May 24, 2024

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Daily Border Links are following a sporadic publication schedule between May 3 and July 19. Regular daily updates will return on July 22.

Developments

The Democratic-majority Senate held a “test vote” yesterday on the Border Act, a series of border security and migration measures that resulted from bipartisan negotiations between November and February. Those measures included a provision that would cut off protection-seeking migrants’ access to asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border, Title 42-style, when daily migrant encounters exceed an average of 4,000 (discretionary asylum shutdown) or 5,000 (mandatory asylum shutdown).

The bill needed 60 votes to proceed to open debate and an eventual vote; it failed by a 43-50 margin, with all but 1 Republican voting “no,” along with 6 Democrats (or Democratic-caucusing independents). Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) called it “a sad day for the Senate, a sad day for America.”

The Border Act was identical to legislation that failed to clear a procedural vote in the Senate on February 7, by a 49-50 margin, when—in response to Republican demands—it was attached to Ukraine and Israel aid.

Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski was the only GOP senator to vote for the bill yesterday; three other Republicans changed their vote to “no.” Two Democrats changed their votes from “yea” to “nay,” as did Democratic-caucusing independent Kyrsten Sinema (Arizona), who helped draft the original February compromise.

Voted contrary to party/caucus majority (7):

Democrats (voted “Nay”) (4):

– Cory Booker (NJ)
– Laphonza Butler (CA)
– Ed Markey (MA)
– Alex Padilla (CA)

Democrat-caucusing Independents (voted “Nay”) (2):

– Bernie Sanders (VT)
– Kyrsten Sinema (AZ)

Republicans (voted “Yea”) (1):

– Lisa Murkowski (AK)
From “Yea” in February to “Nay” in May (6):

Democrats (2):

– Cory Booker (NJ)
– Laphonza Butler (CA)

Democrat-caucusing Independents (1):

– Kyrsten Sinema (AZ)

Republicans (3):

– Susan Collins (ME)
– James Lankford (OK)
– Mitt Romney (UT)  

CBS News reported that during the first 21 days of May, Border Patrol has apprehended an average of just 3,700 migrants per day. If that pace continues through the end of the month, May 2024 would be the third-lightest month for migration at the border of the Biden administration’s forty months in office.

A continuing crackdown in Mexico is a key cause for what has been about a 54 percent drop in migration since the record-setting month of December 2023. “Mexican officials have pledged to help keep encounters at the United States’ southern border below 4,000 a day. But that will depend on whether the country has the money to keep up enforcement,” the Economist reported.

4,281 Border Patrol agents left the agency between October 2020 and April 2024, an annual attrition rate of about 6 percent, according to data obtained through the Freedom of Information Act by Anna Giaritelli of the conservative Washington Examiner. The article cites unnamed agents blaming the Biden administration for low morale; many say morale is low because they cannot detain many apprehended migrants.

As Border Patrol underwent a surge of hiring in the years after September 11, 2001, a large number of agents are completing 20 years on the force and eligible for retirement, Giaritelli notes.

Texas’s state Department of Public Safety released aerial video recorded several miles inside New Mexico, near the Santa Teresa Port of Entry, showing people throwing sand and a water bottle at Border Patrol agents seeking to apprehend migrants at the border wall.

Analyses and Feature Stories

The Texas Observer and the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting published an in-depth investigation of vigilante groups’ and militias’ activities along the border. The piece highlighted these groups’ illegal actions, their relationships with law enforcement including some media-friendly right-wing sheriffs and some Border Patrol agents, and the dangers they pose to migrants and the rule of law.

An analysis by Christian Paz at Vox cited politicians’ rhetoric, the economy, and concerns about “chaos” as key reasons for a drop in support for immigration in U.S. public opinion.

The U.S.-Mexico border region is “not a political football or plaything to be bandied about. It’s not the stick to whatever carrot was dangled before the immigrant rights movement,” wrote Marisa Limón Garza of El Paso’s Las Américas Immigrant Advocacy Center.

Tags: News Links

May 23, 2024

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Daily Border Links are following a sporadic publication schedule between May 3 and July 19. Regular daily updates will return on July 22.

Developments

Today the Democratic-majority Senate will consider the Border Act, a series of border security and migration measures that resulted from bipartisan negotiations between November and February. The most controversial of these is a provision that would cut off protection-seeking migrants’ access to asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border, Title 42-style, when daily migrant encounters exceed an average of 4,000 (discretionary asylum shutdown) or 5,000 (mandatory asylum shutdown).

