U.S. marks Thanksgiving week with discrimination, threats and deportation rather than gratitude for immigrant workers

December 3, 2019 – As families across the United States gathered to celebrate Thanksgiving last week, there was more bad news for immigrant families as reports circulated about the prosecution and deportation of workers speaking up about unsafe working conditions. News reports highlighted the negative effect of employers’ complicity with immigration authorities on workers’ safety and rights, and how recent events reflect the country’s emphasis on immigration enforcement at the expense of basic human rights.  This is especially worrisome because it shows a blatant disregard of an agreement between the US Department of the Interior and the US Department of Labor, which states that labor laws and rights should take precendent over immigration enforcement. 

A US House of Representatives investigation revealed ongoing attempts to include a citizenship question in the 2020 census continues, despite the fact that the question was blocked by the U.S. Supreme Court five months ago. This ongoing debate speaks to the power the census has to define electoral districts.  If the Republican Party can succeed in excluding non-U.S. citizens from the census, it will have an enormous impact on diminishing the relative weight of urban centers, where there are large concentrations of migrant populations and where voters tend to be predominantly Democrat. The investigation by the House of Representatives describes the partisan motivations behind the citizenship question,  as well as the importance of the pending litigation that seeks to block a Trump Administration executive order related to the release of citizenship data.

Survey reveals the precarious conditions facing refugees who are waiting in Mexico

A survey conducted by the National Survey of Refugee Populations (ENPORE, 2017) in partnership with the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reveals the precarious conditions migrants in Mexico are currently living in: 74.3% depend on informal jobs, 51% do not have a stable source of income, and 67% of the school-age population is not currently in school due to lack of proper paperwork. Additionally, the survey reveals that eight out of ten Central Americans who requested asylum and are waiting in Mexico fled violence in their countries of origin.

The UNHCR recently announced that at least 4,000 people requesting refuge in Mexico have been transferred from the southern border to other states in the country to try to alleviate the current humanitarian crisis in the area. It is important to recall that this crisis is a direct consequence of the Trump administration’s anti-immigration policy offloading enforcement to Mexico and countries in Central America.

Last week, a group of mothers of disappeared Central American migrants voiced their concerns about this humanitarian crisis during a tour through Chiapas, Mexico.  The mothers demanded that the Mexican government stop playing the role of Trump’s anti-immigrant wall.

UNICEF expresses concern

In a statement last week, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) expressed concern about the situation facing children in the aftermath of asylum agreements between the United States, Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.  Between January and August 2019, over 32,000 children were returned from the United States, with no assurance of security or economic, social, and emotional wellbeing. UNICEF’s statement is significant, as most United Nations agencies have stayed silent around the impact of migration policies in the region.

Political, economic and social factors driving discontent in Latin America

As popular discontent continues throughout the region, there are many ways to interpret the mass protests and violent repression.  Behind the politics lie economic factors: the real economic growth in the region remains a stagnant 0.8%.  The Economic Commission for Latin America (CEPAL) recently presented their annual report describing higher poverty rates in the region, while calling for structural solutions to migration and building cooperation around protecting and integrating migrant populations.  There is still a great deal of uncertainty around what governments will do in these areas, and what the impact will be. As described in a recent op-ed in El Pais, racial discrimination is also a significant factor, as indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples face systemic patterns of marginalization, throughout the region.

This Week in the Americas: Suggested Reading

Here are a few other articles Alianza Americas staff have been reading that provide on-the-ground perspectives and analysis on what has been happening this week in the Americas:

  1. Witnesses: the voices who survived El Mozote” (El Faro, Spanish-only). A new project from El Faro, an independent online newspaper in El Salvador, on the atrocities of the El Mozote massacre in 1981, perpetrated by a military group trained in the United States and considered to be the worst massacre in Latin America during the Cold War.
  2. Chile security forces ‘intentionally’ injure protesters: Amnesty” (Al Jazeera). New findings from Amnesty International reveal widespread rights violations committed against protesters in Chile by security forces in the midst of mass protests against inequality and injustice.
  3. Migrant Women Fleeing Violence Are Being Revictimized in the US” (Truth Out). Zorayda Avila, Alianza Americas Campaign & Outreach manager, shares her story as a survivor of domestic violence, and how women across Central America and Mexico are being victimized and denied protection.

These are not Safe Third Country agreements, they are export agreements for asylum seekers” (FACTum, Spanish-only). An op-ed written by Helena Olea, Alianza Americas’ Human Rights Advisor, on what is really happening with the latest agreements between the United States and Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.