Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Trump bans immigrants, impact slight (April 22, 2020)

U.S. President Donald Trump announced a 60-day ban on immigrants seeking to live and work in America permanently. He framed the measure as a protection to U.S. workers in the midst of coronavirus economic impact, and said the measure could be extended based on how the situation evolves. (Guardian)

Critics on all sides of the ideological spectrum criticized the move -- for being too soft or simply misguided, depending on the vantage point.

The "pause," as Trump characterized it only applies to people seeking permanent residency. It falls far short of the total ban Trump threatened in earlier tweets -- and will still allow the government to continue processing visas for hundreds of thousands of temporary employees, including farm workers, landscapers and crab pickers, reports Politico. It's also worth noting that a majority of immigrants seeking green cards are already living in the U.S.

Nonetheless, analysts and administration officials noted that immigration processes -- visa and asylum applications -- are essentially paralyzed in the U.S. beyond this latest executive order. (Wall Street Journal) "...It remained unclear who exactly would fall afoul of the new directive, especially when international travel has drastically dropped as a result of coronavirus lockdowns," notes the Washington Post World Views.

Advocates said the move belies the central importance of immigrants to the U.S. -- from people participating in Covid-19 scientific research to agricultural workers who have been classified as "essential."

News Briefs

More migration
  • In fact, deportations from the U.S. have turned into a source of contagion for countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. Guatemala has already voiced concern over the issue -- President Alejandro Giammattei said on Sunday a total of 50 migrants deported by the United States to Guatemala have tested positive for coronavirus. (See Monday's briefs.) Mexico and Haiti have also reported cases of infected deportees, fomenting calls to suspend deportations unless the U.S. implements previous testing, reports Reuters. The U.S. promised to screen deportees, but has not effectively implemented measures to do so, reports the Washington Post.
  • A bit of history about how Venezuela welcomed dissidents from all over Latin America in the 60s and 70s -- which has turned out to be a key reason for Venezuelan migrants' relatively good welcome by neighbors now that they are fleeing their country. (Americas Quarterly)
  • Allies of Venezuela's competing leaders -- Nicolás Maduro and Juan Guaidó -- have begun exploratory talks as fears of coronavirus impact in the country grow, reports Reuters.
  • The U.S. Trump administration ordered Chevron Corp. to “wind down” operations in Venezuela by Dec. 1, barring the California-based oil giant in the meantime from drilling or exporting -- part of the U.S.'s moves to increase pressure on Maduro, reports the Associated Press.
  • Venezuela is among the countries in the region most affected by this week's oil price collapse. The International Monetary Fund forecasts Venezuela’s economy will shrink 15 percent this year, the biggest decline in the region, reports the New York Times. But Ecuador is also hard hit, while it simultaneously battles one of the region's worst coronavirus outbreaks. And Mexico's government has lost what it considered a "silver bullet" to revive the country's faltering economy.
  • Guayaquil mayor Cynthia Viteri believes Covid-19 might have killed 8,000 people so far in the Ecuadorean city, and has urged other localities to learn the necessity of prevention measures, reports the Guardian. (New York Times video on the same topic.)
  • After a month of strict quarantine measures, Ecuador's government said its readying a plan to restart its economy and authorize flights home for citizens stranded abroad. (AFP)
  • China is successfully using medical aid as a potent soft power tool in Latin America and filling a diplomatic void left by the U.S. Trump administration, write Paul Angelo and Rebecca Bill Chavez in the New York Times.
  • Powerful digital tools that use real personal data are a boon for governments combatting Covid-19, but "when implemented alongside other measures, massive data gathering poses risks for regular citizens," warn Yasodara Cordova and Beatriz Botero Arcila in Americas Quarterly. "It can easily be used to target minorities or political opponents. This is particularly concerning in countries with authoritarian-leaning governments."
  • The coronavirus pandemic is threatening press freedom around the world. The latest World Press Freedom Index points to the United States and Brazil as particularly worrisome cases, reports the New York Times.
  • Manaus, in Brazil's Amazonas state, has one of the country's highest Covid-19 infection rates, reports the Associated Press. And experts fear it will be a grim harbinger of how the country in general will fare with the new coronavirus.
  • Brazilian indigenous tribes are taking lockdown measures into their own hands, out of fear that the virus could decimate communities, reports Al Jazeera.
  • Nicaragua restarted schools Monday, and ordered certain government workers to return to their jobs after a two-week Easter hiatus, reports the Associated Press.
  • Two years after the anti-Ortega uprising that started on April 18, 2018, the National Police led a crackdown on dissidents in various cities around the country, reports el Confidencial.
  • Lockdowns have triggered a new wave of gender-based violence and femicide in Latin America, reports Al Jazeera.
  • Hundreds of incarcerated environmental defenders in Latin America are at high risk of Covid-19 contagion, warns Spanish NGO Alliance for Solidarity. (Telesur)
  • Argentine "cartoneros," groups that collect recyclables from urban trash, will be permitted to gather material from major supermarkets for the first time since quarantine measures were implemented March 20, reports Página 12. Advocates argued that it was a matter of finding a safe way to permit them to work, or risk having them go out without guidelines, as containment measures in the country bump up against economic realities -- an issue becoming increasingly evident with informal workers in cities throughout the region.
  • In a similar vein, EFE profiles residents of Mexico City peripheral neighborhood Ecatepec, where residents cannot afford to quarantine.
  • Mexican President Andres Manuel López Obrador said his government will increase the budget for social programs and critical projects by $25.6 billion in order to address the economic fallout of the coronavirus crisis. (Reuters)
  • Argentina's government said on Monday that it would widen an economic aid package to counter the impact of coronavirus to $12.9 billion, equivalent to around 2.9% of the country's gross domestic product. (Reuters)
  • Argentina could start the 30-day countdown to a new sovereign debt default today, if it fails to make interest payments of around $500 million on bonds. (Reuters)
  • The economies of Latin America and the Caribbean will contract by a record 5.3 percent in 2020, according to a new ECLAC report that said the coronavirus impact will unleash the worst social and economic crisis in decades. (Reuters)
Dominican Republic
  • The Dominican Republic posponed general elections due to Covid-19 -- the Latin America Advisor explores what the impact of the two month delay might be on the presidential race

I hope you're all staying safe and sane as possible, given the circumstances ... And in these times of coronavirus, when we're all feeling a little isolated, feel especially free to reach out and share.

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