has made significant legislative improvements to adapt to the new hemispheric migration patterns. In addition, around 70% of asylum applications in Mexico are resolved favorably, granting refugee status to most applicants. However, despite the good intentions of Mexican legislators and the high approval rate of asylum applications, the administrative authorities in charge of reviewing asylum applications are underfunded and face a growing number of asylum applications. In addition, Mexico’s economic and demographic circumstances are not ideally positioned to absorb large numbers of refugees. Finally, Mexico itself has systemic problems with gang and gender-based violence, undermining it as a destination country for asylum seekers fleeing gang and gender-based violence.”
Mexico received the third-most asylum requests globally in 2021, reports Gaceta UNAM, noting that 23% of applicants were minors.
“The government ceased issuing routine exit visas in 2019 that had allowed migrants to reach the US border; migrants must now wait in the state where they’ve filed their immigration claim before they can continue on. As a result, countless people have been caught in a bureaucratic bottleneck, as Mexico’s immigration system struggles to process a surge in cases. It can take from three to six months for the documents to arrive, and it sometimes takes years,” reports The Nation, highlighting how many asylum seekers work in brutal conditions in agriculture in the southern state of Chiapas.
Last week, the head of Mexico’s Migration Institute (INM) suggested that the Mexican government may separate families, although the INM subsequently walked back the statement following criticisms, reports La Hora. A statement from civil society is available here.
The state of Sinaloa has signed an agreement with UNHCR “to improve public policies aimed at particularly addressing the phenomenon of forced internal displacement of families in the state,” reports El Economista.
🇩🇴 Dominican Republic
“The Dominican Republic has clamped down on migration from Haiti with a fence that covers nearly half the border between the neighboring countries, and sending tens of thousands of Haitians back home. Deportees have included hundreds of pregnant women and unaccompanied minors, reports the Washington Post.” (via Latin America Daily Briefing)
🇺🇸 United States
WOLA’s Adam Isacson highlights stories related to the US-Mexico border and human rights at the Beyond the Wall weekly update, including diving into the Biden administration’s 2024 budget request, explaining that Cuban migration is increasingly maritime over land-based, and noting, “Eight migrants, seven of them Mexican, perished off the coast of La Jolla, California, just north of San Diego, on March 11 when the boat in which they were traveling sank offshore.”
“Until 2004, when the Canada-US Safe Third Country Agreement was signed, asylum seekers could enter Canada in an orderly manner by presenting themselves at an official port of entry at the Canada-US border. Once the agreement came into effect, however, that was no longer possible. The result? Would be asylum seekers had no choice but to cross the border outside ports of entry, like Roxham Road in Quebec — a loophole in the agreement,” writes Warda Shazadi Meighen at WRM Council, arguing, “the concentration of so many people coming into one province places immense pressure on settlement services in Quebec… The Safe Third Country Agreement is not serving Canada well. To address the issues at Roxham Road, we must suspend the agreement.” WCAX reports, “Canadian government figures show a record 39,000 unauthorized entries into Quebec from the U.S. in 2022, nearly all of them through Roxham Road. In January alone, crossings neared 5,000. Compare that to about 2,300 a year before.”
Researchers Jennifer Elrick and Daniel Béland discuss at Policy Options the German federal model of asylum seeker distribution and its potential application in Canada.
More than 135,000 Canadians have signed an e-petition to the House of Commons to push the Canadian government to ensure access to asylum for LGBTQ persons facing persecution and an increasing wave of anti-LGBTQ legislation in the United States, reports CBC.
🇨🇷 Costa Rica
The Intercultural Human Rights Association (ASIDEHU) is calling for Costa Rica’s refugee unit to increase the current number of daily available slots to apply for asylum from 70 to 150, reports Articulo 66.
At a meeting of ministers of Commonwealth nations last week, Belize’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Immigration asserted Belize’s commitment to the Refugee Convention and Protocol and expressed concern about certain Commonwealth nation’s policy positions, according to a press release. The United Kingdom has received strong condemnation from many over recent policy initiatives that restrict access to asylum.
Regional and Bilateral Cooperation
Last week, the European Union and Canada hosted the 2023 International Conference in Solidarity with Venezuelan Refugees and Migrants and their Host Countries and Communities (press releases and video available here). The Quito Process member countries and civil society organizations such as the Jesuit Network with Migrants released statements on the conference. “Only 37 per cent of the funding needed to alleviate the humanitarian needs of millions of people were allocated in 2022,” wrote the NRC in a statement. The IDB, meanwhile, has approved projects worth close to $1.3 billion in credit to promote immigrant integration since 2019, according to IDB Migration Unit chief Felipe Muñoz on Twitter.
