Friday, November 10, 2017

Kelly pressured DHS to expel TPS Hondurans (Nov. 10, 2017)

The White House Chief of Staff, John Kelly, tried to pressure acting secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Elaine Duke to expel thousands of Honduran migrants earlier this week, reports the Washington Post. On Monday the DHS decided to end a provisional residency program for about 2,500 Nicaraguan migrants, but postponed determination for a far larger group of about 57,000 Hondurans. (See Tuesday's post.) 

According to the Post, Kelly called Duke on Monday, who was angered by the pressure to expel the Honduran recipients of Temporary Protected Status (TPS). She reportedly told Kelly she would resign.

Kelly reportedly said the decision to end the program keeps "getting kicked down the road," and said the extension for six more months was contrary to the administration's wider immigration objectives. Duke was also pressured on the other side by former U.S. diplomats who urged her to consider the case carefully, given that many of the people in question have lived in the U.S. for twenty years. Last week Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sent Duke a letter essentially green lighting termination of TPS for both groups of citizens. (See Monday's and Tuesday's posts.)

Kelly was reportedly concerned that the decision will now rest with the administration's nominee for DHS secretary Kirstjen M. Nielsen, who had a Senate confirmation hearing this week. The Post notes that she was not asked what she plans to do with the approximately 300,000 TPS recipients of several nationalities who will be deported if the program is not extended. Their families include an estimated 275,000 U.S.-born children.

Newsweek looks at some of the potential U.S. impacts of terminating TPS. It would result in the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) taking a $164 billion hit over the next decade, according to the Center for American Progress. And would also result in a $6.9 billion reduction to Social Security and Medicare contributions over a decade, according to the Immigrant Legal Resource Center.

News Briefs
  • The U.S. State Department stopped accepting new applicants for a program aimed at Central American youths fleeing violence. The Central American Minors (CAM) program, which allowed children in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala to apply for refugee status before leaving their home country, will now be phased out, reports Reuters. The program, started in 2014 by the Obama administration in response to a flood of unaccompanied minors crossing into the U.S., had permitted 1,500 children and eligible family members to enter the U.S. as refugees, as of August of this year. More than 13,000 people have applied for the program since it began.
  • Bolivian President Evo Morales is attempting again to find a path for a fourth reelection. This time supporters are petitioning the Constitutional Tribunal to eliminate the constitutional presidential term limit, saying the statute discriminates against Morales and limits his right to participate in politics. The move makes a mockery of the American Convention on Human Rights' establishment of political rights, argue Human Rights Watch's Americas Director José Miguel Vivanco and HRW lawyer Juan Pappier in a New York Times Español op-ed. Additionally, the Morales administration's invocation of human rights is hypocritical, they say, as the government has always vehemently sustained that sovereignty trumps international human rights principals. They call on regional leaders to denounce the move.
  • The U.S. imposed new sanctions against ten more Venezuelan officials, accusing them of undermining democracy through their use of corruption and censorship in support of the government, reports the New York Times. At least half were accused by the U.S. Treasury Department for their role in recent regional elections, which have been accused of irregularities. (Though many analysts say these do not explain the opposition's loss in most states, see Oct. 19's briefs, for example.) The latest sanctions bring the total of Venezuelan officials targeted by the U.S. government up to 40, including President Nicolás Maduro, reports the BBC.
  • Venezuela's increasingly cash-strapped government named a six-person committee to negotiate debt restructuring with bond holders. But the composition of the group -- which includes two targets of U.S. sanctions and nobody with significant economics or finance training -- suggests the Maduro administration is instead angling to blame an eventual default on U.S. sanctions, according to the Wall Street Journal
  • "Perhaps the government has an objective that should not be overlooked: a search for allies in Washington, DC, to try to loosen U.S. sanctions in order to move forward with a refinancing (not restructuring) of Venezuela’s debt," writes Luis Vicente León at Prodavinci (in English at Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights). Few, if any, bondholders are expected to show up for a Caracas meeting next week. The commission's head, Vice President Tareck El Aissami, is on Washington’s drug kingpin list, which means anybody attending risks breaking U.S. law and facing a 30-year jail-term. (See yesterday's briefs.)
  • Venezuela's newly passed anti-hate law -- "Ley contra el Odio, por la Convivencia Pacífica y la Tolerancia" -- could punish a wide variety of actions considered hatred incentives with stiff jail penalties. This includes political manifestations and even newspaper covers, reports El País. (See yesterday's briefs.) The law also targets political parties that "promote fascism" and social media users.
  • Harsh anti-defamation laws in Peru are having a chilling effect on reporting of corruption and organized crime, according to InSight Crime. Prominent media outlets are facing lawsuits over their coverage of a suspected drug trafficker, based on official documents detailing an investigation by Peru's counternarcotics police and the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Miguel Arévalo Ramírez, recently filed criminal defamation lawsuits against half a dozen news outlets, four journalists and a counternarcotics official and is demanding $210 million in fines and several years of jail time for the journalists involved.
  • Last weekend Nicaragua's ruling party won in municipal elections around the country, carrying 135 mayoralties out of the 153 up for grabs, reports Prensa Latina. Officially the the FSLN won 1,321,067 votes, followed by the Partido Liberal Constitucionalista with 315,132 votes. The elections were plagued with irregularities and sparked protests that left five dead and dozens wounded this week, reports El País.
  • Testimony given in three Texas courtrooms shows how the Mexican Zetas cartel coopted Coahuila state officials and politicians, who permitted the killings and disappearances of hundreds of civilians, reports the Guardian. The cartel carried out a string of massacres, including a 2011 rampage through the town of Allende which left about 300 dead. (See June 13's post.) Witnesses report atrocities such as forced recruitment of teenage hitmen and hundreds of incinerated bodies, reported the BBC earlier this week.
  • Cartel violence is hardly restricted to that state. The Mexican Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos (CNDH) has documented forced internal displacement in ten states, including Guerrero, where even military intervention has not succeeded in protecting local communities, reports Animal Político.
  • A Mexican citizen was executed by the state of Texas, a moved condemned by Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto who said it violated a U.N. ruling on the treatment of Mexican prisoners in the U.S., reports the BBC.
  • Al Jazeera profiles an indigenous community struggling to regain historic land in Argentina's Formosa province. 
  • A new Global Witness report exposes how major Peruvian timber exporters know they are dealing with illegal products, but shield themselves with falsified documents used to launder illicit timber. The environmental watchdog has footage showing timber exporters acknowledging that documents are often falsified, giving insight into the scale of the problem. The case highlighted in the investigation "demonstrates the slow, painstaking and highly specialized work required to prove illegality, which, two years later, has yet to yield prosecutions. The case also shows how the difficulty of combating forest crime stands in stark contrast to the quick and easy fraud and corruption that hides it," according to InSight Crime.

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