Category: News

Links to Recent Border and Migration News (get these in your email)

Due to staff travel and commitments, News Links posting will be sporadic between May 3 and July 19, 2024. We will return to a regular, all-weekday schedule on July 22.

 

June 6, 2024

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Daily Border Links are following a sporadic publication schedule between May 3 and July 19. Due to staff travel, this is the last daily update for a while. Regular daily updates will return on July 22.

Developments

The Biden administration’s new proclamation and rule curtailing asylum access at the U.S.-Mexico border, which it calls “Securing the Border,” went into effect at 12:01 AM on Wednesday, June 5. A leaked ICE implementation guidance is also available.

For explanations of the new rule’s provisions, implementation, and likely outcomes, see analyses from WOLA, the American Immigration Council, Human Rights Watch, the American Immigration Lawyers’ Association, the Cato Institute, and a coalition of legal and human rights groups. The American Immigration Council also published an in-depth explainer.

For migrants who cross the border between ports of entry, fail to specifically ask for protection (known as the “shout test”), or cannot prove a very high standard of fear of return, the legal right to asylum is now suspended until the daily border-wide average of Border Patrol migrant apprehensions drops below 1,500.

The last month with an average that low was July 2020, in the early moments of the COVID-19 pandemic. Reporters from the New York Times and CBS News tweeted that Border Patrol apprehended about 4,300 people on Tuesday June 4 and about 4,000 on Wednesday June 5. The daily average in May, one of the Biden administration’s lightest months, was about 3,800. The Washington Post cited internal DHS projections expecting an average of 3,900 to 6,700 apprehensions per day between July and September.

Should the daily average ever drop below 1,500, the rule would suspend the asylum restriction until the average once again climbs above 2,500.

The new measures add to the Biden administration’s May 2023 “Circumvention of Lawful Pathways” asylum ban, which already denied asylum to non-Mexican citizens who crossed between ports of entry, cannot prove a higher standard of fear, and did not have an asylum application turned down in another country along the way.

It is unclear whether the new rule resulted in increased returns or deportations of migrants yesterday—a briefing from DHS officials offered no numbers—and if so, how they were carried out.

“We intend to challenge this order in court,” the ACLU announced. Aaron Reichlin-Melnick of the American Immigration Council noted that the ACLU “successfully blocked” a similar “2018 Trump asylum ban within days.” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut), the principal Democratic negotiator on an unsuccessful “border deal” that sought to legislate a similar asylum limit, said “I am sympathetic to the position the administration is in, but I am skeptical the executive branch has the legal authority to shut down asylum processing between ports of entry on its own.”

A UNHCR statement voiced “profound concern” about the Biden administration’s new rule.

The administration’s announcements did not refer to increased capacity to implement its new barriers to asylum seekers. That would involve costly measures like more asylum officers for expedited removal proceedings, more detention space, or more capacity to deport migrants (more flights, or permission from Mexico to deport more non-Mexican citizens by land). Three DHS officials told the Washington Post that “the administration has not scheduled a short-term increase in deportation flights to ramp up the number of migrants returned to their home countries under the new measures.”

The New York Times’s Hamed Aleaziz reported that when asylum seekers in custody try to prove that they meet higher standards of fear of return (called “reasonable probability” of harm), they will have just four hours to find legal representation. “Migrants previously had at least 24 hours or more to find a lawyer.”

Reports from the border documented worry and perplexity among migrants. Migrants passing through the northern state of Durango told Milenio that the U.S. policy change did not alter their plans. “We do not have a plan, and we cannot return. This is a low blow,” a 64-year-old man from Colombia told the Guardian in Ciudad Juárez. Some told the Guardian that they are now considering crossing through the dangerous nearby desert. Shelter operators in northern Mexican border cities braced for new strains on their capacity.

Coverage of the new rule’s political and electoral implications found progressive Democrats outraged by the rollback of asylum rights; most Republicans claiming it is “too little, too late” and doesn’t do enough to stop migrants from arriving; and centrist Democrats—especially those from tightly contested states or districts—supporting it.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador told reporters that, in a June 4 conversation with President Biden, he encouraged Biden to deport non-Mexican migrants directly, not into Mexico: “Why do they come to Mexico? We have no problem, we treat migrants very well, all of them, but why triangulate?” (Mexico accepts up to a combined 30,000 U.S. deportations per month of citizens of Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela.)

Border Patrol Chief Jason Owens tweeted that the agency has documented more than 300 deaths of migrants on U.S. soil since the fiscal year began in October, with the hot summer months just beginning.

Mexican migration agents and National Guard personnel carried out a June 5 operation to evict migrants from a plaza near the Mexico City headquarters of the country’s refugee agency, COMAR.

The Panamanian government’s human rights ombudsman filed a criminal complaint about more than 400 alleged cases of sexual violence perpetrated against migrants in the Darién Gap region. Before Panama’s Health Ministry suspended its permission to operate in March, Doctors Without Borders had been documenting these cases.

Analyses and Feature Stories

The Washington Post reported on the Texas state government’s intense campaign to shut down El Paso’s Annunciation House migrant shelter.

“Though there’s little to be done now about this recycled immigration policy” at the border, President Biden “could use his executive power to shield immigrants from deportation and allow them to work legally,” argued Andrea Flores of Fwd.us in a New York Times column.

A feature at the Guardian told the stories of five asylum seekers’ difficult and even traumatic passage through the U.S. asylum system.

The New York Times reported on how the San Diego region has been impacted by a notable increase in migration over the past several months.

An Inter-American Dialogue slide presentation cited “1145 charter flights of at least 150 passengers en route to the Mexico-US border” landing in Managua, Nicaragua between July 2023 and January 2024.

The Catholic Charities humanitarian migrant respite center in McAllen, which receives people released from CBP custody, commemorated ten years of operations. Headed by Sister Norma Pimentel, the well-known shelter was a response to the first major arrival of child and family asylum seekers, which at the time was mostly Central American citizens arriving largely in south Texas.

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June 3, 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

President Biden is expected to issue an executive order tomorrow (Tuesday June 4) at least partially “shutting down” the right to ask for asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border. It is likely to enable U.S. border authorities to channel asylum seekers into rapid removal from the United States, at times when daily migrant arrivals exceed a certain threshold, probably 4,000 or 5,000 people per day. At busy moments along the border, the executive order could institute a policy similar to the pandemic-era Title 42 expulsions regime.

The administration is expected to claim that the new “shutdown” authority’s legal underpinning is Section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which allows the President to bar the entry of entire classes of non-citizens considered “detrimental to the interests of the United States.” However, courts have cast doubt on whether 212(f) can in fact be used to remove an asylum seeker already on U.S. soil and asking for protection, who are protected by Section 208 of the INA.

