Category: News

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

February 23, 2024

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Yesterday saw few new developments after Wednesday’s multiple media reports indicating that the Biden administration is considering drastic limits, via executive order, on the right to seek asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border. (See yesterday’s Daily Border Links.) According to some reporting, these limits could include expulsions of asylum seekers when daily migrant encounters reach a certain level.

Progressive Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) and Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington) voiced firm opposition to the proposal: “Doing Trump impressions isn’t how we beat Trump,” tweeted Ocasio-Cortez.

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana) wrote that a Biden executive order or similar actions would be “election year gimmicks.”

The El Paso Times covered the Texas government’s legal attack on the city’s Annunciation House migrant shelter. “Annunciation House isn’t a place, per se. It’s a community of like-minded people, driven by their faith to help the most vulnerable regardless of circumstance,” wrote reporter Lauren Villagrán.

“We are now witnessing an escalating campaign of intimidation, fear and dehumanization in the state of Texas,” Bishop Mark Seitz of the Catholic Diocese of El Paso wrote in a statement. Further support for the shelter came from a group of Catholic and El Paso and Ciudad Juárez-based humanitarian and human rights groups.

A U.S. deportation flight brought 51 Cuban citizens to Havana yesterday. This is the 11th removal flight to Cuba since they resumed last April: 1 each month.

The Wall Street Journal confirmed that deportation flights to Venezuela stopped in late January. Between October and then, 15 planes had sent 1,800 Venezuelan migrants back to Caracas.

The director of Mexico‘s migration agency (National Migration Institute, INM) in Baja California called for the provision of bulletproof vests for agents in the face of attacks from smugglers. INM agents don’t carry lethal weapons, “but that could change,” though not soon, David Tejada Padilla told Border Report.

13,101 pounds of methamphetamine aboard a tractor trailer at Laredo’s Camino Real bridge on February 18 were CBP’s largest-ever meth seizure at a port of entry.

Analyses and Feature Stories

“I went through dozens of reports, scores of articles, on the discussion of this migration bill, and the reporters talked to zero migrants and zero migrant rights groups. At all. None. Zero,” media analyst Adam Johnson told Todd Miller at the Border Chronicle.

At the Washington Post, Philip Bump tried to envision Trump advisor Stephen Miller’s plan to use “red-state” National Guard soldiers to round up undocumented immigrants in Democratic-majority states. Bump’s conclusion: “It’s cosplay.”

By busing migrants to Democratic-governed cities, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has “played into the idea of pitting immigrants against the American people in general and against immigrants who have been here for years,” a Democratic political strategist told CNN, noting that “it’s working” politically.

On the Right

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February 22, 2024

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Several media outlets reported that the Biden administration is considering an executive order to adopt asylum restrictions at the border. Some of those restrictions may resemble measures agreed by Senate negotiators in a deal that fell to Republican opposition earlier this month.

Actions could include expelling asylum seekers when migrant encounters reach a certain daily threshold, or increasing standards of credible fear that asylum seekers would have to meet when subjected to initial screening interviews.

However, existing law does not allow expulsions of asylum seekers for reasons of volume, and Mexico’s reception of expelled people is not guaranteed. Meanwhile, the administration’s May 2023 asylum “transit ban” rule has already raised the credible fear standard for most asylum seekers apprehended between ports of entry.

The measures could invoke Section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which empowers the President to refuse entry to broad classes of migrants. Courts have ruled, however, that this statute does not allow blocking asylum to people already on U.S. soil and requesting it.

In their opposition to the Senate “border deal,” some congressional Republicans had argued that the changes were unnecessary because President Biden already has the authority to “shut the border.” While President Biden would appear to be upholding the Republicans’ argument if he used executive authority, a very likely outcome is that courts would again strike down any blanket refusal of asylum.

The State Department broadened a policy of canceling or refusing U.S. visas to owners and senior managers of companies “providing transportation services designed for use primarily by persons intending to migrate irregularly to the United States.” State first announced this policy in November for charter flight operators taking migrants to Nicaragua, which does not require visas of most nationalities and has become an important route for U.S.-bound migrants. Officials are considering extending the visa ban to social media influencers who encourage migrants to pursue irregular travel.

The Mexican magazine Proceso revealed that the country’s migration authority, the National Migration Institute (INM), awarded irregular contracts to private detention center operators with few employees and little track record.

A 24-year-old man from Jamaica died of hypothermia just south of the border in Tecate, Baja California. “He died within an eighth of a mile of jackets and blankets and mittens and water left out by Border Kindness as part of their humanitarian aid mission,” tweeted journalist Wendy Fry.

CBP reported that a tractor-trailer driver detained at a Laredo, Texas checkpoint died in his holding cell on February 17. While the agency’s account points to a possible suicide, “the video recording system at the Border Patrol checkpoint was not fully functioning at the time of the incident”—a chronic problem noted in CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility reports.

Texas nonprofits and political leaders are rallying around Annunciation House, a longtime Catholic migrant shelter network in El Paso that Texas’s state government is accusing of “alien harboring, human smuggling and operating a stash house.” For many years Annunciation House has received busloads of released asylum seekers from CBP and Border Patrol, cooperating closely with the agencies.

Guatemala’s congress may increase the budget and activities of its national commission for migrants (Conamigua), which assists Guatemalan migrants abroad and deportees. The agency does not have history of spending out even its small annual budgets.

Analyses and Feature Stories

The National Immigrant Justice Center published a list of 10 actions that the Biden administration could take now, through executive action, to “reclaim the narrative” on immigration. They include a White House role in coordinating processing, adjudication, and work authorizations; a steep reduction in migrant detention; and dismantling Texas’s “Operation Lone Star.”

On the Right


February 21, 2024

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In a new escalation against humanitarian workers, Texas’s attorney-general, Ken Paxton (R), is seeking to revoke the license of a 47-year-old Catholic non-profit migrant shelter in El Paso. Annunciation House works with CBP and El Paso’s city government to receive asylum seekers released from federal custody, helping migrants to avoid being left on the city’s streets and to connect to destinations in the U.S. interior. Paxton accuses the shelter of facilitating human smuggling, and demanded that it hand over a large trove of client records with no advance notice.

Annunciation House will hold a press conference on Friday.

Texas has spent over $148 million to bus 102,000 migrants to Democratic Party-governed cities elsewhere in the United States. That is $1,451 per bus ride. The figure comes from public records obtained by The Texas Newsroom, a public radio journalism outlet.

“Let him put as many as he wants,” said Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador in response to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) plan to install a state military base near Eagle Pass. “Supposedly this is how he is going to detain the migrants. Pure politicking! It is not serious.”

Mexico’s army killed two people from Venezuela, and captured three others, in a confrontation in rural Michoacán. Those killed and arrested were reportedly migrants recruited by organized crime.

NBC News identified the reason why Border Patrol’s acting deputy chief, Joel Martinez, was suspended from his post: an investigation into multiple claims of sexual misconduct and harassment on the job. The Washington Post had broken the Martinez story last week without identifying the reason for his suspension. The case recalls late 2022 allegations against Tony Barker, then Border Patrol’s number-three official.

Analyses and Feature Stories

The Washington Post detailed the Trump campaign’s unprecedented plan for large-scale migrant deportations if the former president is re-elected. Proposals include challenging birthright citizenship, using the military to remove people, and building mass pre-deportation camps.

“We documented a handful of cases where people ended up in the emergency room” because Border Patrol confiscated asylum seekers’ prescription medications and did not return them, Noah Schramm of ACLU Arizona, a principal author of a mid-February report on confiscation of belongings, told the Border Chronicle.

The National Immigration Forum published an overview of the “Defending Borders, Defending Democracies Act” (H.R. 7372), legislation sponsored by moderate Republicans and centrist Democrats that would allow some U.S. aid to Ukraine and Israel while enabling expulsions, a renewed “Remain in Mexico” program, and other limits on the right to seek asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Recent poll data do not show any improvement in the Biden administration’s approval rating on border and migration issues after Republicans scuttled the Senate “border deal,” according to the Washington Post.

A fact-check from the Colombian outlet La Silla Vacía pointed out that while broad-based U.S. sanctions exacerbated Venezuela’s economic crisis, large-scale migration from the country had already begun, for other reasons, before the Trump administration imposed them.

On the Right

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February 20, 2024

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Axios reported that as President Joe Biden prepares for his March 7 State of the Union address, “one bold move” he has considered “is an executive order that would dramatically stanch the record flow of migrants into the Southwest. This could even happen in the two weeks before the address.” The article offered no further details about what such an executive order might contain, nor is it clear what Biden could do within existing law to “stanch” arrivals of asylum seekers.

54,547 people have crossed the Darién Gap into Panama so far this year, according to a statement from the country’s security ministry. Minister Juan Manuel Pino predicts that migration through the Darién in 2024 will exceed the 520,000 who passed through the treacherous region last year.

Pino estimated that criminal organizations in the Darién made about $820 million from smuggling migrants last year.

Panama has extended through July its so-called “Shield” campaign, the statement reads, “with a greater number of land, naval and air troops to create a greater blockade on the border with Colombia.”

A February 18 tweet from the Ministry records a larger Darién Gap figure: 59,521 migrants year-to-date. Of that total, 38,108 are citizens of Venezuela; 4,777 are from China, 4,532 are from Ecuador, and 4,033 are citizens of Haiti.

The first six weeks of 2024 saw “an important increase in the number of people irregularly entering Honduras,” most with the goal of reaching the United States, reported the UN Refugee Agency. Between January 1 and February 11, 57,202 people had entered Honduras’s southeastern border, more than double the number during the same period in 2023.

The death toll is now three from a February 15 armed attack on two vehicles carrying migrants in rural Sonora, Mexico, near the Arizona border. The victims are a child from Ecuador and two adult women, likely from Peru and Honduras.

A University of Texas at Austin poll found that 59 percent of Texas voters, including 48 percent of those identifying as Democrats, “favor making it harder for migrants to seek asylum in the United States.” Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) approval rating was 53 percent, up from 48 percent in December.

Analyses and Feature Stories

BBC Mundo told the story of a family of Venezuelan asylum seekers who flew to the organized crime-controlled border city of Nuevo Laredo, Mexico for a CBP One appointment at the Laredo port of entry. They missed their appointment because they ended up among thousands whom organized crime groups have kidnapped for ransom in Mexico’s violent border state of Tamaulipas. Now free, they haven’t been able to secure a new appointment using the app.

“There’s a lot of people in this community that are upset with how the governor is using our community as a political staging area to have this narrative that we’re being invaded,” Jessie Fuentes, who runs a Rio Grande kayak tour business in Eagle Pass, Texas, told the Border Chronicle in an audio interview.

Tags: News Links

February 19, 2024

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Salon obtained CBP’s still-unreleased report on unidentified migrant remains found in fiscal year 2022. It reports a record 895 known migrant deaths that year. Humanitarian workers say that this is a significant undercount.

Heavily armed men attacked vehicles carrying migrants late last Thursday night in Sonora, Mexico, near the Arizona border. They killed a 4-year-old Ecuadorian boy and injured 10 others.

