December 19, 2023


Only 61 of 100 senators were present for a nominations vote yesterday, indicating that much of the body has already followed the already-adjourned House of Representatives and left Washington for the holidays. The probability is now virtually zero that the Senate might, before 2024, approve the Biden administration’s request for $110.5 billion in assistance for Ukraine and Israel, border items, and other priorities. Republican legislators are demanding restrictions on asylum and other migrant protections as the price for their support, and negotiations between a small group of senators continue to drag on. (See yesterday’s links for a list of the Republican proposals likely under negotiation.) While negotiators insist that they are making progress, they appear to be nowhere near an agreement.

Panama published November data showing a decline, for the third straight month, in migration through the treacherous Darién Gap. Darién Gap migration in November was 24 percent lighter than October, though the total for 2023 stood at a previously unimaginable 495,459 people as of November 30. Migration from Venezuela declined 35 percent from October—a possible short-term reaction to the United States’ resumption of deportation flights, plus end-of-year seasonal patterns—while migration from China increased 39 percent. During the first 10 months of 2023, Doctors Without Borders reported treating 397 migrants in the Darién Gap who survived sexual violence: “last month alone, there were 107 cases.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed into law S.B.4, which makes unauthorized border crossings into Texas a state crime. Civil rights groups pledge to challenge what they’re calling a racial profiling or “show me your papers” law. Judges may now jail migrants who decline to return immediately to Mexico. “When asked what Texas would do if Mexico does not accept migrants deported by the state,” the Texas Tribune reported, Abbott replied, “We’re going to send them right back to Mexico.”

Large numbers of asylum seekers—2,583 on Sunday alone, nearly half of them Venezuelan—continue to turn themselves in to Border Patrol in Eagle Pass, Texas, even though that town is at the epicenter of Gov. Abbott’s “Operation Lone Star” border security buildup.

TRAC Immigration reported that U.S. immigration courts’ backlog has now reached 3 million cases—4,500 pending cases per judge. It broke 2 million cases in November 2022. (The Justice Department reported 2,464,021 cases as of October 12.)

The Secure Mobility Program, a pilot effort of small offices set up this year in Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Guatemala, has now channeled 11,000 people to legal U.S. migration pathways, including 3,200 entries into the U.S. refugee program, EFE reported. Secure Mobility has channeled another 281 people to Spain’s refugee program.

The state government of Michoacán, Mexico estimates that 2,500 residents of the state, displaced by organized crime-tied violence, are currently residing in shelters in Mexican border cities.

Analyses and Feature Stories

WOLA yesterday released a brief report-back from a Mexico Program staff visit to the Arizona-Sonora border, where they found a large number of Mexican people fleeing organized crime violence and humanitarian workers assisting large-scale arrivals of asylum seekers. WOLA also published a brief video narrating what we saw during a late October visit to Necoclí, Colombia, the gateway to the Darién Gap.

The New Yorker reported about the impact that the temporary closure of the remote Lukeville, Arizona port of entry—officers have been pulled away to help Border Patrol process asylum seekers—is having on tourism a short drive south, in Arizonans’ popular beachside vacation spot of Puerto Peñasco, Sonora.

In El Paso, Politico found that the city’s Mexican-American population is getting fatigued with migrant arrivals. “Trump, he started rough. But now that you see it, when Biden came in, he messed everything up,” a Juárez-born chef told reporter David Siders.

What makes Venezuelan migration different than previous nationalities’ arrivals in the United States, Charles Larratt-Smith and Howard Campbell wrote at Small Wars Journal, is their frequent lack of “a clearly defined destination, plan, or network to help enable this difficult transition.”

On the Right

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