The Border Act is identical to legislation that failed to clear a procedural vote in the Senate on February 7, when—in response to Republican demands—it was attached to Ukraine and Israel aid (which ultimately passed separately in April). At the time, nearly all Republicans, led by Donald Trump, opposed it, arguing that it was not aggressive enough against migration at the border.

Republican opposition is similarly certain this time, and it appears that fewer Democrats may vote for the bill today than in February, since Ukraine aid is no longer at stake. Still, the Biden administration and Senate Democratic leaders are viewing this defeat as good 2024 electoral strategy: they believe that it undermines Republican arguments that Democrats are insufficiently aggressive about border security, and that it reveals Republicans to be uncooperative.

Still, the result will be that for the second time in four months, most Senate Democrats will go on the record as supporting a historic rollback of threatened people’s right to seek asylum on U.S. soil: a right that emerged in the years after World War II and was cemented into U.S. law in 1980.

Adding to a Politico report from last Friday, NBC News reported today that the Biden administration plans to introduce an executive order in June enabling an asylum “shutdown” similar to that foreseen in the “Border Act.”

The report notes that this legally dubious measure would require much cooperation from Mexico’s government, which would have to accept a large number of non-Mexican migrants deported back across the border after being refused asylum. (This number would greatly exceed ICE’s capacity to deport people back to their often distant countries by air.) Administration officials are “in talks with Mexican leaders to get their crucial buy-in before proceeding” with the executive order, NBC noted.

The chief of Border Patrol’s San Diego Sector reported that agents there apprehended 6,157 migrants during the week of May 15-21. That represents a 39 percent drop in migration over the past 3 weeks in San Diego, which led all 9 of Border Patrol’s U.S.-Mexico border sectors in apprehensions in April. It is possible that San Diego may have dropped from the number-one spot among border sectors; available data, however, do not yet show migration increasing elsewhere along the border.

CBP reported seizing 11,469 pounds of methamphetamine at the Otay Mesa port of entry near San Diego on Monday. As the agency reported seizing 93,881 pounds of the drug during the first 7 months of fiscal 2024, this single seizure would increase CBP’s yearly meth haul by 12 percent.

As Mexico continues stepped-up efforts to make it more difficult for migrants to access the U.S.-Mexico border, Border Report reported that a “caravan” of about 1,000-1,200 migrants arrived in Puebla, southeast of Mexico City, while smaller groupings have been departing Mexico’s southern border-zone city of Tapachula, Chiapas. (Puebla is nearly 600 miles south of the nearest U.S.-Mexico border crossing.)

Analyses and Feature Stories

The Texas state government’s “Operation Lone Star” has spent more than $11.2 billion on a border crackdown that has racially profiled people (96 percent of those arrested have been of Hispanic origin) and principally ended up charging “people who pose no threat to public safety” for misdemeanor offenses, according to a new report from the ACLU of Texas.

A column from Migration Policy Institute President Andrew Selee noted that the early May regional migration summit in Guatemala highlighted the need for greater cooperation and coordination of nations’ migration policies at a time of increased flows.

On the Right

Tags: News Links

May 22, 2024

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Daily Border Links are following a sporadic publication schedule between May 3 and July 19. Regular daily updates will return on July 22.

Developments

Border Patrol recorded about 3,000 migrant apprehensions on May 20, according to data obtained by CBS News. No full month of the Biden administration—not even February 2021—has recorded a daily average as low as that.

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told reporters that “the drop stems from several factors, including the administration’s efforts to expand legal migration channels and increase deportations of those who enter illegally, as well as more immigration enforcement by Mexico.” This appears to acknowledge that Mexico has been accepting a larger number of deportations of Cuban, Haitian, Nicaraguan, and Venezuelan citizens into its territory under the Biden administration’s post-Title 42 “asylum ban” rule.

As the Senate majority Democratic leadership seeks to bring the Border Act to a vote this week, with new restrictions on access to asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border, it’s increasingly possible that the bill might get fewer votes than it did in February, when a similar measure attached to Ukraine and Israel aid failed in the face of Republican opposition.

All but five Senate Democrats voted for the bill in February, but the number of defections could be larger this time since Ukraine aid is not at stake—that aid package passed separately in April.

  • Sen. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey), who voted for the bill in February, declared his opposition.
  • A statement from leadership of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus warned that “if this bill passes, it will set back real comprehensive immigration reform by years.”
  • Sen. James Lankford (R-Oklahoma), the lead Republican in November-February negotiations that appeared to have led to a bipartisan deal on the legislation, said that he will vote “no” this time, changing his vote from February. The Border Act, Lankford told CNN, “is no longer a bill, now it’s a prop.”
  • Moderate Republican senators who voted for the bill in February (Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah) are sounding unenthusiastic about voting for it this time, though they still might do so.

