Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Anger grows over separation of migrant families in U.S. (June 19, 2018)

Recent reports have shed light on how the Trump administration's practice of separating children from their parents, upon prosecuting the parents for illegal entry into the U.S., is playing out on the ground. 

Pro Publica obtained a recording of sobbing children calling for their parents inside a detention center. During a White House press conference, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen said that images and recordings "reflect the focus of those who post such pictures and narratives." She added that she had not heard the Pro Publica audio, but that the children taken into U.S. custody are being treated humanely (AP).

The AP described conditions inside a Border Patrol-run warehouse where children are being held in cages with foil sheets and no toys or books. Reporters were only allowed to briefly tour one section of the facility that held, according to Border Patrol, children who'd crossed the border without a parent and families.

A senior official at the Department of Health and Human Services told the Washington Examiner that the agency was already holding 11,500 children who have been separated from their parents, and taking in about 250 children a day. At this rate, the agency could be holding some 30,000 children by August.  

Two polls published Monday found that the practice is unpopular with U.S. voters: 66 percent of respondents told a Quinnipiac University poll that they opposed the practice. In an Ipsos poll published by the Daily Beast, 56 percent of respondents said they disagreed with the assertion that separating immigrant children from families is appropriate. 

Congress votes later this week on two hardline immigration bills that do not address family separation, although, as a New York Times editorial puts it, "By making the immigration topic even more radioactive, Mr. Trump has made a rational legislative debate much less likely."

The refugee crisis    

In its annual report, the UN Refugee Agency said that a record number of people were displaced in 2017; the largest increase of refugees were Venezuelans, with Venezuelans now comprising the fourth-largest nationality behind all new asylum claims. The number of fleeing Venezuelans caused asylum applications to rise dramatically in some South American countries, including Peru, where the number of asylum claims increased eight times between 2016-2017.  

The report also said that, for the first time in five years, the U.S. is receiving the highest number of new asylum applications in the world; 43 percent of those claims involved Central America's Northern Triangle region.  

Central America

  • Despite the apparent progress made during Friday's talks between President Daniel Ortega and Church leaders, the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua has once again suspended dialogue, citing the government's refusal to allow international human rights observers into the country, as well as the failure to disband para-police groups (BBC). The city of Masaya announced in a press conference that they refused to recognize the government and would begin a project of self-governance (Washington Post). Just south of Nicaragua's capital, the city has become a hub of fierce resistance to Ortega.  
  • From The Conversation: "Can Nicaragua, Latin America’s second poorest country, bring down its mighty regime by simply refusing to leave the streets? Local history suggests it can."
  • Following the release of an Amnesty International report looking at abuses committed by the security forces after last year's highly irregular elections, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke with President Juan Orlando Hernandez about the need to hold those responsible accountable (AP). It is worth noting that while the U.S. condemned the violence used against protestors in the days following November's contested election, they also formally recognized the election results despite widespread evidence of fraud and calls by the Organization of American States for a do-over. While meeting with Pompeo, Hernandez also reportedly lobbied for the 57,000 Hondurans who lived in the U.S. under humanitarian program TPS until the Trump administration terminated it earlier this year. (EFE)
  • First there was the opening of a Guatemalan Embassy in Jerusalem, just two days after the United States did so. Now, President Jimmy Morales' government has made additional efforts to signal its willingness to back controversial Trump administration policies: the president's spokesperson said yesterday that Guatemala is "respectful of migration policy" when asked about the separation of Guatemalan children from the parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. (elPeriodico)
  • Business elites and presidential front-runner Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador—known for making statements that alarm investors—have reached "an uneasy truce," according to the AP. Members of the Mexican Business Council met with AMLO in June in order to raise their concerns and smooth over their differences; the two parties came away from the meeting willing to work together, the report says. 
  • Authorities arrested the former state prosecutor of Veracruz state, accused of ordering the disappearance of at least 13 bodies recovered from a mass grave in 2016 (Animal Politico). It's not the first time that state authorities have been implicated in Veracruz disappearances—in February, nearly the entire police leadership was detained on charges of carrying out forced disappearances. Veracruz has uncovered hundreds of mass graves in the state since December 2016, when its new governor took office. 
  • Mexico's national human rights commission said there has been an "unusual" increase in killings of police officers in recent months (EFE). Six police officers were recently killed in Puebla state in an alleged confrontation with oil thieves. 
  • Ecuador's Supreme Court ruled that former President Rafael Correa should be included in a probe into the attempted kidnapping of an opposition lawmaker in 2012 (EFE). A Colombian court had previously found that top intelligence officials under Correa had been involved in the kidnapping. The case is unfolding amid high political tensions in Ecuador, thanks to the schism that has developed between Correa and his successor, President Lenin Moreno, who has distanced himself from Correa's policies. 
  • Colombian drug trafficker alias "Mi Sangre"—whose arrest and extradition from Argentina was emblematic of how prominent Colombian narcos have heavily relied on the Southern Cone country as a safe haven—received a reduced U.S. prison sentence in return for substantial collaboration with law enforcement (Miami Herald). 
  • There is an "ugly," "angry" mood among voters regarding Brazil's upcoming election, reports the Financial Times. It remains to be seen whether voters will go for a centrist candidate, or support fiery, far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro, who is "a human grenade with the pin out." 
  • Can you blame Lula for becoming a World Cup pundit while in jail? (AP)
  • Afro-Brazilians are embracing natural hair and rejecting white standards of beauty (Washington Post)
- Elyssa Pachico

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