April 30, 2024

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In an April 28 phone conversation, U.S. President Joe Biden and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador discussed joint action to keep border crossing numbers down. “The two leaders ordered their national security teams to work together to immediately implement concrete measures to significantly reduce irregular border crossings while protecting human rights,” read a joint statement.

The statement did not specify what these new measures might be, but an unnamed senior Biden administration official told the New York Times that possibilities included efforts “to prevent railways, buses and airports from being used for illegal border crossing and more flights taking migrants back to their home countries.”

The call took place at Biden’s request. An ongoing Mexican crackdown is a widely cited reason for a drop in irregular migration since January at the U.S.-Mexico border. However, Border Patrol chiefs’ weekly updates have noted increases in migration to San Diego and Tucson, and recent days saw large numbers of migrants arriving, mostly by train, in Ciudad Juárez across from El Paso.

A collaborative effort among several Latin American journalistic outlets documented migrant smugglers’ dangerous but widespread use of tractor-trailers as a key vector for moving people through Mexico to the U.S. border.

In Chiapas, Mexico’s southernmost state, an organization called the Cartel de Chamula, whose members are largely Indigenous Tzotzil people and which has been aligned with the Sinaloa Cartel, dominates migrant smuggling operations, the reporters found. Chiapas was the scene of a December 2021 tractor-trailer accident that killed 56 of about 200 migrants whom smugglers had stuffed into its container. The report found that endemic corruption at all levels of government enables the smugglers’ operation.

The reporting project interviewed “Alberto,” a truck driver whom criminal groups have coerced into transporting migrants from Michoacán to Mexico’s northern border state of Tamaulipas, where the Gulf Cartel “is the one that transports migrants.” The migrants aboard pay steep fees—often about US$800—for their transport, which is facilitated by corrupt arrangements, including bribes to Mexican National Guardsmen and other officials.

The truck driver detailed how corrupt authorities allow his human cargo to pass through road checkpoints. The National Guard’s price, Alberto said, is “500 pesos per migrant” (about US$30) every time guardsmen stop the truck. If the National Migration Institute (INM) stops the truck because no payments were made in advance, Alberto added, the migration agents charge 1,000 pesos (US$60) per migrant.

The Texas state government’s aggressive “secondary inspections” of cargo trucks entering El Paso have increased truckers’ wait times in Ciudad Juárez from the usual one hour to eight hours, costing the industry about $32 million per day. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) uses these “safety” checks, which force truckers to undergo double inspections at border crossings—first federal, then state—“to pressure U.S. and Mexican officials to prevent mass illegal migration,” Border Report noted. CBP is responding by increasing hours of operation at nearby ports of entry.

New UNHCR reports estimated that more than 166,000 irregular migrants crossed into southeastern Honduras from Nicaragua during the first three months of 2024. Only about 20 percent of migrants did not register with the Honduran government, which is a required step for boarding buses across the country. At least 148,000 exited Honduras into Guatemala during the first quarter.

The number of people transiting Honduras is greater than that of people transiting the Darién Gap because many migrants are flying into Nicaragua, which has loose visa requirements for many nationalities.

A joint statement following an April 29 U.S.-Brazil migration dialogue praised Brazil’s “Operation Welcome,” which has documented and integrated over 500,000 Venezuelan migrants since 2018.

Following a mistrial last week after the jury could not agree on a verdict, prosecutors in Nogales, Arizona will not seek to retry George Alan Kelly, a rancher who fired his AK-47 at a group of migrants on his cattle ranch in January 2023, killing a 48-year-old Mexican man.

Analyses and Feature Stories

While migration and the border are top-tier issues for voters in the 2024 U.S. election campaign, “migration occupies a secondary place” on voters’ list of concerns ahead of Mexico’s June 2024 elections, columnist Olga Pellicer wrote at Mexico’s Proceso. As more migrants become stranded in Mexico, Pellicer noted, the danger of xenophobia rises, and the Mexican government’s lack of an institutional framework becomes more evident.

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