Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Migrant crisis outsourced to Mexico with high human rights costs (Oct. 13, 2015)

A year after the child migrant crisis of last year, the U.S. seems to have resolved the issue (despite a recent uptick in numbers). But, the solution has been nothing more than an outsourcing of patrolling and deportation duties to Mexico, argue two pieces in the New York Times. And the policies enacted "have triggered a series of powerful unintended consequences across the region," reports The Guardian. As the stream of would-be migrants has actually never abated, "the United States simply has a migrant-crisis-in-waiting," argues a Boston Globe editorial. The Mexican crackdown is "at best, a Band-aid policy."

The drop is due largely to stricter controls in Mexico, explains Azam Ahmed in an NYTimes piece from last week. The problem has merely been pushed south: Mexican authorities detained nearly 92,000 Central American migrants from October 2014 to April 2015, according to data from the Washington Office on Latin America. In the first seven months of this year, Mexico apprehended 18,310 minors, up nearly a third over the same period a year ago. (See last Wednesday's briefs.) 

Apprehensions of Central Americans in Mexico are on track to grow 70 percent this year and will substantially exceed those in the U.S. by the end of the year, according to the Boston Globe.

In an New York Times Sunday Review op-ed Sonia Nazario wrote a harrowing piece at how conditions have worsened for refugees going through Mexico -- a direct result of the tens of millions of dollars the U.S. gave to support Mexican operations to stop Central American migrants from reaching the U.S. and claiming asylum.

The anti-migrant crackdown in Mexico "has forced migrants to travel in ways that are harder, take longer, are more isolated and have fewer support mechanisms." Though "barriers will not ultimately stop children who are increasingly desperate and can find new ways around obstacles," she writes. The Guardian notes that the increased risks migrants are forced to face are reflected in an increased death rate among those who attempt to escape dangerous conditions in Central America.

One question, of course, is what happens to asylum seekers who are deported back to the place they fled from. The Guardian argues that in the rush to deport migrants, the U.S. is avoiding "its obligation to provide asylum to those genuinely in peril in violation of international law." 

Nobody systemically tracks the numbers, but both Nazareno and The Guardian refer to an forthcoming report by social scientist Elizabeth G. Kennedy who, using news reports, documents that at least 90 migrants deported by the United States and Mexico in the past 21 months were murdered. Though the true number is likely much higher.

"These figures tell us that the US is returning people to their deaths in violation of national and international law. Most of the individuals reported to have been murdered lived in some of the most violent towns in some of the most violent countries in the world – suggesting strongly that is why they fled," Kennedy told The Guardian.

One local homicide detective quoted in the piece estimated that deportees accounted for 10 to 15 percent of the cases he investigates in San Pedro Sula, which for the past few years has the dubious honor of being the world's most violent city.

The Guardian reports on three separate cases of Honduran men who were murdered shortly after being deported back to their home-towns by the US government. The piece goes into depth into the stories of these men and how they were killed, quoting both WOLA and Human Rights Watch experts. 

Perhaps that's why most deportees say they'll try to migrate north again, despite the dangers, reports NPR in a piece that talks to people at the center that receives migrants who are bused back into Honduras after they're intercepted in Mexico trying to get to the U.S.

