Many thanks to Mexico’s Universidad Iberoamericana, who along with several other groups organized a May 21-22 conference in Mexico City on the need for civilians to be in charge of security, at a time when it is militarizing throughout Latin America.
They asked me to give a talk about citizen security and the military’s involvement, region-wide. And they gave me 45 minutes to do it. And then they produced this high-quality video, showing all 77 of my slides and sign language for the hearing-impaired. Very impressive.
I think I did a decent job here. The video is in Spanish, with optional closed-caption subtitles (again, very impressive).
I enjoyed participating in a June 10 panel discussion at a seminar in Washington, “The Colombian peace process after two years,” hosted by Notre Dame University’s Kroc Institute for International Affairs. Colombia’s 2016 peace accord gives this Institute, which maintains a database of worldwide peace processes, a formal role in monitoring the accord’s implementation.
I chose to talk about the challenge of getting government into vast rural areas that used to have a heavy guerrilla presence, before the FARC demobilized. Here’s what the notes on my index cards said:
I. I’d like to focus on Chapter 1 of the accord. (Comprehensive Rural Reform)
A. It’s where the Colombian government’s executive branch has the most to do.
B. It is a part of the accord that should be less controversial, because it appeals both to peace advocates and counter-insurgency advocates
1. It provides a blueprint for getting the state into vast areas of the country that need a state presence
2. A part of the accord that shouldn’t be thought of as a concession to the FARC. The end of FARC presence in these zones was supposed to provide an opportunity to enter these zones without having to shoot one’s way in.
a. As new armed groups fill the vacuum, that security obstacle is growing
b. But except for a few really troubled zones, the window is still open. For now.
C. Implement this well, and much else should fall into place
1. Coca doesn’t get grown in areas with a robust state presence
2. Reintegration of excombatants: land and productive projects
3. Predictability, rules, someone to settle disputes
II. The commitments made in Chapter 1 are ambitious
A. List a few
1. Land Fund
2. “Massive formalization” of landholdings.
3. A National Cadaster System.
4. Establishment of Campesino Reserve Zones for small landholders.
5. Tertiary road building.
6. Irrigation and drainage.
7. Rural electrification and internet connectivity.
8. Rural health care.
9. Rural education.
10. Rural housing.
11. Food security.
12. (Basically, supporting the smallholding agriculture model)
13. Development Programs with a Territorial Focus (PDET).
B. This is a fine plan. It’s common sense whether you support peace and a small-producer model, or whether you want to “clear hold and build” in order to weaken armed groups. It works well enough for both priorities.
C. The PDETs (Territorially Focused Development Plans) got established
1. 170 municipalities (counties, out of 1,100); 6.7 million people; 94% of coca; homicide rate 12 per 100,000 higher than national average; poverty rate 2.5 times higher than national average
2. Officials visited many thousands of veredas (hamlets), consultative process
3. In March, signed the last of 16 regional plans
4. 15 years of commitments
D. National Development Plan gives PDETs its blessing, though there’s debate over whether they’re resourced enough.
III. However, Chapter 1 faces big challenges. I see 7 big ones.
A. It’s 85% of the cost of the accord (15 years)
1. So something like $3 billion per year. In reality, probably more.
2. At a time when deficits are already high
3. Expensive items: road, cadaster
4. So you’re talking about a moon shot or a Marshall Plan
B. There are locally powerful interests that don’t like it
1. Landowners, political bosses
a. (Local elites are under-studied)
b. They are very influential during national elections, at get-out-the-vote time.
2. People in private sector who favor capital-intensive model in the countryside, don’t want to pay taxes for the campesino economy
C. There are armed actors that will block efforts, in some zones
1. ELN, FARC Dissidents, Gulf Clan, regional groups
D. Success really depends on social leaders doing much of the work, and much of the oversight.
1. Community Action Boards in some places.
2. Ethnic leaders where there are resguardos and community councils.
3. Women’s groups, victims’ groups.
4. Many others.
5. But those leaders are being being terrorized right now.
E. There are other priorities that are big distractions
1. Venezuelan refugees
2. U.S. pressure to take care of coca first
F. It’s something Colombia’s state has failed at before.
1. Or rather than “failed at,” I should say it hasn’t tried it in a long-term, sustained way.
2. Past efforts sort of fade away after a change in government. (Big example National Territorial Consolidation Plan 2006-12)
G. It’s something Colombia’s state isn’t really set up for, for 3 reasons
a. Military and civilians
i. 20-year-old soldiers and 30-year-old officers are representatives of the state, but they’re not the state. They can’t provide all state services, it’s not what they’re trained for.
