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Nicaragua: News & Updates

Nicaragua was ruled by the Somoza dictatorship, backed by the US, for 30 years. After the Sandinista Revolution took control in 1979, the US assembled former Somoza National Guardsmen into a counterrevolutionary force that, for the next decade,  terrorized the civilian population in an attempt to weaken popular support for the Sandinistas. The  “contra war”  left 30,000 people dead and forced more than 100,000 to seek refuge in the US.

Learn more here.

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Medea Benjamin and Steve Ellner argue that the Trump and Biden administrations' continuation of the 19th-century Monroe Doctrine has led to disastrous consequences in Latin America. The authors highlight the failure of US policies towards Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua, leading to economic sanctions, coup attempts, and a migration crisis. They propose a new approach based on Franklin D. Roosevelt's "Good Neighbor Policy" from the 1930s, emphasizing the need to end military intervention, close US military bases in the region, stop political meddling, eliminate economic blackmail, and support trade policies that benefit people and the environment. The authors also call for a humane immigration policy, recognizing Latin America's cultural contributions and addressing the root causes of migration. They argue that a New Good Neighbor Policy is essential for mutual respect, non-intervention, and cooperation in the 21st century.

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On January 14, the Nicaraguan Government issued the following press release. The unofficial translation is from Tortilla con Sal. 

The Presidency of the Republic, the Government of Reconciliation and National Unity and the People of Nicaragua, express deep thanks to the Holy Father Pope Francis, the Secretariat of State of the Holy See, its Titular Cardinal His Most Reverend Eminence Pietro Parolin and his Work Team for the very respectful and discreet coordination carried out to make possible the journey to the Vatican of two bishops, fifteen priests and two seminarians. 

The list of these people is as follows: 


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Over the last 12 months, there have been 1,482 ICE removal flights, mostly to Latin America and the Caribbean. Notably, there is a focus on removal flights to countries like Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, raising concerns about the impact on individuals' rights and well-being. Three-quarters of removal flights are to those three countries. 

The lack of access to asylum at ports of entry has led to distressing situations for asylum seekers. US lawmakers are considering stricter restrictions on asylum, jeopardizing the safety and well-being of vulnerable individuals. The need for improving access to asylum and addressing the challenges faced by asylum seekers, especially women and children, is crucial. 

Read the full IRTF Migrant Justice Newsletter each month at .


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Nicaraguan authorities released 19 clergymen, including Bishop Rolando Álvarez, a prominent government critic, and handed them over to the Vatican. Bishop Álvarez had been convicted of treason and sentenced to 26 years in prison. The release followed Pope Francis' New Year's Day address expressing concern about the attacks on the church in Nicaragua. The government expressed gratitude to the Pope for coordinating the release. President Daniel Ortega's regime has targeted opposition leaders, dissidents, and the Catholic Church. Over 782 acts of aggression against the Church have been documented since 2018, including physical assaults on priests. The recent releases involve priests praying for Bishop Álvarez and follow a pattern of clergy persecution in Nicaragua. While the release is positive, critics condemn the government for forcing religious leaders into exile. Bishop Álvarez gained prominence as a critic during the 2018 government crackdown on protests.

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The implications of the Monroe Doctrine in Mexico, Central America, and Honduras, highlighting the failures of US policies like the Merida Initiative and drug war strategies. It emphasizes the devastating impact on these regions, resulting in violence, human rights abuses, and corruption. The focus is on adopting new paradigms, shifting away from punitive drug policies to prioritize human well-being, domestically and internationally. It also sheds light on the US influence in Honduras, pointing out interventions, support for corrupt regimes, and obstructing reforms. Furthermore, it addresses immigration, stressing the need for a humane approach rather than militarization. Recommendations include investigating DEA activities, reforming drug policies, anti-militarism measures, non-interference in Honduran affairs, and prioritizing human rights in immigration reforms.

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Border security continues to be a hot button issue in Congress. And some congressional leaders are holding hostage other non-border issues because of their tough stance on immigration and desire to gut US asylum law. 

In last month’s newsletter, we shared an article about a one-page document that three Republican senators submitted to President Biden on November 6, summarizing the border and migration proposals they demand to include in the supplemental budget request that the president is submitting for the war in Ukraine, Israel/Gaza, and the US-Mexico border. The draconian measures include: ban asylum access for people who did not cross the border at ports of entry; ban asylum access for people who pass through other countries without seeking asylum there; heighten eligibility standards to pass a credible fear interview; expand migrant detention (including families and children); restrict temporary humanitarian parole.

The Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) and Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) responded in a combined letter on December 14, denouncing that: “Republicans continue to hold funding for America’s allies hostage at the expense of migrants and to pass Trump-era border policies.”

Articles in this monthly newsletter: 1) ICE Air: update on removal flight trends. 2) How US Policy Toward Latin America Has Fueled Historic Numbers of Asylum Seekers. 3) WOLA Urges Congress to Protect Asylum and Update Obsolete Border Policies. 4) At the Border: Recent Incidents. 5) Governor Abbott Signs Law to Arrest Anyone in Texas without Immigration Papers.

See the Take Action items listed at the bottom of this newsletter. Our advocacy is needed to maintain some modicum of humanity in the nation’s immigration system and to address root causes of migration.  1) Stop Border Militarization. 2) Take Action Now Against Extreme Asylum Restrictions.  3) Help Migrants and Refugees in Cleveland. 

Read the full IRTF Migrant Justice Newsletter each month at .