News Briefs

  • On the other hand, most Mexican migrants seeking to flee cartel violence become internally refugees, explains NPR, seeking to displace a U.S. myth that they go north. Alejandro Hopereferences Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre numbers that say at least 281,400 people were internally displaced in Mexico as of December of last year.
  • Jail-time is supposed to be a cure for the ever-growing levels of violence in El Salvador, but instead the increasing inmate population simply adds to the problem argues Edgardo Amaya on the Seguridad y Justicia blog. He builds on a theory by the Argentine penal law expert Alberto Binder, who argues that a country's insecurity should be measured by the well-accepted rate of homicides per 100,000 people, but also by the rate of inmates per 100,000. He reviews arguments against a punitive policy improve public safety, saying they limit innovative and humanitarian approaches.
  • On the topic of migrants: The Guardian has a piece on Haitian deportees from the Dominican Republic -- coming a few months after the DR implemented a controversial immigration policy in August that threatened to deport thousands of Haitians and people of Haitian decent. (SeeJune 17's post.) Between June and August 66,000 people left the DR for Haiti, and an International Organization of Migration survey revealed that approximately 20 percent were deported while 80 percent left spontaneously. The deportations affect poor workers who traditionally serve as cheap labor, many of whom have lived in the DR for many years and have families there.
  • Last week the United Nations Security Council members agreed to extend the stabilization mission in Haiti until next October, with that possibly being the final year of the blue-helmet peacekeeping force, reports the Miami Herald. Members followed the recommendation of U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
  • The Wall Street Journal's Mary O'Grady criticizes U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry's message to Haitians to "come together" to make the upcoming Oct. 25 elections a success during his trip last week. She refers to a May World Bank Study that says Haiti's economic growth is held back by crony capitalism. "The record of Haiti’s elected politicians, since the transition to democracy at the beginning of the 1990s, is dismal. The political class still uses its power for personal aggrandizement, as the infamous dictators François Duvalier and his son Jean-Claude did for almost 30 years," she argues, and goes into several criticisms of why the economy functions poorly. 
  • Brazilian Finance Minister Joaquim Levy says the country's economic growth will slowly resume once Congress approves a government budget for next year, reports the Wall Street Journal. Voting on the budget -- which was altered by Levy to project better fiscal results -- has been delayed by a political stalemate in Congress which is loathe to support President Dilma Rousseff's austerity budget. 
  • Brazilian government officials want to spark an economic recovery by selling concessions for large infrastructure projects with more market-friendly rules, according to the Wall Street Journal. Efforts in this vein will be kicked off next month with auctions of contracts to operate hydroelectric power plants that will have no restrictions on foreign bidders.
  • Chile is inching closer towards legal medical marijuana. AFP reports that the government will modify a decry to permit the sale in pharmacies of medications with marijuana derived components, with a very strict control. The new norm is currently being put together and will have to be approved by President Michelle Bachelet according to Jaime Burrows, the Chilean Viceminister of Health. Currently such medication cannot be commercialized and can only be obtained through a request for importation made to the Institute of Public Health. But Congress is considering a norm that would decriminalize marijuana for recreational and medicinal purposes. Quinto Poder reports on the proposal wending its way through commissions.
  • The Banco Continental, Honduras' eight largest bank, will remain closed until Wednesday and will eventually be liquidated after being caught up in a U.S. money laundering investigation, reports the Associated Press. Its owner, Jaime Rosenthal, along with his son and a nephew, has been charged with laundering money for Los Cachiros, a Central American drug trafficking clan. (See last Thursday's post.)
  • The Wall Street Journal draws on a series of interviews with U.S. diplomat Bernard Aronson, envoy to the peace talks between the Colombian government and the FARC, to give insight into the process that culminated with the recent breakthroughs that agree on a six month deadline to reach an accord. The piece profiles Aronson, who contributed to the incremental advances on sticking points regarding transitional justice for guerrillas and how to guarantee their security if they disarm that led to the recent agreement.
  • Last week the IMF held its annual meeting in Peru. The location was chosen three years ago as an example of Latin America's economic success. Instead, the country has become "a symbol of downgraded hopes across emerging economies buffeted by a collapse in commodity prices, the pullback in China and an upswing in the dollar," according to the Wall Street Journal.
  • Andrés Oppenheimber, at the Miami Herald, says that the Trans-Pacific agreements signed last week between the U.S. and 11 other countries will leave the "populist governments of Brazil, Argentina, Venezuela and other countries that will be left even more isolated from the global economy — and poorer — than before."
  • A new Puerto Rican public school regulation will allow students to wear pants or skirts -- part of their official uniforms -- regardless of gender, a move meant to be inclusive of LGBT youths. The Associated Press reports that the move has unleashed debate on the conservative island.
  • And a New York Times "Retro Report" delves into the theft of babies by the military junta that ruthlessly ruled Argentina from 1976 to 1983 during the Dirty War that left as many as 30,000 Argentines "disappeared."
  • The recently released "Sicario" movie isn't even out in Mexico yet, but Ciudad Juárez Mayor Enrique Serrano Escobar is already launching a campaign against the violent, hellish portrayal of the city. "There is a whole community making an effort to restore the image of the city, and now they come along and speak ill of us,” he said in an interview with the New York Times.
  • But many Mexicans offended with their neighbor to the north -- specifically Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump -- are resorting to humor to blow off angry steam reports the Christian Science Monitor, which covers a skit dedicated to lampooning him. "The Sons of Trump" is "a nearly 90-minute-long string of slapstick skits lambasting a grunting, insult-hurling Trump and his wealthy, witless peers."

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