Heavy rainfall has turned outdoor migrant tent shelters in Reynosa and Matamoros, across from McAllen and Brownsville, Texas, into seas of mud, reported Border Report.

A Government Accountability Project whistleblower complaint alleges that CBP’s chief medical officer, Dr. Alexander Eastman, pressured his staff to order “fentanyl lollipops” to bring along on a September trip to the United Nations, and secured narcotics for a friend who is a pilot in CBP’s Air and Marine Operations division. The Chief Medical Officers office and its contractor, Loyal Source Services, have been under fire for alleged negligence leading to the May 2023 death of a Honduran-Panamanian girl at a south Texas Border Patrol station.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) announced the construction of an 80-acre state National Guard forward operating base near Eagle Pass. It will be able to house between 1,800 and 2,300 soldiers.

Now that Mexican national guardsmen have set up a camp near a break in the border wall where asylum seekers frequently crossed near Jacumba Springs, California, they “are now crossing the border at another spot four miles east,” CBS News reported.

The San Diego and Tijuana-based legal group Al Otro Lado filed a lawsuit against CBP for records surrounding the January 2023 in-custody death of Cuban migrant Idania Osorio Dominguez. Ms. Osorio’s daughter “first learned of her mother’s death through a press release on CBP’s website after weeks of attempting to get answers from the agency regarding her mother’s whereabouts.”

DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas discussed migration with Guatemala’s new president, Bernardo Arévalo, at the Munich Security Conference.

Analyses and Feature Stories

In Tijuana, several shelters have faced direct attacks and threats from criminal groups, forcing closures and increased security measures, according to Global Sisters Report.

The New Yorker’s Jonathan Blitzer published an 8,000-word profile and interview with DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who was impeached last week by House of Representatives Republicans who disapprove of his, and the Biden administration’s, approach to border security and migration.

The New York Times’s Eli Saslow visited Arizona borderland ranchers Jim and Sue Chilton, whose remote desert land, long traversed by smugglers and migrants seeking to avoid detection, has now become a destination for asylum seekers, many of them families, from numerous countries.

At the Progressive, Jeff Abbott reported on Guatemala’s decision to dissolve its national police force’s border unit, DIPAFRONT, amid widespread accusations that its members extort migrants to allow them to keep going north. Abbott noted that DIPAFRONT members have received training funded by the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement.

“Washington’s failure to oversee where migrants go after entering the U.S. is causing particular pain to New York—and not just because the city has received the largest number of migrants from Texas buses,” wrote Jerusalem Demsas at the Atlantic, but “for political reasons, the Biden administration has abdicated its responsibility to coordinate where asylees from the southwestern border end up.”

PolitiFact published an explainer about migrant encounters at the border and the asylum process.

On the Right

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February 16, 2024

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The House of Representatives is out of session until February 28, but while members are away we can expect discussion of a group of centrist Republicans’ and Democrats’ proposal that includes new restrictions on the right to seek asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Speaker Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana) and leadership of the House’s slim Republican majority are refusing to consider a package of Ukraine, Israel, and other aid that the Senate passed on February 12, because it does not include the hard-line border restrictions they have been demanding. Instead, ten members of the House, five from each party, are proposing an alternative bill (text/summary from Punchbowl News).

The bill restores foreign aid similar to what is in the Senate bill, but includes some controversial border provisions:

  • A one-year DHS authority to shut the border to all undocumented migrants without regard to asylum needs, presumably requiring expulsion to Mexico;
  • A one-year authority to expel, into Mexico or alternative countries, all migrants deemed to be “inadmissible” who do not specifically ask for protection;
  • A higher standard of fear that asylum seekers would have to meet in screening interviews;
  • A prohibition on transporting migrants for any purpose other than adjudicating their status; and
  • A one-year restart of the “Remain in Mexico” policy.

Next steps for this bill, which has yet to be formally introduced, are not clear.

Joel Martínez, the acting deputy chief of Border Patrol, was suspended from his duties as he faces allegations of misconduct. Reports do not specify the nature of the misconduct, though Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials specified that Martínez is not under arrest.

In Austin, federal District Court Judge David Ezra heard arguments in the Biden administration’s challenge to S.B. 4, a new Texas state law, set to go into effect on March 5, making unauthorized border crossings a state crime punishable by prison. If his questioning and comments were any guide, Judge Ezra, a Reagan appointee, seemed skeptical about Texas’s defense of the law.

A report from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Inspector-General faulted the HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement for inadequately vetting sponsors or carrying out safety checks after releasing migrant children who arrived unaccompanied. Many migrant teenagers have ended up being made to work in conditions that violate child labor and worker safety standards.

Analyses and Feature Stories

According to a new Pew Research Center poll, 45 percent of U.S. respondents view the large number of migrants arriving at the border to be a “crisis.” Another 32 percent regard it to be a “major problem.” 80 percent believed that the federal government is doing a “bad job” of dealing with the migration increase. 57 percent believe that more migration increases crime, though data do not back that up at all.

Humanitarian volunteers in Arizona “reported that Border Patrol agents in Sasabe detained and threatened them, and took pictures of their driver’s licenses” after they transported migrants from freezing conditions along the border wall to the local Border Patrol station over the weekend, Todd Miller reported at the Border Chronicle.

Texas state authorities have fenced off Shelby Park, the sprawling riverfront park along the border in Eagle Pass, stationing National Guard soldiers and usually preventing Border Patrol agents from entering. But the park’s public golf course remains open, the New York Times’s J. David Goodman reported.

On the Right

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February 15, 2024

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Numerous news analyses yesterday, and a memo to colleagues from Senate Democratic “border deal” negotiator Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut), argue that a Democratic House candidate’s victory in a February 13 New York special election offers a “roadmap,” “playbook,” or “blueprint” for the Democratic Party to address border security and migration during the 2024 campaign cycle.

Candidate Tom Suozzi, they argue, neutralized Republican attacks and won by leaning into some of the asylum and migration restrictions and increased border policing foreseen in budget legislation that fell to Republican opposition on February 7. At the same time, Suozzi called for more legal migration pathways.

“Roses are red, violets are blue, the border deal was crushed because of you,” read an official White House tweet in the design of a Valentine’s Day message.

Advocates for human rights and immigration reform worry that the Democrats’ strategic shift may normalize the “border deal” text’s provisions denying people a chance to ask for protection on U.S. soil, as laid out in U.S. law and the Refugee Convention, and expelling them into Mexico instead.

On February 12, after the “border deal’s” failure, the Senate passed a measure to fund Ukraine, Israel, and other foreign priorities with no border or migration content included. In the House, the thin Republican majority’s leadership is refusing to bring the measure up for consideration because it now has no border language in it. Speaker Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana) has called for a meeting with President Biden to discuss adding border and migration measures to the bill. The White House flatly refused.

The Huffington Post revealed internal Border Patrol emails and text messages showing agents’ continued widespread use of the slur “tonk” to refer to migrants. The agency’s management failed to curb agents’ use of a word that reportedly refers to the sound that their heavy utility flashlights make when hitting a migrant’s head.

In Mexico’s organized crime-heavy border state of Tamaulipas, Doctors Without Borders documented a 70 percent increase, from October to January, in consultations for sexual assault among the migrants the organization has treated in Matamoros and Reynosa.

At least four people died along the Caribbean coast of Panama’s Darién Gap region after a boat carrying about 25 migrants shipwrecked in rough seas.

A federal court in Austin will hear arguments today in the Biden administration’s lawsuit against Texas’s state law empowering local law enforcement to arrest and imprison migrants for improperly crossing the border. S.B. 4 will go into effect on March 5. The district judge in the case is David Ezra, a Reagan appointee who ruled months ago that Texas’s “buoy wall” in the Rio Grande in Eagle Pass was not legal.

As House Republicans’ impeachment of Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas heads to the Senate, the New York Times reported that the Democratic-majority chamber, which is certain to acquit Mayorkas, will pursue a fast, truncated, low-profile process. At Just Security four legal scholars offered a roadmap for how the Senate could quickly dismiss the Mayoras case.

Rep. Mark Green (R-Tennessee), who as chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee managed the Mayorkas impeachment, announced that he will not seek re-election this year.

The migration authority director of Guatemala, which inaugurated a new government last month, is paying a visit to the United States. The Guatemalan Migration Institute’s (IGM) Stuard Rodríguez met with Assistant Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner for International Affairs James Collins and will visit a CBP detention facility and operations center in Tucson, Arizona.

Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-Texas), whose district encompasses hundreds of miles of rural west Texas border, alleged in Newsweek that migration declined in January because “the cartels are trying to carry the Biden administration” and Mexico’s government for “a couple rounds” as elections approach in both countries.

Tags: News Links

February 14, 2024

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Customs and Border Protection (CBP) released data about its encounters with migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border in January. The numbers showed a 50 percent drop in Border Patrol apprehensions of migrants from December, which had set a record for the most migration in a single month. (50 percent is the steepest one-month drop in apprehensions that we’ve seen in more than 24 years of monthly data going back to October 1999.)

In particular, Border Patrol’s apprehensions of Venezuelan citizens between the ports of entry dropped 91 percent. Venezuela fell from the number-two nationality of apprehended migrants in December to number seven in January.

Possible reasons for the decline include false rumors urging people to cross in December before the border “closed” at the end of the year; seasonal patterns; and the Mexican government’s stepped-up migration enforcement.

NewsNation visited an example of Mexico’s new efforts to block northbound migrants, a military and National Guard “command center” across from Jacumba Hot Springs, California, where large numbers of asylum seekers have been crossing to turn themselves in to Border Patrol.

After failing by one vote last Wednesday, the House of Representatives’ Republican majority succeeded, again by one vote, in impeaching Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

While the Democratic-majority Senate is certain not to convict and may not even hold something resembling a “trial,” this is the second-ever impeachment of a cabinet official in U.S. history and the first since 1876. All but three Republicans agreed that Mayorkas’s management of the border constitutes “high crimes and misdemeanors”; all Democrats voted “no.”

The vote outcome changed because Rep. Steve Scalise (R-Louisiana) returned after receiving cancer treatments, and Rep. Judy Chu (D-California) contracted COVID and could not be present to vote.

Border security and immigration were the number-one issue of contention in a special congressional election in New York to replace expelled Rep. George Santos (R). Constant attacks seeking to tie him to President Joe Biden’s border and migration policies failed to prevent Tom Suozzi from winning by at least seven percentage points. The House now has 219 Republicans and 213 Democrats.

The “borderless” foreign aid bill that passed the Senate on Monday left out Senators’ failed “border deal,” and also cut out $20 billion in border and migration money that the Biden administration had requested. Without that money the Washington Post reported, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is facing a $700 million budget deficit and may have to release thousands of detained people.

Now that the “borderless” bill has passed the Senate, House Republican leadership is vowing not to bring it to a vote because it lacks border provisions. However, Punchbowl News reported, “There’s already discussion in the House Republican Conference about attaching some border provisions to the bill,” including elements of H.R.2, the draconian bill that passed the House without a single Democratic vote last May.

