Monday, November 6, 2017

TPS not needed for Central Americans and Haitians says State Dept. (Nov. 6, 2017)

The fate of about 100,000 Central American and Haitian migrants living in the U.S. under the umbrella of temporary immigration programs is set to be determined by the Department of Homeland Security imminently. Last week the State Department said Temporary Protected Status (TPS) is no longer warranted by conditions on the ground in their home countries, reports the Washington Post.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's assessment was not made public, but will impact in the DHS decision due today regarding roughly 57,000 Hondurans and 2,500 Nicaraguans whose TPS protections will expire in early January. The Trump administration has repeatedly warned TPS migrants that the program was never meant to be permanent, though many have lived and worked in the U.S. for two decades thanks to its protection. 

The Pew Research Center has detailed statistics on the approximately 320,000 migrants from 10 countries with permission to live and work in the U.S. under TPS. They accounted for about 3 percent of the 11 million unauthorized immigrants living in the U.S. in 2015. In the case of Haiti, that's about half of all the unauthorized migrants, and about a quarter of those from El Salvador.

TPS programs for other countries are set to expire in upcoming months. The largest group of TPS recipients — about 195,000 — are from El Salvador, and DHS has until early January to announce its plans for them. A decision is due on what to do with about 50,000 Haitian TPS recipients in a few weeks. 

A new Center for Latin American and Latino Studies working paper series examines past U.S. government decisions to extend TPS for Hondurans and assesses those same factors in the present. "Honduras remains extremely vulnerable to natural disasters, which have compromised the country’s infrastructure and stalled recovery efforts. Serious challenges persist for the Honduran economy, including high levels of unemployment and underemployment. Honduras also suffers from a severe shortage of housing, higher-than-average levels of food insecurity, and limited capacity in the health sector. Finally, the security situation in Honduras continues to deteriorate, fueling displacement, and placing strains on a government already weakened by corruption and impunity. These findings compel the conclusion that TPS for Honduras should be extended."

Haitians were already warned earlier this year that their program will likely be terminated (see May 23's briefs), and the news has pushed many to illegally cross the Canadian border and obtain asylum there. (See Aug. 14's post.)

U.S. officials have argued that the return of tens of thousands of migrants to their home countries will be a boon locally -- but critics say it will exacerbate local difficulties, which in many cases have grown since the natural disasters that originally prompted the TPS programs, reports the Miami Herald

U.S. Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA) denounced the recommendation, saying it "reeks of politics triumphing over well-documented fact. The State Department and our embassies in these countries know full well that El Salvador and Honduras are two of the most violent and dangerous countries in the world. They also know that these countries do not have the ability to absorb or protect tens of thousands of returnees, especially given the daunting economic and security challenges confronting these nations."

And the move could also cost the U.S. economy. The Hispanic Caucus said "ending TPS & deporting legal workers would cost the country about $164 billion in GDP over a decade," according to Slate.


Trouble in Paradise

This weekend the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists released "The Paradise Papers," a global investigation that reveals the offshore activities of some of the world’s most powerful people and companies. The investigation carried out by the ICIJ, along with 95 media partners around the world, is based on 13.4 million leaked files from a combination of leaked files of offshore law firms and the company registries in some of the world’s most secretive countries.

In the region, press from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico and Venezuela participated.

The documents reveal offshore interests and activities of more than 120 politicians and world leaders, including Queen Elizabeth II. Highlights from the region mentioned by the BBC include:
  • Argentine Finance Minister Luis Caputo, who managed a hedge fund with Delaware and Cayman Island branches dedicated to high risk investments. The case could be uncomfortable for the Macri administration, just ahead of its assuming the G-20 presidency, just as the alliance seeks to target tax evasion, notes Perfíl.
  • Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos is linked to two Barbados based companies, including one dedicated to financing Colombians studying abroad. (More below.)
  • Costa Rican La Voz de Guanacaste notes the use of fiscal paradises by investors in important tourist projects.
  • In El Salvador, El Faro reports on the offshore holdings of Fundación Salvadoreña para el Desarrollo Económico y Social (Fusades), described by the paper as the country's most important think tank. Though the $50 million held in a Bermuda account is not illegal, the paper questions the move.
  • Brazil’s finance minister, Henrique de Campos Meirelles, started a foundation in Bermuda “for charitable purposes.” He says it will support education charities after his death, reports Quartz.
In Colombia, Connectas and El Espectador collaborated in an investigation of the more than 200 Colombians mentioned in the documents. 

