Category: News

Links to Recent Border and Migration News

December 8, 2023


The Senate has adjourned for the weekend, but negotiations appear to be re-starting between a small group of senators as Republicans demand restrictions to asylum, and other tough border and migration measures, in exchange for passage of a bill to fund Ukraine and Israel aid, border priorities, and other items. This group is expected to meet through the weekend, and the White House now appears to be more directly or openly involved.

The Biden administration is signaling that it is willing to raise the “credible fear” standard that asylum seekers must meet when they are placed in expedited removal proceedings and screened by asylum officers, which would cause more asylum seekers to be rejected if unable to defend their claims while in custody within days of arriving. Republicans will probably want more concessions than that, including a return to family detention and limits to the nearly 70-year-old presidential humanitarian parole authority.

The Senate has one week left on its schedule for the 2023 session, though it could add the week of December 18. Lead Senate Republican negotiator James Lankford (Oklahoma) struck a flexible tone, saying he hoped that a bill can pass by the end of the year and that Republicans’ position isn’t “take it or leave it.”

Combining Border Patrol apprehensions and people who came to ports of entry, CBP encountered 9,990 people on Wednesday (December 6). That is down from over 12,000 on Tuesday.

In order to free up officers to help with migrant processing, CBP has closed its PedWest pedestrian border crossing at the San Ysidro port of entry south of San Diego. The port of entry in Lukeville, Arizona and one of two bridges into Eagle Pass, Texas remain closed. South of Lukeville, authorities in Sonora, Mexico plan to install “checkpoints and ‘migration filters.’”

At a camp in Jacumba Hot Springs, California, where asylum seekers wait for days for Border Patrol agents to process them, ABC News reported, “The lucky ones have tents; however, most sleep on the gravel and use their clothes to shield them from the elements and their backpacks as pillows.”

Analyses and Feature Stories

Deaths of women migrants increased sharply during a record year for migrant deaths in Border Patrol’s El Paso Sector (far west Texas and all of New Mexico). Normally, men are the vast majority of recovered remains, but in New Mexico in 2023, of 78 bodies whose gender could be determined, 40 were female, the El Paso Times found.

On the Right

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December 7, 2023


As expected, a Senate “test vote” failed, 49-51, on a $110.5 billion bill to fulfill the Biden administration’s request for additional 2024 money for Ukraine, Israel, the border, and other priorities. All 49 Republican senators voted “no,” along with Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), who opposes military aid to Israel without conditions, and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York), who had to vote “no” for procedural reasons.

Schumer scheduled the vote partly to reinvigorate negotiations, which stalled last week, between a small group of senators. Republicans are demanding that the bill come with language clamping down on the right to seek asylum at the border, limiting the 1950s-era presidential authority to offer humanitarian parole to migrants, and other restrictions on immigration.

“I am willing to make significant compromises on the border,” President Joe Biden told reporters. “We need to fix the broken border system. It is broken.”

Changes that Democrats appear inclined to adopt include expanding the number of asylum seekers placed in expedited removal proceedings after being encountered at the border, and requiring them to meet a higher standard of “credible fear” in initial interviews with asylum officers, usually while in custody days after crossing the border.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut), the party’s main negotiator on a potential deal with Republicans, told National Public Radio “right now there are far too many people crossing the border and being released into the country, many of them don’t have a legitimate claim of asylum,” but “I don’t think it’s in the best traditions of this country to deny people with legitimate claims of asylum access to the United States.”

Border Patrol reported “8,000+ apprehensions” of migrants border-wide on December 5. Reporters for CNN, CBS News, and Fox reported the actual number as one of the highest daily migrant apprehension totals ever: “10,300,” “10,200+,” “more than 10,000,” and “more than 12,000” when including port-of-entry encounters.

Panama has now counted 500,000 migrants passing through the Darién Gap in 2023, EFE reported. The previous full-year record for migration through this dangerous jungle region, set last year, was less than half that (248,284).

Analyses and Feature Stories

“‘There is a fundamental shift in the Democratic Party on immigration’ over the past six months,” Muzaffar Chishti of the Migration Policy Institute told the Associated Press. Democrats have stopped avoiding discussions of adjusting border policy: “Their backs don’t go up when they see someone saying we want to make some changes in the policies at the border.”

