Friday, July 13, 2012

Immigration from Central America Skyrockets

Deported from the United States after years working construction in New Jersey, Hector Augusto Lopez decided to rebuild his life in his hometown in eastern Honduras.

He found a steady job in a shoe store in Catacamas. Then, in March, he watched horrified as robbers shot three customers to death before his eyes. Soon after, he decided to make the hard and dangerous journey north again.

"In Honduras there is a lot of violence, a lot of robberies and a lot of poverty," Lopez, 28, said as he waited to jump a cargo train just outside Mexico City on a recent afternoon. "There is no future there."

Half a block away, dozens more U.S.-bound Central American migrants waited outside an overflowing one-story, crammed shelter, napping on pieces of cardboard, wrapping themselves in garbage bags against the cold and trading stories about their journeys north.

While the number of Mexicans heading to the U.S. has dropped dramatically, a surge of Central American migrants is making the 1,000-mile northbound journey this year, fueled in large part by the rising violence brought by the spread of Mexican drug cartels. Other factors, experts say, are an easing in migration enforcement by Mexican authorities, and a false perception that Mexican criminal gangs are not preying on migrants as much as they had been.

Central American migration remains small compared to the numbers of Mexicans still headed north, but their steeply rising numbers speak starkly to the violence and poverty at home. The perils of the journey have pushed smuggling fees as high as $7,000, as much as double the earlier rates, for a trip that takes weeks, or even months for those delayed by robberies, health problems or difficulties finding transportation.

Honduras, with a population of 7 million, had the world's highest homicide rate in 2010, with 6,200 killings, or 82.1 murders per 100,000 inhabitants. That's up from 57 murders per 100,000 inhabitants in 2008. Neighboring El Salvador had 66 homicides per 100,000 in 2010. The U.S., by comparison, saw about 5 homicides per 100,000 people.

"The reality is that a lot of Mexicans have sort of given up looking for work in the U.S. and have started to return home but for Central Americans the conditions may be even more desperate that the ones we're seeing in Mexico," said David Shirk, director of the Trans-Border Institute at the University of San Diego.

About 56,637 non-Mexican migrants, most of them Central Americans, were detained by the U.S. Border Patrol along the border with Mexico between October and May. That's more than double the 27,561 detained in the same period a year ago. Meanwhile, the number of Mexican migrants caught at the U.S. southern border decreased 7 percent this fiscal year, to 188,467.


Attorneys warn Obama's deferred prosecution program could backfire on illegal immigrants

Arizonans who apply for the president’s deferred prosecution program for some illegal immigrants could end up having the information they provide later used to deport them, some attorneys warned Thursday.

The lawyers, all specialists in immigration law, announced they would be providing free legal help through community organizations around the state to those who would qualify to be allowed to remain in this country for the time being. That generally includes those who were brought here before turning 16 and are not yet 30.
But each attorney who spoke at a Phoenix press conference said he or she will not specifically advise anyone who seeks help to apply.

“There is absolutely a risk,” said Regina Jefferies — the biggest of which is that Barack Obama will lose the election in November and Mitt Romney will rescind the directive that created the program.

And Jefferies said it is the job of lawyers to explain that risk, along with possible benefits, allowing those affected to make their own decisions.

But Jose Penalosa said he thinks it’s a risk worth taking.
Penalosa said he doubts that Romney would immediately repeal the program. And even if a new president did, Penalosa said the sheer number of people involved would make deportation proceedings unlikely.

And Daniel Rodriguez, who admitted to having been brought to this country illegally as a 7-year-old, said he intends to apply despite the danger.  “Every day I take a risk,” he said. “I take a risk going to school, I take a risk hanging out with my friends, I take a risk in everything that I do because anything can eventually lead to me being deported. So this is not necessarily a new or greater risk for me.”

The Obama administration announced last month the government will be using its discretion not to pursue those who are under 30, arrived in this country before turning 16, have no felony record or serious misdemeanors, have resided here continuously for at least five years as of the date of the announcement, and are currently in school, have graduated from high school or obtained an equivalency diploma, or are honorably discharged veterans.

Those eligible can seek what amounts to a two-year deferment of any prosecution for being in this country illegally, a deferment that is infinitely renewable. They also will be given permission to work legally in the United States.

Homeland Security officials pegged the number eligible at about 800,000. But the Migration Policy Institute, working with the guidelines as announced by the administration, figures the number at closer to 1.4 million, with 50,000 presumed to be in Arizona.

The move falls short of the DREAM Act — short for the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act — which Congress has so far failed to approve. That measure actually would provide a path to citizenship for those brought to this country as children if they meet other qualifications.


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