The House and Senate will both be out of session next week.

Guatemala is dissolving its police force’s border unit (Dipafront), which has been tarred with widespread corruption allegations.

Guatemala also reported expelling 1,642 people into Honduras so far this year: 76 percent from Venezuela, and the rest from Haiti, Ecuador, Honduras, and Colombia.

Mexico has quietly reduced its own deportations of migrants, according to an analysis by Tonatiuh Guillén, who headed the country’s migration authority (INM) during the first months of Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s presidency.

Analyses and Feature Stories

A report from ACLU of Arizona and partner organizations detailed Border Patrol’s, and other U.S. immigration agencies’, confiscation of asylum seekers’ belongings on “hundreds” of documented occasions. Confiscated and trashed items include medications and medical devices, identification documents, religious garb and items, money, cellphones, and irreplaceable family heirlooms.

A Human Rights First fact sheet explained that Black asylum seekers, including many stranded in Mexico awaiting appointments at ports of entry, “face significant discrimination and barriers within the U.S. asylum system and encounter targeted violence and mistreatment.”

“West Texas oil billionaires continue to bankroll the chaos and xenophobic rhetoric” employed by prominent Texas Republican politicians, wrote Melissa del Bosque at the Border Chronicle.

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February 13, 2024

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The U.S. Senate passed a supplemental appropriation with foreign aid for Ukraine and Israel. This is the bill that once had Senate negotiators’ “border deal” attached to it, with new limits on the right to seek asylum at the border. The bill that cleared the Senate last night has no border content, neither new funds nor new migration limits.

The bill now goes to the Republican-majority House of Representatives, where Speaker Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana) stated that he does not intend to bring it up for debate because it lacks any new border or migration restrictions.

In a colorful tweet, the Democrats’ chief Senate negotiator, Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut) voiced exasperation about a new demand for border language after Senate Republicans’ “no” votes defeated the negotiators’ earlier language, for which Democrats had conceded some deep restrictions on migrant protections.

Analysts note that Ukraine aid supporters in both parties might force the bill’s consideration in the House, over the Speaker’s objections, if more than half of representatives sponsor a “discharge petition.” If it happens, an eventual House debate might involve amendments limiting asylum and other migration pathways.

The removal of border funding from the supplemental appropriations bill could leave the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with insufficient funds to manage a moment of historically high migration at the border, NBC News reported. Grants to cities receiving asylum seekers could dry up.

More Americans blame Joe Biden (49 percent) than Donald Trump (39 percent) for last week’s “border deal” failure in the Senate, according to an ABC News-Ipsos survey. Biden supported the deal while Trump actively worked to sink it.

CBS News revealed that the CBP One app has been used 64.3 million times by people inside Mexico seeking to secure one of 1,450 daily appointments at U.S.-Mexico border ports of entry. CBP launched the app’s appointment-making feature in January 2023. This obviously does not mean that 64.3 million people have sought to migrate: it reflects numerous repeat attempts.

With Rep. Steve Scalise (R-Louisiana) back from receiving cancer treatments, the House of Representatives may vote again today to impeach DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. House Republicans seek to make the case that Mayorkas is mismanaging the border and that this constitutes “high crimes and misdemeanors.” A vote to impeach last Wednesday failed by a 214-216 margin. If the House impeaches Mayorkas, there is no chance that the Democratic-majority Senate would muster the two-thirds vote necessary to convict him.

During winter-weather conditions near Sásabe, Arizona, humanitarian volunteers evacuated some of a group of about 400 migrants waiting to turn themselves in to Border Patrol near the border wall, bringing them to the nearby Border Patrol station for processing. Some reported that agents threatened them with arrest for smuggling undocumented people.

At the Kino Border Initiative’s shelter in Nogales, most migrants—many of them families with small children—are now from southern Mexico, especially the embattled state of Guerrero. 83 percent now say they are fleeing violence, a much larger share than before, reported Arizona Public Media.

The government of Honduras registered 38,495 migrants transiting its territory in January. Most were from Venezuela, Cuba, Haiti, Ecuador, and Guinea. Of migrants transiting Honduras surveyed by UNHCR, at least 30 percent “reported having international protection needs because they had to flee their country of origin due to violence or persecution.” 38 percent reported suffering “some form of mistreatment or abuse during their journey,” though infrequently in Honduras.

Analyses and Feature Stories

Axios published a gossip-heavy account of Biden administration infighting, name-calling, and a “winding” and “irritable” President, as officials responded ineffectively to increased migration at the border. “The idea that no one wanted to ‘own it’ came up repeatedly in interviews about the border crisis.”

“It appears that in most cases, it takes about $5,000 to travel to the U.S. border” for Chinese migrants arriving in Jacumba Springs, California, reported Japan-based Nikkei Asia. “Affluent Chinese would not choose to take such a difficult journey” via the Darién Gap, it noted. “Ordinary people are the ones who take on this danger.”

Talking to residents of El Paso, USA Today’s Lauren Villagrán found that a pledge to “shut down the border” means “something different to those who live on the border than to politicians nearly 2,000 miles away in Washington, D.C.”

The Washington Examiner posited a connection between Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) crackdown on migration and a recent drop in the border-wide share of asylum seekers and other migrants crossing into Texas.

On the Right

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February 12, 2024

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The Senate remains in session and continues to debate a supplemental appropriations bill that now has no border content in it. So far, procedural maneuvers and internal disputes among Republican senators have prevented the Senate from considering any border or migration-related amendments.

A Twitter thread from Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) listed some of the border-hardening and migration-restriction amendments that Republican senators have proposed but been unable to get to the Senate floor. A thread from Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-Rhode Island) explained the convoluted parliamentary process that the chamber will be following over the next few days.

This process may yet provide opportunities for border amendments, though Republican proponents’ window is closing. “Feelings are running so high within the Republican conference, that Republicans have so far been unable to agree on any amendment, let alone a schedule of amendments that can accelerate the schedule,” Sen. Whitehouse noted.

The most likely outcome is that Democrats and a minority of Republicans will combine to pass a “borderless” supplemental appropriation. What happens when the bill then gets sent to the Republican-majority House of Representatives is unclear.

Panama’s authorities counted 36,001 people migrating through the treacherous Darién Gap region in January, an increase from December and much more than January 2023, but still the 4th-smallest monthly total of the last 12 months. At some point last month, the 500,000th Venezuelan migrant of the 2020s (in fact, the 500,000th just since January 2022) crossed the Darién Gap. That’s one out of every sixty Venezuelan citizens.

The University of California at San Diego’s health trauma center treated 455 patients last year who suffered serious injuries while trying to cross the border—441 of them the result of falls from the very high border wall that the Trump administration installed there. That is up from 311 wall-related injuries in 2022, 254 in 2021, 91 in 2020, and 42 in 2019.

False rumors about a year-end border closure or halt in CBP One appointments may be a key reason why migration at the U.S.-Mexico border reached record levels in December and then fell by half in January, the Washington Examiner reported.

In Ciudad Juárez, across from El Paso, a municipal human rights official told EFE that the city “is currently experiencing one of the periods with the lowest presence of migrants.” Santiago González called it “a suspicious calm” amid a possibility of migration policy changes coming from Washington.

Border Patrol processed a group of migrants who had to wait for many hours outside in a snowstorm near Sasabe, Arizona on the night of February 10.

Analyses and Feature Stories

Mexico-based Journalist Ioan Grillo published highlights of interviews with people in Piedras Negras, across from Eagle Pass, Texas. “They hunt them down and they get every peso they can from them,” the nun who runs the Casa del Migrante said of the Coahuila state police force. “It’s terrible.”

Eagle Pass, a town of 30,000, is so jammed with state security personnel that room rates at the Holiday Inn Express have risen to more than $250 per night, the Dallas Morning News reported.

The notion that migrants supply the United States with fentanyl is false, explained an Austin American-Statesman fact check. The story is “a classic example of what we call dangerous speech: language that inspires fear and violence by describing another group of people as an existential threat,” wrote Catherine Buerger and Susan Benesch at the Los Angeles Times.

An editorial in Guatemala’s Prensa Libre newspaper called on the country’s new government to carry out a purge of the national police force’s corruption-riven border unit (Dipafront), which regularly shakes down migrants for cash.

The Washington Post published a dozen charts illustrating migration trends at the border during the Trump and Biden administrations.

Many statistics about regional migration trends, causes, and migrant deaths are in the International Organization for Migration’s latest quarterly Tendencias Migratorias en las Américas report.

Much punditry covered expectations that the Democratic Party will take advantage of last week’s collapse of a Senate border deal to turn the border security and migration narrative against Republicans in the upcoming election campaign.

On the Right

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February 9, 2024

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Following the Senate’s February 7 rejection of a spending bill with negotiated language limiting asylum access, the majority-Democratic Senate leadership introduced a new spending bill with no border or migration content at all, except for fentanyl-related provisions. The new bill contains just foreign aid to Ukraine, Israel, and other countries, without the earlier bill’s $20 billion in border spending and changes to immigration law.

This new bill cleared an initial hurdle on February 8 despite the objections of some Republicans holding out for tough border and migration language: by a 67-32 vote, senators cleared it for debate. (That’s the stage at which the earlier bill with the “border deal” language failed on February 7, by a 49-50 vote.)

This may not be the end of the story for border legislation, though. Democratic and Republican Senate leaders are negotiating Republican amendments that may be brought to the chamber’s floor during the next few days’ debate. (The Senate is postponing the beginning of a two-week recess and working through the weekend.)

Those amendments could include some or all of the Senate negotiators’ “border deal” language limiting asylum access; some or all of H.R. 2, a hardline bill thoroughly gutting asylum that passed the Republican-majority House of Representatives last May without a single Democratic vote; or some hybrid of the “border deal” and H.R. 2.

Those amendments would be unlikely to pass: as they are not germane to what is now a bill with no border or migration content, they would need 60 votes to win approval.

Putting off the start of a two-week recess, the Senate convenes at mid-day today and could vote on a “motion to proceed” after 7:00pm. Amid a confusing set of possible paths guided by arcane procedural maneuvers, senators might find themselves in a heated floor debate during Sunday’s Super Bowl.

As preliminary numbers show a 50 percent drop in migration along the U.S.-Mexico border, CBS News noted that Arizona and California now make up 60 percent of recent weeks’ Border Patrol apprehensions. In fiscal year 2023 those states made up 41 percent of Border Patrol apprehensions.

The conservative Daily Caller reported on Border Patrol agents’ February 6 apprehension of a migrant from Colombia who was identified as having terrorist ties because of prior membership in the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC) paramilitary group, which collaborated with the country’s U.S.-backed military, disbanded in 2006, and was removed from the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations in 2014.

CBP does not report the nationalities of apprehended migrants who show up on the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Terrorist Screening Data Set, but recent years’ increase coincides with growth in migration from Colombia, a country that has had five groups on the terrorist list this century, of which the largest two have long since demobilized.

