In our work at the U.S.-Mexico border, we regularly hear about abuses or improper law enforcement behavior by U.S. security agencies. But so often, whatever happens gets overtaken by the next events, forgotten.
I wanted to start damming up this steady, alarming stream going by us all the time. So, many months ago, I set up a new WordPress install, and my staff and I started throwing into it everything we’ve seen and heard since 2020 about abuses committed at the border.
The result is a database that we’re hosting at borderoversight.org. It has more than 220 entries so far, fully cited. We’ve captured these events and allegations, and organized them by category, place, agency, victim, and “accountability status.”
I’m not exactly “proud” of what we’ve created here. Actually, trying to read through it is a monstrous experience. There’s only so many use-of-force incidents, high-speed vehicle pursuits, spied-on U.S. citizens, Facebook slurs, non-return of belongings, dangerous deportations, and timid oversight that one can take in a single sitting. The picture is grim.
I don’t want this to be viewed, though, as an attack on the individuals who’ve chosen to build a career as a Border Patrol agent or CBP officer. I have met many agents and officers, and found nearly all to be decent and honorable people. But take CBP and Border Patrol as a whole, and something changes. Organizational cultures are powerful.
Our maintenance of borderoversight.org will be continuous: a database is never “done,” but we’ll use it to spin off a lot of other materials and carry out further work on what’s causing this problem and how to reform it.
I hope you find it useful as we work for greater accountability and cultural change at these agencies.
Of course, I get that nobody wants to read through a database. Here’s a 2,100-word commentary giving an overview of what the project is about and what we’re finding (español).
We added a page with links to reports about the border: from WOLA, from the U.S. and other governments, from non-governmental colleagues, and from the media. Organized by category. More than 270 of them so far are at borderoversight.org/reports.
Tomorrow we’re launching a big new WOLA oversight resource about the border. I’ve been working on it for a while. It’s a site presenting a database of hundreds of recent credible allegations of human rights abuse and other improper law enforcement behavior at the U.S.-Mexico border.
It will also include a library of recommended reports and reading about the border, and 50 infographics about the border that I’ve produced over the past couple of years.
No link yet—I’m spending the day doing finishing touches and combing for errors. Stay tuned for more tomorrow.
The Quincy Institute posted an analysis by me about Colombia’s election campaign and its implications for U.S. policy. It went up last Friday on their very good Responsible Statecraft site.
Head-to-head second-round scenario polling shows a razor-thin margin between the two leading candidates, who represent dramatically different visions of government. Federico “Fico” Gutiérrez, a former Medellín mayor, offers continuity with Duque’s conservative politics, which the Biden administration might find reassuring. It would, however, mean continuity with a model of which most Colombians appear to disapprove after four years of worsening violence and economic insecurity.
Gustavo Petro, a former leftist guerrilla and mayor of Bogotá, offers radical change that could consolidate a 2016 peace accord and implement reforms to address one of the world’s worst records of income and land inequality. Petro leads in first-round polling by a comfortable margin. However, he carries a strong whiff of populism and appears open to cooperation with China and Russia, which worries the United States. U.S. diplomats have sounded alarms about Russian interference in Colombia’s campaign, mostly via social media, and they could only be referring to Petro.
Here’s Guerline Jozef of the Haitian Bridge Alliance giving great remarks at today’s #SafeNotStranded rally, in front of a Supreme Court that’s hearing arguments about the “Remain in Mexico” policy right now.
It was great to see so many colleagues at this event—both Washington-based and visiting from the border—in actual 3-D, after dozens and dozens of Zoom meetings since 2020.
May the justices make the right choice and allow the Biden administration to end the Trump-era “Remain in Mexico”: for humanitarian reasons, but also for “not forcing presidents to carry out their predecessors’ bad policies” reasons. The latter seems like an especially important constitutional principle.
A sound truck drives slowly through a neighborhood in a small city in west-central Colombia. A soldier aboard plays a recorded audio message, jacked in from his phone, encouraging members of armed groups to turn themselves in and demobilize.