Either way, the bill is certain to fail to get the 60 votes that it needs, under Senate rules, to proceed to debate and a vote on passage.

Analyses and Feature Stories

The Guardian reported San Diego-area aid workers’ struggle to help newly arrived asylum seekers navigate the complicated U.S. system, and to provide supplies to people seeking to turn themselves in to Border Patrol in increasingly remote border areas. “The philanthropic funding, I think due to a lot of the anti-immigrant rhetoric coming from both sides of the aisle, has really dried up,” said Erika Pinheiro, director of local aid and advocacy group Al Otro Lado.

As the House Homeland Security Committee holds a hearing today on the use of AI for border and other domestic security missions, Faiza Patel and Spencer Reynolds of the Brennan Center for Justice issued policy recommendations to break DHS’s reliance on “unproven programs that rely on algorithms and risk the rights of the tens of millions of Americans.”

The Texas Observer profiled Laredo environmental advocate Tricia Cortez, who has led forceful local opposition to federal and state attempts to build border walls in and near her city.

“There have been an unusually high number of migrants hospitalized, including young children, in Eagle Pass after coming into contact with the razor wire” that Texas state authorities have laid down along the Rio Grande, noted a USA Today report from the mid-Texas border city.

Tags: News Links

May 21, 2024

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Daily Border Links are following a sporadic publication schedule between May 3 and July 19. Regular daily updates will return on July 22.

Developments

The White House and Senate majority Democratic leadership remain determined to bring the Border Act to a vote this week.

Among its many provisions, this bill includes a temporary mechanism that would shut down access to asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border when daily migrant encounters exceed 4,000 per day (discretionary) or 5,000 per day (mandatory). If passed, this would be a historic rollback of threatened individuals’ half-century-old right to petition for asylum on U.S. soil.

Nonetheless, the White House issued a statement of “strong support” for the bill, and President Joe Biden called Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) and House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana) to urge them to support the bill.

Republicans, however, appear poised to block the Border Act in the Senate, where it needs 60 senators to agree to proceed to debate and a vote. Nearly identical legislation, attached to Ukraine and Israel aid, failed to clear this hurdle in the Senate on February 7.

Republicans contend that the bill is not restrictive enough, and are likely unwilling to hand Biden a legislative win on the border-migration issue in an election year. Democrats appear to be calculating that even a legislative loss helps shield them from campaign-season accusations of being insufficiently “aggressive” at the border.

Asked by CBS News about the state of Texas’s legal attacks on Annunciation House, a Catholic migrant shelter in El Paso, Pope Francis replied: “That is madness. Sheer madness. To close the border and leave them there, that is madness. The migrant has to be received. Thereafter you see how you are going to deal with him. Maybe you have to send him back, I don’t know, but each case ought to be considered humanely. Right?”

We’ve heard no new updates on local media reports citing allegations that members of the Texas National Guard severely beat a Honduran migrant on May 17 and pushed him across the borderline from El Paso to Ciudad Juárez, where he died of his injuries on the riverbank.

Analyses and Feature Stories

A UNHCR factsheet noted that 2024 financial requirements for integrating Venezuelan migrants in Latin American countries are only 15 percent fulfilled, increasing the likelihood that some may fail to integrate and move on to the United States.

On the Right

Tags: News Links

May 20, 2024

Daily Border Links are following a sporadic publication schedule between May 3 and July 19. Regular daily updates will return on July 22.

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Developments

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) confirmed that the body’s Democratic majority intends to bring the “Border Act” to a vote this week. The legislation incorporates provisions of a bill that failed in the Senate in early February after months of negotiations between Democrats and Republicans.

Of its many provisions, the most controversial is a mechanism that would shut down access to asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border if daily migrant encounters exceed 4,000 or 5,000 per day.

This provision’s inclusion in the earlier bill, which also included Ukraine and Israel aid, was a large concession for Democrats, but Republicans still rejected it, echoing Donald Trump’s argument that it did not go far enough.

If the Border Act goes to a vote this week, it is unclear whether any Republicans will support it. But it would be the second time in three months that Senate Democrats go on the record supporting a historic rollback of threatened migrants’ right to seek asylum in the United States.

The White House and some leading Senate Democrats view the bill as a means to take the border issue away from Republicans during the election year by appearing “aggressive.” However, migrants’ rights advocates are urging Senate leaders not to take this step because of its potential for harm.

