January 22, 2024

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Several cabinet-level officials from the United States and Mexico met in Washington on January 19 “to follow up on migration commitments made on December 27.” Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Foreign Relations Secretary Alicia Bárcena, and other top officials “discussed the positive impact of efforts to increase migration controls on bus and train routes, crack down on criminal smuggling networks, and scale up repatriations for those who do not have a legal basis to remain in our countries,” according to a State Department readout. U.S. officials are giving Mexico’s actions much credit for January’s reduction in migrant encounters at the border.

Mexico’s Foreign Ministry announced that U.S. and Mexican representatives will soon pay a visit to Panama’s Darién Gap migration corridor. They will also meet soon to discuss migration with the newly inaugurated government in Guatemala.

Texas authorities recovered a body from the Rio Grande in Eagle Pass’s Shelby Park, the area where Texas’s state government has barred entry of Border Patrol agents. A woman and two children drowned in the area on January 12. “Caught in the middle” of the state-federal dispute in Eagle Pass “are residents of this mostly Mexican American town of 28,000 residents, some who say they feel helpless after the state seized their park,” reads an overview by Uriel García at the Texas Tribune.

Guatemalan police dispersed an attempted caravan of about 500 mostly Venezuelan and Honduran migrants who had crossed into Guatemalan territory on January 20. (As often happens, most of the migrants will instead re-enter through irregular border crossings and seek to avoid detection, often hiring smugglers or bribing officials to do so.)

In Mexico, a “caravan” that left the Mexico-Guatemala border zone at Christmas remains in the southern state of Oaxaca. About 1,400 participants are aiming to get to Mexico City on foot, as Mexico has prohibited vehicles from transporting them.

Migration has declined sharply in south Texas’s Rio Grande Valley, which from 2013 to 2021 was first in migrant encounters among Border Patrol’s nine U.S.-Mexico border sectors, the Washington Examiner reported. An increase in organized crime violence on the Mexican side of the border, in the conflictive state of Tamaulipas, may be a key reason for the reduction.

Currently, the busiest of the nine Border Patrol sectors is Tucson, Arizona. There, Sector Chief John Modlin tweeted that agents apprehended 11,900 migrants between January 12-18. That is a significant drop from 18,000-19,000 per week during the first 3 weeks of December 2023, but an increase over 9,200 apprehensions the week of January 5-11.

Apprehensions remain low in the El Paso Sector (far west Texas and New Mexico): 470 per day during the week of January 12-18, down from over 1,000 per day in December.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) and the ranking Democrat on the chamber’s Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) are part of a four-person delegation to the U.S.-Mexico border and to Mexico City. Rep. McCaul voiced “worry about the mental health of our Border Patrol. The suicide rate is going up. They don’t have the proper resources.”

President Biden told reporters on January 19 that the border is not secure: “I haven’t believed that for the last 10 years, and I’ve said it for the last 10 years. Give me the money.” In prepared remarks, he added, “I’m ready to solve the problem. I really am. Massive changes. And I mean it sincerely.”

A release from the Texas governor’s office broke down a total of 101,800 migrants placed on buses since April 2022, at state expense, to Washington, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Denver, and Los Angeles.

Analyses and Feature Stories

A potential deal in the Senate for tighter asylum restrictions for Ukraine aid “is already wobbling, as House Speaker Mike Johnson faces intense pressure from Trump and his House allies to demand more sweeping concessions from Democrats and the White House,” read an Associated Press analysis. “This febrile atmosphere makes the chances of border reform—tricky even under a more productive Congress—look slim,” the Economist observed. “Plenty of Republicans will conclude that this is no bad thing.” A New York Times analysis noted, “Election-year politics is playing a big role.”

60 House of Representatives members in the New Democrat Coalition signed a letter to Speaker Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana) calling on him to negotiate a migration-restrictions-for-Ukraine-aid deal in good faith.

A backgrounder from the International Refugee Assistance Project explained the Biden administration’s “Safe Mobility Offices” in Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Guatemala. These are a so-far limited effort to make legal immigration pathways available to some migrants in those countries, so that they may avoid traveling to the U.S.-Mexico border to seek asylum. The document includes a flowchart laying out the Offices’ complex approval process.

Two conservative media outlets, Fox News and NewsMax, published stories over the weekend reporting on organized crime violence in Mexican border cities. “No one wants to work on anything else right now. Everyone wants to work with the migrants because you can make a lot of money from it these days and it is easy work,” according to a quote from a cartel member in Ciudad Juárez that appeared in both articles.

“President Joe Biden’s third year in office was another letdown” at the border for both immigration restrictionists and immigrant rights advocates, wrote the Washington Examiner’s Anna Giaritelli.

On the Right

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