The Christian Science Monitor : 2019-02-11

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heart of the news Marely Villatoro, from Honduras, holds her baby as she waits for a ride during her journey toward the United States, in Tierra Blanca, Mexico, on Jan. 27. LONG WAIT: to the large groups of migrants, says Nestor Rodríguez, an immigration expert at the University of Texas at Austin. ‘A complete change’ So far this year, 10,341 Central Americans have requested a one-year humanitarian visa that can be obtained in three to five days, according to the Mexican government. Humanitarian visas are renewable and allow immigrants free movement throughout the country and formal employment. Fewer than 50 have applied for asylum, a process that takes longer. Asylum status is a first step toward obtaining permanent residency. Applicants must remain in Tecún Umán, on the Guatemalan side of the border, while Mexican authorities process visa requests. Those who enter Mexico through illegal border crossings can still apply for humanitarian visas at a later point, but risk deportation. “This is a complete change in policy [and is] in contrast with other countries also facing immigration challenges,” says José María Ramos, an immigration expert at the Colegio de la Frontera Norte, based outside Tijuana. In the US, foreigners can apply for asylum at ports of entry or once they’re already inside the country. Because of recent trends of “metering,” or limiting how many people can ask for asylum at formal entry points into the country, many migrants choose to risk crossing on their own, intentionally handing themselves over to officials once on the US side of the border. That may change in coming weeks, as the US government’s so-called remain-in-Mexico policy goes into effect. ALEXANDRE MENEGHINI/REUTERS TECÚN UMÁN, GUATEMALA As new ‘caravan’ enters Mexico, a different welcome awaits By Louisa Reynolds / Correspondent migrants are allowed to enter and travel, or remain, in Mexico without being pushed into the shadows because of their lack of papers. In theory, this could mean fewer abuses by officials, gangs, or traffickers. “You can tell that there’s really been a change in terms of Mexico’s immigration policy, which is now focused on human rights,” says Pierre-Marc René, a spokes- Marlin Yanina Alcántar Lobo is sprawled on a foam mattress in a municipal hall on the Guatemala-Mexico border after a grueling five-day walk. Traveling with her two young children, Ms. Alcántar is preparing to walk thousands of miles farther north with a group of more than 2,000 migrants and asylum-seekers that trickled out of San Pedro Sula, Honduras, starting Jan. 15. A new US policy that went into effect Jan. 29 blocks non-Mexican asylum-seekers from entering the United States, requiring them to wait weeks or months in Mexican border cities before pleading their cases. Mexico, meanwhile, has made a dramatic change in its approach to caravans arriving at the border. Government workers hand out educational materials and give talks about the options that await migrants in Mexico, including yearlong humanitarian visas to allow them to work or apply for asylum. Past policies, like those of former President Enrique Peña Nieto, aimed to formalize southern-border migration, but the focus on detention meant many migrants chose to enter clandestinely rather than risk an encounter with a Mexican border agent. Under new President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, ‘ YOU CAN TELL THAT THERE’S REALLY BEEN A CHANGE IN TERMS OF MEXICO’S IMMIGRATION POLICY, WHICH IS NOW FOCUSED ON HUMAN RIGHTS.’ The road ahead A growing number of Central Americans view Mexico as a final destination. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees estimates that 40 percent of those traveling with the previous three caravans requested asylum in Mexico. “Most of them won’t qualify for asylum in the US and will wind up stuck in Tijuana,” says Mr. Ramos, citing the high bar for arguing asylum cases. “While these immigrants await a resolution from US authorities, the challenge for the Mexican administration will be to assign the necessary budget to offer them health care, education, and employment” – a tall order, he says. – Pierre-Marc René, spokesman for the UN refugee agency in Mexico man for the UN refugee agency in Mexico. Many are applauding the government’s new approach as more humanitarian. But questions remain, including what consequences people face for staying in Mexico, whether Mexico will provide further protections to migrants, what will happen to visa-holders when their permits expire, and what it means for local employment. “[T]his caravan is going to be very telling about the Mexican government’s reaction” r 10 THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR WEEKLY FEBRUARY 11, 2019 | PRINTED AND DISTRIBUTED BY PRESSREADER PressReader.com +1 604 278 4604 ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY . ORIGINAL COPY COPYRIGHT AND PROTECTED BY APPLICABLE LAW

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