Local media are reporting that a Honduran migrant died just south of the borderline between El Paso and Ciudad Juárez after being severely beaten. Other migrants allege that the victim’s assailants were members of the Texas National Guard, who prevented them from crossing to the U.S. side to turn themselves in to U.S. federal authorities.

If accurate, the incident would be the first time in decades that a U.S. soldier purposefully killed a civilian on U.S. soil.

After U.S. authorities sent another deportation flight to Haiti on May 16, UNHCR’s U.S. office urged them to refrain from doing that again while the Caribbean nation’s public security emergency persists.

Despite concerns about the Salvadoran security forces’ human rights record and democratic backsliding, the U.S. government has granted them drone equipment valued at $4.5 million, which “will be employed along the border regions to reinforce El Salvador’s security against illegal smuggling and migrant crossings,” EFE reported, citing a U.S. embassy statement. The recipient unit is the armed forces’ Sumpul Task Force, a unit that focuses primarily on borders.

Of the nine sectors into which Border Patrol divides the U.S.-Mexico border, the two that have seen the most migration since January are Tucson, Arizona and San Diego, California. Both sectors have seen two weeks of declining migrant encounters, according to Twitter posts from their chiefs.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has been claiming that his state government’s border crackdown has reduced migration there and pushed it to states further west. In fact, though, Arizona—not Texas—has seen the steepest declines in migration since the record-setting month of December, according to data released last week by Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Migrant encounters have in fact risen 5 percent in Texas since January as they declined 30 percent in Arizona.

“Historically, this sector had been number one in irregular migrants,” Andres Garcia, a Border Patrol spokesman in the agency’s Rio Grande Valley sector in south Texas, told a gathering of Latin American journalists. “Now we are down to number four. What is happening? It doesn’t depend on us, it depends on the ‘logistics’ on the Mexican side. I’m talking about the criminal organizations that move this traffic through other areas of the border.”

The presidents of Mexico and Guatemala met in the border-zone city of Tapachula, Chiapas, on May 17. Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Bernardo Arévalo agreed to deepen collaboration on border and migration management and to improve official border crossing infrastructure.

The director of Panama’s migration agency, Samira Gozaine, told the Associated Press that high costs and coordination challenges would make it impossible for incoming President-Elect José Raúl Mulino to carry out his campaign pledge to deport migrants passing through the treacherous Darién Gap region.

CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility is investigating whether top Border Patrol officials, including Chief Jason Owens and Rio Grande Valley Sector Chief Gloria Chavez, properly disclosed their contacts with Eduardo Garza, owner of a prominent Laredo-based customs brokerage company.

NBC News broke the story, adding to an earlier report that “Owens and Chavez are already under investigation by CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility for their contacts with [tequila maker Francisco Javier] González, who wanted to make a Border Patrol-branded tequila to celebrate the agency’s 100th anniversary this month.”

Analyses and Feature Stories

Since 2014, U.S. immigration courts have heard 1,047,134 asylum cases, and granted asylum or other deportation relief in 685,956 of them (66%), according to Syracuse University’s TRAC Immigration data project.

Of the more than 500,000 Nicaraguan people who have migrated to the United States since a 2018 crackdown on dissent, many have not applied for asylum, leaving their documented status uncertain, the Inter-American Dialogue’s Manuel Orozco told the independent media outlet Confidencial.

Tags: News Links

May 2, 2024

Due to an extended period of staff travel and commitments, we are producing “Daily Border Links” posts less regularly between May 3 and July 19. We will be unable to post Daily Border Links at all between May 3 and May 17. Following this period, Daily Border Links will again be “daily,” with minor interruptions, between July 22 and the end of the year.

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Developments

The chief of Border Patrol’s San Diego Sector—the westernmost of the agency’s nine U.S.-Mexico border sectors—reported that agents there apprehended 10,023 migrants during the week of April 24-30. That cements San Diego’s status as the border’s busiest sector, a position it has not held since the late 1990s.

Border Patrol agents had already been making asylum seekers wait for hours or days in the open air at the sector’s California borderline before being able to process them. Now, the Washington Examiner’s Anna Giaritelli reported based on a leaked internal document, some migrants are hiking into rural California seeking to turn themselves in directly to Border Patrol stations or other law enforcement facilities.

A letter from 32 Democratic members of Congress urged House appropriators to avoid funding any federal government activities that involve collaboration with the Texas state government’s “Operation Lone Star.” The letter noted that “groups have documented repeated cases of Border Patrol turning over migrants to Texas state law enforcement instead of processing them for immigration purposes and ensuring they have access to legal protections for those fleeing violence and danger.”

