Alarming new data on gender-based violence and impunity in Central America- US continues to criminalize, detain and deport children and families.

Advocates for LGBTQI organizations have noted an alarming increase in hate crimes against the LGBTQ population in El Salvador.

November 19, 2019 – Over the past few days, new events have shed light on an entrenched climate of impunity in cases of gender-based violence, a major factor in causing women, girls and their families to flee for their safety. In El Salvador, courts ruled in favor of a judge accused of sexually assaulting a 10-year-old girl residing in a working-class neighborhood of San Salvador. The National Chamber of Criminal appeals concluded that Judge Eduardo Jaime Escalante committed a low-level violation, not a serious crime, because his groping of a 10 year-old-girl’s genital area was “brief, while her clothes were on and in a public area.” Salvadoran newspaper El Faro reported that the girl and her family fled the country in July. When the family’s initial attempt to leave the country resulted in an arrest and deportation back to El Salvador, they were met with threats for coming public about the assault. This case reflects the lack of protection victims of gender violence are granted and demonstrates the risks for those who attempt to seek justice by sharing their stories.

Advocates for LGBTQI populations have noted an alarming increase in hate crimes in El Salvador. Recently, four LGBTQ people were killed, three of them trans women. Two of the four crimes occurred this past weekend. According to the organization COMCAVIS TRANS, there have been at least 151 cases of forced displacement of LGBTQ people between January 2018 and September of this year. These cases add to a history of hate crime impunity in El Salvador. Human rights organizations argue that the increase in hate crimes against the LGBTQ population is closely related to the current government’s decision to dismantle an office that advocates for public policies meant to benefit this population.

Meanwhile, the high number of deportations from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras serve as evidence that more than a year after the “caravans” of asylum seekers fled from Central America, there are still no public policies in place that address the reasons that force people to leave their country of origin and seek asylum, indicating that many of these individuals and families will need to migrate again. In Honduras, the number of people deported has reached a shocking 100,000 in 2019. Sixty percent were deported from Mexico and 21,000 are minors. The number of Guatemalans deported in 2019 rose slightly in 2019 to 47,000 people. Around 42,000 Guatemalans have been deported from Mexico in 2019, about 4,000 more than the previous year.

The Trump administration continues its relentless effort to criminalize, detain and deport immigrants and asylum- seekers

On November 12, 2019 the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments for and against the termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program after the Trump administration argued that maintaining the Obama-era program exceeded the scope of presidential authority and was therefore unconstitutional. DACA has protected 765,000 immigrant youth who came to the United States when they were children. The program protects them from deportation and has allowed them access to a work permit. The Supreme Court’s conservative majority seemed open to considering the Trump administration’s attempt to abolish DACA, an outcome that would shatter the hopes of recipients, their families, educational institutions and employers of transitioning to a pathway for lawful permanent residency.

The Trump Administration, apparently concerned about negative reactions to its attacks on DACA recipients, trumpeted a new report that emphasizing the number of people who were denied access to the program or whose status was revoked after an arrest. In addition to the fact that these figures are relatively low, the Administration’s argument fails to acknowledge that DACA recipients grew in the United States and know no other home. This report should also raise alarms for human rights defenders, as it doubles down on the argument that the legal right to be in this country should be revoked after being arrested or committing a crime.

Litigation efforts continue to block the Trump Administration efforts to cancel Temporary Protected Status, bolstered by a scathing new report from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that confirms that the Administration ignored data and recommendations from its own State Department and Embassy officials on country conditions, and instead made TPS cancellation decisions based on political considerations in an election year. 

The US also imprisoned a record number of immigrant and asylum-seeking children this fiscal year, with 69,550 children detained, an increase of 42% from the previous year.  The impacts of the trauma from family separation and imprisonment has barely begun to surface, but it becomes clearer every day that the long-term harm to kids and families will stay with us for many years to come. 

Asylum Seekers from both Mexico and Central Americans in Danger 

US asylum claims from Mexican nationals are also being defacto blocked due to new rules. A recent report showed that 52% of the 21,398 people who are awaiting responses to asylum claims in 11 border cities are Mexican nationals. In response to that increase, the US Government has implemented an accelerated Humanitarian Asylum Review Process (HARP) designed to resolve asylum petitions in ten days, with the clear goal of returning people quickly to Mexico without due consideration of the merits of their request. The increase in asylum seekers from Mexico reflects an ongoing pattern of worsening security in parts of Mexico.   

News reports continue to document the extremely dangerous conditions facing Central Americans who have been returned to Mexico to await their asylum requests.  Meanwhile, civil society groups in Mexico have called for an urgent and immediate resolution to the pending 60,000 asylum claims that languish in the Mexican system. The groups note that the Lopez Obrador government was able to offer immediate asylum to former Bolivian President Evo Morales, and call on the government to invest in speeding asylum requests for all.