I’m in the office in the morning, writing at home in the afternoon. (How to contact me)
I’m deep into working on a report about the border. Available, though replies may be delayed.
A disgraceful misuse of taxpayer $$,” Durbin said on Twitter. “Our military has more important work to do than making Trump’s wall beautiful”
“At the end of the day, as a medical provider, as a physician, we take an oath to first do no harm. And taking somebody’s medications seems like it’s causing harm”
It was by far the largest one-month arrest total since President Trump took office, and it was the highest monthly figure in 13 years
There really is something unprecedented — and deadly — happening at the US/Mexico border right now. But the threat is to migrants themselves
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
In an email obtained by The Washington Post, U.S. officials say program for sheltering minors who crossed the border is running out of money, must focus on “essential” services
Varios senadores se sorprendieron cuando escucharon al senador Lozada pronunciando palabras de elogio a las Fuerzas Armadas y la Policía
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
Entre los agentes acusados figuran Brian Witek, quien dirigió un operativo de “entrampamiento” (incitación al delito, lo que es ilegal en Colombia) contra el exguerrillero de las FARC Jesús Santrich
El resultado es preocupante, a cuatro meses de las elecciones, el pico de violencia, secuestros y asesinatos contra líderes políticos va a alcanzar su punto más alto
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
English Map on Guatemala and 4 other countries about Food and Nutrition, Protection and Human Rights, Refugees and Drought; published on 03 Jun 2019 by ECHO
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
Plans to renegotiate a regional open-borders agreement, break up migrant caravans and subject families to DNA testing
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
President López Obrador has few cards to play. But any alternative is preferable to continuing to kowtow to Washington
Unarmed agents wrestled some migrants who resisted to the ground, but the vast majority complied and boarded buses or immigration agency vans
Este fuerte operativo ocurrió en medio de las negociaciones que el gobierno mexicano emprende en Washington con la administración del presidente Donald Trump para evitar que éste imponga aranceles
As in previous crackdowns, migrants will be forced to take longer, more risky routes – such as the Beast – to avoid immigration checkpoints
Both countries early this year set the target, which the people said was as many as 800 detainees per day
Deportations from Mexico have been on the rise in recent months, and the country has launched several new efforts in response to the situation
‘The moment Maduro leaves, everybody’s going to raise their hands and [say], “Take me, I’m the next president of Venezuela,” ’ Pompeo said in an audio recording obtained by The Washington Post
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:
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.
I’m in meetings until late afternoon. (How to contact me)
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
Defense Department spokesman Major Chris Mitchell said that HHS would soon be touring Fort Benning with defense officials
Across most of Latin America a higher proportion of women than men are awaiting trial behind bars
The world’s greatest rainforest – which is a vital provider of oxygen and carbon sequestration – lost 739sq km during the 31 days, equivalent to two football pitches every minute
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
Every day, hundreds of Venezuelans cross the Arauca river into Colombia in search of a better life — but first, they must run a gauntlet of rebels, drug runners and land mines
At least 23 of the cases under scrutiny date back to the period when the general was second-in-command of the 10 Brigade
We urge the Colombian government to cease inciting violence against demobilised individuals of the FARC-EP and to meet the guarantees that were made to them during the negotiations in Havana
Since WOLA’s last update on April 29, at least a dozen more Colombian activists or members of vulnerable Afro-Colombian, indigenous and rural communities were murdered
The Trump administration on Tuesday ended the most popular forms of U.S. travel to Cuba, banning cruise ships and a heavily used category of educational travel
The move is likely to have a major economic impact in Cuba, whose economy is already reeling from decreased economic aid from Havana’s main ally, Venezuela
El Secretario de Seguridad y Protección Ciudadana resaltó que este gasto implica el paso de los elementos de las Fuerzas Armadas y la Policía Federal a la nueva corporación
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
59 por ciento cree que México debería considerar dejar a Estados Unidos y buscar otros socios comerciales, como China
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.
The military, the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Department and the FBI are investigating circumstances surrounding the death, though foul play is not suspected
The decision is at odds with a May 24 ruling by a federal judge in California that temporarily blocked part of the plan because it was using money Congress never appropriated for that purpose
No More Deaths, founded in 2004, generally has operated without penalties, but its relations with the Border Patrol have not always been smooth
CBP said in a statement later Monday that the woman collapsed about 25 minutes after being apprehended, and that agents “quickly initiated emergency medical care.”