It appears that the “shutdown” would only apply to asylum seekers apprehended between the land border ports of entry. Those with appointments made using the CBP One smartphone app would still be processed.

The move comes just after Sunday’s presidential election in Mexico, whose government will be expected to cooperate in receiving at least some of the migrants refused asylum access and sent back across the land border. Claudia Sheinbaum, the mayor of Mexico City and the candidate of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s MORENA party, won in a landslide.

At least two Texas border-city mayors are expected to be on hand in Washington for tomorrow’s executive order announcement.

CBS News and Fox News reported that Border Patrol agents at the U.S.-Mexico border apprehended about 118,000 migrants during May 2024, which would make May the third-lightest month for border migrant arrivals of the Biden administration’s 40 full months in office. This continues a trend of reduced migration, dating from January, that appears to owe a lot to the Mexican government’s migrant interdiction operations.

ICE removed migrants to their countries of origin on 151 flights in May, the most in a month since August 2023 (153), according to the latest “ICE Air Flights” report by Thomas Cartwright of Witness at the Border. This added up to 6.6 deportation flights per weekday, “just over the prior 6-month average of 6.4.” 90 percent of those flights went to Guatemala (47), Honduras (29), Mexico (18), Ecuador (17), El Salvador (13), or Colombia (12). For its part, Mexico carried out nine deportation flights: five to Honduras, three to Guatemala, and one to Colombia.

“The United States is in talks with Venezuelan authorities to resume direct repatriation flights” to Caracas, noted the Venezuelan opposition-aligned daily Tal Cual.

For the second straight week, the chief of Border Patrol’s Tucson, Arizona sector reported more migrant apprehensions than did the chief of Border Patrol’s San Diego, California sector. Tucson had been the border’s number-one migration destination, measured by apprehensions, between July and March, but was outpaced by San Diego in April. A Fox News correspondent cited preliminary Border Patrol data indicating that Tucson apprehensions exceeded those of San Diego in May by a margin of 33,000 to 32,000.

Corrupt Mexican migration (INM) agents operating a checkpoint at the Tijuana airport have been using it to extort money from migrants passing through, and this has happened “for years,” municipal migration official Enrique Lucero told Border Report.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) announced the completion of construction at a state government military base near Eagle Pass. 300 Texas National Guard soldiers are now quartered there, a number that will rise to 1,800.

Abbott also reported that since April 2022, Texas has bused over 117,900 released migrants to the Democratic Party-governed cities of Washington DC, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Denver, and Los Angeles, without first coordinating with or informing those cities’ municipal officials.

Analyses and Feature Stories

The New York Times detailed an election-year spike in threats and infiltration attempts suffered by humanitarian organizations, like shelters, assisting migrants on the U.S. side of the border. It identifies James O’Keefe of the provocateur organization Judicial Watch as a ringleader of the campaign against border charities.

In 2023, only 56 percent of unaccompanied migrant children defending their cases in U.S immigration court had attorneys representing them, ABC News noted. The immigration court system does not guarantee a right to counsel, even for parentless children, so “minors are left to navigate the different avenues of relief alone, fill out documents in a foreign language, and argue their case before a judge.”

At the New Yorker, Stephania Taladrid profiled Mexico’s foreign minister, Alicia Bárcena, who has sought to defend Mexico’s interests and to push for more action on migration’s “root causes” amid U.S. pressure to crack down on migration transiting Mexico. That pressure has intensified this year, the article notes, as perceptions of border security and migration could determine some voters’ decisions in a tight U.S. election. An unnamed Mexican official described the Biden administration’s approach to migration policy as “schizophrenic.”

At the San Diego Union-Tribune, Wilson Center analysts Alan Bersin and Diego Marroquin Bitar predicted that Mexico’s approach to the border and migration will change little with the June 2 electoral victory of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s chosen candidate, Claudia Sheinbaum.

The Nicaraguan opposition-aligned investigative media outlet Onda Local identified some of the officials directing a thriving human smuggling route through Nicaragua, which does not require visas for most visiting nationalities. It alleges that the director of Air Transportation of Nicaragua’s Civil Aeronautics Institute, Róger Martínez Canales, “has the task of collecting the ‘fee’…from the money generated by human trafficking, which amounts to several million dollars, since for each migrant a sum of between $5,000 and $10,000 is charged then distributed among those involved, the airlines and international companies indirectly involved in the business.”

Tags: News Links

May 31, 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

Reports that the White House may launch an executive order to limit asylum access at the border are converging on Tuesday (June 4) as a likely date for an announcement. The measure would enable U.S. border authorities to “shut down” access to asylum seekers, instead channeling them into rapid removal from the United States, at times when daily migrant arrivals exceed a certain threshold, probably 4,000 or 5,000 people per day.

At busy moments along the border, then, the executive order would institute a policy similar to the pandemic-era Title 42 expulsions regime.

The Biden administration appears to be relying on a provision in U.S. law (Section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act) that allows the president to ban arrivals of entire classes of migrants. Any order will face legal challenges, and courts may rule that Section 212(f) does not apply once a migrant has already arrived on U.S. soil and is requesting protection under U.S. asylum law.

“The talks were still fluid and the people stressed that no final decisions had been made” about the executive order, the Associated Press cautioned.

Texas security forces, principally National Guard soldiers, have begun firing non-lethal ammunition at migrants—mainly pepper irritant projectiles but perhaps also rubber bullets—on what seems to be a routine basis along the Rio Grande between El Paso and Ciudad Juárez. The Texas personnel are discharging these weapons even though the migrants are usually on the other side of fencing and concertina wire, and thus pose no imminent threat. Those claiming to have been in the line of fire include families and journalists.

Migrants in Ciudad Juárez told EFE that the Texas personnel fire at them even “while they sleep.” They displayed bruises and un-ruptured projectiles. “In addition to aggressions with weapons, said migrants on the river, are constant verbal aggressions and the use of laser beams to damage the eyes,” the report added.

As May draws to a close, “the El Paso, Texas-Juarez, Mexico area recorded a maximum temperature of 96 degrees on Thursday,” Border Report reported. “Juarez city officials say several migrants in the past two weeks have come down with heat-related illnesses, including dehydration.” Most of the city’s migrant shelters, which are about 60 percent full right now, force single adults to spend daylight hours off their premises.

Analyses and Feature Stories

The University of Texas’s Strauss Center released the latest in a long series of reports about asylum processing at U.S.-Mexico border ports of entry. “In May 2024, the ports of entry in Tijuana and Matamoros each had nearly 400 daily CBP One appointments, constituting 52 percent of all available slots,” while all official border crossings border-wide allowed about 100 “walk-ups” per day.

