struggle for the border
A US district court judge ruled on July 1 that the Department of Homeland Security cannot hold migrants seeking asylum indefinitely as was previously ordered by Attorney General William Barr. Judge Marsha Pechman, of the Western District of Washington in Seattle, held that section 235(b)(1)(B)(ii) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which prohibits releasing on bond persons who have been found to have a credible fear of persecution in their home country, violates the US Constitution. Pechman's decision stated that the plaintiffs in the case, Padilla vs ICE, have established that asylum seekers have "a constitutionally protected interest in their liberty" and a "right to due process, which includes a hearing."
Recent headlines from Central America shed light on the migrant exodus from the isthmus that has now sparked a political crisis in the United States. The ongoing protests against neoliberal "reform" in Honduras saw a frightening escalation June 25 as military police opened fire on students demonstrators at the National Autonomous University in Tegucigalpa, injuring at least four. President Juan Orlando Hernández has deployed the army and military police across the country after clashes left three dead last week. (BBC News, La Prensa, June 25) In a hopeful sign a few days earlier, riot police stood down in Tegucigalpa, returning to their barracks and allowing protesters to block traffic and occupy main streets. Troops of the National Directorate of Special Forces said they will not carry out anti-riot operations if they do not receive better benefits. (Reuters, June 19)
The first mission of the new security force created by Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador will be blocking migrants on the Guatemalan border, evidently part of a deal struck with the Trump administration. Mexico has pledged to deploy up to 6,000 National Guard troops to its southern border in an effort to avoid Trump's threatened tariff on all exports to the United States, the Washington Post reports. The deal was announced as Foreign Secretary Marcelo Ebrard is leading a Mexican delegation in talks with White House officials in Washington. Mexican officials said that 10 National Guard contingents of 450 to 600 troops each will be assigned to the border with Guatemala by September. The deployment would represent a fourfold increase on the 1,500 federal troops currently patrolling the border. A further three units will be deployed to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in southern Mexico, to set up roadblocks and checkpoints to stop the movement of migrants.
A federal judge on May 24 blocked construction of Donald Trump's border wall, ruling that Trump cannot use a "national emergency" to take money from government agencies for the barrier. Judge Haywood Gilliam of the US District Court for Northern California ruled that the diversion of the money, largely from the US military, likely oversteps a president's statutory authority. The injunction specifically limits wall construction projects in El Paso, Tex., and Yuma, Ariz. Gilliam quoted Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, who said in a TV interview the wall "is going to get built, with or without Congress." The judge said presidential action "without Congress," when legislators refuse a funding request from the White House, "does not square with fundamental separation of powers principles dating back to the earliest days of our Republic."
A 16-state coalition filed a lawsuit against President Donald Trump's administration on Feb. 18, requesting the court to issue a judicial determination that Trump's national emergency declaration over the southern border wall is unconstitutional. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra announced the lawsuit, stating: "Unlawful southern border entries are at their lowest point in 20 years, immigrants are less likely than native-born citizens to commit crimes, and illegal drugs are more likely to come through official ports of entry. There is no credible evidence to suggest that a border wall would decrease crime rates."
President Donald Trump on Feb. 15 announced a state of emergency to obtain $8 billion for a border wall between the US and Mexico. A significant amount of the funds are expected to come from the Department of Defense budget, but Trump was not clear regarding funding or spending plans. The declaration was announced in a statement to the press that included information about trade negotiations with China and various other unrelated concerns. Trump gave this speech moments after he signed a spending bill passed by Congress, which prevents another government shutdown. The bill included about $1.4 billion in funding to assist with border security, which is far lower than the $5.7 billion demanded by Trump for his wall during the government shutdown.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Feb. 1 condemned US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for force-feeding detained migrants. According to a report from the Associated Press, detained men at the agency's El Paso Processing Center have been participating in a hunger strike since early January. ICE officials said that 11 men are striking, but AP reports the number may be closer to 30. In order for ICE to consider detainees to be a hunger strikers, they must miss nine consecutive meals. In mid-January a federal judge authorized ICE to force-feed six of the protesters. An ICE official told AP that it is "exceedingly rare" for a judge to authorize force-feeding. The detained men have been protesting "rampant verbal abuse and threats of deportation from guards" and long detentions while awaiting a hearing. Most of the hunger strikers are from India or Cuba.
UN Special Rapporteur of the human rights of migrants Felipe González Morales on Dec. 24 called for an independent investigation into the death of Jakelin Ameí Caal, a Guatemalan migrant child who died while in US Customs and Border Protection custody. Jakelin was detained, along with her family and other migrants, after crossing the Mexico border. The factual causes leading up to her death are currently disputed. In the report, Morales stresses the importance of finding out what happened to Jakelin, stating that "if any officials are found responsible they should be held accountable."