GHRC Participates in US Congressional Briefing on Migration from Central America

By Julia Nierenberg, GHRC 2015 Fall Intern

This week, outlets such as The New York Times and Al Jazeera America published articles, videos and photos that illuminate and remind the world of the refugee and migrant crisis in the Northern Triangle. In the New York Times piece, Azam Ahmed stated that the images of thousands of refugees and asylum seekers fleeing to Europe reminds him of the smaller, but still significant migrant crisis occurring in Central America, specifically in Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.

Men, women, and children are fleeing Central America at increasingly rapid rates. Last year was the first year that Mexican child migrants did not outnumber children fleeing from other countries in Central America to the United States; Ahmed recalls that, “From the beginning of October 2013 through July of this year, nearly 80,000 unaccompanied minors from those Central American countries were detained by United States authorities along the Mexican border.”

On September 16, GHRC Executive Director Kelsey Alford-Jones participated in a briefing hosted by Congressman Raul Grijalva on Capitol Hill about this ongoing crisis; Alford-Jones was joined by speakers from U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI), Congressional Research Service (CRS), and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). Participants in the panel discussion highlighted the need for basic compassion for refugees, just application of the rule of law, and an understanding of the role of the US in contributing to migration from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala.

migration-briefing-collage

Left: Congressman Grijalva; Right: GHRC Executive Director Kelsey Alford-Jones

In his remarks, Congressman Grijalva reiterated that “this country [the United States] is a refuge for people fleeing violence and death” and that refugees from Central America “deserve the same equitable treatment that we would give to anyone else.” Continue reading

Reintegration and Repatriation for Guatemala’s Young Migrants

By Katherine Comly, GHRC Summer 2015 Intern

Photo: Reuters

On June 16, two graduate students from George Washington University hosted a panel discussion on their recent research involving youth repatriation in Guatemala. The event, hosted by the Wilson Center and moderated by Latin American Program Associate Director Eric Olson, discussed the students’ findings on resources and programs available to young children and teens returning to Guatemala after attempting to migrate north to Mexico or the United States. The issue of youth repatriation has become increasingly relevant after the rise in migration of unaccompanied minors last summer.

At the event, graduate student researchers Nathan Hesse and Warren Newton shared preliminary findings from their study on government and civil society engagement in the processes of repatriation, or the return to one’s place of origin or citizenship, and re-integration. They also presented their initial analysis of regional coordination of the Northern Triangle countries with Mexico and the US. Their research revealed that civil society groups, such as Colectivo Vivo Digna and Guatemala Child Return and Reintegration Project (GCRRP), are the chief organizers for repatriation programs, whereas the state provides minimal programs and services for returning youth.

The panel concluded with a series of recommendations for the advancement of repatriation programs for Guatemalan youth, which include:

• Cooperation between the Guatemalan government and civil society
• Community-led development
• Inclusion of funds for reintegration programs in development aid
• Political continuity and will
• Culturally and linguistically sensitive reintegration programs.

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Guatemala News Update: June 15-19

AFP Photo/Johan Ordonez

AFP Photo/Johan Ordonez

Guatemalan court brakes effort to strip president’s immunity

Guatemala’s Constitutional Court has ruled to act on a petition from President Pérez Molina which questions the legitimacy of the congressional panel that is currently investigating allegations against the president and, subsequently, choosing whether or not to remove his immunity from prosecution.

Last Friday, a Congressional hearing was held to elect the five-member commission; those voted into the commission were Baudilio Hichos López, Hugo Fernando García Gudiel and Juan Armando Chuy Chanchavac of the LIDER Party, Independent Congressman Mario Santiago Linares, and Hugo Morán Tobar of the CREO Party.

President Pérez Molina had been ordered to appear before Congress this Thursday to be questioned about his role in the corruption scandal. Instead of appearing to testify, the president sent in a written defense in which he claims that the Supreme Court should not have passed along his case to Congress. The President referred to the decision to remove his immunity as a “purely political, or spurious, or illegitimate situation.”

