January 19, 2024

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A high-level delegation of officials from Mexico is in Washington today to discuss measures to control U.S.-bound migration. “U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, and White House homeland security adviser Liz Sherwood-Randall are representing the United States, with Mexican Foreign Affairs Secretary Alicia Barcena leading the visiting delegation,” Voice of America reported.

In a briefing, U.S. officials said they do not anticipate announcing any major agreement following today’s meetings. They credited Mexican efforts to block migrants, along with seasonal declines, for January’s decrease in migrant encounters at the U.S.-Mexico border. “We were seeing 10- to 12,000 people a day back in December. Now it’s 2,800, 3,100 people a day,” Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), who represents a border district, told the Washington Post.

In preparation for today’s high-level meetings, Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Troy Miller and U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Ken Salazar met yesterday with the commissioner of Mexico’s National Migration Institute (INM), Francisco Garduño. Garduño is facing criminal charges in Mexico for alleged mismanagement and corruption of INM officials that led to 40 migrants dying in a March 2023 fire in a Ciudad Juárez detention facility.

Human Rights Watch issued a statement urging the Mexican government to reject any agreement with the Biden administration that would send asylum seekers back to Mexico.

The Title 42-style expulsion of asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border appears to be a consensus element of negotiations between a small group of senators seeking a formula that might grant the Biden administration’s request for Ukraine aid and other priorities, while meeting Republican demands for restrictions on asylum and other migration. Reporting points to Senate negotiators agreeing on expelling asylum seekers, regardless of protection needs, if daily migrant encounters at the border exceed a certain number. Such a measure would require Mexico to accept expelled migrants, as it did for citizens of seven countries during the COVID pandemic.

The senators might reveal consensus legislative language as early as next week. Still, the agreement’s prospects for passing the Republican-majority House of Representatives have grown dimmer. While he claims to support Ukraine aid, Speaker Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana) has called for tougher limits on asylum and other migration pathways in the funding bill than what are likely to appear in the Democratic-majority Senate’s version. And former president Donald Trump is now vocally opposing the Senate deal, even before its contents are known.

The House and Senate passed legislation keeping the government open at 2023 funding levels through early March. Conservative House Republicans briefly sought to include hard-line border and migration language in this “continuing resolution,” but in the end, the chamber passed a “clean” funding bill.

Panama’s security minister will meet today with Colombian counterparts to discuss efforts to curb organized crime and migrant smuggling in the Darién Gap.

The treacherous jungle region has seen four months of declines in migration, from a record 81,946 people in August to a 12-month low of 24,626 in December. Still, a remarkable 520,085 people migrated through the Darién in 2023, more than double the previous record set in 2022.

Numbers continue to drop: the deputy director of Panama’s National Migration Service said that more than 6,000 people passed through the Darién during the first 12 days of January, a rate that—if sustained—would mean less than 16,000 migrants for the month, the fewest since June 2022.

ICE removed a reported 61 people aboard a plane to Haiti yesterday. “The timing of this removal flight breaks the full-year 2023 pattern of 1 flight each month at the END of the month so I’ll be watching to see if the pattern moves to 2 per month,” tweeted Tom Cartwright of Witness at the Border, who closely monitors removal flights.

Analyses and Feature Stories

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is inciting a conflict between Border Patrol and the state’s National Guard that is inching closer and closer toward a violent clash between armed agents of state and federal law enforcement,” warned Mark Joseph Stern at Slate.

Chelsie Kramer and Emma Winger warned at the American Immigration Council’s Immigration Impact blog, “The stakes are high. If allowed to stand, other states might set up their own immigration enforcement schemes, splintering the already complex immigration system and leading to widespread arrests and deportations without key federal protections.”

“During the Civil Rights Movement, there were three major crises in which Southern governors, refusing orders to desegregate schools, attempted to defy the federal government,” recalled a San Antonio Express-News editorial.

“The Biden administration seems out of ideas. And standing behind a standard-bearer deploying xenophobia as a selling point in a hotly contested bid for reelection, Republican calls to “secure the border” amount to little more than a political bludgeon,” wrote Eduardo Porter at the Washington Post.

“In the past, the majority [of Mexican citizens crossing the border] were migrants of opportunity, largely single men, and some women, looking for work opportunities,” Princeton University migration expert Douglas Massey told James North at the New Republic. “But in recent years, we now see from Mexico migrants of despair—entire families, including children. …What we have on the border now is a humanitarian crisis, and not really an immigration crisis.”

Cuba’s El Toque recalled that Cuban migrants who receive humanitarian parole—those who use the Biden administration’s sponsorship program, and those who seek asylum via CBP One appointments at the border—are not eligible for the Cuban Adjustment Act, which normally allows Cuban citizens to apply for U.S. residency after a year in the United States.

An Associated Press article explained the humanitarian parole authority, a big sticking point in Senate negotiations over adding migration restrictions to the Biden administration’s Ukraine funding request.

The Border Chronicle featured a photo narrative about U.S. surveillance technology along the border, created by Arizona-based geographer Dugan Meyer and photographer Colter Thomas.

On the Right

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