Analyses and Feature Stories

“Many people in Ciudad Juárez and other parts of the border have reported waiting up to three months to receive an appointment through the [CBP One] application, while others receive it in a matter of days or weeks,” reported Verónica Martínez of the Ciudad Juárez-based La Verdad. Martínez’s feature documented many challenges that asylum seekers face while trying to use the app.

A Semafor analysis examined whether hardline Trump-era policies, especially “Remain in Mexico,” succeeded in reducing migration, as their backers claim. Arrivals of asylum seekers did fall in the months after June 2019, when Trump ramped up “Remain in Mexico,” but that makes it one of many attempted crackdowns on asylum-seeking migration over the past 10 years that had only short-term effects. Whether “Remain in Mexico” would have joined that list of policies with temporary effects is unknown, as the pandemic and Title 42 policy came nine months after June 2019, shutting the U.S. border.

“Right now, with the patience of the American public running thin, both Republicans and Democrats seem more interested in pursuing policies that will help them look tough on the border in an election year, rather than a comprehensive approach to fixing the problem,” read a “seven questions” explainer at Vox.

“In 1996 and 2006, Congress passed the last significant border and immigration bills to date. Both were hawkish messages to voters in election years, and both have become infamous for their unintended consequences,” wrote Rafael Bernal and Saul Elbein at The Hill.

At the Atlantic, Ronald Brownstein looked at Republican candidate Donald Trump’s plan to deploy National Guard soldiers from Republican-leaning states into Democratic-leaning states to carry out what Trump calls “the Largest Domestic Deportation Operation in History.”

Covering last weekend’s right-wing “convoy” rally near Eagle Pass, Texas, the New Yorker’s Rachel Monroe concluded that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) “insurrection-adjacent rhetoric seems to have breathed new energy into a movement that was thrown off by the events of January 6th.”

On the Right

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February 8, 2024

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A deal that took nearly three months to negotiate went down in defeat yesterday in the U.S. Senate, just three days after its text became public. In a vote that needed 60 senators to agree to begin consideration of the Biden administration’s $118 billion request for spending on Ukraine and Israel aid, border items, and other priorities, only 49 voted in favor, with 50 opposed.

In October, congressional Republicans refused to allow the spending measure to move forward unless it included language changing U.S. law to make it harder for migrants to access asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border. A group of senators launched negotiations before Thanksgiving, coming up with a set of measures that outraged both migrants’ rights defenders and progressive Democrats who feared people would be harmed, and conservative Republicans who wanted it to go further.

In the end, only four Republicans voted to begin debating the bill: Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, and the Republicans’ chief negotiator, James Lankford of Oklahoma. Even Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), who had vocally backed Lankford’s negotiating effort, voted “no.” Five Democrats voted “no.” (Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) had to change his vote to “no” for procedural reasons allowing a reconsideration of the bill.) They were Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Bob Menendez of New Jersey, Alex Padilla of California, and Bernie Sanders (I) of Vermont, who opposed the unconditional Israel aid in the bill.

As it nears a two-week recess, the Senate is paralyzed as Republicans are divided about whether to consider a spending bill without the asylum-restrictions deal attached to it, which is what Democrats had initially sought. One possible outcome for considering such a “clean” bill might be a debate process that allows votes on Republican-sponsored amendments seeking to limit asylum and perhaps other legal migration pathways.

Senate Republicans plan to meet this morning “to plot a path forward,” the Associated Press reported.

News analyses indicate that President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign will make the border deal’s failure a central point of attack against Donald Trump and the Republican Party this year, or at least a way to blunt Republican attacks on Biden’s border and migration policies.

Following the border deal’s legislative failure, the Biden administration is considering “executive action to deter illegal migration across the southern border” before migration inevitably rises again, two U.S. officials told NBC News. The article does not specify what these actions might be, though they “have been under consideration for months” and “might upset some progressives in Congress.”

The likelihood of migration rising again, after a sharp reduction in January, is strong. In Border Patrol’s San Diego Sector, the sector chief tweeted that agents apprehended 8,659 migrants during the week of January 31-February 6. That is more than any week’s apprehensions in the sector during December 2023, which was a record-setting month for the entire border.

Recent years’ immigration increases will add over $7 trillion to the U.S. economy over the next ten years, raising U.S. government tax revenues by $1 trillion, according to projections published by the Congressional Budget Office.

As the Biden administration reinstates some sanctions on Venezuela, two scheduled flights deporting Venezuelan migrants back to Caracas have been canceled since last week, the New York Times reported.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) personnel interviewed migrants in the Darién Gap alongside Panamanian authorities in December, and “not one claimed fear of political persecution,” according to agency communications leaked to conservative reporter Ali Bradley.

Analyses and Feature Stories

The American Immigration Council published a thorough analysis of the now-defunct Senate border deal. “What we have seen, time and time again, is that adding additional penalties or complications to the process for asylum seekers once they arrive in the U.S. immiserates those asylum seekers without having a lasting impact on overall border arrivals.”

If President Biden were to confront Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) by federalizing the state’s National Guard, he would have to invoke the Insurrection Act, explains Joseph Nunn of the Brennan Center for Justice at Just Security. While doing so “would almost certainly pass legal muster,” Nunn counsels against it for now, as it “should be a tool of last resort.”

Fentanyl addiction and overdoses have reached crisis levels in Tijuana and some other Mexican border cities, Will Grant reported at the BBC.

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February 7, 2024

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The Senate will hold a procedural vote at 1:00pm today on whether to proceed with debate on a $118 billion spending bill, which includes—in response to Republican demands—negotiated compromise language that would reduce migrants’ ability to seek asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border. The vote is expected to fail, falling well short of the 60-vote threshold that it needs, as conservative Republicans have lined up against the compromise language, arguing that it doesn’t go far enough. Some Democrats, concerned by the harm to migrants, will also vote “no.”

“We have no real chance here to make a law,” said Minority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky).

This concludes a two-and-a-half-month negotiation process. Media coverage is broadly portraying this as a Republican flip-flop and last-minute caving in to pressure from Donald Trump, with Democrats “setting a trap” for Republicans by calling their bluff and making concessions on tough border measures.

Some coverage portrays the fiasco as a setback for less Trump-aligned conservatives like McConnell, who supported the compromise. Asked whether he felt like he’d been thrown under the bus, the Republicans’ chief negotiator on the deal, Sen. James Lankford (R-Oklahoma), said “and backed up.”

In a mid-day address from the White House, President Joe Biden voiced strong support for the bill, despite some very conservative limits on asylum and migration that contradict his earlier policy positions. He blamed Donald Trump, and Republicans’ failure to stand up to him, for the bill’s likely failure, calling on GOP members to “show some spine.”

Once today’s vote fails as expected, Majority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-New York) is likely to seek a procedural vote on a version of the spending bill—which includes aid to Ukraine and Israel, and $20 billion for numerous border and migration items—with the border compromise language removed. This “cleaner” bill may have more Republican support. The Senate departs after this week for a two-week recess.

Republicans’ bad day on Capitol Hill was punctuated in the House of Representatives by a stunning 214-216 rejection of articles of impeachment against Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Surprisingly, Speaker Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana) went ahead with the vote even though all Democrats were opposed and House Republican leaders did not have certainty over their side’s vote count.

The Secretary, whom House Republicans claim has mismanaged the border to the extent that it constitutes “high crimes and misdemeanors,” will keep his job for now thanks to the votes of three Republican members: Reps. Ken Buck (R-eastern Colorado), Tom McClintock (R-San Joaquín Valley, California), and Mike Gallagher (R-Green Bay, Wisconsin). A fourth Republican, Rep. Blake Moore (R-Utah), changed his vote to “no” for procedural reasons, allowing a motion to reconsider.

House Republican leaders vow to bring the impeachment up again when one more member of their caucus is present: Majority Leader Rep. Steve Scalise (R-Louisiana), who is receiving treatments for blood cancer. Scalise is not expected to return to the House today.

Border Patrol Chief Jason Owens tweeted that the agency has apprehended “+160 undocumented subjects with gang affiliations” during the first four months of fiscal year 2024. If sustained all year, this rate—about 40 allegedly gang-tied migrants per month—would be the fewest since fiscal 2021 and the 3rd-fewest in the 8 years since fiscal year 2017.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) operated 130 removal flights in January, up a bit from 128 in December and down from 140 in November, according to Tom Cartwright’s latest monthly report for Witness at the Border. Top destinations were Guatemala (53 flights), Honduras (37), El Salvador (11), Colombia (6), Ecuador (5), and Venezuela (4). One flight each went to Mauritania, India, and Romania.

Border Report went to Jacume, Mexico, just south of Jacumba Springs, California, where Mexico’s National Guard has set up a camp in an effort to block migrants at a point where asylum seekers have been arriving for months seeking to turn themselves in to U.S. authorities.

Analyses and Feature Stories

At the New York Times, Cesar Cuauhtémoc Garcia Hernandez of Ohio State University recalled that the Title 42 expulsion authority did not deter migration, and it would be wrong to expect the expulsion authority in the failing Senate bill to do so.

At the New Republic, James North pushed back against the fiction that migrants are introducing fentanyl across the border into the United States.

In an interview at the Border Chronicle, WOLA’s Adam Isacson (this post’s author) walked through some of the current migration trends and data at the border and along the migration route right now.

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February 6, 2024

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The Senate is to hold a procedural vote tomorrow (Wednesday) on a $118 billion spending package for Ukraine, Israel, border items, and other priorities. In response to Republican demands and after two and a half months of negotiations, the package includes a host of changes to immigration law that would, among other things, make asylum harder to attain at the U.S.-Mexico border. The text of those changes became public Sunday night.

Wednesday’s vote will test whether 60 senators are willing to end debate on the package and move to a vote. Right now, all signs indicate that the bill will fall short of 60 votes. It might not even be close.

More conservative senators—along with the House Republican leadership—are lining up against the compromise migration language on which they had initially insisted, arguing that it is not restrictive enough on migration. “Less than 24 hours after the text of the deal was released, nearly half of the Republican conference immediately panned it, leading to internal finger pointing, frustration and resistance,” wrote Leigh Ann Caldwell and Theodoric Meyer at the Washington Post.

Though they may favor Ukraine aid, some progressive senators are also inclined to vote “no,” because of the bill’s erosion of asylum.

Those favoring the bill include moderate Democrats and some top Senate Republican leaders—though Minority Leader Mitch McConnell did not forcefully encourage his caucus to vote for it on Wednesday. Notably, the National Border Patrol Council, the union comprising a large majority of Border Patrol agents, broke with Donald Trump and supported the bill’s border language.

If the procedural vote fails, it is not clear what will happen next: whether Senate leadership will withdraw the bill, or give senators more time to read its 370 pages and keep debating. The Senate will be out of session next week and the following week.

The full House of Representatives will vote today to impeach Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on charges of “high crimes and misdemeanors,” based on what House Republicans regard to be poor handling of border security and migration.

If all 212 Democrats in the chamber are present and vote “no,” House Republicans will need 216 members of their 219-member delegation to vote “yes”—and a handful of Republican holdouts remain. One moderate, Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colorado), published a column in The Hill yesterday laying out his “no” vote, arguing that while he disapproves of Mayorkas’s performance at DHS, it does not constitute high crimes or misdemeanors.