Also on Thursday, the head of the congressional commission investigating the president, Baudilio Hichos López, resigned after the CICIG linked him to the country’s social security scandal. Congressman Baudilio Hichos may now be stripped of the same legal immunity granted to him as an elected official that he seeks to remove from President Pérez Molina. The head of the CICIG as well as a top prosecutor in Guatemala suspect that Hichos was involved in a questionable real estate rental contract involving the social security agency. Read more about Baudilio Hichos’s resignation here.

Mexico Deporting Migrants from Central America in Record Numbers

After initiating its Southern Border Plan, under pressure from the US, Mexico has increased border protection along its southern boundary. According to the National Immigration Institute, Mexico deported 79% more Central Americans from January to April than it did during the same time period in 2014. Following the influx of nearly 50,000 unaccompanied minors from Central America into the US during 2014, the United States has increased bilateral efforts with Mexico to reduce the migration of Central Americans through Mexico. Human rights groups, including the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, have expressed concerns about Mexico’s heavy-handed approach to curtail the wave of migration. Continue reading

Guatemala News Update: May 18-22

Protests Continue; Government Officials Resign Amid Corruption and Bribery Probes

On Saturday, May 16, an estimated 60,000 people gathered at the national palace in Guatemala City to denounce corruption and call for the resignation of top officials, including Otto Pérez Molina. In other regions of Guatemala, as well as in other countries, groups held simultaneous protests as part of the #RenunciaYa movement. Photos from the event are available here.

Then, on May 20, at least 15 more people were arrested in a separate fraud and bribery probe into the Guatemalan Social Security Institute (IGSS), including the central bank governor and the head of the  IGSS (who also used to be Pérez Molina’s private secretary). The investigation was also conducted jointly by Guatemalan prosecutors and the CICIG. On the same day, a large protest of campesinos took place in Guatemala City as part of the ongoing #RenunciaYa movement.

Yesterday, Pérez Molina dismissed the Guatemalan intelligence chief, as well as the ministers of the interior, environment and energy, in a move to address citizens’ calls to root our corruption. Calls for the president to also resign continue, but Pérez Molina has stated that he will serve out his term. 

Updates about the ongoing protests and political crisis will be made on our initial explainer.

Maya Q’eqchi’ seek justice in Guatemala and Canada

This in-depth article by Sandra Cuffe tells the story of the struggle of a group from Izabal to seek justice — both in Guatemala and Canada — for shooting community members protesting the Guatemala Nickel Company’s (CGN) Fenix ferro-nickel mining project. Mynor Padilla, the former head of private security for CGN (then a subsidiary of Canadian company HudBay Minerals) is currently standing trial in Guatemala for homicide and assault causing bodily harm.

A separate article also looks at the legal cases against the Guatemala Nickel Company.

The 14-year-old music prodigy who left his home in Guatemala for Los Angeles

This article, part of a series that looks at the aftermath of last summer’s “migration crisis,” details the journey of a 14-year-old Guatemalan boy from his home in Peten to the US.

Guatemala News Update: July 21-25

President Molina comes to the US

On Friday, July 25, the presidents of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador met with President Obama to discuss the child migrant crisis.

In related news, President Pérez Molina recommended during an interview with the Washington Post that the US give 10% of the $20 billion currently allocated towards border security and processing to Central American countries in order to “attack the root of the [migration] problem.” In previous statements President Molina said this money can go towards fighting organized crime and violence in the countries. In the interview the President also suggested that US foreign policy has played a role in Guatemalan suffering in reference to the connection between the internal armed conflict and the Cold War.

The OAS issues declaration on child migrants

The Organization of American States adopted a declaration regarding unaccompanied child migrants from Central America. The declaration, which was prepared by representatives from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, expresses, “solidarity with the governments of the region, so that the problem of unaccompanied migration of children is addressed from a humanitarian perspective that ensures the well being and respectful treatment of the children and that allows for family reunification where appropriate.” Continue reading

Congress Poised to Vote on Unaccompanied Minors

Right now in Congress, our elected officials are considering lifting important protections for migrant children currently provided under the Trafficking Victims Protection and Reauthorization Act of 2008 (TVPRA) — a law which requires children to have a hearing before a judge and to have an attorney present.

We must demand that our elected officials ensure the safety of children arriving at the US border.
You can take action now by signing our petition calling for Congress to protect Central American children.
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