Category Archives: Mexico

Officials: Nogales, Sonora, not ready to house asylum seekers sent back by US

In this 2018 file photo, volunteers from Parroquia del Carmen, a Nogales, Sonora, parish, set up a table to serve breakfast to more than 50 migrants, seated at right, queued at the Mexican side of the DeConcini Port of Entry in Nogales. Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Star

Nogales, Sonora, is not in a position to take in more Central American asylum seekers for extended periods as they wait for their U.S. immigration cases to go through the system, advocates and officials said.

Neither are other Mexican border communities, they said.

“I don’t think there’s any border city that right now has either sufficient resources or the preparation to house these people for an extended period of time,” said Jorge Jauregui, city manager of Nogales, Sonora.

The mayor’s directive is to assist those who are coming through or being deported through the city, he said.

“We have resources and plans to assist in times of an emergency, but we would have to reach out for help to our partners in the state and federal government,” he said.

On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced a new policy that would involve sending back to Mexico Central American asylum seekers while their immigration cases are pending. Under the Migrant Protection Protocols, unaccompanied minors and others deemed to belong to vulnerable groups, or who can show they face persecution or torture in Mexico, would be exempt.

Currently, many of the Central American families who arrive at a port of entry or who turn themselves in to Border Patrol agents are vetted and released with a notice to appear before an immigration official. That’s usually at a place where they have a friend or relative already in the country, but it may be years before they see a judge and their cases are resolved.

The government says many of these families are taking advantage of what it calls loopholes, laws that limit the time a child may be in detention to 20 days, and the lack of detention space for families.

Representatives from the Mexican government said during a news conference Friday that the U.S. would send back up to 20 people a day starting at the San Ysidro Port of Entry in California, with the idea that the policy would be gradually expanded to the rest of the border.

“The Mexican government does not agree with the unilateral measure implemented by the U.S. government,” said Roberto Velasco, spokesman for the Mexican Foreign Ministry. “Nonetheless, in line with our new migration policy, we reiterate our commitment to migrants and to human rights.”

Mexico will issue temporary humanitarian permits but will not accept unaccompanied minors or people who’ve been denied and are appealing their asylum claim or those with serious health problems, he said.

The real solution, he said, is to invest in the migrants’ countries of origin. “Migration should be a choice, not a necessity,” he added, echoing a message Mexico’s newly elected president, Andrés Manuel López Obrado, has reiterated, including at a rally in Nogales.

There’s not a lot of information about how the new plan, initially discussed in December, will be implemented. Neither Salvadoran nor Guatemalan consulate officials in Tucson had received any official notification from their governments about specific protocols, they said Friday.

Continue reading at the Arizona Daily Star.

Mexican coffee cooperative with U.S. customers ‘helps build bridges’

Elvia Carrillo dumps arabica beans into a grinder at Cáfe Justo in Agua Prieta, Sonora. The cooperative’s farmers control the packaging and exporting, and set the price. Kelly Presnell / Arizona Daily Star

For coffee farmers in southern Mexico, the cooperative they began 16 years ago has allowed their sons to come home and make a living working the land, and it has also led to a growing number of university graduates in their community.

That is a major turn-around, notes Alonso López, one of 36 cooperative members from Salvador Urbina, in the southern state of Chiapas.

“My parents weren’t able to give me an education, only up to middle school, then we all had to help work the land or migrate to the border or the United States,” López said.

Today, his oldest daughter is studying to be a teacher. “I feel very happy to be able to give my daughter schooling,” he said. “I tell her she has to work hard; it’s her inheritance.”

In 2002, a group of coffee farmers who had migrated north to the border town of Agua Prieta, Sonora, or to the United States founded Café Justo with the help of a $20,000 loan from Frontera de Cristo, a binational ministry from the Presbyterian Church.

The ministry was grappling with how to respond to the realities of migration when a group of 25 farmers approached its board with the proposal, said Mark Adams, U.S. coordinator for the program.

They saw it as a way to try to address root causes of migration.