Even if the House votes to impeach—only the second impeachment of a cabinet member, and the first since 1876—the two-thirds vote necessary to convict will be unattainable in the Democratic-majority Senate.

Organized-crime violence has broken out into open firefights this week in the Mexican border cities of Reynosa, Tamaulipas and Tecate, Baja California.

Analyses and Feature Stories

Joe Biden has shifted to the right on border and migration issues due to “a realization that immigration has become one of his greatest vulnerabilities,” according to an analysis from Washington Post reporter Toluse Olorunnipa. Throughout his term, the analysis reveals, Biden has closely followed the latest migration numbers, even asking about specific ports of entry.

A column from Isabela Dias at Mother Jones also explored Biden’s “radical U-turn.”

A commentary from the Center for American Progress broadly supported the bill currently before the Senate, but voiced misgivings about the asylum limitations. It calls for more investment and reform to the U.S. asylum system and for more assistance to “stabilize” and support migrant integration in the Americas.

Associated Press reporters Elliot Spagat and Javier Arciga combined an analysis of the Senate bill’s asylum provisions with an on-the-ground report from Jacumba Springs, California, where asylum seekers arriving at a gap in the border wall wait for hours or days to turn themselves in to Border Patrol.

“Why not let states decide how many foreign workers they need and give each participating state an allocation of work visas or waivers to issue in industries with labor shortages?” asked author D.W. Gibson at the Los Angeles Times.

At the Nation, Arizona-based journalist John Washington published an essay based on his new book, The Case for Open Borders.

On the Right

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February 5, 2024

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Senate leadership published the text of a $118 billion supplemental appropriation bill, complying with a Biden administration request, that would provide additional aid to Ukraine and Israel, among other priorities including $20 billion for border and migration management. It is the product of about two and a half months of negotiations between a small bipartisan group of senators.

Republican senators’ price for allowing this bill to go forward was new restrictions on migration at the U.S.-Mexico border. But Republicans who insist on an even tougher crackdown on migration—including Donald Trump and leaders of the House of Representatives’ GOP majority—are lining up against the bill. Prospects for its passage are poor.

Of the legislative text’s 370 pages, 281 comprise the “Border Act,” a series of border security, immigration, and fentanyl-interdiction policy changes and spending items.

The text includes many of the controversial limits on access to asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border that had already been reported in media coverage. Among the bill’s many key provisions are:

  • Allowing the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to impose a Title 42-like expulsion authority, “summarily removing” asylum-seekers from the United States (except for hard-to-prove Convention Against Torture appeals), when unauthorized migrant encounters reach a daily threshold.
    • This “Border Emergency Authority” would kick in when DHS encounters a seven-day average of 5,000 migrants per day or 8,500 in a single day; at its discretion DHS could start expelling people when the average hits 4,000.
    • As this threshold includes about 1,400 per day who approach ports of entry, expulsions would be mandatory when Border Patrol apprehends 3,600 or more people per day between ports of entry. Encounters have crossed that threshold in 34 of the Biden administration’s first 36 months.
    • It is not clear whether Mexico would agree to take back expelled migrants across the land border. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) does not have the capacity to carry out aerial deportations on this scale to countries beyond Mexico.
    • This Border Emergency Authority would “sunset,” or automatically be repealed, after three years. For each of the three years, DHS would have fewer days in which it could use it to expel asylum seekers.
  • Requiring asylum seekers placed in “expedited removal”—usually 20-25,000 per month right now, but likely to expand—to meet a much higher standard of “credible fear” in screening interviews with asylum officers.
  • Changes to the asylum system that would have asylum officers handing down most decisions in months, while making it rare for cases to be heard in immigration courts.
  • No substantive changes to the presidential authority to grant humanitarian parole.

President Biden called for the bill’s immediate passage and said he would sign it.

The bill quickly came under fire from Democrats who favor immigration reform and upholding migrants’ rights, and from Republicans who want a return to Donald Trump’s policies at the border.

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana) and Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-Louisiana) said that it was “dead on arrival” and would not come to a vote in their chamber. The House has instead scheduled a vote on a $17.6 billion standalone bill with aid for Israel and nothing else that was in the administration’s request.

Many Republicans have targeted the 5,000-encounter threshold in the “Border Emergency Authority,” incorrectly portraying it as allowing 5,000 migrants to be released into the United States (the 5,000 could just as likely be deported or detained).

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) has scheduled a vote for Wednesday to “test” whether the bill has the 60 out of 100 votes necessary to end debate and vote on it.

Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) “are counting on a center-right plus center-left supermajority of the Senate to vote for this measure,” wrote Andrew Desiderio, Jake Sherman, and John Bresnahan at Punchbowl News. “There’s no guarantee of enough support there.”

Thirteen Republican state governors joined Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) in the border town of Eagle Pass. It was another show of conservative support as Texas challenges federal authority over border and migration policy, insisting that migrants are an “invasion” and blocking Border Patrol from full access to Eagle Pass’s sprawling riverfront park.

Abbott claimed, without evidence, that Texas’s policies are behind January’s drop in migration at the border, even though sectors in Arizona and California also saw reductions.

Abbott’s event somewhat overshadowed a right-wing gathering nearby, outside Eagle Pass; much coverage of this “convoy” focused on its participants’ religious fervor.

A deportation flight to Morelia, Mexico on January 30 was the first such flight to Mexico’s interior since May 2022, the New York Times reported.

Analyses and Feature Stories

The Guardian accompanied volunteers in the wilderness of California’s central border zone, more than an hour’s drive east of San Diego, where they hike through hostile territory looking for people in territory where migrant deaths are frequent.

CBS News’s “60 Minutes” program visited this region and reported on asylum seekers turning themselves in to Border Patrol in difficult outdoor conditions, including a big increase in citizens of China.

Across the border from this region, in Mexico’s state of Baja California, INewsource reported that Mexico’s government “significantly escalated enforcement” this week, installing a camp at a point where asylum seekers frequently cross.

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February 2, 2024

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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) said that as early as today, and “no later than Sunday,” the chamber’s leadership will post the full text of a spending bill including aid to Ukraine and Israel, border spending, and other priorities—plus a new section changing U.S. law making asylum—and perhaps other legal migration pathways—more difficult to attain at the U.S.-Mexico border.

This section is the product of more than two months of talks between a small group of senators. Even yesterday, Schumer said, “Conversations are ongoing, and some issues still need resolution, but we are getting very close.”

Schumer expects to hold a cloture vote (to end debate on the bill and move to a vote) next Wednesday. The Senate is scheduled to go on a two-week recess after next week.

While the bill may pass the Senate, legislators and analysts say that its prospects of becoming law are growing dimmer. It may fail to win a majority of Republican votes in the Democratic-majority Senate, which would weaken it as it goes to the Republican-majority House of Representatives, where Speaker Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana) and other GOP leaders have been voicing opposition.

A letter from 22 Congressional Hispanic Caucus members prods the Biden administration’s Justice and Homeland Security Departments to investigate the state of Texas for impeding Border Patrol’s access to a broad swath of riverfront in Eagle Pass.

“He forgets that Texas used to belong to Mexico and puts up barbed wire fences and has an anti-immigrant policy against those who, out of necessity, have to go to the United States to make a living,” said Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R).

“What makes Abbott’s recent actions most bizarre, though, is his target: Border Patrol,” reads an analysis from Texas Monthly’s Jack Herrera.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is sending a battalion of the Florida State Guard to the border. This force is different from a National Guard, which sometimes can come under federal control: several states also have (usually tiny) paramilitary forces, commanded by their governors, and funded entirely with state budgets. It is likely that the U.S. Code does not authorize their use outside their home states.

Analyses and Feature Stories

The New York Times’s Carl Hulse wrote an overview of past 21st-century attempts to push bipartisan border and immigration reforms through Congress. All failed, despite majority support, due to far-right opposition.

The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler and CBS News’s Camilo Montoya-Galvez recall that—contrary to what Speaker Johnson has been arguing—the law does not permit President Biden to ban migrants once, like asylum seekers, they have arrived on U.S. soil.

Politico reports that Republicans are making the border and migration their main campaign issue in a special election to replace expelled Rep. George Santos in Long Island, New York.

The outcome of this February 13 vote could be important for House Republicans’ effort to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. They need a majority of the House to send it to the Senate, will get no Democratic votes, and Colorado Republican Rep. Ken Buck yesterday said he opposes impeachment.

At the Los Angeles Times, David Savage looked at a 2012 dissenting opinion by Justice Antonin Scalia that today forms the basis for Republican governors’ claims that they can pursue their own immigration policies independent of the federal government.

At Just Security, Houston lawyer Kate Huddleston explained the far-right and white-supremacist history of what is now a mainstream Republican push to justify state border crackdowns using the Constitution’s “invasion” clause. El Paso Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas) and others told the Houston Chronicle that “invasion” rhetoric incites violence.

About 400 remaining members of a migrant “caravan” that began near Mexico’s border at Christmas are making their way on foot through Mexico’s southern state of Veracruz. That’s a walk of over 500 miles.

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February 1, 2024

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Congress will adjourn for the weekend later today. And after next week, the Democratic-majority Senate is scheduled to take a two-week Presidents’ Day recess. (The Republican-majority House of Representatives will take a one-week recess after February 16.)

Meanwhile, there is no bill language yet from a small group of senators negotiating a deal that would restrict asylum access, to satisfy Republican demands to pass a package of Ukraine aid and other spending. The agreement is teetering as pathways to becoming law close off. “It’s not dead yet, but the writing’s on the wall,” a Republican senator told Punchbowl News’s Andrew Desiderio.

As discussed in a new WOLA commentary, media reports indicate that the deal would create a new Title 42-like authority to expel asylum seekers from the United States, with little to no chance to seek protection, when a daily average of migrant encounters exceeds a specific number (reportedly 5,000).

Lead Republican negotiator Sen. James Lankford (R-Oklahoma) said that the group was “whisper-close” to releasing language, but that they were not ready to share it Wednesday. (Lankford is taking a lot of criticism from pro-Trump elements of his party for negotiating with Democrats.)

Another negotiator, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Arizona), offered some new details about what the agreement contains as she sought to debunk rumors.

One of the main misconceptions is that the new expulsion authority would be triggered after 5,000 migrants per day were allowed into the U.S. interior: it would instead apply whenever Border Patrol apprehended that many people under any circumstances, even if most ended up deported or detained.

In the House, Republicans opposed to the deal are digging in. They include Speaker Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana), who criticized elements believed to be in the Senate agreement, along with a broader attack on the Biden administration’s border and migration policies, in his first floor speech as speaker.

The rightmost contingent of the Senate’s Republicans also attacked the deal at what The Hill called “a contentious lunch meeting in the Capitol Wednesday.” Reporter Alexander Bolton concluded, “the prospect of mustering 25 Senate GOP votes for the bill is dimming, raising the possibility that Republicans will abandon the effort altogether.”

Politico reported that progressive Democrats, too, are beginning to line up against the Senate border deal.