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Welcome to the vibrant celebration of human rights at the IRTF's 43rd Annual Commemoration Program, Fiesta De Derechos Humanos! As we gather to honor and reflect on the enduring pursuit of justice, this program book serves as a testament to the diverse voices advocating for human rights around the globe. Join us in commemorating the progress made and acknowledging the challenges that lie ahead in our collective journey towards a more just and equitable world. Through engaging narratives, powerful testimonials, and inspiring perspectives, Fiesta De Derechos Humanos encapsulates the essence of our shared commitment to fostering a world where human rights flourish for all.

To view the entire program book visit:

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The Organization of American States (OAS) plans to continue monitoring Nicaragua's democracy and human rights situation despite the country's impending departure from the organization. Nicaragua's withdrawal, initiated by President Daniel Ortega, will not deter OAS from scrutinizing his administration. The OAS aims to uphold human rights and fundamental freedoms in Nicaragua, sending a message of support to the Nicaraguan people. The resolution is seen as crucial in the face of Ortega's government suppressing dissent since the 2018 protests. Although Nicaragua's exit is considered a setback for democracy, OAS members express determination to stand by the country, rejecting the notion of abandonment. Ortega's government initiated the withdrawal process in 2021, following international criticism of flawed elections. Brazil hopes for Nicaragua's eventual return, while Uruguay warns Ortega that the departure won't be easy, emphasizing the impact on Nicaraguans living under the perceived dictatorship.

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When we hear about the Border Patrol apprehending people along the southern border, we tend to imagine people from Mexico or Central America. But the national origins of migrants are much more varied, and the Border Patrol isn’t exactly “apprehending” as many people because most are turning themselves in at ports-of-entry.

In this month’s newsletter, we report that 100% of Haitians encountered by the Border Patrol affirmatively presented themselves at ports-of-entry, as did 88% of Cubans and 96% of Russians. Although Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is reporting increases in the number of migrants it “encounters,” (an 82% increase from June to July; a 36% increase from July to  August), the numbers of migrants encountered by CBP are still well below the numbers from 2022.

Mexican nationals still top the numbers of encounters by CBP. But current trends indicate that Venezuelans might soon push them out of that number one spot.

To slow the migration of Venezuelans to the US, the Biden administration is taking some new steps. One: Biden signed an agreement with President Maduro to lift some of the economic sanctions on Venezuela and, in reciprocity, Maduro agreed to start accepting deportation flights of Venezuelans. Two: Biden announced in September that it will allow Venezuelans who entered the U.S. on or before July 31 to receive temporary protected status, allowing them to apply for a work visa and deferred deportation for 18 months. Three: Biden plans to spend $10 million in foreign aid to help Panama deport more migrants who do not qualify for asylum protections. Four: In June, the US opened two Safe Mobility Offices in Colombia (as it has in Costa Rica and Guatemala) to consider nationals from Cuba, Haiti, and Venezuela for humanitarian protection or other legal pathways. Five: The US had made deals with Panama and Mexico to begin deporting citizens of Venezuela from their countries.

Since Venezuelans can no longer get visas to fly to places like Mexico, many are been voyaging through the deadly jungles of the Darién Gap that lies between Colombia and Panama. According to the government of Panamá, 334,000 migrants have made the trek since January; 60% have been Venezuelan. The $10 million Biden is offering to Panama (see above) is intended to push US border enforcement south from the US-Mexico border to the Panama-Colombia border.

Migration justice advocates continue to call for addressing structural issues in Latin America that are pushing emigration. Many of those issues are caused by, or exacerbated by, US policies (e.g., militarization of security forces, economic sanctions, mineral extraction, support for non-democratic regimes). Unless people see hope of real change and can envision raising their families in safe environments at home, migration will continue. But the US continues to respond with militarized borders, criminalization of migration, mass incarceration, and deportation.


DONATE: Please consider supporting IRTF’s Migrant Justice work. Click HERE to donate. Thank you.


Welcome to IRTF’s October 2023 newsletter on Migrant Justice and the current situation at the US-Mexico border! After you’ve looked through the articles, we hope you can take a few minutes to see the TAKE ACTION items at the bottom.

News Article

Welcome to IRTF’s September 2023 newsletter on Migrant Justice and the current situation at the US-Mexico border! After you’ve looked through the articles, we hope you can take a few minutes to see the TAKE ACTION items at the bottom.

A recent report by the International Organization for Migration calls the US-Mexico border the “deadliest” in the world. But despite the emotional and economic cost, the harsh terrain, and the dangerous crossings (Darién Gap, border walls, Rio Grande River), migrants still come. Until root causes of migration are seriously addressed, they will come. As numbers of migrants rise, so do the number of removal flights operated by the US. In August, removal flights were up 50% from July, with 73% of them to the Northern Triangle countries of Central America. There were 52 flights to Guatemala, and 51 to Honduras , the highest number on record for that country. 

For those with a vulnerable legal status residing in the US, nothing has improved. TPS expirations for some nationalities were extended, but that only covers 600,000+ migrants from 16 nations.DACA was just ruled unconstitutional (again) by a federal judge (again).  We can expect that one to go to the Supreme Court.

In the absence of any meaningful immigration reform, everything being offered by the Biden Administration and Congress is piecemeal. See the Take Action items listed at the bottom to show your support for addressing the root causes of migration, cutting “alternatives to detention” surveillance programs, and ending family detention.

Read this monthly newsletter in its entirety at