Of nearly 500 mostly Haitian unaccompanied migrant children whom the U.S. Coast Guard apprehended at sea, in the Caribbean or Florida Straits, between July 2021 and September 2023, all but 12 were sent back to their countries of origin. “It’s often unclear where they go once they return,” reported a ProPublica / New York Times investigation by Seth Freed Wessler.

On the Right

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December 6, 2023


In exchange for supporting Ukraine aid, Republican legislators continue to demand reduced access to asylum and parole, among other border-hardening measures.

A classified Senate briefing about the need for Ukraine and other aid in the Biden administration’s $106 billion supplemental funding request reportedly got ugly: Republican senators, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Kentucky) walked out early, after some screamed profanities in the presence of the secretaries of defense and state and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The Senate’s Democratic majority introduced a funding bill, which may come up for consideration today, reflecting the Biden administration’s request and including no tightening of immigration laws. The 49-seat Republican minority needs just 41 votes to filibuster the bill—to prevent cloture of debate and a final vote—so the bill is likely to fail a cloture vote.

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana) sent a letter to the White House demanding “transformative change to our nation’s border security laws,” starting with H.R. 2, a bill that the House passed in May, without a single Democratic vote. As WOLA explained in November, H.R. 2 would almost completely curtail access to the U.S. asylum system at the U.S.-Mexico border. A chorus of Democratic Senate voices vehemently rejected including H.R. 2.

“I’ve heard a lot of people say H.R. 2 or nothing. And I’ve always smiled and said, House Republicans didn’t get a single Democrat on H.R. 2, and they’re asking us to get 20 on our side.OK, well, that’s not realistic,” acknowledged the lead Republican negotiator in Senate talks, Sen. James Lankford (Oklahoma). But Lankford’s side is seeking more concessions than higher standards for asylum-seekers’ initial credible fear interviews, something that some Democrats have said they are open to. According to the Wall Street Journal, Lankford mentioned “other options, including increasing detention bed space or adding a requirement that would allow the government to permanently send asylum seekers to third countries it deems safe for them.”

Arrivals of migrants in Border Patrol’s El Paso Sector (far west Texas and all of New Mexico) have fallen since Title 42’s end, dropping sharply in October. Border Report reported, however, that arrivals have started to pick up again.

Colombia arrested 24 people, including 5 active Navy personnel, for allegedly participating in a migrant-smuggling ring facilitating U.S.-bound transit.

Asked by Sean Hannity whether he would “be a dictator” if re-elected, ex-President Donald Trump replied, “No, no, no—other than Day 1. We’re closing the border. And we’re drilling, drilling, drilling. After that, I’m not a dictator.”

Analyses and Feature Stories

Tom Cartwright’s latest monthly ICE deportation flights monitoring report for Witness at the Border counted 140 removal flights in November, up 39 percent over November 2022, the 3rd-highest monthly total of the past 12 months. Top removal flight destinations last month were Guatemala (57 flights), Honduras (40), El Salvador (14), Colombia (5), and Ecuador (4). Three went to Venezuela and one to Cuba.

At America’s Voice, Gabe Ortiz reported on House Republican backlash against new CBP guidance for LGBT migrants in custody, which instructs agents “to avoid using specific pronouns until they have more information about the individual, as well as to refrain from using derogatory speech, including stereotypes and offensive language.”

The Cato Institute’s David Bier compiled data indicating that Border Patrol’s estimated “got-aways”—migrants believed to have avoided apprehension at the border—fell by half after the end of the Title 42 pandemic expulsions policy.

Mexico’s Milenio posits a link between a Sinaloa Cartel faction’s order to cease fentanyl trafficking and a modest recent drop in fentanyl seizures at the border.

On the Right

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December 5, 2023


Talks continue, haltingly, in the U.S. Senate as Republicans demand legal changes tightening asylum and other migration pathways, in exchange for supporting a $106 billion emergency funding request for Ukraine, Israel, the border and other priorities. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) said that negotiations between a small group of senators were “on ice.”