In leaked audio of a phone conversation with Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham complained that Border Patrol is focusing resources on seizing state-licensed cannabis at interior checkpoints. “They’re saying that they’re worried about fentanyl. So they’re taking all of our cannabis,” the governor was heard saying. “For the love of God, put them at the border in Sunland Park [west of El Paso] where I don’t have a single Border Patrol agent, not one. And people pour over, and so I’m cranky with the secretary.”

Analyses and Feature Stories

A report from Human Rights Watch detailed how rules mandating use of the CBP One app restrict access to asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border, forcing many to wait for months in precarious and vulnerable conditions inside Mexico. The report included examples of people kidnapped for ransom by Mexican criminal groups while awaiting appointments. CBP personnel, it found, routinely turn asylum seekers away from ports of entry, even when they say they are in danger, because they did not use the app to make appointments. The report called on DHS to stop making the app’s use mandatory and instead increase processing capacity at border ports of entry, while increasing adjudication capacity to reduce asylum case backlogs.

“The Right Way,” a video produced by ProPublica and the Texas Tribune, profiled a Venezuelan family who had to wait for five months in Ciudad Juárez for a CBP One appointment, during the 2023 period when 40 migrants died in a detention center fire in the city.

An article by the Migration Policy Institute evaluated the Title 42 pandemic expulsions policy, which expired a year ago on May 11. Despite nearly 3 million expulsions, it found, migration at the U.S.-Mexico border reached new highs during the 38 months that the policy was in place. The report debunked claims that bringing back Title 42 or a similar “asylum shutdown” policy would deter or significantly reduce irregular migration: “While Title 42 offers a campaign-style slogan to shut down the border, the reality is that it never met that promise. And whatever outcomes it had came at the very sizeable cost of reneging on decades of U.S. commitments to guaranteeing humanitarian protection.”

On the Right

Tags: News Links

May 1, 2024

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Developments

Migration through the Darién Gap has declined in April, a surprising development confirmed by an April 29 press release from Panama’s migration authority. The release reported that 136,523 people had migrated through the treacherous region since January 1, a number that stood at 110,008 on March 31. That means the average daily traffic through the Darién was 947 people per day during the first 28 days of April. That is the second-lowest daily average of any month since February 2023.

Similarly, a look at Honduras’s statistics shows a daily average of 1,281 over the first 24 days of April, which is also down significantly from 1,473 in March and 1,701 in February.

The Huffington Post’s Roque Planas, who broke a story in February about Border Patrol agents’ frequent use of the slur “tonk” to describe migrants, published new revelations from the agency’s internal emails and text messages. The communications, from 2017 to 2020, reveal agents joking about beating or poisoning migrants. “Now you’re leaning left and sounding like a snowflake,” wrote one agent after a colleague used the word “migrant” to describe a migrant.

Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) top official, Troy Miller, testified Tuesday before the House of Representatives’ Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security. Questioning noted that Border Patrol’s apprehensions at the U.S.-Mexico border have fallen recently to about 3,900 per day; members of Congress credited Mexico’s stepped up migrant interdiction operations. Miller noted that he has “an individual, a senior advisor assigned to me that is solely dedicated to working with Mexico.”

A front-page Washington Post story cites U.S. officials’ belief that the Mexican government’s crackdown on migration is “the biggest factor” explaining 2024’s relative decline in migration at the border. Border Patrol’s migrant apprehensions in April totaled “about 130,000,” reporter Nick Miroff revealed; that would be a decline from 140,638 reported in February and 137,480 in March. “The next several weeks will be a key test” of Mexico’s interdiction operations, officials told Miroff.

The Associated Press reported, citing White House national security spokesman John Kirby, that U.S. cooperation with Mexico to curb migration will intensify in the areas of “prevent[ing] major modes of transportation from being used to facilitate illegal migration to the border, as well as the number of repatriation flights that would return migrants to their home countries.”

A release from the Government Accountability Project regretted that CBP’s testimony did not address whistleblowers’ complaints about contracting failures in the agency’s medical care system for migrants in custody, which they allege contributed to a child’s preventable death in Texas in May 2023. Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-Illinois) asked Miller about measures taken in the aftermath of 8-year-old Anadith Danay Reyes Alvarez’s in-custody death.

Two women were hospitalized and in need of “higher level care” after falling from the border wall in San Diego, local news reported. In San Diego, the report added, “This year so far, at least five migrants have died as a result of a border wall fall, while dozens more have been injured.”