The report discusses some of the difficulty that asylum seekers are experiencing in reaching the U.S.-Mexico border due to Mexico’s 2024 crackdown on migration. Mexico’s Migration Policy Unit released data this week showing that authorities had stopped or encountered 481,025 migrants between January and April, 231 percent more than during the same period in 2023.

The International Refugee Assistance Project published a second update with information about the State Department-coordinated “Safe Mobility Office” (SMO) program. As of mid-May 2024, about 190,000 people had registered for appointments to seek legal migration pathways at SMOs, managed with UNHCR and IOM, in Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Guatemala. The majority of SMO registrants—at least 110,000—were Venezuelans in Colombia. Over 21,000 registrants at all offices have been approved for resettlement under the State Department-run Refugee Admissions Program.

The SMOs already refer a few registrants to legal migration pathways in Spain and soon Canada. CBS News reported that the offices may soon channel some Latin American migrants to Greece and Italy.

Telling the story of a Northeast Cartel hitman killing carried out in Zapata, Texas, a feature from USA Today’s Rick Jervis illustrated the difficulty of carrying out cross-border organized crime investigations. Political disagreements about “Operation Lone Star,” Jervis noted, has worsened law enforcement cooperation between Mexico and the state of Texas.

Between January 1 and April 16, Guatemala has expelled over 7,500 migrants into Honduras, UNHCR reported. “77% were Venezuelans, 9% Colombians and 6% Ecuadorians.” Meanwhile, funding cutbacks have drastically reduced, “from over eight to three,” the number of humanitarian organizations offering assistance in Agua Caliente, the Honduran border town where most Guatemalan expulsions take place.

At Public Books, S. Deborah Kang examined the historical and current challenges that asylum seekers face in Border Patrol custody, from many agents’ predisposition against asylum to the expansion of Expedited Removal.

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May 30, 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

Three San Diego-area House Democrats, along with Texas Rep. Joaquín Castro, sent a letter to leadership of DHS and CBP with questions about oversight of Border Patrol in human rights cases. Castro and Reps. Juan Vargas, Sara Jacobs, and Scott Peters called on the border agencies to follow recommendations in a May 13 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, which found that Border Patrol’s Office of Professional Responsibility needed to improve the independence and impartiality of personnel investigating critical use-of-force incidents. The Southern Border Communities Coalition had raised the issue at a May 28 event in San Diego.

Georgia Sen. Jon Ossoff (D) visited the border in El Paso, Ciudad Juárez, and New Mexico. The centrist member of the Senate Intelligence Committee warned, “The threat of terrorism associated with unlawful entry to the United States is real.”

Upon searching a mobile phone at a vehicle stop of a car smuggling migrants in Arizona, Border Patrol agents claim to have discovered a Telegram group chat involving 1,000 people sharing information about plans to pick up and transport undocumented people.

About a quarter of people in Venezuela are considering migrating, but of those, 47 percent would stay if the opposition were somehow allowed to win the country’s July 28 presidential elections, according to a Delphos poll reported by the Associated Press.

Analyses and Feature Stories

In a Time excerpt from a new book about immigration, Stanford University Professor Ana Raquel Minian provided a rapid overview of the history of U.S. detention of apprehended migrants. It concluded: “Rather than caging migrants and refugees, the government should simply release them and allow them to reside with friends, family, or community members in the U.S. while it examines their cases.”

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May 29, 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

Texas National Guard personnel fired at least one pepper irritant projectile on migrants at the Rio Grande in El Paso on Tuesday. The migrants, who included families with children, were separated from the soldiers by a mass of fencing and concertina wire and posed no apparent threat of death or injury, calling into question Texas’s use-of-force guidelines. Texas’s Department of Public Safety has not commented on the incident, caught on video from the Ciudad Juárez side.

“An unidentified Venezuelan man said two pepper balls struck him in the neck and side after he crossed the Rio Grande to plead with the soldiers to let families come across the razor wire,” Border Report reported. A Venezuelan mother and father told a videographer that they had “placed a piece of cardboard between two shrubs on the Mexican side of the river to protect their 1-year-old daughter from stray shots.” A photographer said that a guardsman shot at him twice while he filmed from the Mexican side.

“The reality is that some people do indeed try to game the [asylum] system,” the Biden administration’s homeland security secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, told CBS News. “That does not speak to everyone whom we encounter, but there is an element of it, and we deal with it accordingly.”

“The White House and a White House official told me that no final decisions have been made about an executive action that is potentially being considered” to shut down migrants’ access to asylum at the border at times of heavy migration, reported PBS NewsHour’s Laura Barron-Lopez. “But sources told me that this specific executive action could come as early as next week after the Mexican elections on June 2.”

Analyses and Feature Stories

Upon this week’s 100th anniversary of the founding of Border Patrol, the agency’s chief, Jason Owens, looked back on his career and told CBP’s Frontline magazine website that people considering a career in the force should fully commit to it as a “calling.” Owens described tools using AI technology as a “force multiplier” for agents in the field. “It would be so much better if the migrants went to the port of entry,” Owens added. (CBP has capped port of entry capacity to receive asylum seekers at 1,450 people per day border-wide.)

The Southern Border Communities Coalition commemorated the anniversary with a press conference in San Diego with loved ones of people killed, wounded, or racially profiled by agency personnel, none of whom has been penalized.

“Revelations of some agents’ racist vitriol toward migrants, along with allegations of sexual misconduct against women employees, have rocked public trust in recent years,” noted a Christian Science Monitor analysis of Border Patrol’s centennial.

The International Displacement Monitoring Center “recorded over 6.3 million total IDPs [internally displaced persons] in the Americas at the end of 2023, marking a 6% decrease from the end of 2022 but remaining on par with 2021’s figure of 6.2 million,” notes a summary of IDMP’s mid-May annual report at Jordi Amaral’s Americas Migration Brief. Conflict and violence displaced over 600,000 people in 2023.

Tags: News Links

May 28, 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’s Tucson Sector (7,400) saw more migrant apprehensions than its San Diego Sector (6,157) last week, according to tweets from the sector chiefs. For a period of eight weeks, San Diego had measured the most migration of all nine of Border Patrol’s U.S.-Mexico border sectors, for the first time since the late 1990s. But San Diego was eclipsed, at least for last week, after experiencing a 39 percent drop in migration over 3 weeks.

If Joe Biden “were to try to shut down portions of the border, the courts would throw that out, I think, within a matter of weeks,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut) told CBS News’s Face the Nation. Murphy was Senate Democrats’ chief architect of unsuccessful border legislation that would have, among other provisions, shut down asylum access when migrant encounters exceeded a certain level at the U.S.-Mexico border.