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), who is not one of the negotiators, implied that the talks were more like blackmail terms than a search for a compromise: “This is not a traditional negotiation, where we expect to come up with a bipartisan compromise on the border. This is a price that has to be paid in order to get the supplemental.” The Democrats’ lead negotiator, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Connectictut) replied, “Apparently I’ve wasted the last 3 weeks of my life since this was never a negotiation – just a take it or leave it demand. 🙃”

Semafor reported that Republicans triggered the current impasse in negotiations with a demand “to provide the president new authority to shut down the asylum system at will,” an authority similar to the pandemic-era Title 42 expulsions policy.

Some reports indicated that House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana) would demand that the funding bill include all of H.R. 2: a draconian bill, passed by the House on a party-line vote in May, that would all but shut down asylum. Republican negotiator Sen. Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina) denied this: Johnson will “get what we send him.”

Sen. Schumer intends to put the appropriation bill up for a “test vote” on Wednesday; it is very likey to fail amid opposition from the chamber’s 49 Republicans, who only need 41 votes to filibuster the bill, keeping it from coming to a final vote.

Mexico’s migration agency (National Migration Institute, INM) is running out of money for the year, and has suspended migrant deportations and other activities involving transport of personnel, the Associated Press reported. Mexican authorities encountered a record 588,626 migrants during the first 10 months of 2023.

While it considers the case, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has prohibited Border Patrol from reaching asylum seekers on U.S. soil by cutting through concertina wire that Texas police and National Guardsmen have laid along the Rio Grande. This temporarily reverses a November 29 district court decision allowing federal agents to cut the razor-sharp wire. Texas’s state government had filed suit in late October seeking to stop Border Patrol from cutting the wire.

Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs (D) voiced concern that large numbers of arriving asylum seekers could cause CBP to close other ports of entry in order to free up personnel to process migrants, as happened last week at the temporarily shuttered crossing in remote Lukeville. Hobbs did not rule out sending the state’s National Guard to the border, but is holding off for now.

Analyses and Feature Stories

The El Paso Times’ Lauren Villagrán visited Sololá, in Guatemala’s highlands, the home region of many of the 40 migrants who died in a horrific March 2023 fire in a Ciudad Juárez migrant detention facility.

“The average wait time for non-Mexicans is two months after making an account and requesting an appointment” with the CBP One app, a senior CBP official told Bloomberg. “For Mexicans, the wait time is currently a little over 3 months,” the official added, noting that Mexican citizens have daily limits to prevent them from crowding out other nationalities. This is curious, since the result is that Mexican asylum seekers are forced to wait in the same country where they face threats.

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December 4, 2023


The Washington politics website Punchbowl News reported that talks have broken down among a small group of senators discussing tightened asylum standards and other possible migration restrictions in exchange for Republican support for a big funding bill for Ukraine, Israel, and the border. The small group was to keep discussing a possible compromise over the December 2-3 weekend, but has not met since Thursday. The Senate’s Democratic majority may introduce the supplemental funding bill as early as December 7 without any of the migration curbs that Republicans are demanding; Republicans may filibuster it.

One of the Republican negotiators, Sen. James Lankford (Oklahoma), voiced optimism on December 3 that “we can get this done by the end of the year.”

The federal judiciary’s Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ordered Texas on December 1 to remove the “buoy wall” that Gov. Greg Abbott (R) had ordered built in the middle of the Rio Grande in June near Eagle Pass. Abbott said he would appeal to the Supreme Court.

Border Patrol’s Tucson, Arizona Sector reported apprehending 17,500 migrants in the week ending December 1. If sustained over a month, that rate would hit a monthly threshold—70,000 apprehensions in a single sector—that has only been reached twice after 2000. CBPannounced that it will temporarily close its port of entry in remote Lukeville, Arizona so that officers stationed there may help Border Patrol to process the large numbers of asylum seekers turning themselves in nearby.