Four U.S. senators—two Democrats and two Republicans—sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas voicing concerns, and requesting information about, CBP’s warrantless searches of travelers’ electronic devices at border crossings. The signers included Sen. Gary Peters (D-Michigan), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.

NOTUS reported that two Texas border counties’ police departments—Webb (Laredo) and Val Verde (Del Rio)—have purchased “TraffiCatch,” surveillance technology that tracks cellphone and Bluetooth signals and matches them to license plates. The counties used federal grant money (Operation Stonegarden) to buy the systems. “We are well beyond the idea that people have no privacy in public,” said Jennifer Granick of the ACLU. “Here, they’re installing this mass surveillance system. The public doesn’t know about it.”

Mexico has sent 600 troops to its northeastern border states of Tamaulipas and Nuevo León amid worsening violence between competing criminal groups.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) imposition of secondary state “safety inspections” at El Paso ports of entry—apparently a tactic to force Mexico to do more to block migrants—has snarled cargo traffic from Ciudad Juárez, “stopping the movement of 1,344 units in two days, representing 87.4 million dollars in merchandise,” according to a local freight transportation association.

Analyses and Feature Stories

A ProPublica and Texas Tribune investigation drew a straight line between years of U.S. border and migration policies—including “outsourcing” of enforcement to Mexico—and the March 2023 detention facility fire that killed 40 migrants in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. Nothing has changed about U.S. policy since; “If migrant deaths would lead to policy change, we would have changed policies a long time ago,” migration expert Stephanie Leutert told reporter Perla Trevizo.

Noticias Telemundo and the Centro Latinoamericano de Investigación Periodística (CLIP) published a third installment of a series, begun yesterday, documenting the increasing and dangerous use of tractor-trailers to transport migrants across Mexico. The illicit smuggling business has come more directly under big national cartels’ control and depends on widespread corruption among immigration and security forces. The report, relying on a database of more than 170 trucks that crashed, were detained, or were abandoned between 2018 and 2023, offers many examples.

  • Albinson Linares, Angela Cantador, Ronny Rojas, Traileres, Trampa para Migrantes (CLIP, Noticias Telemundo, Chiapas Paralelo (Chiapas), April 30, 2024).

Human Rights Watch released a report moments ago documenting rights violations resulting from CBP’s requirement that asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border use the CBP One app, combined with the Biden administration’s post-Title 42 asylum “transit ban” rule.

The New York Times dug into the story of a counterfeit flier, attributed to a migrant aid group in Matamoros, Mexico, that urged migrants to vote for Joe Biden. Though it was a forgery, the Heritage Foundation think tank and several Republican politicians shared it publicly.

Tags: News Links

April 30, 2024

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Developments

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.

Tags: News Links

April 29, 2024

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Developments

Over 1,000 migrants arrived in Ciudad Juárez atop train cars, despite Mexico’s months-long operations to block northbound migration. Many headed to the Rio Grande to seek to turn themselves in to Border Patrol to seek asylum, but Texas state authorities have blocked most of them on the riverbank.

It is one of the largest mass arrivals of migrants at the border during a 2024 calendar year marked by a Mexican government crackdown that has made it more difficult for migrants to get across Mexico’s territory. “Some U.S. officials are attributing the surge to a concerted effort by transnational criminal organizations” in Mexico to move migrants northward, according to Border Report.

In response, Texas’s state National Guard has stocked up on less-lethal “pepperball” ammunition, while state police have stepped up “safety inspections” of cargo trucks crossing into El Paso. The state checkpoints begin shortly after trucks cross official ports of entry. This double inspection—federal, then state—is causing hours-long delays at border crossings into El Paso.

Migrants in Ciudad Juárez told EFE that they crossed to the U.S. side of the Rio Grande to ask U.S. authorities for asylum, but Texas state National Guard personnel aggressively pushed them back into Mexico.

The mostly Venezuelan migrants added that they fear Mexican organized crime more than Mexican migration authorities, but their fear of authorities mistreating them—or even handing them over to criminals—prevents them from asking for help.

Mexican authorities stopped a Ciudad Juárez-bound tractor trailer with 131 migrants inside. 108 were from Guatemala, 22 from Ecuador, and 1 was from El Salvador. Fourteen were unaccompanied children.

Someone on the Mexico side of the U.S.-Mexico border fired a weapon at an agent near San Elizario, in eastern El Paso county, on April 25. CBP has reported no injuries or other information about the incident.