ii. Meanwhile civilians go slow, they can’t “surge” into new zones the way the military can.
b. National government and local/departmental governments, which are turning over at the end of the year
c. The Justice System, which hardly appears in the plan (judges and prosecutors)
ZEII (Strategic Comprehensive Intervention Zones – National Security Council – 5 years) in the PDETs
i. Planning says they’re supposed to be articulated when they overlap
ii. But gives sense that there’s not a whole-of-government approach
2. Incentives: what gets you promotions, raises, and medals?
3. Timeframes: must go beyond the gobierno de turno
IV. New National Development Plan calls for a new “road map for intervention” in PDET zones, to deal with coordination/articulation issues.
A. Hope it’s not just another reshuffling of the org chart.
B. The process of drawing up the PDETs has greatly raised expectations in some very volatile territories. Populations are going to want to see results that are tangible for them.
V. There are many in government in Bogotá who want to see this succeed, for the reasons I mentioned. A few of them are here with us today. But they’ve got a lot of obstacles to overcome in order to make good intentions in the capital play out in the countryside, over the long term.
A. They’re going to have to be very creative.
B. And we really really need the United States government to be on board and firmly supportive. No wavering. Let’s not get distracted. This is a huge opportunity and the window is still open.
I’m guest-teaching a class at the Foreign Service Institute this morning. Then I have a telephone interview with a reporter, and I’ll be taking part in an NGO meeting with a Colombian government official in the afternoon.
By the time today is over, I’ll have spent 31 hours at meetings and events in the first four days of this week. This is nice—I’ve caught up with a lot of people I haven’t seen in a while. However, I’m falling behind on the kind of work that requires me to sit at a computer, including the maintenance of this site.
Expuso videos, testimonios y documentos que apuntan a que los entrenamientos militares se basan en la humillación, tortura y maltrato de los oficiales en curso, lo cual, en su concepto, contribuye a que estén dispuestos a matar sin contemplación
Lo que piensan algunos defensores del acuerdo de paz con las Farc es que hay un “desconcierto generalizado” en la comunidad internacional por la postura del gobierno de Iván Duque sobre la implementación de lo pactado en La Habana
Los habitantes de esa región todavía no han superado las secuelas del conflicto armado que padecieron hace un par de décadas y están sufriendo una nueva ola de violencia que ha producido más desplazamientos forzados
Any migrants who made it to the U.S. border generally would be deported to the appropriate third country. And any migrants who express a fear of death or torture in their home country would be subjected to a tougher screening standard
Nothing would be a more indefensible concession than granting a potential request for Mexico to become a “safe third country” for Central American immigrants. McAleenan is mistaken: Mexico is not a safe country for refugees
Guatemalans looking for refuge would have to apply for asylum in Mexico rather than the United States. And those fleeing El Salvador and Honduras would have to seek asylum in Guatemala rather than continuing on to Mexico or the United States
Health and Human Services, which is responsible for caring for children under 18 years old until they can be given to an adult relative, stated it has taken about 40,900 children into custody through April 30. That’s a 57% increase from last year
Con una votación de 58 contra 19 se negó la proposición de la oposición de votar por separado el ascenso de este oficial y eso dio vía libre para su promoción a la mayor dignidad de las Fuerzas Militares
The internal report puts the number of combatants belonging to dissident Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) groups at around 2,300, a sharp increase from about 300 at the time of the controversial peace agreement
Según Barbosa, en lo corrido de este año están verificados 22 asesinatos. claro que la ONU ya ha recibido reportes de 57 posibles casos de líderes y defensores asesinados, que están en proceso de documentación
Las probabilidades de que la gestión de Nayib Bukele resulte ser la continuación de la corrupción sistémica, el nepotismo, la preferencia por el autoritarismo y la ineficiencia en las instituciones, son perturbadoramente altas
Juan Orlando Hernández, the US government’s top ally in Central America, is under increasing pressure amid public anger over crumbling public services, dismal approval ratings – and explosive revelations that he was the subject of a US Drug Enforcement Administration trafficking investigation
This is a personal view. I’m not an expert on immigration policy or asylum law, nor do I plan to be. But I’ve done lots of work on border security, and this is my strong impression after having lots of conversations, visiting a few processing facilities, and volunteering in a respite center. Am I missing something? Comments are open.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is saying that 4,500 people per day, most of them children and parents, are arriving at the border right now. Most are released shortly afterward, with a date to appear before an asylum officer.