The House passed a bill, with 56 Democratic votes, that would mandate life sentences on migrant smugglers involved in high-speed pursuits near the border if anyone is killed during the chase.

The chief of Border Patrol’s San Diego Sector tweeted that agents there apprehended 7,889 migrants in the week ending January 30. That is the fourth weekly increase she has reported in a row, up from 3,598 during the week ending January 9.

A San Diego Border Patrol agent is under investigation after engaging in lewd behavior in a YouTube video while on duty near Jacumba Springs, California, near where hundreds of asylum seekers wait outdoors each day to turn themselves in to agents.

Analyses and Feature Stories

The disorder and neglect of the U.S. asylum and immigration-court systems are a big reason why migration is increasing at the U.S.-Mexico border, reads an analysis from Miriam Jordan at the New York Times.

The New York Times’s Karoun Demerjian and The Atlantic’s David Graham poked holes in House Republicans’ case for impeaching Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

In an interview at Slate, the American Immigration Council’s Aaron Reichlin-Melnick explains why there is no such thing as a presidential ability to “shut down” the border.

At the Washington Post, data journalist Philip Bump unpacked the new Republican talking point of referring to adult male migrants as “military-age males.”

At The Atlantic, Fernanda Santos positively reviewed an upcoming book about migration from New Yorker staff writer Jonathan Blitzer.

On the Right

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January 31, 2024

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After more than two months of talks and an agreement nearly finished, prospects are dimming for a Senate deal that might restrict the right to seek asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border, a Republican demand for allowing a package of Ukraine, Israel, border, and other spending to go forward.

The leadership of the House of Representatives Republican majority continues to dig in against it because they feel it doesn’t go far enough and because Donald Trump is attacking it.

Speaker Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana) tweeted yesterday a new Republican talking point: that President Biden could limit migration through executive action, using existing legal authorities like detaining all asylum seekers (for which no budget exists), or issuing highly controversial blanket bans on classes of people, like Donald Trump’s 2017 “Muslim Ban” executive order (which do not supersede the right to seek asylum at the border).

Many Senate Republicans, too, are either attacking the deal or appearing to back away. A senior Republican, John Cornyn (Texas), told Politico that “it certainly doesn’t seem like” the deal can pass the Senate. “There are a number of our members who say, ‘Well, I’ll join a majority of the Republicans but if it doesn’t enjoy that sort of support, then count me out.’”

The “decision as to whether to proceed to a floor vote, which would involve releasing the [deal’s] text, is largely a decision being made by Republicans,” said lead Democratic negotiator Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut).

Following a nearly 15-hour hearing, the Republican majority on the House Homeland Security Committee voted 18-15, on strict party lines, to advance the impeachment of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

“Republicans have not yet offered clear evidence that Mayorkas committed any high crimes and misdemeanors,” a Washington Post analysis noted. It is not clear whether Republicans have enough votes in their caucus to gain the majority of the full House necessary to send the impeachment to the Democratic-majority Senate, where Mayorkas’s acquittal is certain.

“I assure you that your false accusations do not rattle me,” Mayorkas wrote in a letter to Homeland Security Committee Chairman Rep. Mark Green (R-Tennessee).

Mayorkas met virtually with relevant officials from Guatemala’s new government to discuss cooperation on countering migration and drug trafficking.

While the Mayorkas impeachment proceeded, Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas), one of the House’s foremost border hardliners and a defender of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) state-led crackdown, held a hearing about state versus federal jurisdiction in the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, which he chairs.

As the Biden administration moves to reinstate sanctions on Venezuela—a response to the Caracas regime’s disqualification of the main opposition candidate in elections scheduled this year—the country’s vice president announced that Venezuela would prohibit U.S. flights deporting Venezuelan migrants as of February 13.

Between the October 5, 2023 reinstatement of deportation flights and January 21, 2024, ICE had sent 14 deportation planes to Venezuela.

An Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) contract plane flew deported Mexican migrants to Mexico’s central Pacific state of Michoacán yesterday. It was the first “interior removal” flight of Mexican citizens since May 2022.

Colombia’s migration authority released its first-ever estimate of migration through the treacherous Darién Gap region in 2023: 539,949 people. This is slightly higher than Panama’s estimate of 520,085, which the Panamanian government updates monthly.

Analyses and Feature Stories

Three New York Times reporters examined the evolution of President Biden’s border policies since 2021, portraying it as a turn toward favoring harder-line measures as migration at the border increased.

By moving to the right on border and migration as the 2024 campaign gets underway, President Biden “is trying to strip Republicans of one of their most effective wedge issues,” reads a USA Today analysis.

Centrist strategist Ruy Teixeira told New York Times columnist Thomas Edsall that he doubted Biden has “the stomach to turn a ‘red meat’ conservative stance on immigration into a wedge issue.”

Tonatiuh Guillén, a migration expert who headed the Mexican government’s immigration authority during the first months of Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s presidency, accused the López Obrador of apparent “passivity” in the face of a possible new U.S. authority to expel migrants, which would require Mexico’s cooperation.

Similarly, a Current History article by the New School’s Alexandra Delano Alonso found that the López Obrador government is mirroring the U.S. focus on deterrence, abandoning a more humane migration policy.

USA Today, Washington Post, and Slate reporters visited Eagle Pass, the epicenter of Gov. Abbott’s standoff with the federal government, placing local residents’ views at the center of their reporting.

As a convoy of right-wing protesters heads to Eagle Pass this weekend, Wired found much confusion and paranoia within the group’s exchanges on the Telegram platform.

At CalMatters, Wendy Fry examined Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) plans to construct more high-tech surveillance towers along California’s southern border.

At his Americas Migration Brief newsletter, Jordi Amaral expected Ecuador’s organized-crime violence to trigger an even greater outflow of migration. (Ecuador was the number-seven nationality of migrants encountered at the U.S.-Mexico border in 2023.)

On the Right

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January 30, 2024

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With Congress back in session today, we continue to await legislative language from Senate negotiators who have been working since November on a deal that might restrict access to asylum at the border, a Republican demand for allowing a package of Ukraine aid and other spending priorities to move forward.

Prospects for the deal’s passage in the Republican-majority House of Representatives remain poor. “Any border ‘shutdown’ authority that ALLOWS even one illegal crossing is a non-starter. Thousands each day is outrageous. The number must be ZERO,” tweeted Speaker Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana). (The number has never been close to zero.)

“Thousands each day” refers to an apparent agreement among Senate negotiators to start expelling asylum seekers if the daily average of migrant apprehensions at the border rises above 5,000.

The Oklahoma Republican Party issued a statement clarifying that it did not, in fact, vote to censure Senate Republicans’ chief negotiator, Sen. James Lankford, for his talks with Democrats, as was reported over the weekend.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador responded to President Joe Biden’s January 27 pledge to “shut down the border right now” (an apparent reference to a Title 42-style expulsion authority that is part of the Senate agreement), calling it “a very demagogic position.”

The House Homeland Security Committee will meet today to mark up articles of impeachment against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R) said that his state is putting up concertina wire “everywhere we can… If they cut it, we will replace it.” The Hill reported, “Patrick threatened a ‘confrontation’ with state authorities if the Biden administration sent Border Patrol to remove barriers.”

Twenty-six Republican state attorneys-general, including those from “purple” states like New Hampshire and Virginia, signed a statement backing Texas’s border security efforts and confrontation with federal authorities, citing the state’s “duty to defend against invasion.”

A state records request revealed that Texas’s state government paid $135,000, or $1,100 per passenger, to fly 120 migrants on a chartered plane from El Paso to Chicago in December.

A migrant “caravan” that started near the Mexico-Guatemala border with about 6,000 people at Christmas is now 400 people, walking through Mexico’s southern state of Veracruz.

A Republican House Foreign Affairs Committee aide who had accompanied a recent four-person delegation to Mexico “said Mexican officials were ‘very keen’ about touting their work removing Venezuelans,” the Washington Examiner reported.

Analyses and Feature Stories

“Perhaps it’s chaos, not immigration per se, that upsets voters, and Mr. Biden can curb the chaos by letting more immigrants come to the United States legally,” wrote the Cato Institute’s David Bier at the New York Times. In the increasingly likely event that Congress fails to reach a border deal, Bier suggests that Biden expand use of humanitarian parole authority.

U.S. media have published a series of analyses from legal scholars about the “extremely dangerous” constitutional implications of Texas’s challenge to federal authority to enforce immigration policy at the border, especially its exclusion of Border Patrol from part of the border in Eagle Pass.

Honduran authorities registered 545,043 citizens of other countries (not counting neighboring Nicaragua) transiting its territory irregularly in 2023. UNHCR estimated “that more than 850,000 people transited Honduras” last year when including those whom the government did not count.

On the Right

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January 29, 2024

This appears to be the week in which Senate negotiators will issue compromise legislation that provides new funding for Ukraine, Israel, the border, and other priorities—while meeting Republican demands that it change U.S. law to restrict asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border.

“We do have a bipartisan deal. We’re finishing the text right now,” lead Democratic negotiator Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut) told CNN. “We are sort of finalizing the last pieces of text right now. This bill could be ready to be on the floor of the United States Senate next week.”

Media accounts say that the negotiators have agreed to:

  • Automatic Title 42-style expulsions of would-be asylum seekers, a “shutdown of the border,” when a day’s migrant apprehensions between ports of entry exceed a seven-day average of 5,000 or 8,500 on a single day, as often happens; there would be discretionary authority to suspend asylum when the average hits 4,000. Once that threshold is crossed, “migrants would be expelled indefinitely until crossings dipped below 3,750 per day, which would end the expulsion authority period,” the Washington Post explained.

    As with Title 42, exceptions would only be for people who can prove fear of torture if returned, under the Convention Against Torture. There is no word on whether Mexico would agree to accept expelled individuals.
  • A higher “credible fear” standard that asylum seekers would have to meet in screening interviews with asylum officers, if they are among the segment of migrants placed in expedited removal proceedings (roughly 25,000 per month in recent months, but likely to increase).
  • Those who pass these screenings would have greater access to work permits inside the United States.
  • Unspecified changes to the asylum process “with the goal of reducing the average time for an asylum claim to be resolved from several years to 6 months,” according to the Washington Post—a goal that would require either drastic curbs on due process or significant new investment in the asylum system.
  • According to CBS News, the deal includes Democratic priorities like “50,000 new family and employment-based immigrant visas, offer[ing] permanent residency to tens of thousands of Afghans brought to the U.S. following the fall of Kabul in 2021, and provid[ing] immigration status to the children of H-1B visa holders.”

The agreement does not appear to include Republican demands for limits on the presidential authority to grant humanitarian parole to migrants at the border. The agreement would not touch the CBP One program allowing 1,450 asylum seekers per day to make appointments at ports of entry.

In a White House statement and in remarks given in South Carolina, President Joe Biden voiced enthusiasm for the Senate deal. Of the Title 42-style expulsion authority, he said “If that bill were the law today, I’d shut down the border right now and fix it quickly.”