USA Today covered Mexican forces’ strategy, intensified so far in 2024, of busing migrants away from the U.S. border zone and into the country’s interior, often Mexico’s far south. This, analysts told reporter Lauren Villagrán, has done more than Texas’s state crackdown to reduce recent migration into Texas. The Mexican government is relying less on international deportation or long-term detention.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said that he plans to meet with Guatemalan President Bernardo Arévalo at the end of May, probably near the two countries’ border. Migration will be among the topics of discussion between the outgoing Mexican president and the recently inaugurated Guatemalan leader.

Guatemala’s Attorney General’s Office raided the Guatemala City offices of Save the Children, apparently looking for evidence of abuse of migrant children. Prosecutors “claimed Save the Children and a number of other non-governmental groups could ‘be participating in child trafficking operations,’” the Associated Press reported.

Save the Children stated that its staff have done nothing wrong, and noted that the prosecutor’s office has made no specific allegations.

Political motivations, with U.S. links, are a likely factor. The secretary general of the Attorney General’s Office issued a video, distributed by Fox News, calling on Texas state Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) to aid his investigation. Paxton recently sought legal action against Annunciation House, an El Paso migrant shelter, but was rebuffed by a state judge.

In Guatemala, the attorney general is a separate branch of government, not part of the executive branch headed by President Arévalo. The current attorney-general, Consuelo Porras, has aggressively sought to prosecute anti-corruption judicial operators and journalists, is a frequent hindrance to Arévalo, and faces strict U.S. sanctions for links to corruption and anti-democratic behavior.

San Diego’s county supervisor said that Border Patrol agents in the border’s westernmost sector—rather suddenly the busiest part of the border—apprehended 2,000 people on April 23 alone. CBP has released more than 30,000 migrants onto the city’s streets since February, when a county-run reception center shut down for lack of funding.

In Colombia, a draft resolution appeared to indicate that the government was going to begin requiring Venezuelan citizens in the country to possess a passport. If that were to occur and Venezuelans faced such a barrier to documented status in Colombia, a U.S.-bound exodus through the Darién Gap would be likely. After an outcry, the Colombian government walked this back; President Gustavo Petro denied that a passport requirement was in the offing.

Legislation sponsored by Rep. Lou Correa (D-California) urges CBP to explore making greater use of artificial intelligence at the border.

Analyses and Feature Stories

An update from UNHCR broke down, by country, the 1.157 million refugees, asylum seekers, and internally displaced people currently in Mexico and Central America. This is about double the figure from 2020.

An article from the Migration Policy Institute recalled that the pandemic-era Title 42 expulsions policy did not reduce migration at the U.S.-Mexico border.

A report from the Center for Migration Studies calls for deep, long-term reforms to the U.S. immigration court system’s staffing and infrastructure, along with other reforms to the immigration system, to reduce the system’s backlog of more than 2.5 million cases. Because of that backlog, most asylum seekers released into the U.S. interior from the border can expect to remain in the immigration court system for years. A “BacklogPredictor” tool helps estimate future backlogs and resource needs based on different assumptions.

The New York Times reported on how portraying migration at the border as an “invasion,” which only recently was considered an extreme, marginal position, is now a staple of mainstream Republican politicians’ rhetoric.

The mistrial of George Kelly, an Arizona rancher who shot and killed a migrant on his property, is emblematic of the polarized, politicized, and complicated situation along the border today, explained an essay by Rachel Monroe at the New Yorker.

An Axios poll found half of U.S. respondents favoring mass deportations of undocumented migrants. On the other hand, 58 percent said they support expanding legal immigration pathways, and 46 percent favored protecting asylum seekers with “legitimate” cases.

Texas state “border czar” Mike Banks, a former career Border Patrol agent, told USA Today, “Over the next five years … we’re going to continue building tactical infrastructure. We’re going to continue building border wall. Right now, our current pace is about one mile a week. We’re going to put up things like the border buoy barriers.”

On the Right

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April 25, 2024

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Developments

The chief of Border Patrol’s San Diego, California sector reported that agents there apprehended migrants 9,513 times over the seven days ending April 23. That is a 6 percent increase over the previous week and a 36 percent increase over two weeks prior. For the first time since the late 1990s, San Diego is almost certainly the busiest of Border Patrol’s nine U.S.-Mexico border sectors.

Volunteers providing humanitarian aid to asylum seekers waiting in open-air sites along the California border say that numbers are increasing there; donors are encouraged to contribute needed items on an Amazon wishlist.

Five centrist Democrats who had voted last Saturday for a very strict Republican-led border bill issued a statement yesterday doubling down on their position. The Democrats called on President Biden to reinstate the “Remain in Mexico” policy and to begin Title 42-style expulsions of asylum seekers, while full-throatedly endorsing the Border Patrol union’s hardline stance on border security.