A CNN analysis noted how Democratic legislators and candidates in tight races are most likely to favor placing limits on access to asylum at the border.

“Last week U.S. authorities expelled 200 migrants who crossed through Gate 40 of the border fence [in El Paso] and handed them over to the Mexican National Migration Institute (INM) in Ciudad Juárez, where they were warned that they would be returned to Chiapas, a state on Mexico’s southern border,” EFE reported. Still, the article noted, Venezuelan migrants stranded in Ciudad Juárez are not giving up.

EFE also reported that fentanyl addiction is increasing in Ciudad Juárez, and some migrants in the Mexican border city are falling prey to it.

Throughout the Mexican northern-border state of Chihuahua, where Ciudad Juárez is the largest city, migrants are being caught up in a worsening wave of ransom kidnappings carried out by organized crime, France24 reported.

“We’re gonna be barricading every area where people are crossing—until we get every area to have like this area is right now,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) told CBS News’s 60 Minutes; “this area” was the heavily fortified Shelby Park in Eagle Pass. (Texas’s border with Mexico is about 1,200 miles long.)

In the same segment, Raúl Ortiz, who headed Border Patrol between 2021 and 2023, criticized Abbott for not cooperating with Border Patrol, but also voiced dissatisfaction with the Biden administration: “I’ve never had one conversation with the president. Or the vice president, for that matter.”

Former Border Patrol agent Hector Hernandez was sentenced to 87 months in federal prison for taking bribes to smuggle methamphetamine and migrants across the U.S.-Mexico border. Hernandez had been employed by Border Patrol in San Diego.

Analyses and Feature Stories

A Mother Jones analysis of the U.S. Border Patrol at its 100th anniversary highlighted aspects of the agency’s founding, at the urging of Texas Congressman Claude Benton Hudspeth, that reflect political and social tensions and contradictions about U.S. border security and immigration that remain in place today. “Chaos is not just the absence of a border; it is also the consequence of trying to maintain one,” Murphy wrote.

Of 128 migrants transiting Panama interviewed by UNHCR earlier this month, 69 percent were from Venezuela, and of these, half came directly from Venezuela. Of the half of Venezuelans who had sought to live elsewhere before migrating northward, 60 percent had applied for legal status in those other countries, mainly Colombia, Peru, or Ecuador.

Of all 128, 69 percent reported suffering physical insecurity (attacks, drownings, or falls) while crossing the Darién. 22 percent observed between 1 and 20 cadavers along the trail.

Colombia “would not agree with” Panamanian President-Elect José Raúl Mulino’s campaign promise to shut down the Darién Gap by deporting migrants who cross the treacherous route, said Foreign Minister Luis Gilberto Murillo. Instead, “what we have to offer is more humanitarian outlets for this population that crosses through that area.”

The Colombian news site Cambio looked at the logistical, human rights, and practical obstacles that would stand in the way of “shutting down” the Darién.

The Ecuadorian daily Primicias reported on the increasing number of northbound Ecuadorian citizens who are avoiding the Darién Gap by flying to El Salvador, which does not require visas of visiting Ecuadorians. “Between January and April 2024, 43,408 travelers have left Ecuador [for El Salvador] and 4,112 have returned.” Some are subject to bribery shakedowns and mistreatment by Salvadoran and other corrupt Central American officials.

On the Right

Tags: News Links

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

Tags: News Links

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.

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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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April 23, 2024

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Developments

Panama’s government posted statistics showing that 110,008 people migrated through the Darién Gap during the first 3 months of 2024. That is 26 percent more migration than Panama measured during the first 3 months of 2023, a year in which 520,085 people ended up traveling through the Darién Gap.

22 percent of this year’s migrants were children. Of the adult population, 36 percent were women. 64 percent of this year’s total have been citizens of Venezuela, followed by Ecuador (8%), Haiti (7%), Colombia (6%), and China (6%).

The pace of migration has been unusually steady, averaging 1,161 migrants per day in January, 1,282 in February, and 1,188 in March. Last year, migration in the Darién jumped 55 percent from February to March.

Between January 1 and April 16, Guatemalan authorities expelled 7,735 mostly U.S.-bound migrants into Honduras and 177 into El Salvador. In this respect, the new government of Bernardo Arévalo has made no changes to its predecessors’ approach to in-transit migration. Of this year’s expulsions, 77 percent have been citizens of Venezuela. Other frequently expelled nationalities include Colombia (9%), Ecuador (6%), and Haiti (2%). Guatemala’s expulsions included 44 citizens of China and 18 citizens of Turkey.

Some of the migrants whom Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) paid to have flown to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts in September 2022 have been granted “U” visas, a status for victims of crimes that are currently being investigated or prosecuted, the Miami Herald reported. A U.S. district judge in Massachusetts also found recently that the private contractor Florida hired to run the flight, Vertol Systems, may have “participated in a scheme to recruit vulnerable individuals through deceit so they could unwillingly and publicly be used as a prop in an extremely divisive national debate,”

Eight dead bodies abandoned along a highway near Chihuahua, the capital of Mexico’s northern border state of the same name, may be related to turf battles between migrant smuggling organizations in the area, Border Report reported.

“Of Costa Rica’s 5.2 million inhabitants, one million are relatively recent migrants. Twenty percent of births are to Nicaraguan mothers and 20 percent of prisoners are of Nicaraguan origin,” said Costa Rica’s foreign minister, Arnoldo André Tinoco.

The independent Nicaraguan outlet Nicaragua Investiga reported on the two years of red tape and indifference that a family suffered as it tried to repatriate from Texas the remains of a young man who died of drowning in the Rio Grande in May 2022.

The jury was unable to agree on a verdict in the trial of Arizona rancher George Alan Kelly, who allegedly shot and killed Mexican migrant Gabriel Cuen-Buitimea on his property in January 2023. The judge in the case declared a mistrial.

Analyses and Feature Stories

Speaking to analysts about migration patterns, a National Public Radio piece concluded that Mexico’s ongoing efforts to block migration will not reduce arrivals at the U.S. border for long, as flows into Mexico from the south remain robust.

In a third in-depth report about U.S.-bound migration published in the past 10 days, the Honduran digital outlet ContraCorriente reported on the increasing diversity of nationalities of migrants taking the very risky journey through Mexico atop the La Bestia cargo train.

“The notion that there is a crisis caused by the border is fallacious,” economist James Gerber, author of the new book Border Economies: Cities Bridging the U.S.-Mexico Divide, told Sandra Dibble at Voice of San Diego. “There is a crisis in U.S. immigration policy, that’s the crisis. People are going to migrate and they’re going to migrate in bigger numbers over time because of the climate crisis. This is something that we need to learn how to manage better.”