This seems like an empty exercise. These messages, broadcast by radio, may sometimes work on homesick guerrilla recruits in remote jungle encampments, convincing them to disarm. But in the middle of a population center like Chaparral, Tolima, any armed-group members are likely to be un-uniformed and mixed in with the population. The promise of returning to one’s home and family, who are probably right there in town, doesn’t make particular sense.
If I write something on this site and it gets mediocre traffic, 200 people will see it.
If I record a podcast for my employer (I prefer “chosen community of colleagues”) and it gets a mediocre number of downloads, 800 people will download it.
If I write something on the website of my chosen community of colleagues, and it gets mediocre traffic, 1,000 people will see it.
If I post something to my Twitter account and it performs in a mediocre way, 2,000 people will see it. (If it does well, a quarter million people might see it.)
That’s badly backwards, isn’t it? The platform that does the best for me, in terms of “reaching audiences,” is the one that neither I nor my colleagues own.
Elon Musk’s purchase of Twitter for $44 billion (imagine how thoroughly infant mortality could be eradicated with $44 billion) is a bright, flashing reminder of how that needs to change.
We should be creating in spaces that we own, not in spaces run by oligarchs for marketers. Those others’ spaces should be more for conversations (hopefully constructive ones) about what we’ve developed elsewhere, in our own spaces.
My personal goal from this point forward to even out the imbalance between the numbers in that bulleted list above. A lot of that means being less lazy: sending a tweet is easier, by design, than writing an open-ended bunch of words like I’m doing now.
I guess I’m just repeating the now overplayed advice to “bring back the blog.” (The format doesn’t necessarily need to be a textual blog, of course.) But I think that advice is still generally right. We should own our ideas and words, and limit Elon Musk’s and Mark Zuckerberg’s properties to being places where we point to, and discuss, ideas and words developed elsewhere.
That’s all to say, expect to see more of me here and less of me on Twitter. Thanks, Elon, for the reminder.
With this series of weekly updates, WOLA seeks to cover the most important developments at the U.S.-Mexico border. See past weekly updateshere.
Due to staff travel, there will be no Border Updates for the next two weeks. We will resume publication on May 13.
U.S. authorities encountered migrants 221,303 times at the U.S.-Mexico border in March, the most since March 2000. As Title 42 expulsions led to a very large number of repeat attempts, the number of actual individual migrants was 159,900. 50 percent were expelled under Title 42. 77 percent—a larger proportion than in recent years—were single adults. 40 percent were from countries other than Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, or Honduras. Cubans rose to the number-two spot, and Ukrainians increased by 1,103 percent.
Political maneuvering around the scheduled May 23 end of Title 42 continues. Moderate Democrats, claiming worry about the lack of a clear plan to process a likely post-May 23 increase in migration, are clamoring for a clearer plan. Sources are telling media outlets that White House and DHS leadership are also concerned.
The secretaries of State and Homeland Security were in Panama this week to meet with foreign ministers from around Latin America in preparation for the June Summit of the Americas. Cooperation to manage the region-wide increase in migration led the agenda in Panama. Mayorkas visited Panama’s Darién Gap region, which has seen a sharp increase in migrants coming across from South America despite very dangerous conditions.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) lifted onerous cargo vehicle restrictions that had strangled trade with Mexico for days, potentially costing the U.S. economy $9 billion. Abbott’s busing of migrants to Washington continues, but has been getting little notice, while questions about the efficacy of his “Operation Lone Star” continue to mount.
CBP reports one of its highest-ever migration totals in March
On April 18 U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced that it “encountered” undocumented migrants along the U.S.-Mexico border 221,303 times in March, 33 percent more than in February. The 209,906 times that Border Patrolencountered migrants between the official land ports of entry was the most the agency hadrecorded in any month since March 2000.
This pushed CBP’s “migrant encounters” total for fiscal year 2022, which began last October, over 1 million in 6 months. 63 percent of migrants so far this year have come from countries other than Mexico.
50 percent of March’s encounters ended with the migrant’s rapid expulsion, even if the migrant intended to ask U.S. authorities for asylum or other protection. The Trump and Biden administrations have used Title 42, the controversial pandemic authority allowing these expulsions, 1,817,278 times since COVID-19 first forced border closures.
