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Mexico: News & Updates

Mexico shares a 2,000-mile border with its neighbor to the north. The US has played a significant role in militarizing the nation in misguided and ineffective policies to stop the flow of drugs and immigrants.  Human rights abuses are prevalent throughout Mexico but especially in the southern, mostly indigenous states of Guerrero, Oaxaca and Chiapas.  Human rights defenders and indigenous community leaders—working to protect their ancestral lands and heritage—are targeted with threats, assaults, abductions and assassinations. Their struggles for peace and liberation are linked with those of indigenous and Afro-descendant peoples throughout the hemisphere. 

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In this montly newsletter, please read about : (1) Immigration Court in Cleveland, OH: Nicaraguans rank #1 in deportation proceedings filed; (2) - Recent Border Trends: Why We See so Many Nicaraguans and Venezuelans Arriving at the U.S. Southern Border; (3) Title 42: Expelling Migrants in the Name of Health Measures: Biden Urges Mexico to Take Migrants under COVID Expulsion Order He Promised to End; (4) Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE): Increase in ICE’s use of Ankle Monitors and Smartphones to Monitor Immigrants and Detention Numbers; (5) At The Border: Recent Incidents at and around the US-Mexico Border. TAKE ACTION ITEMS: After reading the articles, please take a few moments to advocate for migrant justice with our TAKE ACTION items: (1) Support Ohio Immigrant and Refugee Businesses this Holiday Season; (2) ​​​​​Urge Congress to Support and Pass Permanent Pathways to Citizenship (3) Stop the illegal and immoral transportation of migrants by certain governors to other states and Washington, DC.

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The Covid 19 pandemic caused a shift within the migration dynamics in South and Central America.

While up to 2020 more than 90% of asylum seekers reaching the U.S. border came from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, the composition shifted, and by August 2022 the second most common origin of migrants was Venezuela. 

Though this exodus towards the U.S. is a more recent development, mass migration from Venezuela has been happening for years. In the last decade 7.1 million Venezuelans fled the country, 80% of whom seeking refuge in South and Central American countries as well as Caribbean nations.

In these countries many of the refugees are met with an uncertain migration status, discrimination, xenophobia, violence and an inability to meet basic needs. These circumstances drive a rising number of Venezuelans to the U.S.where they are faced with hostile anti-immigration policies. In March of 2020, the Trump Administration used the Covid 19 pandemic as a pretext for one of the sharpest laws against migration in history. The president reinstated "Title 42" ( a statute last invoked in 1929 to bar the entrance of ships during a meningitis outbreak) so that most migrants who arrive at a U.S. port of entry without documentation and that any migrants found at the U.S. border must be expelled to Mexico or the country of heritage. [Note: only a limited number of countries accept Title 42 expulsions from the US.] For many Venezuelans this means a lengthy process or no chance for entry in to the U.S. at all.

Following the U.S. policies, Mexico began to mandate a tourist visa for Venezuelans entering the country.    

Though Biden promised to make changes in the U.S. immigration policies,  Title 42 has not been annulled.  Together with Biden's financial support for the countries of origin and those who take in big numbers of refugees, Title 42 is used to keep migrants from reaching and entering the U.S. This is especially visual in the fact that the administration still has not established a reception system for migrants to apply for asylum. 

To end this humanitarian crisis, the U.S. government has to invest into reception and robust asylum systems, stop policies discouraging asylum seekers, and end Title 42. Furthermore, it has to increase opportunities for people to apply for a humanitarian visa within Venezuela. 

But it is not all on Biden. Regional challenges require regional approaches and the governments of the Americas have to build regional protection systems. 

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The last week of October was a win for 40 farm workers who were victims of forced labor in Florida. 

The workers were lured in to gag contracts by the international labor contracting company Los Villatores Harvesting LLC (LVH) who promised the desperate Mexican workers the American Dream jobs on farms in the United States. The Mexican guest worker program is essential for U.S. farms and its economy and provides "guest worker visas" (H2 visa) to thousands of workers. This creates opportunities for exploitive labor and a position of power. LVH used this power. It provided workers the H2 visa against a fee of up to $2,000 promising a refund once their victims arrived in the U.S. The refund was never paid; instead the workers were stripped of their passports and forced to work under inhumane conditions while being threatened with arrest and deportation by their employers and held in debt by LVH. 

This horror finally ended when two workers escaped in the trunk of a car and called the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), a worker protection coalition, who contacted authorities and together with federal agencies and the CIW Anti-Slavery Program uncovered the criminal enterprise. 

Following this investigation, the human trafficking task force stopped this exploitation in its tracks and brought four members of LVH to court. So far the criminal trial led to three sentences.  

The bookkeeper, manager and supervisor Christina Gamez was sentenced to 37 month in prison.

The second supervisor and manager Efrain Cabrera Rodas, a Mexican citizen, was sentenced to 42 months in prison after he made false statements to federal investigators.

A third supervisor, Guadalupe Mendes Mendoza got off with 8 months in home detention.

LVH owner Bladimir Moreno's trial is still ongoing. He pled guilty and will be sentenced on December 28. 