Even immigration restrictionist groups avoid using the term “invasion” to describe migration—as many Republican politicians are doing—because it is “inaccurate and incendiary,” reported Rafael Bernal at The Hill.

“When we encounter someone fleeing starvation, political repression and threats to their life and liberty, we should see ourselves in them,” wrote Shmuly Yanklowitz, a rabbi who often works at the border in Arizona, in a Passover reflection published by the Chicago Tribune.

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April 22, 2024

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Developments

Congressional Republicans’ effort to attach hardline border measures to Ukraine aid legislation formally ended on Saturday, when the House of Representatives approved a Ukraine and Israel aid bill with no border or migration content.

The GOP demand, issued last fall, spurred a months-long Senate negotiation process, yielding a deal that would have changed the law to, among other provisions, halt asylum access at the border when migration reached certain levels. That deal failed when Republican senators rejected it in early February.

In a gesture to border hardliners, House Republican leadership allowed a separate bill to come to a vote on Saturday that would have effectively shut down the right to seek asylum at the border. H.R. 3602, the “End the Border Catastrophe Act,” included most of the provisions of H.R. 2, a strict bill that the House passed in May 2023 without a single Democratic vote. Because it was rushed to the floor in suspension of the House’s rules, H.R. 3602 failed by a 215-199 vote on Saturday. Unlike H.R. 2, though, it got 5 Democratic “yes” votes.

Border Patrol’s San Diego, California Sector experienced a weekly jump in migrant apprehensions and now firmly leads the Tucson, Arizona Sector as the apparent busiest region of the U.S.-Mexico border. While both sectors saw increases last week, San Diego reported 8,959 apprehensions during April 10-16 (28 percent more than the previous week) and Tucson reported 7,500 during April 12-18 (12 percent more than the previous week).

An Albuquerque Journal report from New Mexico’s Cibola County Correctional Center noted an increase in the number of Venezuelan migrants being deported from the Center into Mexico.

Edixon Del Jesus Farias-Farias, a 26-year-old citizen of Venezuela and a detainee in an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facility in Conroe, Texas, died on April 18. “An autopsy is pending to determine the official cause of death,” reads an ICE release.

Though licensed cannabis is now legal in New Mexico, Border Patrol continues to seize the drug, which remains illegal on the federal level, at the agency’s interior checkpoints in the state, the Associated Press reported. This “prompted a discussion this week” between Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

Analyses and Feature Stories

A greater share of this year’s reduced population of migrants is coming to the border in states west of Texas. The Texas Tribune examined Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) claims that his state government’s hardline border policies are causing the westward shift, concluding that the reasons “are much more complicated” and that the trend is probably temporary.

Gov. Abbott’s office reported busing 112,700 migrants to Democratic-governed cities since April 2022.

A significant cause of the border-wide decline is the Mexican government’s 2024 crackdown on migration transiting the country. However, “uneven enforcement and widespread corruption” ensure that Mexico rarely “blocks” migrants: its actions “make migrants’ journey north riskier, costlier, and slower,” Christine Murray reported at the Financial Times.

Despite rhetoric about terrorists potentially crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, “since 1975, the annual likelihood of an American being murdered in a foreigner-committed terrorist attack is about one in 4.5 million,” recalled the Cato Institute’s Alex Nowrasteh.

Ecuadorian migrants transiting Mexico who spoke to Agénce France Presse said that they were nervous about identifying themselves to Mexican authorities as citizens of Ecuador, two weeks after Ecuador’s government raided the Mexican embassy in Quito, triggering a breakdown in diplomatic relations.

While most of the thousands of migrants per week transiting Honduras pass through the country quickly, some need to stay and seek temporary work, medical assistance, and shelter, the Honduran online outlet ContraCorriente reported. While some formal shelters and humanitarian aid exist, many migrants rely on informal shelters provided by local citizens or stay in rented rooms in private homes.

“The next administration in Mexico will inherit an incomplete and deficient action plan to deal with migration” from Central America, wrote Brenda Estefan of IPADE Business School at Americas Quarterly, calling for a renewed and more collaborative focus on “root causes” of migration after President Andrés Manuel López Obrador leaves office at the end of the year.

Rep. Susan Wild (D-Pennsylvania) penned a column endorsing the Dignity Act, a bipartisan bill that includes border and migration provisions that reflect some priorities of border hardliners and some priorities of migrant rights defenders.

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April 19, 2024

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Developments

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) yesterday returned a planeload of 52 Haitian citizens to their country, even though governance has collapsed and violence is rampant there. The plane landed in the northern city of Cap-Haïtien because the airport in the capital, Port-au-Prince, is too unsafe.

During the first six months of fiscal 2024, Haiti was the number-fifteen nationality of migrants who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border between ports of entry, well behind even China, India, and Turkey. 97 percent of Haitians seeking protection at the border in 2024 have instead reported to ports of entry, in nearly all cases using the CBP One smartphone app.

“Just where are these deportees supposed to go?” William O’Neill, the UN independent human rights expert on Haiti, asked the Miami Herald. “I would just ask the United States and all countries to halt immediately all deportations to a country that cannot guarantee anyone’s security, where 1.5 million people are facing famine and where embassies are evacuating most of their personnel.”

In March, a letter from 481 organizations (including WOLA) had urged the Biden administration to suspend deportation flights to Haiti.

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) alerted that its personnel in Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras saw more cases of sexual violence against migrants during the first quarter of 2024 (over 250) than they did in all of 2023 (232). Most cases occurred in Mexico’s organized crime-influenced U.S. border state of Tamaulipas.

MSF reported in March that it had counted 676 cases of sexual violence in the Darién Gap in 2023, and another 120 in January 2024. Shortly afterward, Panama’s government suspended the organization’s operations in the country.

Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for Communications Luis Miranda said that the average wait for a CBP One appointment right now is about 10 weeks. This contrasts with recent reports of appointments routinely taking six or even eight months at some border crossings.

“I am concerned that hate, bigotry and xenophobia are clouding our potential to prosper together,” Mexico’s foreign minister, Alicia Bárcena, wrote in a Dallas Morning News column directed at Texas state authorities. Bárcena is currently visiting Texas border cities.

Interviewed by CBS News, Cuba’s deputy foreign minister said that his government would be willing to accept more than the current tempo of one U.S. deportation flight per month.

Colombia has fallen behind on regularizing the status of Venezuelan migrants who arrive without passports, and this is incentivizing many Venezuelans to migrate to the United States, reported Manuel Rueda at PRX’s The World.