For migrants who want to avoid being apprehended, Title 42’s quick expulsions have eased repeat attempts to cross the border. In March, 28 percent of people CBP encountered had already been in the agency’s custody at least once in the past 12 months, double the 2014-2019 average (14 percent). That means the actual number of people encountered was significantly lower: 159,900.
Though exceptions abound, single adults are more likely to attempt to avoid capture, while children and families are more likely to turn themselves in to seek asylum. The large number of repeat crossings contributed to the reporting of the most single adult migrant encounters—162,030—at least since October 2011, when the agency started providing public data about adult, child, and family migrants.
77 percent of migrants reported in March were adults, an unusually high proportion. Unaccompanied children (7 percent) and “family units” (parents with children, 16 percent) both increased from February to March, but were in fact fewer than in March 2021.
Until 2020 (when it was 88 percent), more than 90 percent of CBP’s migrant encounters were with citizens of four countries: Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. In March, those countries accounted for just 60 percent of migrant encounters. 88,110 were with migrants from somewhere else, which is certainly a record.
Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras are the four countries whose citizens Mexico accepts as Title 42 expulsions across the land border. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) must expel all other countries’ citizens by air, which is costly or, in some cases, diplomatically complicated. As a result, 99 percent of March’s 109,549 Title 42 expulsions were applied to citizens of these four countries only.
Of the other countries accounting for border arrivals, Cuba was in second place in March, with 32,141 of its citizens (about one in every 353 Cubans) encountered at the border last month. Cubans appear to be migrating in rapidly increasing numbers via Nicaragua, which lifted visa requirements for Cubans last November, enabling air travel. Cuban migrants’ numbers doubled from February to March, and tripled from January. Nearly all Cubans turn themselves in to U.S. authorities; if they remain in the United States for a year, the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966 makes them eligible to apply for permanent residency.
Cuba has not accepted expulsion or other removal flights from the United States since February 2020, before the pandemic. The United States has meanwhile maintained almost no consular staff since the still-unresolved “Havana Syndrome” health incidents caused the U.S. government, in 2017, to reduce its diplomatic presence and close its consulate in Havana. On April 21, diplomats from the United States and Cuba met to discuss migration cooperation for the first time since July 2018, reviving what had been biannual talks.
Migrant encounters increased from February to March at the border for every nationality except Brazil, which declined slightly. In addition to Cuba (+231 percent), the countries whose citizens have seen the greatest increases are Romania (+141 percent), Turkey (+167 percent), Colombia (+287 percent), and Ukraine (+1,220 percent).
3,274 citizens of Ukraine, fleeing the Russian invasion that began on February 24, were encountered at the border in March, nearly all of them at ports of entry because the Biden administration encouraged CBP agents not to expel them under Title 42. Most have appeared at ports of entry between Tijuana and San Diego. As of April 21, the Washington Post reported, about 15,000 Ukrainian citizens had arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border. “Every day, 500 to 800 Ukrainians arrive in Tijuana,” the Wall Street Journalnoted.
On April 21 the Biden administration announced a new program, calling it “Uniting for Ukraine,” allowing up to 100,000 Ukrainian refugees to receive two years of humanitarian parole in the United States, applying from outside the United States with help from U.S.-based sponsors. This will apparently mean a closure of the Mexico route which, because the U.S. government had lacked a process, was the simplest way for Ukrainians to reach the United States. Mexico’s Foreign Ministry warned Ukrainians against attempting to enter the United States through its territory after April 24, when CBP plans once again to employ Title 42 to prevent Ukrainian citizens from accessing border ports of entry.
The sharp increase in arrivals of citizens from Colombia appears to be a result of Colombian citizens flying to Mexico, which does not require them to have a valid visa, then traveling to the U.S. border—70 percent of the time, to Yuma, Arizona—to turn themselves in to authorities. While the United States accelerated Title 42 expulsion and ICE removal flights to Bogotá in March, CBP’s data show Title 42 being applied to 303 out of 15,144 apprehended Colombians last month.
