Today in Latin America
Top Story — Immigration enforcement officials have begun halting some deportations, putting into effect a policy that prioritizes arresting and deporting undocumented immigrants convicted of serious crimes or that present a national security threat.
The Department of Homeland Security is reviewing thousands of cases and will likely dismiss those of people without serious convictions on their records, The Dallas Morning News reports.
The change in policy was announced on Aug. 20 in a memo by John Morton, head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, according to The New York Times. The decision was motivated partly by pressure to deal with backlogged illegal immigration cases that are clogging up the courts.
The change is also intended to let one particular group of undocumented immigrants off the hook — those who have been detained by ICE, but have initiated the process of applying for legal residence. Morton’s memo suggests ICE use its authority to dismiss such cases, The New York Times reports.
The halting of deportations has prompted criticism from those advocating tougher enforcement of immigration law, including agents within ICE itself.
“Actions like this demoralize ICE agents who are trying to do their job and enforce the law,” said Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA).
Others celebrated the initiative, arguing that it provided a practical solution for an immigration enforcement system with limited resources.
“This is the kind of reform we need. Targeting those who intend to do harm while expediting the cases of law-abiding immigrants is the best use of ICE’s precious resources and will save the taxpayers money,” said Cheryl Little, executive director of the Florida Immigrant Advocacy Center.
The new policy takes effect following Republican primary elections in which immigration figured prominently, with the electorate in some states polarizing around the question of whether state government should take a greater role in enforcing immigration law.
The Obama administration opposes increasing state enforcement of immigration law and has challenged Arizona’s controversial law in the courts.
Just Published at the Latin America News Dispatch
- An Afro-Colombian community is facing expulsion to make room for gold exploration. The eviction — originally scheduled for Aug. 18 — has been suspended by the courts twice, but the community’s situation remains precarious. Roque Planas has more.
- Documents declassified by the National Security Archive in Washington indicate that the Nixon administration advocated the use of death threats in order to save Dan Mitrione, a U.S. official who was kidnapped and executed by leftist guerrillas.
Headlines from the Western Hemisphere
- Arizona Republican Gov. Jan Brewer is headed to the general election after handily winning a GOP primary marked by a surge in her popularity after she signed a tough law targeting illegal immigration.
- President Felipe Calderón proposed sweeping new measures Thursday to crack down on the cash smuggling and money laundering that allow Mexican cartels to use billions in U.S. drug profits to enrich their criminal organizations.
- Authorities are investigating who stole a 48-foot luxury yacht from a marina in Mexico and how it ended up on a Florida beach almost 500 miles away.
- As Hurricane Frank gained strength far from land over the Pacific Ocean on Thursday morning, southern Mexico dealt with the aftermath of the system’s assault on the mainland earlier in the week.
- New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said Thursday “some progress” has been made in the case of a U.S. contractor held in Cuba since December, after he relayed Washington’s request to free him.
- Teachers walked off their jobs Thursday in a one-day strike over staff and funding levels in Puerto Rican schools, giving students an unplanned day off barely three weeks into the new academic year.
- Kevin Kelly has been appointed the new director for USAID’s Mission in Guatemala.
- Diplomats from El Salvador, Honduras, Ecuador and Brazil have been urged by Mexican authorities to assist in identifying the 72 bodies, suspected to be migrants, recently found in a mass grave in northern Mexico.
- Nicaragua has reportedly reduced it’s hunger rate by half since the instating the Millenium Development Goals.
- The central valley of Costa Rica, where San José is located, has higher cancer rates than other parts of the country according to the Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social (CCSS) and the Universidad de Costa Rica (UCR).
- Authorities seized more than 4.4 tons (4 metric tons) of cocaine at a ranch Thursday after F-16 fighter jets intercepted a plane that was flying to pick up the load, Venezuela’s top security official said.
- Beset by one of the world’s highest murder rates, Venezuela has set a two-year deadline to clean up its police forces, an official said on Thursday, as the opposition attacked President Hugo Chávez’s record on crime before a legislative election.
- The Peruvian government is appears to be losing its battle against drug runners allegedly allied with Shining Path guerrillas in the Ene and Apurimac river valleys.
- The Argentine Forensic Anthropology Team is hoping to identify the bodies of people “disappeared” during the country’s 1976-83 dictatorship with the help of a U.S. forensics lab.
- Chile’s mine regulator has shut down at least 30 copper mines in the wake of the mine collapse that trapped 33 miners on August 5.
- Three months of drought in northwest São Paulo state, Brazil created the conditions for a rare fire tornado, caught on camera Wednesday in the municipality of Aracatuba.
- Argentina’s Foreign Minister announced that he will visit Uruguay next Monday and designate the Argentine half of a scientific team that will monitor pollutants from a paper mill on the Uruguay River.
- South America, particularly the Mercosur region of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay, spends less on military defense than any other region of the world, according to a U.S. official visiting the region.
Image: U.S. Federal Government, Public Domain.