Although this is good news. The Coalition of Immokalee Workers stated that many more foreign workers are still oppressed and exploited under the H2 program. The CIW calls for labor rights enforcement and retail and food companies to commit to human rights standards monitored by workers. Furthermore, the CIW provides the Fair Food Program, helping thousands of workers to fight for their rights. 

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As Fiscal Year 2022 is almost over, we are hearing numbers of 750 or more migrant deaths over the past twelve months. While, tragically, it does still happen that migrants die while being chased by Border Patrol agents or shot when attempting to cross the border, the majority of these deaths are a result of the so-called “prevention through deterrence” strategy that forces people to take on more dangerous routes when traveling up to the southern U.S. border to seek safety. And if they do make it through to the U.S., they are often expelled immediately or put into deportation proceedings, waiting for their hearing in Mexican emergency shelters or U.S. detention centers. Read IRTF's monthly overview of recent updates on U.S. immigration and what has been happening at the border!

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An unexpected turn hits the eight-year ongoing case of 43 missing students in Mexico.

The prosecutor in charge of the most notorious human rights case involving police, military officials, politicians and drug gangs, Omar Gómez Trejo, has quit. This follows disagreements with the Office of the Attorney General. 

Gómez Trejo spent more than three years investigating the case, winning judicial approval for 83 arrest warrants in the last month alone. During his investigation he was met with massive pushback by the attorney general's office, which pressured a judge to vacate 21 of the arrest warrants, 16 of which being military officials.

This resignation leads to people questioning the state's willingness to take on politicians, the police, and the military. 

Officially the government blames corrupt local police and politicians, as well as drug gangs, for the forced disappearance of the students, though independent experts have stated that federal and state army officials had knowledge of the kidnappings and did not intervene. Furthermore, a report accuses the police and army of covering the case up. 

So far the remains of only three of the 43 students have been found. 

This development comes in a charged time. Shortly earlier, Mexico's president Andrés Manuel López Obrador moved the formerly civilian controlled national guard to the army's command and has pushed the congress to extend the military mandate to law enforcement until 2028.

Critics fear that the reliance on the military for everything from arresting drug traffickers to building airports and operating seaports may lead Mexico’s democracy to slip away from civilian control.     

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On behalf of IRTF’s Rapid Response Network (RRN) members, we wrote six letters this month to heads of state and other high-level officials in Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Mexico, urging their swift action in response to human rights abuses occurring in their countries.  We join with civil society groups in Latin America to: (1) protect people living under threat, (2) demand investigations into human rights crimes, (3) bring human rights criminals to justice.

IRTF’s Rapid Response Network (RRN) volunteers write six letters in response to urgent human rights cases each month. We send copies of these letters to US ambassadors, embassy human rights officers, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, regional representatives of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and desk officers at the US State Department. To read the letters, see , or ask us to mail you hard copies.

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Mexico's Supreme Court decriminalized abortion last year, loosening decades of restrictive laws in the predominately Catholic nation, leading to more permissive laws in several of its states. Now — because the abortion accessibility landscape that lawmakers had faced in Mexico until recently more closely resembles the terrain in parts of the U.S. — U.S. state legislators have begun to learn how Mexico's policymakers and women’s health advocates managed to provide safe abortion care to women — and how they won back certain abortion rights. “Being able to go to Mexico, and visit activists who have been doing the work on the ground for many, many years, who changed the culture, changed what is possible, who really forced lawmakers and health care providers to think differently about abortion as health care, and then to see the ways in which the policies and the legal landscape and the medical landscape have shifted as a result was incredibly powerful,” said Julie Gonzales, a Democratic Colorado state senator who traveled throughout Mexico with five other state legislators earlier this summer.

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The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) released its 2021 Annual Report, a reference instrument to foster institutional transparency. The Report addresses the situation of human rights and presents relevant progress made in the Americas, along with pending challenges. Each one of the Report's six chapters mentions specific institutional achievements. The IACHR granted 73 new precautionary measures, extended a further 33, and requested five temporary measures from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The Commission further issued four resolutions to follow up on precautionary measures, given persistent risk factors or the emergence of implementation challenges. A total of 40 precautionary measures were lifted, in the belief that the risk factors that justified their existence had disappeared. During 2021, all requests for precautionary measures received by 2019 that were pending a final decision were reviewed. 

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We, the undersigned 87 organizations committed to human rights, migrant, and refugee rights, are writing ahead of your bilateral meeting at the White House to urge you to center your discussion of migration on human rights, protection, and expansion of legal pathways. While migration across the hemisphere poses challenges, the United States and Mexico can and should be leaders in the protection of migrants and refugees and make reality the rightsrespecting commitments in the four pillars of the recently signed Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection. In the face of these tragedies, our organizations remain gravely concerned that, despite the stated commitments of your administrations, including those made in the recent Los Angeles Declaration, to promote regular pathways for migration, access to international protection, and humane migration management, the United States and Mexico are instead continuing ineffective and unlawful deterrence-based policies and practices that disregard and subvert international refugee and human rights law and endanger migrants and asylum seekers.