A group of 18 migrants from Mexico and Guatemala, including children, was kidnapped after flying from Tijuana to Matamoros for their “CBP One” appointments at the U.S. port of entry there. As of December 3, as many as 17 of the 18 victims may have been released after making ransom payments. The incident highlights the risks to migrants in Tamaulipas, the only Mexican border state to have a Level Four travel warning from the U.S. State Department.

Analyses and Feature Stories

For the second time in ten days, the New York Times published an analysis of Chinese citizens’ increased migration to the U.S.-Mexico border. “Every immigrant I interviewed this year who passed through the Darién Gap,” reporter Li Yuan wrote, “came from a lower middle-class background. They said that they feared falling into poverty if the Chinese economy worsened, and that they could no longer see a future for themselves or their children in their home country.”

Honduras’s ContraCorriente reported on the harrowing experience of Honduran women migrating in an attempt to flee domestic or gender-based violence.

WOLA’s Adam Isacson testified in a November 30 hearing of the House of Representatives’ Foreign Affairs Committee about “the U.S. Border Crisis and the American Solution to an International Problem.” WOLA has posted a page with video excerpts and the text of the written and oral testimonies delivered.

On the Right:

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November 29, 2023


Seven mostly Republican senators continue to negotiate the Biden administration’s request for supplemental 2024 funding for Ukraine, Israel, and the border. Republicans want tough restrictions on asylum and humanitarian parole in exchange for their support. The talks do not appear to be progressing.

It seems that negotiators are focusing on two Republican demands: for raising standards that recently arrived asylum seekers would have to meet in initial credible-fear interviews, and for weakening the presidential authority—part of immigration law since the 1950s—that allows temporary grants of humanitarian parole. Some Democrats appear willing to budge on the credible fear standards, but are more resistant to watering down parole, a program that, as applied to some citizens of Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, Ukraine, and Venezuela, has reduced arrivals at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“I think it’s becoming less and less likely that we’ll have a deal by the end of the week,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut), one of the seven negotiators.

Washington Post columnist Greg Sargent reported:

According to Democratic sources familiar with the negotiations, Republican demands began to shift soon after the New York Times reported that in a second Trump term, he would launch mass removals of millions of undocumented immigrants, gut asylum seeking almost entirely, and dramatically expand migrant detention in “giant camps.”

As one Senate Democratic source told me, Republicans started acting as though Trump and his immigration policy adviser Stephen Miller were “looking over their shoulders.”

Eleven Democratic senators, led by Alex Padilla (California), signed a statement opposing any deal that weakens asylum and doesn’t include “a clear path to legalization for long-standing undocumented immigrants.” Immigrants’ rights groups have added their voices in opposition to any deal that weakens asylum and other protections.

On the right, the “Heritage Action” organization opposed any deal that does not include the full Republican agenda represented in H.R. 2, the “Secure the Border Act,” which passed the House on a party-line vote in May 2023.

The Los Angeles Times reported on miserable conditions endured by asylum seekers awaiting Border Patrol processing outdoors, at times for days, at an outdoor “informal holding spot” near a gap in the border wall in rural Jacumba Hot Springs, California.

Agents in other Border Patrol sectors are being called to help process large numbers of arriving migrants in the Tucson, Arizona and Del Rio, Texas sectors. Some of that processing is occurring virtually, through video interviews with agents.

The federal judiciary’s Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is hearing arguments in a longstanding case seeking to end CBP’s practice of “metering,” or restricting asylum seekers’ access to U.S. soil at ports of entry.

Analyses and Feature Stories

An analysis from the New York Times’ Miriam Jordan notes that U.S. asylum law offers little protection to people fleeing the effects of climate change.

The latest LAPOP AmericasBarometer survey found that 50 percent of Nicaraguan people intend to migrate, and that 23 percent are “very prepared” to leave Nicaragua in the near future. About 670,000 Nicaraguans—more than 10 percent of the country—have left since 2018.

On the Right

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November 28, 2023


Six senators continue to negotiate the Biden administration’s supplemental budget request for Ukraine, Israel, and the border. As a condition for their support, Republican legislators are demanding legal changes that would sharply curtail access to asylum. “We’ve made progress on asylum,” said Sen. Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina), one of the negotiators, who added that Republicans continue to insist on limits to the presidential authority to grant humanitarian parole (which is not a border issue). “We have to get this done this week,” said Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut), the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee.