In the past 12 months, the government spent more than $67 million from state funds to support military activities associated with Operation Shelter (Operação Acolhida) in the state of Roraima
Esta es la historia de cómo las autoridades descubrieron una organización señalada de traficar armas de Venezuela para los combos de Medellín. Cinco detenidos se declararon inocentes
Al término del encuentro, Lavrov reconoció que había hablado con su colega colombiano sobre posibles nuevos suministros de equipos militares
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
Across rural Colombia, six out of 10 plots of land do not have a formal title or are not registered, according to USAID
Según las denuncias de la comunidad, el Escuadron Móvil Antidisturbios, ESMAD, agredió indiscriminadamente a los manifestantes, dejando un número indeterminado de afectaciones
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
On a given day, three of San Diego’s seven judges generally have afternoons full of MPP cases. On a recent Tuesday afternoon, 82 people were scheduled to appear before three judges
According to the raftsmen, the recent crackdown by the Mexican authorities has not affected their illegal traffic
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
Each fissure redraws the front lines, ushering in fresh spates of killings. And each split carries the conflict deeper into society
Recently concluded talks in Norway and separate discussions between Europe and both sides of the Venezuelan divide have effectively pushed the U.S. to the margins
Peskov said he had no idea what Trump’s tweet was referring to
There is speculation in Washington that sealed indictments of members of Mr. Maduro’s inner circle already exist and that the Justice Department is waiting for the right moment to release them
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
Su triunfo momentáneo dejó a la rama judicial –con excepción de la Fiscalía– en posición contraria al Gobierno, que reaccionó ante la libertad del exguerrillero en forma categórica
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
Desde diciembre de 2018 hasta la semana pasada 13 precandidatos han sido atacados, amenazados o asesinados en la región, lo que la confirma como una de las regiones más peligrosas en época electoral
Un viejo reclamo de las víctimas de la Guerra Civil en El Salvador fue finalmente escuchado
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
En 122 días que van del año 2019 se ha producido una masacre cada 3.9 días, lo que demuestra que los “asesinatos múltiples”, como les llama el gobierno, van en galopante aumento
It’s the first time since 1997 that a Mexican leader has had such a broad mandate
There has also been some expert trolling
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
“So, there’s no specific target, there’s no specific percentage, but things have to get better,” Mulvaney said. “They have to get dramatically better and they have to get better quickly”
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”
The country has been caught in a seesawing conflict between two Presidents—one spuriously elected but backed by the armed forces, the other self-proclaimed but endorsed by much of the Western world
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
I’ll be most available in the late afternoon. (How to contact me)
I have a weekly staff meeting that promises to run long this morning, and a meeting with colleagues to plan a southern Mexico research trip for August. Otherwise I’ll be around, writing, every moment I get.
A May 18 New York Times article revealed an alarming shift in how Colombia’s army, under leadership that took over last December, is measuring “success” in its operations.
The article got a lot of attention because of the human rights angle, especially the possibility of a return to “false positive” extrajudicial killings. And indeed, in the runup to the Times piece, Colombian media outlets had begun relaying reports of military personnel being more aggressive with civilians.
But the danger, and the counterproductivity, of this new policy go beyond human rights. The changes at the top indicate a return to “body counts” as the Colombian military’s main measure of success.
That’s a failed and discredited approach, which most of us thought had long been buried. But the right-wing government of President Iván Duque has dug it up. With a new cohort of commanders who rose during the “false positives” period, the old ways have come roaring back. Times reporter Nick Casey relayed what he heard from military officers who came forward to voice concern:
[A] major shift took place, they say, when [Army Commander] General [Nicacio] Martínez called a meeting of his top officers in January, a month after assuming command of the army.
… After a break, the commanders returned to tables where they found a form waiting for each one of them, the officers said. The form had the title “Goal Setting 2019” at the top and a place for each commander to sign at the bottom.
The form asked commanders to list the “arithmetic sum of surrenders, captures and deaths” of various armed groups for the previous year in one column, and then provide a goal for the following year.
Some of the commanders seemed confused — until they were instructed to double their numbers this year, the officers said.
In the post-peace accord period, Colombia’s military has identified several internal enemies as national security threats: the ELN guerrillas, FARC dissidents, the “Gulf Clan” paramilitary network, and smaller, regional groups. Together, they total over 10,000 fighters, plus support networks.
But when Colombia’s forces take out a leader, kill several fighters in combat, or convince some to demobilize, nothing really happens. The territories where these groups operate continue to be ungoverned.