Before that happens, they spend a few days or more packed into small, austere holding facilities designed for what until recently was the profile of nearly all migrants at the border: single males. A Homeland Security Department Inspector-General alert published May 30 shows horrific photos of adults packed into the small holding facility next to the Paso del Norte bridge in El Paso, the bridge under which CBP held hundreds of Central American families behind a fence for four days in March. (I’ve been to that facility twice, it has less than a dozen holding spaces, each about the size of an above-average office.) The report shows dozens of children and parents continuing to be held outdoors in the Paso del Norte facility’s parking lot.
This is unacceptable and heartbreaking. But it’s not a national-security threat, and it’s fixable. Ultimately, it’s an administrative issue: a big and complex one, but nothing the U.S. government can’t handle. Any short-term solution depends on short-term processing capacity.
I know, that sounds boring and bureaucratic. I know, it involves giving resources to CBP, an agency with big problems. And I now, it’s only a small component of a larger solution that must run from Central American neighborhoods to U.S. immigration courts. (See the five-part proposal that WOLA colleagues and I wrote up in early April.)
But I insist: the most pressing need right now is for more short-term processing capacity. Even countries with the world’s most generous asylum systems need to receive and process people when they arrive asking for protection. During processing, officials determine whether arriving individuals have communicable diseases or otherwise need medical attention. They verify family relationships. They do criminal background checks. For those who express fear of return, they start the asylum paperwork and schedule their first appearance before an asylum officer or a court.
During this time, officials must also give the arrivals access to bathing and clothing, a dignified place to sleep, food, hydration, medicine, and childcare.
CBP’s processing facilities are meant to be temporary way stations where migrants spend two or three days, and they should stay that way. But they are severely inadequate for attending to the new profile of migrant—kids and parents—whose numbers began to increase back in 2012-13. This year so far, 66 percent of apprehended migrants are children and families. We are now in the third, and largest, big wave of children and families fleeing Central America since 2014. This is normal now. Numbers may decline during the hot summer months, but they’ll go up again.
Current facilities include holding cells in Border Patrol stations, a warehouse-sized building in McAllen, Texas (and another to be built soon in El Paso), small numbers of cells at ports of entry, and right now, some temporary structures where migrants are kept in tents. They are staffed almost entirely by CBP officers and Border Patrol agents, and the agencies complain that they’re losing large percentages of staff time to asylum paperwork, changing diapers, feeding people, and similar non-law enforcement tasks.
Amid the current wave, short-term holding and processing capacity is beyond overwhelmed. It’s overcrowded because of the large number of arrivals, and staffing challenges mean processing times are routinely exceeding two or three days.
Here’s what has to happen:
There’s an urgent need for more space to accommodate and process people upon arrival. Every one of CBP’s border sectors needs a large, permanent short-term processing facility. I say “permanent” because large-scale, protection-seeking migration is very likely to continue, in ebbs and flows, in coming years.
The facilities need to be far less austere than what exists today. The warehouse-sized McAllen “central processing facility,” built to deal with the 2014 child migrant wave, became famous during last year’s family separation crisis as the site of the “cages”: the media and visiting members of Congress discovered that children were being kept in chain-link fence enclosures, with mylar blankets to keep warm. The same conditions prevailed during the Obama administration. Less austere conditions cost money, and the 2019 Homeland Security budget appropriation includes some funds for that. Though it’s probably impossible to provide individual quarters to thousands of arriving families per day, the short-term processing experience needs to be more dignified than it has been.
The additional short-term capacity should be linked to ports of entry. The goal should be for CBP to have enough space and personnel to ensure that everyone who presents themselves and requests asylum at official land ports of entry can quickly be taken to a processing center. Right now, claiming a lack of holding space and personnel, CBP is “metering” arrivals at the official border crossings. This has forced nearly 19,000 people onto precarious waitlists in Mexican border towns. It has caused many times more people to jump the fence or cross the Rio Grande to await Border Patrol apprehension, which guarantees them immediate processing even though it’s technically against the law. With sufficient processing capacity, none of this would be necessary: asylum-seekers could present themselves to CBP officers at the ports of entry, express fear of return, and be taken to the nearest processing facility that same day. It would be orderly.