The past year had seen similar sharp increases in migrants from countries from which Mexico did not require visas: Ecuador, Brazil, and Venezuela. When Mexico reinstated visa requirements—most recently for Venezuelans, on January 21, 2022—encounters with migrants from these countries dropped rapidly.
Despite likely entreaties from the Biden administration, Mexico may not be as quick to reinstate visa requirements for Colombians. Under the Pacific Alliance framework, which incorporates Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru, member countries have a Schengen-style arrangement allowing visa-free travel.
Political maneuvering around Title 42 continues
The Biden administration officially remains firm in following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) decision, discussed in our April 1 update, to end the Title 42 expulsions policy by May 23. However, though the Biden administration has had more than a year to prepare for a likely post-Title-42 increase in migration at the U.S.-Mexico border, officials are privately voicing worry that DHS is not ready to process the increased number of arrivals in an orderly way.
Sources toldAxios that “President Biden’s inner circle has been discussing delaying the repeal of Title 42 border restrictions.” A source “close to the White House” told CNN of a “high level of apprehension” in the West Wing, where staff “watch the border numbers every day.”
Axiosreported that DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas “has privately told members of Congress he’s concerned with the Biden administration’s handling of its plans to lift Title 42 on May 23,” though Mayorkas’s public stance is that DHS will defer to the CDC. “Mayorkas has also indicated a level of frustration and unease with the repeal rollout.” A delay of the May 23 date is more likely than a full reversal of the decision to end Title 42, which “would effectively force the White House to overrule the CDC,” Axios adds.
Either way, there is some possibility that a Louisiana federal judge could strike down or suspend the CDC order before May 23. More than 20 states’ Republican attorneys-general have filed suit to block the end of Title 42, and the district judge hearing the case, Robert Summerhays, is a Trump appointee.
Some Democrats, worried about chaotic images from the border affecting their already grim midterm legislative election prospects, have been calling on the Biden administration to be more transparent about its plans for managing large numbers of protection-seeking migrants after Title 42 is lifted.
Mayorkas has resisted doing so publicly, telling CNN, “I think we have to be very mindful of the fact that we are addressing enemies, and those enemies are the cartels and the smugglers, and I will not provide our plans to them. We are going to proceed with our execution, carefully, methodically, in anticipating different scenarios.” Democratic legislators and staffers, Axiosreports, say that “after Mayorkas walked them through the DHS’ preparations for the potential border surge, they did not feel the administration had reached the level of preparedness needed to carry out the operation successfully by May 23.”
Among the skeptics is Gary Peters (D-Michigan), the chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, who said he would “still want to hear more.” While indicating he will defer judgment until he sees the full plan, Peters, according to The Hill, sees Title 42’s repeal as “something that should be revisited and perhaps delayed” until he sees what he regards to be “a well thought out plan.”
The Title 42 debate generated much political commentary over the past week:
Frank Sharry of the pro-immigration group America’s Voice toldThe Hill, “All of a sudden, all these candidates are saying the same thing [Peters] is saying, so clearly it’s coordinated. And they’re basically saying, ‘we can’t trust this administration to defend its plan or to implement it competently. And so we’re gonna need to distance ourselves from the administration on this, because we can’t count on them. That is a real indictment of a failed political strategy, as well as a lack of confidence in their ability to operationalize policy.’”
Felipe de la Hoz at the New Republic: “Since taking over, the Biden administration has been extremely skittish about perceptions of chaos at the border, and political opponents are practically salivating at the prospect of long lines or a disorderly-looking processing, which can be shot, edited, and packaged just in time for use in midterm election campaigns.”
Ali Noorani of the National Immigration Forum, at the Daily Beast: “The Biden administration has utterly failed in terms of laying out a clear vision on immigration policy. Right-wing Republicans who seek a return to the Trump/Miller approach have filled the vacuum, leading a growing number of Democrats and reform-minded Republicans to call for Title 42 to remain in place.”
Jorge Ramos at Univision: “This enormous immigration wave will create powerful tensions on both sides of the border. We have been warned. I just hope we rise to the challenge and treat the new arrivals with patience, generosity and solidarity.”