Two South Texas legislators, Rep. Henry Cuellar (D) and Rep. Monica de la Cruz (R), alleged that Catholic Charities of San Antonio misused federal funding by paying for released migrants’ airfare to destination cities in the U.S. interior.

Analyses and Feature Stories

Reporting from San Luis Rio Colorado, Sonora, a border city near Yuma, Arizona, the BBC’s Linda Pressly focused on the powerful criminal organizations increasingly extorting and kidnapping migrants there. “These extortionists and hostage-takers are not only professional criminals—some are also law enforcement,” Pressly noted.

Ariel Ruiz Soto of the Migration Policy Institute told the Voice of America that “root causes” strategies have their limits: “For example, if Microsoft wanted to set up a hub in Guatemala, they would need not only to include money to build the building, to hire workers, provide training, but also a counterpart allocation from the Guatemalan government to build the roads, to have the infrastructure for the electricity, to have broadband internet.”

“A vast enforcement crackdown is likely to harm economic opportunity in the United States,” reads a column from the Peterson Institute for International Economics’ Michael Clemens, author of a new statistical study of how the availability of lawful pathways reduces unlawful border crossings. “A rational way out of this crisis would be to set up a system expanding legal access for immigrants to the United States while retaining some categories as unlawful.”

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April 18, 2024

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Developments

The San Diego, California Border Patrol sector may now be the number one destination for migrants coming to the border, according to a read of weekly data posted by Border Patrol sector chiefs. San Diego saw the most migration during much of the 1990s but has been surpassed by other parts of the border over the past quarter-century.

An increase in migrant arrivals there—8,959 Border Patrol apprehensions between April 10 and 16—had overwhelmed San Diego county efforts to receive released migrants, resulting in 24,000 CBP “street releases ” in San Diego since federal funding ran out in February. San Diego County has received $19.6 million in federal funding from the 2024 budget that Congress approved in March, but has not yet restarted migrant reception services, Border Report found.

In an effort to pacify conservatives angry that an Ukraine aid bill is headed to a vote this weekend, House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana) introduced a new hard-line border bill. H.R. 3602, currently on the Rules Committee’s docket, includes most of the provisions of H.R. 2, which passed the House on a party-line vote in May 2023. Among other provisions, H.R. 2 would make it virtually impossible to access the U.S. asylum system at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The bill might come to a vote this week—or it may die a quiet death, as Republican hardliners are unhappy with the process.

As expected, the U.S. Senate voted to dismiss the House of Representatives’ effort to impeach Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. The impeachment—spearheaded by House Republicans who oppose Mayorkas’s management of the border and migration—will not go to a Senate trial.

The dismissal passed by a 51-49 party-line vote in the Democratic-majority Senate. The most moderate Republicans voted to impeach, while the most conservative Democrats (or independents who caucus with Democrats) voted to dismiss.

More than 20 migrants, about half from Ecuador, were kidnapped by criminals in Ciudad Juárez last week after flying to the city. The criminals reportedly released five of them for a ransom of $8,000 each.

Mexican Foreign Secretary Alicia Bárcena is on a tour of Texas border cities, visiting consulates to help them prepare for—and to send a strong message of opposition to—Texas’s S.B. 4 state immigration law. The controversial measure is currently suspended as federal courts consider appeals.

Bárcena reiterated that Mexico will not accept any deportations, including of Mexican citizens, carried out by Texas state—not federal—authorities.

In the Darién Gap, Colombia reports capturing “98 members of different criminal organizations between August 7, 2022 and March 12, 2024,” reads an item at the U.S. Southern Command’s Diálogo website. The document does not state whether any of those captured held positions of importance in criminal organizations, as opposed to low-level figures.

A new update from the UN Refugee Agency noted that since September, Honduras has measured more in-transit migration than Panama has. “This trend is explained by air transit to Nicaragua, which allows people coming mainly from Haiti, Cuba, Guinea, and other extra-continental nationalities to subsequently take the route through Honduras without passing through the Darién. In addition, there is maritime transit from Colombia to Nicaragua.”

Monday is the deadline for public comment on CBP’s plan to install 25 miles of stadium-style bright lighting along the Rio Grande in west and south Texas. As the proposed lighting is “a major stressor to wildlife” and creates light pollution, the plan alarms environmental defenders.

Analyses and Feature Stories

A new WOLA analysis looks at the sharp drop in migration at the U.S.-Mexico border so far in 2024. Rather than U.S. policy changes or the Texas government’s crackdown, the main reason appears to be Mexico’s stepped-up interdiction of migrants, at U.S. urging. These efforts may falter as flows of new migrants into Mexico remain robust; if that happens and migration increases, the Biden administration will likely consider means to “shut down” asylum access. Those steps, too, would only have a short-term impact, the study concludes.

The Guardian examined the leading candidate in Panama’s presidential elections’ unrealistic vow to “close” the Darién Gap to migration.

A report from Jesuit Refugee Service USA and the Boston College School of Social Work looked at how digital tools are changing the migration experience, from the spread of misinformation to the challenges of using the CBP One app.

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April 17, 2024

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Developments

The populist candidate leading polls for Panama’s May 5 presidential elections is promising to block migration through the Darién Gap. “We are going to close Darien and we are going to repatriate all these people as appropriate, respecting human rights,” José Raúl Mulino told reporters. Mulino did not specify how he would manage to close to migrants a 2,200-square-mile region of dense jungle.

Leaders of the Republican-majority House of Representatives formally delivered articles of impeachment for Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to the Democratic-majority Senate, more than two months after approving them by a single vote on their second attempt. The Republican legislators contend that Mayorkas’s management of the border and migration is grounds for impeachment; Senate Democratic leaders are likely to introduce a motion to dismiss the case without going to trial, and they appear to have the votes.

Mayorkas testified yesterday in the House Homeland Security Committee, which originated his impeachment process last year. “With the authorities and the funding that we have, it [the border] is as secure as it can be,” Mayorkas told a Republican questioner.

Mayorkas said he did not recall telling Border Patrol agents that “higher than 85 percent” of encountered migrants were being released into the United States. (Judging from CBP custody statistics, more than 70 percent of encountered migrants received “notices to appear” during the first six months of fiscal 2024.)

At the hearing, Republican legislators presented a flier, first promoted on Twitter by the Heritage Foundation, supposedly produced by a Jewish immigrant aid organization in Texas. The document, which urges migrants to vote for Joe Biden in November, is an obvious fake.

Brazilian fishermen discovered the remains of nine people in a boat drifting off the coast of the country’s northeast on Saturday. They appear to have been migrants from Africa, probably Mali and Mauritania.

A Border Patrol checkpoint on Interstate 35 north of Laredo, Texas is receiving $15 million in upgrades that will make it the largest interior road checkpoint in the United States, Border Report reported.