Yesterday ICE sent its sixth deportation flight to Caracas, Venezuela since October 18, following an October 5 agreement with the Venezuelan government to resume aerial deportations. “If averages hold that would be about 720 people deported to Venezuela,” wrote Tom Cartwright of Witness at the Border, who closely tracks deportation flights.

Citing large numbers of arriving migrants, CBP is closing a border bridge in Eagle Pass, Texas and reducing vehicle processing at the Lukeville, Arizona port of entry so that personnel can assist Border Patrol with processing.

CBP is adding new barrier at the point where the Tijuana River crosses into California, a site where a migrant from West Africa died during a large group incursion earlier this month.

An Army National Guardsman assigned to the Texas state government’s Operation Lone Star “was killed from ‘a self-inflicted wound while on duty by a public park'” in Laredo, Texas on Thanksgiving morning.

Analyses and Feature Stories

Over 29 months, state authorities operating under Texas’s “Operation Lone Star” have participated in vehicle pursuits that killed at least 74 people and injured at least 189 more, according to a report from Human Rights Watch. Unlike many law enforcement agencies (including CBP) that have developed policies to govern risky chases on public roads, Texas’s Department of Public Safety continues to leave pursuits up to the discretion of individual officers, the New York Times reported last Friday.

The Arizona Daily Star reported from the Mexican border town of Sásabe, Sonora, where the population has shrunk from 2,500 to less than 100 amid intense fighting between two factions of the Sinaloa Cartel. Closures of gaps in the border wall have made it difficult for people to flee into Arizona.

Criminals are using AI-doctored images and videos to defraud the families of missing migrants, portraying the migrants as kidnap victims and demanding ransom payments, EFE reported.

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November 27, 2023


Congress is considering a package of supplemental 2024 spending, including Ukraine aid and $13 billion in new initiatives at the border. Republicans are demanding some hard-line border measures as a condition of passage. Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colorado), one of a small group of senators negotiating a possible deal, appears open to the idea of tightening initial screening standards that asylum seekers must satisfy upon arrival at the border.

Volunteers are still doing most of the caring for more than 200 asylum seekers camped near a gap in the border wall in Jacumba Springs, in an “Open-Air Detention Center” along the central California border, as they await Border Patrol processing.

Factions of the Sinaloa Cartel are fighting over control of contraband and migration routes near Sásabe, Sonora, along the border with Arizona; residents who want to flee are trapped between criminals who control roads to the south and the border wall, and CBP officers denying access to U.S. ports of entry, to the north.

Things are so busy in Border Patrol’s Tucson, Arizona Sector—the part of the U.S.-Mexico border currently with the most migrants, about 15,000 per week—that the agency’s sector headquarters is minimizing its social media presence.

“The United States announced the implementation of Safe Mobility Offices (SMOs) in Ecuador to process applications for regular entry to the country for people from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Colombia, who have been in Ecuador on or before 18 October,” reports a new UNHCR Ecuador Operational Update. “The SMOs operated in two phases, with the second one starting on 20 November for people from eligible countries to apply directly at”

Analyses and Feature Stories

Even as CBP tones down the extremity of its dangerous high-speed vehicle pursuits, Texas police participating in “Operation Lone Star” have stepped them up.

“Chinese citizens are more successful than people from other countries with their asylum claims in immigration court. And those who are not end up staying anyway because China usually will not take them back,” reported the New York Times.

David Bier and Ilya Somin of the Cato Institute, writing in USA Today, criticize the Biden administration’s “arbitrary” caps and “truly bizarre” obstacles to humanitarian parole and CBP One asylum appointments.

85 percent of Mexican manufacturing businesses surveyed said they are having trouble finding workers, and more migrants from elsewhere in the Americas are settling in Mexico and taking those jobs, Reuters reported.

Amid a thawing of relations with Venezuela, Colombia has become less welcoming to Venezuelan migrants, La Silla Vacía reported, which could lead some to opt to cross the Darién Gap and migrate to the United States.

On the right

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