Guatemala hosted a meeting of Special Coordinators of the Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection with representation from Argentina, Belize, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, the United States, and Uruguay; according to a press release.
The presidents of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Honduras, and Mexico are set to “meet in the first days of April in order to discuss migration issues and ways to face it globally,” reports Prensa Latina.
Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) member states “will be attending a workshop in Saint Lucia from 21-22 March 2023, with the ultimate objective of mainstreaming the human security approach in disaster displacement and environmental migration policies in the Eastern Caribbean,” reports Antigua News Room.
Last week, the Bahamas, Turks and Caicos, and the United States signed a “statement of intent—an expansion of the ‘Operation Bahamas Turks and Caicos (OPBAT) Shiprider Agreement’ initiated last December” with the goal of tackling human smuggling, as well as the trafficking of drugs and guns. (Turks and Caicos Weekly News)
🇺🇸🇨🇦 Canada and United States
The US and Canada are expected to discuss migration and Roxham Road, among other topics, when US President Joe Biden visits Ottawa this week, reports Forbes.
🇺🇸🇨🇦 Canada and United States
The Niskanen Center argues that US brain drain is feeding Canada’s labor force. They recently “obtained previously unreported (and still unpublished) data from the Canadian immigration office’s Statistical Reporting Group detailing top Express Entry applicants’ educational and citizenship backgrounds. Express Entry is Canada’s recruitment arm for skilled talent worldwide… between 2017 and 2021, approximately 45,000 invitations went to skilled workers who received their postsecondary education in the U.S–88 percent of whom were not U.S. citizens.”
Fragomen breaks down new work permit reforms in Panama, explaining that “under the decree, there are overall stricter quota requirements for employers in Panama but relaxed quota requirements for short-term technicians,” among other changes. (see last week’s brief)
🇲🇽🇺🇸 United States and Mexico
“U.S. and Mexican officials on Tuesday said 13,000 Mexican migrant workers are owed a total of $6.5 million in unpaid wages from U.S. workplaces, and will work to help beneficiaries now living in Mexico claim their pay from U.S. labor authorities,” reports Reuters.
Migrants in Transit
El Espectador highlights increasing Ecuadorian emigration, noting three principal transit routes northward: by plane to Nicaragua or El Salvador followed by the land route through Mexico; by plane to Panama and then to the Bahamas, followed by maritime migration to southern Florida; and by land through the Darien Gap and further north.
Panamanian officials estimate that 400,000 migrants will enter the country through the Darien Gap throughout 2023, an increase from the 250,000 recorded in 2022; the government is calling for international aid, reports El Debate. Folha notes that ten times more minors have traversed the Darien Gap between January and February 2023 in comparison to the same period last year. WOLA has an infographic showing the composition and number of migrants traveling through the Darien Gap over time.
NRT reports of a new route for migration through Mexico that goes through Torreón, Coahuila en route to Ciudad Juarez.
Borders and Enforcement
If new US policy measures to restrict asylum access at the US-Mexico border find success and “end up restoring border control at the expense of asylum and legal pathways, many other countries will take it as a signal to pursue a more restrictive approach too. If so, this would undermine the impressive openness and pragmatism demonstrated by Latin American and Caribbean countries during this period of unusually high regional mobility,” writes Migration Policy Institute president Andrew Selee at Americas Quarterly. The Baker Institute highlights the potential strain placed on Mexico’s asylum system by the new US measures, while at the Foreign Policy Latin America Brief, Catherine Osborn discusses some Latin American leaders’ negative responses to the US policy announcement.
Chilean President Gabriel Boric “said his government will carry out ‘intense’ diplomatic activity with Bolivia and Venezuela to receive deported citizens,” reports Reuters, adding that the government plans to bolster infrastructure and surveillance at the border and that “planned improvements to the Colchane border complex include new thermal cameras and a satellite communication system ‘to double the remote detection capacity and monitor areas currently not controlled.’” There are currently 600 soldiers deployed at Chile’s northern border.
Bolivia’s vice minister for foreign relations has rejected Boric’s call for Bolivia to receive deportees at the border, asserting that Chile’s domestic migration laws do not require international obligations for Bolivia. (El Mostrador)
There are 160,833 Spanish migrants living in Cuba, reports Directorio, with Cuba the country hosting the sixth-most Spaniards.
More on Migration
A new ECLAC report “presents an evaluation of the national capacity to produce data on international migration in ten countries (Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru and the Dominican Republic).”