Many of the politicians who are mentioned in the documents -- as well as investigators -- note that offshore accounts are not in-and-of themselves illegal.

ICIJ feature showing major politicians implicated in the documents includes, from Latin America: Argentine President Mauricio Macri; Brazilian Agriculture Minister, Blairo Borges Maggi; Pdvsa exec Jesús Villanueva; and a close associate of a Chilean intelligence agency official.

More analysis will be released by the ICIJ throughout the week. The Guardian has a live blog with reactions from around the world.

News Briefs
  • International analyses of Venezuela's potential debt crisis (see Friday's post) tend to lump together ongoing Russian and Chinese support for President Nicolás Maduro's government. "However, these arguments obscure more than they reveal," writes Geoff Ramsey at Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights. Some of the differences he points out between the two include more limited resources from Russia and China's apparent openness to the opposition and a post-Maduro scenario.
  • Venezuela's looming debt crisis could be a political boon for Maduro however, according to the Wall Street Journal. In the short term, stopping foreign debt payments would free up over $10 billion through the end of next year. That's a lot of relief for the country's crumbling, import-dependent economy. U.S. sanctions complicating the government's access to international financial institutions also help the government's popular narrative of anti-imperialism.
  • Venezuelan authorities freed two opposition leaders who have been jailed for over a year. Delson Guarate, who had been a mayor in central Aragua state, and former student leader Yon Goicoechea were freed Saturday, reportsReuters.
  • Prominent Venezuelan opposition leader Freddy Guevara sought refuge in Chile's Caracas embassy after the Supreme Court stripped him of parliamentary immunity on Friday. He is accused of instigating violence during opposition protests, but critics say he is the object of political persecution, reports the BBC.
  • The IMF chastised Venezuela for failing to release economic data, though Russia objected to the move and other countries abstained, reports Reuters.
  • Colombia signed a $300 million agreement with the U.N.'s Office on Drugs and Crime to compensate farmers who stop cultivating coca, reports the BBC.
  • Time is running out for Colombia's lawmakers to pass the legal framework for the peace agreement implementation, reports InSight Crime.
  • Indigenous protesters have paralyzed Colombia's Cauca region for a week. On Saturday Interior Minister Guillermo Rivera travelled to the region, reports EFE.
  • Chilean police arrested a former secret service agent sentenced to jail for human rights abuses during the military government led by General Augusto Pinochet, reports the BBC.
  • An Argentine police report found that prosecutor Alberto Nisman was murdered in 2015, four days after he accused then-President Cristina Kirchner and government officials of covering up for perpetrators of the 1994 Jewish center bombing attack, reports the Associated Press. The report is based on new evidence, and contradicts earlier official findings that Alberto Nisman likely killed himself.
  • A Mexican gang leader was killed while undergoing plastic surgery to disguise his identity. Jesus Martin, known as El Kalimba, was killed by gunmen -- apparently from a rival gang -- while on the operating table, reports the BBC.
  • A last ditch rescue effort to save an endangered Mexican porpoise is going poorly, reports the BBC.
  • Princeton University, one of its undergrad students, and Microsoft are legally challenging the U.S. administration's termination of tthe Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The complaint argues that that the termination of DACA severely harms DACA-enrolled young people (known as "Dreamers"), and "the employers and educational institutions that rely on and benefit from their contributions."

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