Analyses and Feature Stories

“Realistically speaking, having this [Biden administration] asylum ban applied to 100 percent could mean only a few hundred people more a month being ordered removed. Not a huge shift,” pointed out the American Immigration Council’s Aaron Reichlin-Melnick in a factually dense interview with the Border Chronicle’s Melissa del Bosque.

A Bloomberg analysis examined the drift of the Biden administration’s border and migration policies, noting inconsistencies and failures to anticipate new challenges. “The first year of Biden’s term felt like it was a series of good plans getting halted, with frequent leadership changes on the issue,” a former official noted.

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April 16, 2024

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Developments

An Indiana National Guardsman in El Paso, part of the Texas state government’s “Operation Lone Star” troop deployment, shot his weapon at a migrant who had allegedly stabbed two people on Sunday afternoon.

The incident occurred along the edge of the Rio Grande. The alleged stabbing took place on the U.S. side of the river, which is very narrow in El Paso; the attacker ran back into Mexico. Two migrants were treated for “superficial wounds.”

There is little other information. The Texas Military Department confirmed that a guardsman “discharged a weapon in a border-related incident.”

This is the second time that guardsmen have fired on a migrant allegedly wielding a knife. In August 2023, a Texas National Guardsman stationed near the El Paso side of the Paso del Norte bridge fired a shot into Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, wounding the leg of a Mexican man on the opposite riverbank. The shooting occurred “after three men on the Mexican side of the border started attacking a group of migrants with a knife as the migrants attempted to cross the river,” the Washington Post reported at the time, citing a CBP official’s account.

In Nogales, Sonora, asylum seekers’ waits for CBP One appointments now often last seven or eight months, reports Christina Ascencio of Human Rights First. The Nogales port of entry, the only CBP One destination between Calexico, California and El Paso, Texas, offers only 100 appointments per day.

Texas’s state government has begun construction of a segment of state-funded border wall near the Rio Grande in Zapata county, on private land whose owner approved of it, Border Report reported. It is the first state border wall to go up in south Texas.

The House of Representatives’ Republican majority is expected to send its impeachment of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to the Democratic-majority Senate today. The measure, which passed the House by a single vote in February on a second attempt, is not expected to get a high-profile reception in the Senate.

“Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer is expected to quickly bring an end to the matter, which Democrats say is a politically motivated misuse of the impeachment process,” Reuters reported. Republicans allege that Mayorkas’s management of the border and migration constitute “high crimes and misdemeanors”; the Senate is certain not to convict, and even an actual trial is looking unlikely.

Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the “customs enforcement” arm of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), is launching an effort this week to build a separate identity from ICE, an agency more frequently associated with arresting and deporting migrants from the U.S. interior. “The makeover partly aims to appease senior HSI agents who have sought a breakaway because so many major U.S. cities have adopted policies limiting cooperation with ICE,” reported the Washington Post’s Nick Miroff.

The 2022 Homeland Security Act lashed HSI together with ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) branch, which detains and deports migrants. While it would take an act of law to separate HSI from ICE, agents will henceforth carry a separate badge, and “independent branding” will de-emphasize the ICE affiliation.

Six moderate Democratic House members, led by Rep. Gabe Vasquez, who represents a New Mexico border district, introduced a resolution last week “Condemning Republican inaction to address comprehensive immigration reform and border security.”

Analyses and Feature Stories

The UN Refugee Agency published an update about Darién Gap migration, with the results of 109 interviews with migrants. 20 percent of them, it turns out, do not have the United States as their intended destination. 70 percent of respondents were Venezuelan, but only 44 percent of those came directly from Venezuela—the rest had already left their native country and had been living elsewhere in South America.

UNHCR also released a report summarizing its surveys of migrants transiting Guatemala in 2023. It found 42 percent of them were leaving their countries for reasons of “violence or conflict,” with 72 percent of Ecuadorian people giving that response. 65 percent said that they had suffered mistreatment or abuse on their journey, usually robberies, extortions, fraud, or threats.

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April 15, 2024

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Developments

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) released data late Friday about migration and border security metrics at the U.S.-Mexico border in March. CBP’s Border Patrol component reported apprehending 137,480 people at the border last month, down 2.3 percent from February (140,638). Migration usually increases in spring; this is only the second time this century that apprehensions declined from February to March.

  • March was the seventh-lightest month of the Biden administration’s thirty-eight months in office.
  • The top three nationalities of Border Patrol’s apprehensions in March were Mexico (38%), Ecuador (11%), and Guatemala (11%).
  • The top three nationalities of Border Patrol’s apprehensions during the first six months of fiscal 2024 are Mexico (30%), Guatemala (14%), and Venezuela (11%).
  • 33 percent of March Border Patrol apprehensions were of members of family units. 6 percent were unaccompanied children. The remaining 61 percent were single adults.
  • 39 percent of Border Patrol apprehensions during the first 6 months of fiscal 2024 were members of family units. 6 percent were unaccompanied children. The remaining 55 percent were single adults.
  • The top three sectors where Border Patrol apprehended migrants in March were Tucson Arizona (31%), San Diego, California (25%), and El Paso, Texas-New Mexico (22%).
  • The top three sectors where Border Patrol apprehended migrants in the first six months of fiscal 2024 were Tucson Arizona (33%), Del Rio, Texas (19%), and San Diego, California (18%).
  • CBP encountered another 51,892 people at land-border ports of entry in March, about 44,000 (85%) of them with CBP One appointments. That is similar to recent months. The top nationalities at the ports were Mexico (27%), Cuba (24%), and Haiti (18%).
  • The total number of migrant encounters in March was 189,372, combining Border Patrol apprehensions and port of entry arrivals.

Migration continues to decline in April. Border Patrol has averaged 3,800 apprehensions per day over the past three weeks, Rep. Henry Cuéllar (D-Texas), the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee, said at a hearing last week reported in the Washington Examiner. That would set April on pace to be the third-lightest month of the Biden administration’s 39 full months.

As migration declines in Border Patrol’s Tucson, Arizona Sector, which has been the number-one sector since last July, the San Diego, California Sector may be surpassing it. Weekly tweets from Border Patrol sector chiefs showed more migrant apprehensions in San Diego April 3-9 (6,997) than in Tucson April 5-11 (6,700). San Diego has not been the busiest Border Patrol sector in any month during the 21st century.

Much of the decrease in migration at the border so far this year is the result of Mexican security and migration forces’ stepped-up migrant interdiction operations, including a record 120,000 migrant apprehensions in each of January and February. CNN reported on one example: greatly increased Mexican Army and National Guard patrols along the borderline east of San Diego, especially south of Jacumba Springs, California, where many asylum seekers had been turning themselves in to Border Patrol.