The additional short-term capacity need not be staffed with armed, uniformed CBP and Border Patrol agents. Most tasks in the short-term processing facilities do not require agents’ law-enforcement training and could be contracted out. Many of those contract employees should be civilians experienced in working with children, and with survivors of trauma.
After a maximum of 72 hours in a processing facility, asylum-seekers, including most adults, could be released with a requirement to appear before an immigration judge, as families are now. Assistance could go to non-profit respite centers that place migrants in contact with relatives and arrange transportation to their destination cities.
Complaints about people failing to show up for court dates could be assuaged by expanded family case management programs. These, which have undergone very successful pilot testing, involve frequent check-ins and monitoring with caseworkers who ensure attendance at immigration hearings. They cost a fraction of what detention costs.
Also necessary would be to increase the number of immigration judges beyond the current 400 or so, in order to reduce asylum case backlogs. The goal should be to have the capacity to adjudicate asylum cases within a year or so—not the three or four years, with minimal monitoring, that it’s taking now. The chance of being adjudicated and sent back within a year, with regular check-ins with caseworkers, would likely convince those with less-solid asylum cases not to bother selling their belongings and paying many thousands of dollars to smugglers. (Though this isn’t a short-term response, these expanded immigration courts should also be moved out of the executive branch—they’re part of the Justice Department right now. The American Bar Association has proposed making them independent “Article 1” courts, part of the legislative branch.)
In meetings this year with people on both sides of the issue, I haven’t received much pushback when I bring up the need for more short-term processing capacity. The details probably would complicate things, and this would carry a price tag over $1 billion (though far below what a border wall and expanded detentions would cost). But right now, very little seems to be happening on the “short-term processing” front despite the evident overwhelm.
In early May, the Trump administration sent Congress a request for an additional $4.5 billion to deal with the spike in migrant arrivals. That request included some “poison pills” that would never get through the Democratic-majority House of Representatives, like funding for additional ICE detention, the National Guard deployment at the border, and more money for criminal prosecutions of migrants. It does, however, include $530 million for additional short-term processing capacity.
The description in the request hints at somewhat better conditions—blankets, showers, meals. But it relies on “tent cities”—it calls them “soft-sided facilities”—rather than a more permanent solution. While it includes money for non-law enforcement personnel to staff the facilities, they would be employees of other federal agencies on temporary duty. While that may be the only way to build capacity right now, this summer, it also tells us that DHS still assumes that the asylum-seeker flow is a temporary problem that might go away. The experience since 2014 indicates otherwise.
While the $530 million plan may cover some temporary processing needs for the next few months, the border needs a short-term processing-space and personnel solution that is more permanent. Congress must ask CBP what it would cost to build permanent short-term processing facilities in each border sector—with enough capacity to make it possible for asylum-seekers just to show up at ports of entry, and be taken there. That cost estimate should include paying non-law enforcement personnel to handle processing and care while the asylum-seekers are in this short-term custody. It should also include the cost of treating arriving people with human dignity during their time in processing. Congress should then fund the amount that CBP comes up with.
After a day at home writing, I’m back in the working world today. A meeting with congressional staff, lunch with a new intern, interviewing a candidate for a senior position at WOLA, and a meeting at USAID. I should be back in the office near the end of the day.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) just released new border migration numbers through May. Border Patrol apprehended more migrants in May 2019 than in any month since March 2006 (monthly data here).But back then, something like 95% of migrants were single adults. In May, only 27% were single adults.
In what is becoming a monthly ritual, here are the numbers in graphical form. You can download an updated PDF with these and other graphics at the easy-to-remember URL bit.ly/2019wolaborder.
Finally, some charts showing border drug seizures through May. Note how nearly all drugs are overwhelmingly seized at the official land ports of entry. The action is not in the areas between the ports, where Border Patrol operates.
You can download an updated PDF with these and other graphics at the easy-to-remember URL bit.ly/2019wolaborder.
Command officials are in the midst of an investigation into claims an active-duty Marine fired his sidearm after a physical confrontation with three unknown individuals during a surveillance operation near the El Centro Border Patrol station
A voluntary program called Permiso Especial de Permanencia (PEP) would allow them to live and work legally in the country. Another option offers the defectors a three-month stipend to help get them on their feet
Imposition of tariffs on all Mexican goods requires a legal justification, and administration officials say the existing emergency declaration could provide the basis for that, although it’s also possible Trump would declare a new emergency
Defensores de derechos humanos consideraron “preocupante” y “desalentador” que el jefe del Ejecutivo se negara a escuchar lo que la Comisión tiene que decirle sobre la situación de los derechos humanos
Senior officials at the Department of Homeland Security have said they want Mexico to strengthen security on its border with Guatemala and intensify its investigation of smuggling rings that transport most migrants across Mexican territory
Venezuela has overtaken China to become the No. 1 country of origin for those claiming asylum in the U.S. upon arrival or shortly after, with nearly 30,000 Venezuelans applying for asylum with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in 2018
Here’s a short analysis posted to WOLA’s website (Español). It jumps off from last Friday’s Washington Post finding that dozens of CBP and ICE officers may be sent to Guatemala to work as “advisors” at the country’s border with Mexico.
