January 3, 2024

Staff are taking a few days off. Daily links will resume on January 11.


After breaking records before the holidays, arrivals of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border have dropped sharply, at least for the moment. Border Patrol apprehended 2,500 migrants on January 1, down from over 10,000 during several days in mid-December. On a call with reporters, unnamed U.S. officials praised Mexico for taking “enhanced enforcement actions” including deportation flights to Venezuela, which the officials said that they also expect to “ramp up.” With less need to divert personnel into migrant processing, by January 4 CBP will reopen its Lukeville, Arizona port of entry, as well as a temporarily shuttered PedWest pedestrian crossing south of San Diego, California, a pedestrian crossing in Nogales, Arizona, and one of two border bridges between Piedras Negras, Coahuila and Eagle Pass, Texas.

Congress begins its 2024 session on Monday, but a small group of Senate negotiators is already back in Washington, as they continue seeking a deal that would allow the body to move forward with the Biden administration’s emergency request for $110.5 billion in aid to Ukraine and Israel, more border measures, and other priorities. Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut), James Lankford (R-Oklahoma), and Kyrsten Sinema (I-Arizona) met for 90 minutes yesterday, along with DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Republican legislators are insisting on changes to U.S. law that would put asylum and other legal pathways out of reach for many more migrants. “We gotta do something. They ought to give me the money I need to protect the border,” President Biden told reporters yesterday.

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana) will lead a delegation of more than 60 House Republicans today to the border at Eagle Pass, Texas. If senators manage to reach and approve a deal on a spending bill, House Republicans are likely to demand even stricter limits on asylum and other legal migration pathways once their chamber takes up the legislation. Speaker Johnson’s visit is under attack from the Republican far right. Leading border hawk Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) said he will not be in Eagle Pass because “our people are tired of meetings,” while onetime Trump chief of staff Steve Bannon dismissed the trip as a “photo op.”

Mexican authorities are still searching for a group of 31 migrants, from a few countries, kidnapped from a bus in northern Mexico near the border on December 30. The mass abduction happened in Mexico’s easternmost border state, Tamaulipas, which is notoriously dangerous. Authorities freed a group of five Venezuelans, including two minors, who according to Reuters were not part of the bus group. Kidnappers in Tamaulipas “take 10 to 15 migrants a day who come to Reynosa or Matamoros for their CBP appointments,” Father Francisco Gallardo of the Diocese of Matamoros, a longtime shelter director, told Milenio.

The Biden administration Justice Department is asking the Supreme Court for an emergency ruling to decide whether Border Patrol agents have the right to cut through the hundreds of miles of razor-sharp concertina wire that Texas state authorities have laid along the Rio Grande. Texas had sued in federal court in late October to prevent agents from cutting the wire to access asylum seekers on the riverbank, except in emergency situations. (Once on U.S. soil, people have a right to ask U.S. authorities for asylum.) A district court judge denied Texas’s request, but the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Texas on December 19.

A “migrant caravan” that made U.S. headlines over Christmas has ended in the municipality of Mapastepec, about 75 miles from Mexico’s border with Guatemala, where remaining caravan participants have turned themselves in to Mexican migration authorities. According to La Jornada, activist and organizer Luis García Villagrán said “an agreement could be reached for the delivery of documents” allowing more than 3,000 migrants to stay legally and possibly to travel through Mexico.

Analyses and Feature Stories

“On a warming planet, migration is not the security risk. The security risk is the backlash to it,” Tom Ellison of the Center for Climate and Security wrote at Just Security.

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