Diplomats go to Panama to talk migration
Though it is one of many agenda topics, the high current levels of region-wide migration are likely to be the principal issue discussed when U.S., Canadian, and Latin American leaders convene for the Ninth Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles on June 6-10. This week, Secretary of State Antony Blinkenled a U.S. delegation to Panama for a preparatory meeting with 21 foreign ministers from around the region. Blinken and DHS Secretary Mayorkas also held bilateral meetings with officials from Panama, which has seen record levels of migrants passing through its territory.
Blinken described a wide-ranging agenda:
Here in Panama, we talked about some of the most urgent aspects of this issue, including helping stabilize and strengthen communities that are hosting migrants and refugees; creating more legal pathways to reinforce safe, orderly, and humane migration; dealing with the root causes of irregular migration by growing economic opportunity, fighting corruption, increasing citizen security, combating the climate crisis, improving democratic governance that’s responsive to people’s needs.
Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Brian Nichols told reporters that the Summit of the Americas will likely produce a declaration on “migrant protection,” though it is not clear how detailed its commitments will be, the Miami Heraldreported. Several U.S. and Latin American organizations, including WOLA, issued a statement calling on governments to develop their regional approach to migration “in consultation with civil society,” prioritizing “respect for migrants, asylum seekers, and refugees through increased protection and complementary legal pathways, humanitarian assistance, and access to justice.”
The White House meanwhile issued a status report this week on its strategy to address the “root causes” of migration in Central America. Among efforts it notes are the encouragement of $1.2 billion in new private investment to create jobs, and the training of more than 5,000 Central America civilian police in calendar year 2021 “on topics such as community policing, investigations, and human rights.”
In Panama City, U.S. and Panamanian officials signed an arrangement to increase cooperation on migration, similar to one signed months ago with Costa Rica. It commits Washington to providing Panama with more resources to provide shelter to migrants arriving from South America, most of them headed toward the U.S. border.
Eastern Panama, near the Colombia border, is sparsely populated and roadless; the treacherous Darién Gap jungles used to be a natural barrier to migration. That is no longer the case: Panamanian migration authoritiescounted 133,726 migrants making the 60-mile walk through the Darién in 2021, up from a 2010-2019 average of 10,929 per year (and well under 1,000 at the beginning of the decade). Another 13,425 migrants exited the Darién Gap in the first 3 months of 2022. In 2021, a majority of these migrants were Haitian; so far in 2022, Venezuela is the most frequent country of citizenship.
Migrants often report passing through the barely governed Darién as the most harrowing part of their journey to the United States. Assaults, including sexual assaults, are frequent, and many speak of seeing dead bodies along the path.
Secretary Mayorkas paid a visit to the Darién region with Panama’s public security minister, Juan Pino. The Minister, EFE reported, said he explained Panama’s migrant processing procedures: they are “taken to migratory reception stations (ERM), where their biometric data is taken and they are provided with health care and food.” Pino added that “‘Panama is the only country that carries out verifications’ of migrants, which has produced ‘biometric alerts of terrorism and organized crime’” shared with DHS.
Texas governor faces backlash for border tactics
On April 15 the governor of Texas, Greg Abbott (R), lifted onerous cargo vehicle inspections imposed at the state’s border crossings, which had halted most trade between Texas and Mexico for several days. Abbott, a critic of the Biden administration’s border policies, had imposed the stoppage— covered in last week’s Border Update—in response to the imminent lifting of Title 42.
He did so after inking brief agreements with the governors of the four Mexican states that border Texas, who committed to increasing security efforts on their side of the border. Tamaulipas, for instance, agreed to carry out “special operations” along 10 migrant smuggling routes identified by U.S. authorities. Mexico’s president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, reacted strongly to Abbott’s tactics on April 18: “Legally they can do it, but it’s a very despicable way to act… I would say it’s chicanadas (half-baked) antics from the state government.”
Gov. Abbott’s blockade generated a backlash, as it caused financial losses for industries dependent on trade with Mexico. The Texas-based Perryman Groupestimated $8.97 billion in losses to the U.S. economy between April 6 and 15, $4.23 billion of it hitting Texas’s gross state product.