Roads are scarce, and paved roads are unheard of. So are land titles. There is probably no connection to the electrical grid. Post-primary schools are distant. Residents report going months or years without seeing a non-uniformed representative of national or local government. The idea of going to the judicial system to resolve a dispute is beyond laughable: many municipalities (counties) have neither judges nor prosecutors.
In that environment, a military unit that comes in seeking high body counts comes away with two results. First, a terrorized population whose distrust of government is greater than before. And second, new armed groups—or other elements of the same armed groups—filling in the vacuum and taking over the territory’s illicit economy. Within weeks, a new commander, a new group or groups, or several warring factions are profiting the same as before from drug production and transshipment, illegal mining, fuel trafficking, extortion, and other income streams. A high “body count” changes little on the ground.
Militaries have known this for a while. For situations like rural Colombia’s, they’ve discarded “body counts” some time ago, and developed a whole field called “stability operations.” Here’s what the U.S. Army’s Stability Operations manual says about how security forces should measure “success”:
Throughout U.S. history, the Army has learned that military force alone cannot secure sustainable peace. A comprehensive approach is required, as well as in-depth understanding of an operational environment. Stability ultimately aims to establish conditions the local populace regards as legitimate, acceptable, and predictable. Stabilization is a process in which personnel identify and mitigate underlying sources of instability to establish the conditions for long-term stability. Therefore, stability tasks focus on identifying and targeting the root causes of instability and building the capacity of local institutions.
Instead of asking “how many enemies did we take out,” then, the question is more like “can the government do what a government is supposed to do in the territory, and does the population feel that this is a good thing that is making their lives better?”
For too long, Colombia’s military measured its success with body counts. This culminated, most tragically, in the “false positives” scandal that broke in 2008. It turned out that soldiers, seeking to earn rewards and be viewed as successful in a “body count” climate, ended up killing thousands of innocent civilians, at times buying the cadavers from paramilitaries and criminals.
The measures of success started changing in the late ‘00s, near the end of then-President Álvaro Uribe’s second term. Defense Minister Juan Manuel Santos and Vice-Minister Sergio Jaramillo, working with David Petraeus-era U.S. military officers who’d been burned by the failures of the Iraq war, moved toward the second way of measuring success. They developed “territorial consolidation” metrics based on violence indicators, government presence, and the population’s access to basic goods. “Consolidation of territorial control,” read a 2007 Defense Ministry document,
shall be understood as a scenario in which the security provided by the security forces guarantees that the state may make public order prevail, and allow all institutions to function freely and permanently, so that citizens may fully exercise their rights.
They didn’t quite succeed at that: after some notable initial gains, the “Consolidation” effort petered out by 2013 or so for lack of political support, and the civilian part of the government usually failed to show up behind the soldiers. Still, as president, Santos named armed forces chief Gen. Alberto Mejía, who developed a new military doctrine putting many of these new success measures at its core, including in the Army’s 2017 “stabilization” manual:
The objective of stability is to reduce the level of violence; toward that goal the military forces carry out operations mainly characterized by supporting the functioning of government, economic, and social institutions, and general adherence to local law as, rules, and norms of behavior.
Then, together with Jaramillo as peace commissioner, Santos negotiated a peace accord committing the government, once again, to try to “enter” the countryside, often for the first time. This comes through most strongly in the 2016 FARC peace accords’ first chapter on “rural reform.”
[N]ational plans financed and promoted by the state must be set up with a view to achieving the comprehensive rural development that will provide public services and goods, such as for education, health, recreation, infrastructure, technical assistance, food and nutrition, inter alia, which promote well-being and a dignified way of life for the rural population – girls, boys, men and women.
A military commander seeking success metrics like these would be measuring miles of road paved, children able to attend school, hectares of land titled, and poll data showing perceptions that the government has become more responsive and accountable. The commander would NOT be asked to fill in forms indicating how many fighters the unit would kill or otherwise “neutralize” in the coming year.
It’s not at all clear why Colombia’s Defense Ministry would want to take such a big step backward. A partial explanation could be Colombia now having a right-populist government that, because it represents large landholders’ interests, doesn’t place a priority on reforming rural areas. Perhaps, too, the Colombian military’s Southern Command counterparts have stopped communicating the “stability operations” vision, as the U.S. Defense Department’s current strategy now emphasizes great-power conflict over “small wars.”
But that’s not enough to explain this misstep. It could be something much simpler. Maybe the new high command just lacks imagination, and wants to go back to doing what they know—whether it works or not.