“There’s just one thing” about the Senate’s legislative deal, wrote Stef Kight at Axios: “Their plan is all but dead.” The House of Representatives’ Republican majority, prodded by Donald Trump, is lining up to oppose the deal because they claim it doesn’t go far enough to restrict migration. Trump called it a “horrible open borders betrayal of America” and said he’d be happy to take the blame if it fails.

Even before the language is public, House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana) has called the Senate’s bill “dead on arrival” in his chamber. “According to reports, the Senate’s pending proposal would expressly allow as many as 150,000 illegal crossings each month (1.8 million per year) before any new ‘shutdown’ authority could be used. At that point, America will have already been surrendered,” Johnson said.

Oklahoma’s Republican party voted Saturday to censure the Senate Republicans’ chief negotiator, James Lankford (R-Oklahoma).

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) updated its dataset of migration at the U.S.-Mexico border through December, showing a record 302,034 migrant encounters border-wide in December. 52,249 encounters took place at ports of entry, and 249,785 people ended up in Border Patrol custody after crossing between ports of entry. The top nationalities were Mexico (23%), Venezuela (19%), Guatemala (12%), Honduras (7%) and Colombia (6%). WOLA’s Adam Isacson posted nine charts illustrating the data.

During January, migrant arrivals have dropped to about half of December’s rate.

The House Homeland Security Committee’s Republican majority is moving ahead with the impeachment of DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on two counts, the second-ever impeachment of a Cabinet official and the first since 1876. House Republicans accuse Mayorkas of willfully refusing to secure the border and control migration.

The Committee is to meet on Tuesday to launch impeachment proceedings; while they certainly lack the votes to remove Mayorkas in the Democratic-majority Senate, it is not even clear whether they have the necessary bare majority in the House.

A Wall Street Journal column by Michael Chertoff, George W. Bush’s second Homeland Security secretary, urged House Republicans not to pursue impeachment.

About 8,000 people migrating through Mexico each month pay smugglers up to $40,000 for an “amparo package” that promises that they can cross the country, and reach the U.S. border, with “free transit” and no concern about deportation—a guarantee that relies on a green light from corrupt migration officials.

A right-wing “Take Our Border Back” truck convoy plans to gather in Eagle Pass, Texas, on February 3.

Analyses and Feature Stories

The New Yorker published an excerpt from an upcoming book about migration from reporter Jonathan Blitzer, telling the story of a Honduran woman whom the Trump administration separated from her sons in 2017, when agents in Border Patrol’s El Paso Sector were carrying out family separations on a trial basis.

University of Texas law professor Steve Vladeck explained to CNN that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) is not defying the Supreme Court’s January 22 decision requiring him to allow Border Patrol agents to cut through concertina wire that state officials have laid along the Rio Grande. However, Abbott “is interfering with federal authority to a degree we haven’t seen from state officials since the desegregation cases of the 1950s and 1960s.”

Texas is seeking to have today’s more conservative Supreme Court undo earlier rulings giving the federal government control over immigration policy, wrote Ian Millhiser at Vox.

Amid the state-federal dispute in Texas, “Republicans and conservative media have alluded to the prospect of the situation forcing soldiers to choose between loyalty to their state and loyalty to their country—even proposing that matters could turn confrontational and violent. Some have invoked another civil war,” noted Aaron Blake at the Washington Post.

The ACLU voiced concern that the Biden administration’s request for additional border spending would expand ICE’s Family Expedited Removal Management (FERM) program, a high-tech alternative-to-detention program applied to asylum-seeking families placed in a fast track adjudication process. FERM “normalizes 24-hour suspicionless surveillance,” the organization contended.

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January 26, 2024

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Ex-president and likely Republican nominee Donald Trump is opposing a possible Senate deal that might restrict the right to asylum and other migration pathways in exchange for Republican assent to a package of spending for Ukraine aid and other priorities. Trump says the senators’ agreed migration restrictions—which remain undisclosed—are “another Gift to the Radical Left Democrats” because they don’t go far enough, and that he would handle the border after his election.

While this casts a cloud over their prospects of passing a deal, Senate negotiators and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) are pledging to forge ahead with negotiations despite Trump’s objections. As has been the case in several past weeks, they say that legislative language may emerge “next week.”

That language may include a new Title 42-style authority to expel asylum seekers from the United States when daily migrant encounters exceed a number, along with a higher standard that asylum seekers would have to meet to pass credible-fear screening interviews.

Negotiators don’t seem to have agreed on Republican demands to limit the presidential humanitarian parole authority. Camilo Montoya-Galvez of CBS News tweeted that proposals under discussion “have included numerical caps on parole grants, barring migrants with parole status from asylum and limiting the use of the authority at land borders.”

On January 24 McConnell had made comments casting doubt about whether, given Trump’s opposition, it made sense to keep pushing for the migration-restrictions deal. Yesterday, the Minority Leader—who has a poor relationship with Trump—adjusted his tone and threw support behind his party’s chief negotiator, Sen. James Lankford (R-Oklahoma).

“Trump’s push to kill the border deal to deny President Biden a legislative win is upsetting members on both sides of the aisle as negotiators hope to wrap up work on an agreement within days,” The Hill noted. Its reporting adds, though: “A senior aide to House Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-La.) told a group of Senate Republican chiefs of staff Thursday that the Senate border security pact has no chance of passing the House,” where the Republican majority may, like Trump, insist on harder-line migration restrictions.

Lead Democratic negotiator Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut) said Republicans are “going to make a decision in the next 24 hours as to whether they actually want to get something done, or whether they want to leave the border a mess for political reasons.”

“Giving up on a border security bill would be a self-inflicted GOP wound,” read an editorial from the Wall Street Journal’s very conservative editorial board. “President Biden would claim, with cause, that Republicans want border chaos as an election issue rather than solving the problem. Voter anger may over time move from Mr. Biden to the GOP, and the public will have a point.”

The Senate is out of session until Tuesday; negotiators expect to meet through the weekend.

Doctors without Borders, which operates two humanitarian facilities in the part of Panama where migrants emerge from the treacherous Darién Gap migration route, revealed that it “treated 676 survivors” of sexual violence in 2023—214 of them alone in December. “One act of sexual violence every three and a half hours in the Darién jungle” perpetrated by criminals against migrants in this lawless zone.

In Mexico’s southern-border city of Tapachula, about 1,500 migrants from Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Venezuela and other countries formed a new “caravan.” No caravan has succeeded in reaching the U.S. border since late 2018: the mass marches are now attempts to pressure the Mexican government to provide documentation. A much larger caravan that departed Tapachula over Christmas is much reduced and moving slowly through Mexico’s southern state of Oaxaca.

“We are trying to seek the possibility of people staying in the southern part of Mexico, because the travel is dangerous,” Mexico’s foreign minister, Alicia Bárcena, told PBS NewsHour.

A Honduran migrant who had arrived in Chihuahua city by train told Raíchali that “the National Guard asked them to ‘get off by force.’ When they refused, the agents climbed into the train cars and beat them to make them get off the train.”

25 Republican governors signed a statement backing Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) in his dispute with the Biden administration over Border Patrol agents’ access to border sites, cutting of state forces’ concertina wire, and other state efforts to block and arrest migrants and asylum seekers.

Representatives of Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, and Panama met on January 24 and signed a “Panama City Declaration” committing to improved cooperation on protecting migrants in 2024.

Analyses and Feature Stories

At ICE’s detention centers, the DHS Inspector-General looked at 6 cases of hysterectomies performed on detained migrant women—and found that 2 of the hysterectomies were medically unnecessary, according to a new report.

A survey of recent humanitarian parole recipients shows that nearly all are participating in the U.S. economy and “an extremely low share (3%)” is depending on private or government assistance.

A report from the Migration Policy Institute “examines the history of the federal government’s efforts to improve southwest border security in the modern era” and concludes that the response includes better interagency coordination and international partnerships.

“Far from developing a climate refugee status (not mentioned in the DHS plan), U.S. border policy for climate migrants is to deter people with walls, armed agents, technological surveillance, arrests, detention, deportation, and mind-boggling, slow-moving bureaucracy,” wrote Todd Miller at the Border Chronicle.

On the Right

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January 25, 2024

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In the Senate, Republican efforts to tie migration restrictions to Ukraine aid are sputtering, as former president and likely Republican nominee Donald Trump has been calling conservative Republican Senators and urging them to reject a deal.

The Biden administration has asked Congress for a $110.5 billion package of Ukraine and Israel aid, border spending, and other priorities. Republicans have refused to support the spending measure unless Democrats agree to include stricter border and migration measures; a small group of senators has been negotiating these demands since November.

Rights defenders and some Democratic legislators have sounded alarms about concessions that the negotiators may have already agreed on, including a new Title 42-like authority to expel asylum seekers on days of heavy migration (with a rumored threshold of 5,000 per day to trigger expulsions), tougher criteria for credible fear interviews, more detention, and perhaps some curbs on presidential humanitarian parole authority.

Senators on the Republican Party’s rightmost wing are arguing that the migration-restriction measures don’t go far enough. Hardline Republican senators apparently shouted at their moderate colleagues during a lunch meeting on January 23. They could scuttle a deal even before it goes to the Republican-majority House, where leaders may also take a hard line.

Just a few days ago, negotiators were raising expectations that a deal might be reached this week—that most of what remained was to work with appropriators to gauge the cost of the new restrictions. The change in prospects in the Senate is sharp, and indicates the sway that Donald Trump holds over the Republican Party.

The impasse may leave current asylum laws and standards in place, even as it puts in doubt the administration’s ability to provide Ukraine with new assistance to repel Russia’s invasion. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), who favors Ukraine aid, hinted yesterday that he might favor standing down and de-linking migration restrictions from the Ukraine package: “The politics on this have changed.”

“In effectively backing away from the border-security-for-Ukraine construct that Hill Republicans clung to for the last few months, McConnell is acknowledging Trump’s continued stranglehold on the GOP,” wrote Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan at Punchbowl News. “Democrats will get to say they made huge concessions on parole and asylum during these talks, and Trump tanked it.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) published an open letter asserting his state’s “constitutional right to self-defense” against an “invasion,” a term that conflates asylum seekers and economic migrants with an invading army. The missive follows a January 22 Supreme Court finding allowing the federal Border Patrol to access the Rio Grande riverbank by cutting through razor-sharp concertina wire laid by Texas state police and national guardsmen.

Some Republican politicians are urging Texas to ignore the Supreme Court ruling. This would be unconstitutional—but it’s not clear what “ignoring” means, since Monday’s ruling doesn’t compel Texas to do anything except abstain from confronting Border Patrol agents when they determine that they need to cut through the concertina wire.

The Court did not require Texas to remove any wire or prohibit Texas from adding new wire, as the state has been doing this week in Eagle Pass. The decision was limited to the scope of Texas’s October lawsuit seeking to stop agents from cutting it. That case remains before the federal courts’ 5th Circuit.

DHS sent Texas’s attorney-general a new letter (following one issued January 14) reiterating its demand that federal agents be permitted access to Shelby Park, which occupies 50 acres of riverfront border in Eagle Pass. The letter contends that the Supreme Court’s decision not only allows agents to cut the concertina wire but to be present in the park, and the border area in general.

