Nearly 1,000 Central American migrants in new caravans enter Mexico

Once registered, migrants who met the requirements to stay would be issued humanitarian visas, allowing them to work in Mexico or continue to the US border. (AFP)
Updated 18 January 2019
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Nearly 1,000 Central American migrants in new caravans enter Mexico

  • 969 migrants from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua crossed into Ciudad Hidalgo just days after new US-bound caravans of people set off from Central America
  • Caravans from Central America have inflamed the debate over US immigration policy

TECUN UMAN, Guatemala: Almost 1,000 Central American migrants entered southern Mexico on Thursday in a test of the new government’s pledge to manage an ongoing exodus fueled by violence and poverty that has strained relations with the Trump administration.
Mexico’s National Migration Institute said 969 migrants from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua crossed into Ciudad Hidalgo just days after new US-bound caravans of people set off from Central America.
Caravans from Central America have inflamed the debate over US immigration policy, with US President Donald Trump using the migrants to try to secure backing for his plan to build a border wall on the frontier with Mexico.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is pursuing a “humanitarian” approach to the problem, vowing to stem the flow of people by finding jobs for the migrants. In exchange, he wants Trump to help spur economic development in the region.
The US government has been partially shut down for more than three weeks as Democrats resist Trump’s demand that Congress provide $5.7 billion to fund his planned wall.
Mexican officials put wrist bands on the migrants as they entered the country to monitor the flow of people. The bands must be kept until the migrants register with authorities.
Once registered, migrants who met the requirements to stay would be issued humanitarian visas, allowing them to work in Mexico or continue to the US border, said Ana Laura Martinez de Lara, director general of migratory control and verification.
Those who entered Mexico at the official border crossing had done so in a “very orderly” and respectful manner, in contrast to clashes that took place at the frontier in October when a larger caravan began crossing from Guatemala, she said.
Some of the migrants expected to stay in Mexico to find work but it was too early to say how many, she said.
Martinez de Lara said approximately 700 people were still waiting to cross into Mexico from Tecun Uman on the Guatemalan side of the border. She could not say if any people had tried to cross into Mexico illegally.
Mexico’s government said Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard planned to meet US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo soon for talks on their efforts to address the migration challenge. No date was yet set for the talks, a ministry spokeswoman said.


Flight attendant detained by immigration on return to US

Updated 13 min 5 sec ago
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Flight attendant detained by immigration on return to US

  • Selene Saavedra Roma immigrated illegally to the US from Peru as a child and was later married to an American citizen
  • Enrolled in the government’s program for “Dreamers”, she flew to Mexico for work and was detained due to lack of valid document

WASHINGTON: A Texas flight attendant who was enrolled in the government’s program for “Dreamers” flew to Mexico for work and was stopped by immigration authorities who forced her to spend more than a month in detention, her attorney said.
Selene Saavedra Roman, 28, who immigrated illegally to the US as a child, was released Friday from a detention center in Conroe, Texas, according to a statement from Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Originally from Peru and married to an American citizen, she raised concerns with Mesa Airlines about her immigration status after being assigned to an international flight, attorney Belinda Arroyo said.
The airline assured her she would be fine, but she was stopped by US authorities on Feb. 12, when she returned to Houston, and was sent to detention, where she remained for more than five weeks, Arroyo said.
Soon after her lawyer, her husband, the airline and a flight attendants’ group publicly demanded her release, Saavedra Roman called to tell her husband she was getting out.
“She was crying and she said, ‘Please come get me,’” her husband, David Watkins, told reporters.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement said the agency was looking into her status. Earlier, the agency said Saavedra Roman did not have a valid document to enter the country and was being detained while going through immigration court proceedings.
US Citizenship and Immigration Services — the agency that oversees the program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA — declined to discuss the case. But the agency says on its website that participants who travel outside the country without a special document allowing them to do so are no longer covered by the program.
The agency no longer issues the document to the program’s enrollees, according to the website.
People enrolled in the program are commonly referred to as “Dreamers,” based on never-passed proposals in Congress called the DREAM Act.
The Trump administration sought to end the Obama-era program but was blocked by litigation. New applications have been halted, but renewals continue for hundreds of thousands of immigrants already enrolled.
In a joint statement with the Association of Flight Attendants, Mesa Airlines chief executive Jonathan Ornstein apologized to Saavedra Roman and asked US authorities to release her, arguing that it was unfair to continually detain someone “over something that is nothing more than an administrative error and a misunderstanding.”
“She should have never been advised that she could travel,” Arroyo said. “It was a big mistake.”
Saavedra Roman — who is scheduled to appear before an immigration judge in April — attended Texas A&M University, where she met her husband.
Watkins said he was not initially worried about her assignment because they already obtained approval from Citizenship and Immigration Services to apply for her green card as the wife of an American citizen. She has no criminal record and has long paid her taxes, he said, and she checked with her employer before the trip.
Then she was detained. He could visit her only once a week and could only see her through thick glass. She sounded hopeless, he said.
“I told her, ‘Even if you get deported to Peru, I’ll just go with you,’” he said to reporters. “Regardless of whatever happens in the future, I am not giving up. I am going to keep fighting.”
In a statement, the union representing Saavedra Roman and her colleagues said the event “highlights the urgency of commonsense immigration reform and resolution for America’s children who are part of DACA.”