Friday, December 3, 2021

U.S. to restart Remain in Mexico (Dec. 3, 2021)

Mexico and the U.S. reached an agreement that will allow the U.S. to restart the controversial "Remain in Mexico" program, that requires most asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while their cases are pending. Starting Monday, asylum seekers will once again have to wait outside the U.S. while their claims are processed.

The U.S. government has promised improvements to allow asylum seekers legal representation and to conclude their claims “within six months of an individual’s initial return to Mexico." Mexico said U.S. officials met its concerns over funding for migrant shelters, protection for vulnerable groups and access to medical checkups and Covid-19 vaccines. 

But advocates say the move will subject thousands of people to “enormous suffering” and leave them vulnerable to kidnap and rape as they languish in dangerous Mexican border cities. “The violence faced by migrants in Mexico is going to outweigh any sort of promise made by the Mexican government to try to make this better,” said Linda Rivas, executive director of Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center in El Paso, Texas.

Human Rights First recorded more than 1,500 cases of violence, including murder, rape, torture and kidnapping, against migrants forced to return to Mexico under the policy as of February. In March, a Human Rights Watch report found that asylum seekers sent to Mexico under the Trump administration suffered violence and extortion by Mexican police, immigration agents, and criminal groups. Those interviewed said they were afraid to report crimes and abuse to Mexican authorities and were frequently unable to get the documents they needed to work, get health care, or send their children to school. Nearly half of asylum seekers under the Remain in Mexico program lost their cases after missing court dates, some because they were kidnapped or bused thousands of miles from their hearing locations by the Mexican government. (See March 5's post.)

The U.S. Biden administration had stopped the Migrant Protection Protocols in January, but was ordered to reinstate it by a federal court. The administration fought the order but lost in federal appeals court and the Supreme Court before agreeing to comply with the court’s order. 

The Remain in Mexico program will apply to migrants whom the United States is unable to expel under a public health rule it put in place at the beginning of the pandemic.

News Briefs

  • Latin American democracies are in crisis "autocracies are consolidating and kleptocracies seem like the order of the day," write Paul Angelo and Nick Zimmerman in a Miami Herald opinion piece. The Biden administration should help revert the trend by helping democratic systems "adapt to meet citizens’ most basic needs," they argue. "Furnishing quality services to the region’s inhabitants should be the focus of President Biden’s agenda with the 27 participants from the Western Hemisphere during the upcoming Summit for Democracy."
  • Honduran president-elect Xiomara Castro does not plan to establish diplomatic ties with China when she takes office, reports Reuters, a reversal of her pre-election stance. 

  • Castro's election is "a chance for the U.S. to reform its broken policy toward Central America," according to The New Republic.
  • Barbados' decision to become a republic is intimately tied to last year's Black Lives Matter protests, and also reflects a debate in the Caribbean over the ongoing legacies of colonial era slavery, and a simmering demand for reparations from those who profited from the work of enslaved people. (See yesterday's Just Caribbean Updates, and Tuesday's briefs.)

  • Some voices in the Caribbean hope "that Barbados’ decision will be a catalyst for more changes in the region, or at the very least renew conversations about colonialism, reparations, and the legacy of the British monarchy, which built its wealth on the backs of enslaved Africans," writes Jacqueline Charles in National Geographic.

  • Barbadian Prime Minister Mia Mottley has bigger ambitions still: she dreams of a Caribbean version of the European Union. "While that degree of integration remains far off within the Caribbean Community, the Caribbean has certainly been more organized and cooperative than South America during the coronavirus pandemic," according to the Latin America Brief.
  • Chilean environmental activist Javiera Rojas was found dead with her hands and feet bound. She was well known in northern Chile for her participation in protests against the Prime Thermoelectric project, reports the Guardian.

  • Chilean leftist presidential candidate Gabriel Boric is in the lead, with 54 percent, over conservative José Antonio Kast, with 46 percent, ahead of the Dec. 19 runoff election, according to a new Criteria poll released yesterday. (Reuters)

  • Other recent polls give Boric a stronger lead, AS/COA compares them, and delves into who voters will support based on their first round choice.

  • Franco Parisi became Chile's unlikely kingmaker in November's presidential election -- with an all-digital campaign run from the U.S. Experts say the example is a gamechanger for Chilean politics. (Rest of World)
  • "Chile today presents one of the most challenging and promising scenarios for the global left that all socialists should pay attention to," argues René Rojas in Jacobin. "The country’s road to democratic refoundation sheds light on what insurgent movements and parties fighting to deepen democracy and guarantee social and economic rights should emulate — and what must be avoided." He argues that lessons from Chile include: "that mass mobilization must direct its disruptive force and demands at the state."
  • Ecuador’s constitutional court ruled that plans to mine for copper and gold in a protected cloud forest are unconstitutional and violate the rights of nature. The landmark decision determined that mining permits issued in Los Cedros, a protected area in the north-west of the country, would harm the biodiversity of the forest, reports the Guardian.

  • The oil extracted from under Ecuador's Amazon rainforest goes mostly to the U.S., reports NBC.

  • Two U.N. committees on Thursday called on Ecuador to guarantee security in the country's prisons, where more than 300 inmates have died since in gang violence over the past year and a half, reports AFP.
  • The Eperãra Siapidaarã Indigenous community in southwest Colombia established a protected reserve in the face of illegal logging, mining and coca cultivation being carried out by criminal groups. They are especially interested in protecting the extremely poisonous golden dart frog, which they historically used in their darts while hunting, reports Mongabay.
  • Brazil's Senate passed a constitutional amendment yesterday that will ease the government's spending cap and stagger some obligations, allowing far-right President Jair Bolsonaro to ramp up welfare spending ahead of next year's elections, reports Reuters.

  • Superfood açaí is known as "black gold" in the Amapá state forests where it's harvested, mostly by children without any sort of safety protocols, reports the Washington Post. A fair-trade certification process, industry critics say, has fallen short of its promise to eradicate child labor from the business.
Guyana and Martinique
  • Police reinforcements arrived in Martinique this week in the midst of ongoing unrest that erupted over Covid-19 measures, in particular the mandatory vaccination of healthcare workers. Protesters in Guadeloupe and Martinique have erected barricades and blocked roads this month as anger mounted over an order also in place in mainland France requiring health workers to be vaccinated against Covid-19. (Just Caribbean Updates)
  • Peruvian prosecutors have called President Pedro Castillo in for questioning as part of an investigation into the promotion of certain military officers. The move adds to legislative pressure against Castillo, who faces an impeachment push from some lawmakers, reports Al Jazeera.
  • Former Argentine President Mauricio Macri was charged with ordering illegal surveillance on relatives of sailors who died in a 2017 submarine accident. An Argentine judge indicted Macri yesterday and barred him from leaving the country. If convicted, Macri could face up to 10 years in prison, reports the New York Times.

  • Argentine's midterm elections show voter dissatisfaction with both of the country's main political coalitions -- the governing Frente de Todos and the opposition Juntos por el Cambio -- and could be an opening for alternatives on both ends of the political spectrum, writes Juan Cruz Ferre in Nacla, pointing to the electoral gains of far-right candidate Javier Milei and the strong showing by the left, which will influence the country's legislative agenda.
  • Former Panamanian president Ricardo Martinelli's son has pleaded guilty to money laundering as part of a massive corruption scheme involving Brazilian construction conglomerate Odebrecht. (Al Jazeera)
Did I miss something, get something wrong, or do you have a different take? Let me know ... 


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