Border Patrol’s San Diego Sector reported 6,025 migrant apprehensions during the week of January 17-23, a notable increase from 4,606 the previous week. Across the border, Border Patrol apprehended about 4,000 migrants on Tuesday, which remains a bit less than half the reported December average.

CBP sources leaked to Fox News an estimate that 96,000 migrants evaded detection during October-December 2023. If accurate, that would point to Border Patrol apprehending about 85 percent of attempted migrants, which is in line with the past few years and historically high.

Analyses and Feature Stories

“More Border Patrol agents will not stop what’s happening right now, we’re not having a difficulty encountering people,” Border Patrol Tucson Sector Chief John Modlin told Arizona Public Radio, referring to large numbers of asylum seekers turning themselves in to agents in remote Arizona desert. “The difficulty is what’s happening after we’re encountering them. That’s where the system is now overwhelmed.”

TRAC Immigration found a serious shortage of attorneys as the U.S. immigration courts’ backlog inflated to 3,287,058 cases by the end of December. In many cases, the shortage affects both sides: “ICE has adopted the practice of not sending an attorney to many hearings.”

The 42,637 northbound refugees and migrants recorded transiting Honduras in December included fewer Venezuelans, Cubans, and Haitians than in November, but 11 percent more people from Sub-Saharan African countries and 31 percent more from Asian countries, according to a UNHCR monitoring report.

As it has moved to abandon fentanyl smuggling, the Sinaloa Cartel faction controlled by Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán’s sons is aggressively pursuing migrant smuggling, including ransom kidnappings, reported Milenio.

A letter from prominent Miami Cuban-American leaders, many of them Republican, urged House Republicans to abandon their effort to impeach DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who is Cuban-American.

On the Right

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January 24, 2024

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Senators negotiating a border and migration deal now say that the chamber is unlikely to act this week on legislation that might fund the Biden administration’s request for aid to Ukraine and Israel, border spending, and other priorities, while meeting some Republican demands for new limits on asylum and perhaps other legal migration pathways. Negotiators had voiced mild optimism at the beginning of the week that they would reach agreement on migration measures and begin moving a bill forward.

There will be no bill this week, said chief Republican negotiator Sen. James Lankford (R-Oklahoma), but it is still possible that the negotiators might start sharing agreed-upon legislative text.

A major sticking point continues to be a Republican demand for new limits on the 70-year-old presidential authority to grant migrants temporary humanitarian parole, which the Biden administration has employed about 1 million times to reduce disorder at the border for lack of other legal pathways. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), a frequent participant in the negotiations, continues to insist on strong curbs on parole authority, but the Democrats, who have a 51-49 Senate majority, have resisted that.

Whatever is agreed must still go to the House of Representatives, where the Republican majority—at the increasingly vocal urging of former president Trump—is likely to demand even more limits on asylum and migration in exchange for Ukraine aid.

Some Texas Republicans are calling on Gov. Greg Abbott (R) to defy or ignore the Supreme Court’s January 22 finding that allows the federal Border Patrol to cut through razor-sharp concertina wire that the state’s security forces have laid along many miles of the Rio Grande.

“This opinion is unconscionable and Texas should ignore it on behalf of the [Border Patrol] agents who will be put in a worse position by the opinion and the Biden administration’s policies,” Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) posted on Twitter. (Roy chairs the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution.)

Biden administration officials have not said that they plan to remove Texas’s wire at the border, but agents now have the right to cut or move it in order to access migrants or people in distress along the riverbank. (Texas had filed suit in federal court last October to prohibit federal agents’ wire-cutting.)

Should Gov. Abbott use the Texas National Guard to defy the Court’s ruling or to continue blocking Border Patrol access to parts of the border, Democrats like Rep. Joaquín Castro (Texas) say that President Biden should place the Texas state military force under federal control.

Immigration is now U.S. voters’ number-one concern, edging out inflation by 35 to 32 percent, according to a new Harvard CAPS-Harris poll.

Employees of the U.S. consulate in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, across the border from Brownsville, Texas, have been placed under curfew all week, as a security precaution following the arrest of “a high-level member of a criminal organization” near Monterrey, in nearby Nuevo León.

Organized crime in Tamaulipas preys heavily on migrants, David Agren wrote at National Catholic Reporter. “Everyone arrives kidnapped at the migrant shelter. People released from captivity arrive at the parish, at the Reynosa migrant shelter, too,” said longtime shelter manager Fr. Francisco Gallardo of the Diocese of Matamoros.

Republican senators contentiously raised border issues several times at an Armed Services Committee nomination hearing for Melissa Dalton, the Biden administration’s choice for Air Force secretary. Dalton has been serving as the assistant secretary of defense for Homeland Defense and Hemispheric Affairs. Among much Republican criticism of the Biden administration’s border policy, Sen. Rick Scott (R-Florida) asked Dalton, “Did you ever tell Secretary Mayorkas he was doing a crappy job?” (She had not.)

A January 23 CBP release details the death of a woman from Mexico on November 18 after she fell from the border wall in Clint, Texas, near El Paso. Three women had been “tied together” by their smugglers “about one foot apart as they climbed the barrier. When one woman panicked [upon seeing Border Patrol approaching], all three of them fell from the barrier.”

Analyses and Feature Stories

At Bloomberg Government, Ellen Gilmer analyzed the impact that House Republican efforts to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, alleging failure to secure the border, have on morale at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). “Homeland security professionals have concerns about impeachment’s long-term impacts on the department. The hearings and headlines further politicize the agency, undermine recruitment, and drive away prospective leaders, said the 20-year DHS career employee.”

At Capital & Main, Kate Morrissey reported on the dire situation of asylum seekers who are released onto U.S. streets after spending time in ICE detention facilities. “ICE, the agency responsible for long-term immigration detention, generally drops off people being released from its custody in San Diego sometime between 7 and 11 p.m. at a trolley station by the San Ysidro Port of Entry.”

“If there is one thing that Republicans have long understood keenly it is that fear drives voters to the polls. It’s why they’re not interested in solving the immigration puzzle,” wrote columnist Marcela García at the Boston Globe.

Because so many migrants now come from places other than Mexico and northern Central America, Amb. Mark Green of the Woodrow Wilson Center wrote, “Some of the policy tools we’ve been using in an attempt to control migration are likely to prove inadequate—such as the Partnership for Prosperity/Remain in Mexico policy.”

On the Right

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January 23, 2024

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In a brief 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court sided with the Biden administration and granted the federal Border Patrol permission to cut through the spools of concertina wire that Texas’s state government has placed along dozens of miles of border along the Rio Grande. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Amy Coney Barrett sided with the high court’s three Democratic appointees.

In late October, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) had banned federal agents from cutting the razor-sharp wire, as they had been doing in order to access asylum seekers and people in distress along the riverbank. While a federal district court sided with the administration, the 5th Circuit had allowed Texas’s ban to remain in place while appeals proceeded, leading the Department of Justice to seek an emergency action from the Supreme Court. Texas’s appeal is ongoing, with arguments scheduled for February 7.

The January 22 Supreme Court ruling does not affect Texas’s January 10 banning of Border Patrol agents from a 50-acre riverfront park in Eagle Pass. Nor does it affect Texas’s placement of a string of buoys in the river in Eagle Pass, which remains while the 5th Circuit considers an appeal of its own earlier ruling ordering their removal.

“Border Patrol is not planning to use the order as a green light to remove the razor wire barriers if they do not present an immediate hazard,” a “senior agency official” told the Washington Post.

As of last August, Texas state police had treated 133 migrants for injuries caused by the concertina wire.

Since November, a small group of senators has been negotiating a compromise that might allow the Biden administration’s request for $110.5 billion in Ukraine and Israel aid, new border spending, and other priorities to move forward, in exchange for Republican demands for restrictions on asylum and perhaps on other migration pathways. Senators now say they are near agreement on what those restrictions will be, and that legislative language could emerge this week.

“Our work is largely done. The conversation has really moved over to Appropriations. So, there’s no reason why we couldn’t begin consideration this week,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut), the Democrats’ chief negotiator and the chairman of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee. “We are at the point of drafting and finalizing text.”

“It’s not going to be ready today, to be able to go out. Everybody’s got to have several days to be able to go through it. It’s gonna depend on final timing – it would be quite a push to be able to get it out this week,” said lead Senate negotiator James Lankford (R-Oklahoma).

The deal may include a Title 42-style authority to expel asylum seekers, regardless of protection needs, when daily migrant encounters exceed a certain number at the U.S.-Mexico border. It may also raise the standard of “credible fear” that asylum seekers must meet when placed in screening interviews with asylum officers, a process known as “expedited removal.” The agreement might also increase detention of asylum seekers pending adjudication of their cases.

It is not clear whether senators have resolved Republican demands for limits on the 70-year-old presidential authority to offer temporary “humanitarian parole” to some migrants. The Biden administration has paroled over 1 million migrants, including 422,000 people who came to ports of entry after securing appointments with the CBP One smartphone app; 340,000 citizens of Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela permitted to apply online; and 176,000 beneficiaries of the “Uniting for Ukraine” policy.

“The emerging Senate deal seeks to reduce parole numbers by tightening immigration enforcement and speeding up processing,” the New York Times reported. “There are some changes that will be made in parole that I think will get at the abuse and misuse of it,” said Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-South Dakota). CBS News reported that a compromise deal might exclude paroled people from applying for asylum, but official sources consulted by the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent denied that.

Another barrier to agreement is appropriations: if Republicans win new limits on asylum and other migration, implementing them will cost money, and legislative language will have to account for that.

If senators do reach a deal this week, “we’d expect the Senate to stay in session for as long as it takes to complete action on the measure,” wrote John Bresnahan at Punchbowl News. “Meaning through the weekend or whatever it takes for a final vote.”

Even if the Senate passes a Ukraine-Israel-border bill, it would then go to the House of Representatives, where the Republican majority, egged on by former president Donald Trump, may demand even stricter limits on migration.

At The Hill, Rafael Bernal highlighted the absence of Congressional Hispanic Caucus members from the Senate negotiations on restricting protection-seeking migration in exchange for Ukraine and other aid.

A statement from Ken Salazar, the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, revealed that the U.S. government repatriated migrants on 79 flights between January 1 and 21. The planes returned people to Guatemala (36 flights), Honduras (23), El Salvador (6), Colombia (3), Venezuela (3), Ecuador (2), Peru (2), Romania / India (1), Dominican Republic (1), Nicaragua (1), and Haiti (1).

Salazar’s statement credited Mexico with dismantling “at least 10 of the most prolific criminal organizations” engaged in migrant smuggling.

“On December 18 we had a pressure on the border of 12,498 migrants (per day) and we managed to reduce it to 6,751,” Mexico’s foreign minister, Alicia Bárcena, said at a presidential press conference on January 22.

Nine Democratic governors sent a letter to the White House and Congress calling for federal aid to help manage arrivals of migrants seeking refuge in their states.

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January 22, 2024

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Analyses and Feature Stories

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

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

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

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

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

On the Right

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