In Mexico’s northern border state of Chihuahua, national guardsmen detained 150 Central American migrants who were staying in a hotel in the state capital. In Ciudad Juárez—Chihuahua’s largest city, across from El Paso—guardsmen, immigration agents, and municipal police carried out an operation to prevent 400 migrants who had arrived atop a cargo train from reaching the borderline.

The Biden administration has paused court-ordered remediation of environmental damage caused by Trump-era border wall construction, citing litigation in a separate case involving the state of Texas. The Sierra Club, Southern Border Communities Coalition, and ACLU announced yesterday that they are seeking to intervene in the Texas case in order to restart remediation projects.

Analyses and Feature Stories

The National Immigration Forum and other centrist groups (Niskanen Center, Hispanic Leadership Fund, Mormon Women for Ethical Government, State Business Executives, Association of Equipment Manufacturers, Border Perspective) published a proposed “border security and management framework” document. It calls for creating a corps of asylum officers to adjudicate most protection claims at the border in less than two months, along with increased resources for U.S. border security agencies and drug interdiction technologies.

CalMatters reported on lengthening wait times at the San Ysidro port of entry south of San Diego, amid increased cross-border traffic and longstanding CBP Field Operations staffing and infrastructure deficiencies.

Wait times for cargo at the busy commercial port of entry in Laredo, Texas have also been worsening, though Mexican government software glitches seem to be much of the cause.

On the Right

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April 24, 2024

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Developments

Mexican migration agents pulled 400 migrants off of a cargo train in rural Chihuahua, Mexico, leaving them stranded in the desert, the human rights organization Derechos Humanos Integrales en Acción (DHIA) denounced. The group included 150 children and 7 pregnant women. Mexico’s National Migration Institute (INM) stepped up its operations in Chihuahua, the northern border state that includes Ciudad Juárez, at the beginning of April.

Asylum seekers who do arrive in Ciudad Juárez are now seeking to turn themselves in to Border Patrol agents at Gate 40 along the El Paso border wall on the bank of the Rio Grande. This is east of Gate 36, where Texas state police and National Guard have set up a large presence, with several coils of razor wire, to prevent asylum seekers from approaching federal authorities.

A group of 141 migrants who had breached the Texas state barrier in El Paso on March 21 were indicted yesterday on misdemeanor rioting charges. The Texas state grand jury’s ruling came one day after a county judge had thrown out the charges, finding insufficient probable cause. The March 21 incident, showing migrants pushing past guardsmen to reach the border wall and Border Patrol agents, was caught on video and circulated widely on social media.

El Paso’s police have applied for a $2.8 million state grant to help it combat the Venezuelan-originated “Tren de Aragua” criminal organization. “We haven’t had contact with that gang (in criminal cases), but that’s not to say they are not here in El Paso,” a police spokesman told the El Paso Times.

So far this calendar year, Mexican authorities have deported 5,689 Guatemalan citizens by land and another 1,831 by air. U.S. authorities returned 22,887 Guatemalans.

A group of relatives of missing Central American migrants traveled to Tijuana to search for them. “It took more or less a year for them to add his file as a case for search in Mexico, because the communication from my country did not go through,” said the wife of a Guatemalan man whom she last heard from in Sonora in 2021.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said it met with Mexico’s National Search Commission to seek improved exchange of forensic information about migrants who have gone missing in Mexico and Central America, especially fingerprints.

The Biden administration released the 771-page text of a final rule to govern the treatment of unaccompanied migrant children in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

Analyses and Feature Stories

A new data report from TRAC Immigration notes that U.S. immigration judges are ordering 50 percent more deportations now than in 2019, the peak year of the Trump administration. In the first half of fiscal year 2024, judges ordered 136,623 immigrants deported.

In 2019, 32 percent of migrants appearing in immigration court had attorneys; that has dropped to 15 percent this year.

38 percent of 2024’s rulings were asylum cases. Of those instances, only 21 percent were ordered removed; the rest received asylum or some other status allowing them to remain in the United States.

An explainer from the National Immigration Forum dug into existing efforts and pending proposals to have USCIS asylum officers—not immigration judges—adjudicate more asylum cases for migrants who arrive at the border.

The Border Chronicle’s Melissa del Bosque interviewed Zachary Mueller of America’s Voice about the controversial and possibly illegal activities of “Border 911,” a pro-Trump group whose members include former top officials of Border Patrol, CBP, and ICE.

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