Sixteen years later, the coffee cooperative has grown from 25 families in the Salvador Urbina community to more than 100 across four communities, including a second group in Chiapas and one each in Nayarit and Veracruz.

Continue reading at the Arizona Daily Star.

Families seeking asylum wait days at Nogales port of entry, advocates say

Johanna Williams with the Kino Border Initiative on Monday speaks to a group of mostly Guatemalan parents and their children who started to arrive in Nogales on Saturday to present themselves at the port of entry to seek asylum. Perla Trevizo/Arizona Daily Star

Families continue arriving at the Nogales port of entry, many of them to seek asylum, but Customs and Border Protection has declined to provide updated information on the numbers or the process.

Since about May 12, dozens of parents with their children have been lining up at the pedestrian entrance of the port waiting to seek humanitarian protection. Most are Guatemalans; some are from Honduras and Mexico.

Many report fleeing cartels or gangs, domestic violence situations and extortion, said Joanna Williams with the Kino Border Initiative, a binational migrant aid organization.

On average, families are now waiting four days to be processed, which raises health and safety concerns, she said.

Initially, CBP issued a written statement saying the agency was processing people as quickly as possible and that the number varied on factors such as case complexity, resources and space available, and overall port volume.

Williams said a current delay seems to be with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement unit that transports people to a detention center or to a shelter, in the case of some families.

There are about 45 parents and children waiting in line at any given time with about 10 allowed in daily, Williams said. While they await their turn, they generally sit and sleep on the floor. A few have been hosted overnight at the group’s shelter or by the Mexican Red Cross. There’s a bathroom nearby they can use but few have opportunities to shower. Volunteers provide them with water, food and diapers and other basic necessities.

Continue reading at the Arizona Daily Star.

Dozens of families, many from Guatemala, arrive in Nogales seeking US asylum

About two dozen people, mostly Guatemalan parents and their children, waited Monday to seek asylum in the U.S. at the pedestrian entrance of the DeConcini Port of Entry in Nogales. Perla Trevizo/Arizona Daily Star

NOGALES, Sonora — Faith they would make it across Mexico. Faith that U.S. officials would let them in. Faith they wouldn’t be separated once they crossed over. It bound them together through their travels and sustained them to the end, as they waited to be processed at the port of entry.

Dozens of families started showing up Saturday at the downtown port in Nogales to seek asylum, and officials processed a handful at a time.

By Monday, there were several who had slept on the floor, using cardboard and blankets as cushions, for two nights. More arrived Sunday and Monday.

By the end of the day, Mexican Red Cross workers said there were a few still left.

In a written statement, Customs and Border Protection said it processed people as quickly as possible “without negating the agency’s overall mission or compromising the safety of individuals within our custody.”

The number of people CBP can process, it said, “varies based upon case complexity; available resources; medical needs; translation requirements; holding/detention space; overall port volume; and ongoing enforcement actions.”

The number of families presenting themselves at ports of entry and between the ports has increased over the last several years.

Continue reading at the Arizona Daily Star.

Jurors on opposite sides: Was agent stopping threat, or lethally over-reacting?

Kevin Briggs and Heather Schubert, two of the 12 jurors in the murder trial of Border Patrol agent Lonnie Swartz. Perla Trevizo/Arizona Daily Star.

After sitting in a courtroom and listening to evidence for four weeks, a Tucson jury was deadlocked almost immediately on whether to convict Border Patrol agent Lonnie Swartz — a reflection of the strong divisions in society when it comes to law enforcement and the border.

Swartz, 43, was indicted in 2015 after firing 16 shots through the border fence at Nogales in response to rock throwers, killing Jose Antonio Elena Rodríguez. The 16-year-old Mexico native was hit eight times in the back and twice in the head.

While the decision to not convict the agent on a second-degree murder charge was quick, the jurors couldn’t agree on two lesser charges: voluntary manslaughter and involuntary manslaughter, two jurors said in interviews.

“We felt second-degree was not an appropriate sentence for him,” said Heather Schubert.

Continue reading at the Arizona Daily Star.

Full coverage or the Lonnie Swartz trial.