A migrant encampment near railroad tracks in Chihuahua, the capital of the Mexican border state of the same name, has grown to about 600 people, La Jornada reported. Chihuahua is more than 200 miles south of the state’s largest border city, Ciudad Juárez. The buildup at the encampment is a result of Mexican forces’ operations to prevent migrants from boarding railroad freight cars. NGOs cited by La Jornada “pointed out that the INM [Mexican government National Migration Institute] operations began last April 1, in Ciudad Juárez, and extended to the south of the state, registering dozens of aggressions against people in conditions of mobility.”

The Biden administration has not yet taken legally dubious executive action to restrict the right to asylum at the border because it “has been trying to find the right language to impose a crackdown without getting instantly shut down by courts—or facing an open revolt by his progressive base,” reads an Axios report, following up on an April 10 “scoop.” An executive order is “now expected within weeks,” Axios added.

The Washington Examiner reported that 464,922 unaccompanied children entered U.S. custody at the border during the Biden administration as of January 31 (the number through March 31 is 481,534). Conservatives interviewed blamed the large number on U.S. laws written to protect children who arrive at the border without parents, which mandate that they get due process for protection needs instead of being quickly deported.

The government of Colombia (population 52 million) estimated that 2,857,528 migrants from Venezuela were living in the country as of January 31. 47 percent of them are living in five cities (Bogotá, Medellín, Cúcuta, Barranquilla, and Cali). More than 2 million now have Temporary Protection Permits (PPT), notes a report from Bogotá‘s Universidad del Rosario.

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas will testify twice this week about the Department’s 2025 budget request. On Tuesday, the Secretary will appear before the Homeland Security Committee in the Republican-majority House of Representatives—the committee that launched impeachment proceedings against him. On Thursday, Mayorkas will testify in the Senate Homeland Security Committee. Last week, he testified in both houses’ appropriations committees.

Analyses and Feature Stories

A Washington Post feature reported on the sharp rise in migrant deaths, especially by drowning in the Rio Grande, in Maverick County, Texas, which includes Eagle Pass. Local authorities cannot keep up with the need for body bags, burial plots, and DNA collection capabilities. Bodies often get buried without being identified.

The migrant population in Mexico City is swelling, as Mexico’s 2024 crackdown is forcing more people to wait in the capital and arrange their documentation and CBP One appointments, reported David Agren at OSV News. At least 2,500 migrants are waiting in the capital, most of them in six tent encampments.

Initium Media, a Chinese-language publication, told the story of eight Chinese migrants’ late March death by drowning while trying to migrate along the coast of Oaxaca, Mexico. The group had chosen the maritime route in an effort to elide the many checkpoints that authorities place along the highway through Chiapas, Mexico’s southernmost state.

Allan Bu of the Honduras-based outlet ContraCorriente traveled to the Arizona-Sonora border and reported on migrants arriving and non-governmental humanitarian workers operating under conditions of difficult terrain and xenophobic backlash.

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April 12, 2024

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Developments

Migration appears to be declining fast in the Darién Gap, the treacherous jungle region straddling Colombia and Panama. A brief statement from Panama’s National Migration Service (SNM) reported that the agency registered 8,065 people in the first 11 days of April (probably the first 10 days, as the 11th wasn’t over when the SNM published its statement).

That would be a daily average of about 800—and on Wednesday, the SNM reported just 485 people. During the first three months of 2024, migration through the Darién Gap averaged 1,200 people per day, which itself was a stark drop from the record 2,643 people who passed through the Darién each day last August.

Reasons for the decline are not yet clear; we have heard no reports of policy changes being implemented or organized crime trends shifting in the past several weeks.

A decline in migration is also evident in Tijuana, where migrant shelters are down to 50 to 60 percent capacity, according to municipal migration office director Enrique Lucero, who added that the city is seeing far fewer non-Mexican migrants. However, the number of migrant apprehensions throughout Border Patrol’s San Diego Sector, which borders Tijuana and much of Mexico’s Baja California state, is steady.

This may indicate that fewer migrants are choosing to endure the months-long wait in the city for CBP One appointments at the San Ysidro port of entry: they may be opting to cross and turn themselves in to Border Patrol instead.

Police in Ciudad Juárez found a Venezuelan man severely beaten and left for dead not far from “Gate 36,” a site along the Rio Grande in El Paso where many asylum seekers try to turn themselves in to Border Patrol. “Some Juarez news portals reported the migrant was beaten by smugglers and left near the river, given up for dead,” according to Border Report.

A man whose body was recovered from an irrigation canal in Socorro, Texas, is likely the 35th migrant whose remains have been found in Border Patrol’s El Paso Sector since the October 1 beginning of fiscal year 2024.

A Meganálisis poll of Venezuelans living in Venezuela showed that 40 percent would consider migrating if Nicolás Maduro wins another term in what is expected to be an un-free, un-fair election on July 28. Only 16 percent said they were certain that they would not consider leaving their country.

House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee Chairman Rep. Mark Green (R-Tennessee) is to introduce legislation that would make it impossible for asylum seekers released into the United States to board commercial aircraft for domestic flights, unless they have the same identity documents that the general traveling public must present. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) is sponsoring similar Senate legislation, the Washington Examiner reported.

The measure, which is certain not to become law this year, would increase the number of released asylum seekers present in U.S. border cities, as it would complicate their departures to destination cities in the U.S. interior.

NBC News reported that Border Patrol in March 2023 apprehended, then released, a 48-year-old Afghan asylum seeker who turned out to be on the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) watchlist of people suspected of terrorist group affiliations.

Analyses and Feature Stories

A Migration Policy Institute article examined South American countries’ citizens’ migration to the United States, which has risen sharply since the pandemic. It noted that South American immigrants are generally more educated and participate more in the U.S. labor force than other nationalities.

“If we truly hope to ‘secure our border’ and rebuild a safe, orderly and humane immigration system, we need to realize that deterrence isn’t a solution,” wrote Houston Chronicle editorial board member in the third of a three-part series of columns about immigration. “To find solutions, first we need to take control of the narrative.” Lankenau notes the harmful effect of a hefty “Asylum Program Fee” being attached to employers’ applications for foreign-born prospective workers’ visas.

The Central American online outlet Expediente Público looked at a non-governmental study examining why citizens of El Salvador continue to migrate in large numbers despite reduced insecurity and a popular, if authoritarian-trending, president. The reasons remain the same as before Nayib Bukele’s presidency: violence in society and economic need. El Salvador has been the number-four nationality of migrants seeking asylum in Mexico’s system in 2023 and so far in 2024.

On the Right

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