The piece is built around a listing of Homeland Security and Defense Department deployments to Guatemala in recent years, collected from my database. Those have had names like “Operation Citadel,” “Operation Regional Shield,” “Operation Hornet,” “Operation Together Forward,” and several others.
The point is that even if the past deployments brought some results, they made no difference in migrant and drug-smuggling out of Guatemala. And nor will any new 80-person mission.
They failed because Guatemala’s 600-mile border with Mexico is easily crossed at dozens of formal and informal sites. They failed because Guatemala—unlike, say, East Germany—doesn’t prevent citizens from leaving its territory. They failed because migrants fleeing violence and poverty, and the smugglers who charge them thousands for the journey, are adept at avoiding capture. They failed because seeking asylum, as tens of thousands of Guatemalan children and parents are doing each month, is not an illegal act.
They failed, too, because unpunished corruption within Guatemalan and Mexican security and immigration forces works to smugglers’ advantage, undermining the efforts of Homeland Security agents and their counterparts. And in Guatemala, where the government is slamming the door on the CICIG, a much-admired international investigative body, the corruption problem is only getting worse—just as more U.S. agents arrive.
There is no reason to believe that 80 agents, carrying out a similar mission on a somewhat larger scale, might make much of a dent. They will assuredly capture lower-ranking smugglers and block some unfortunate families from leaving. But migrants’ desperation and higher-tier smugglers’ sophistication will remain unchanged. And corruption will continue to erase gains as long as there is no accountability for those on the take.
Pese a los tropiezos jurídicos y los incumplimientos en torno a los acuerdos del proceso de paz, la mayoría de los excombatientes se mantienen en su promesa de abandonar las armas y apostarle a la reincorporación a la vida civil
Honduras’ most powerful drug trafficking organization, Los Cachiros, bribed the country’s former president and opened a line of communication to current President Juan Orlando Hernández, documents recently unsealed in a New York federal court show
Hemos recibido 24,541 solicitudes de refugio, así como 8,835 migrantes retornados de Estados Unidos que realizan su proceso migratorio ante tribunales estadounidenses mientras aguardan en territorio mexicano
From 2009 to 2014, at least 214 complaints were filed against federal agents for abusing or mistreating migrant children. According to the Department of Homeland Security’s records, only one employee was disciplined
In March, the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups sent a letter to ICE and the Department of Homeland Security complaining about the treatment of gay and transgender detainees at the Otero County Processing Center
SEMANA fue hasta el lugar en el que un cabo del Ejército asesinó a este desmovilizado, que se había acogido al proceso de paz. Lo quiso hacer pasar por guerrillero del ELN, como en las más cruentas épocas de los falsos positivos
Horas después, sin embargo, tomó una decisión que el gobierno anterior evadió por 10 años: ordenó a la Fuerza Armada que retire honores a Domingo Monterrosa, señalado como responsable de la masacre en El Mozote
En 2013, cuando la Cicig anunció que investigaría el financiamiento ilícito de las campañas políticas, pocos imaginaban que en 2019 tantos candidatos o funcionarios serían vinculados al narcotráfico. Sin embargo, el nexo crimen organizado/política, por medio de las Redes Político Económicas Ilícitas, cumple al menos medio siglo
La carta enviada a Trump por López Obrador contrasta con lo que sucede en la frontera sur de México, donde ONG denuncian hostigamiento de las autoridades migratorias para detener y deportar personas sin documentos
He emphasized that Mexico’s main proposal to stop migration is to invest in Central America and that its immigration policy was bound by international treaties on migration, Mexico’s constitution “and its own dignity”
Russian state defense contractor Rostec, which has trained Venezuelan troops and advised on securing arms contracts, has cut its staff in Venezuela to just a few dozen, from about 1,000 at the height of cooperation between Moscow and Caracas several years ago