Abbott also continued sporadic departures of half-filled buses of asylum-seeking migrants to Washington. These received little notice in the city’s busy downtown, while volunteers helped migrants arrange travel to their final east coast destinations. Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas), who represents El Paso and opposes Abbott’s policies, ironically thanked him in a tweet: “Bussing migrants to D.C. helps get them closer to their final destination and saves their sponsors travel costs. This is one of the most humanitarian policies [Abbott] has ever enacted. I’ll take the poetic justice while we wait for real justice.”
Abbott and other Republican governors remain determined to make border and migration issues a central theme for the 2022 campaign (congressional elections, plus Abbott’s bid for re-election to the Texas governorship). Analysts note that Abbott may have his eye on a 2024 presidential run, which would mean that the intended audience for his recent tactics is Republican primary voters nationwide. “This is all really about 2024. Abbott is worried about being outflanked by DeSantis,” Republican fundraiser Dan Eberhart, who backs Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), told the Washington Post. “Abbott needs to be focused on introducing himself to 2024 primary donors and staying relevant in the party nationally. Picking a fight on immigration keeps him on the news.”
Republican figures have been kicking around the idea of invoking the U.S. Constitution’s “invasion clause” to justify using law enforcement personnel and National Guard troops to block migrants, including asylum seekers. It remains far from clear that governors, rather than the federal government, would have the authority to determine whether migrants constitute an “invasion.” Abbott and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) also issued an April 19 press release announcing an “American Governors’ Border Strike Force,” along with 24 other Republican-led non-border states, that would contribute personnel to state border security efforts.
The largest state-government border security campaign has been Abbott’s “Operation Lone Star,” which has spent over $3 billion to build fencing, jail migrants on state trespassing charges, and deploy up to 10,000 National Guardsmen to the border. This operation continues to be troubled:
A Houston Chronicle investigation found that Abbott’s “disaster” declaration at the border, which he renews every month, has allowed the state to engage in contracts without a formal solicitation process, which “critics say drive[s] up costs and promote[s] cronyism.”
The Texas National Guard has replaced its third top general associated with “Operation Lone Star” since mid-March: “Brig. Gen. Monie Ulis relinquished command of the task force controlling the mission,” Military Times and the Texas Tribunereported.
A new analysis by Propublica, the Texas Tribune, and the Marshall Project looked back on 17 years of Texas governors’ border security operations, usually launched in the run-up to elections, none of which appears to have had any lasting impact on security or reduced migration.
The latest DHS “Cohort Report” for the revived Remain in Mexico program finds that the agency enrolled 1,444 asylum-seeking migrants into the program in March, up from 896 in February, and returned 900 of them to Mexico, up from 487 in February. Asylum-seekers from Nicaragua have made up 73 percent of all 3,012 “Remain in Mexico” enrollments between December 6 and March 31, followed by Venezuelans (8 percent) and Cubans (7 percent).
The Supreme Court will hear arguments on April 26 as the Biden administration challenges a Texas district court judge’s August 2021 ruling ordering it to restart the Trump-era Remain in Mexico program.
DHS Secretary Mayorkas will be testifying before the House Judiciary Committee on April 28. Expect many concerned and contentious questions about the end of Title 42 and other border issues.
A new report from Human Rights First describes dehumanizing conditions suffered by tens of thousands of asylum seekers who were sent to ICE detention centers during the Biden administration, most of them after turning themselves in to U.S. authorities at the U.S.-Mexico border. “Government data reveals that asylum seekers in ICE detention who established a fear of persecution have been jailed for an average of 10.75 months (326.8 days), as of late-March 2022,” the report reads.
According to Mexican government data cited in Milenio, between 2019 and 2021 “1,478 Mexicans died trying to reach the United States in an irregular manner, 308 of them between the ages of 0 and 17.”
A Border Patrol vehicle pursuit near Edinburg, Texas, reaching speeds of 100 miles per hour, ended with the death of two people after the driver being pursued lost control and the car rolled over. As our January 15 update noted, Border Patrol stands accused of carrying out high-speed vehicle pursuits with less regard for safety than most other law enforcement agencies.
For March, CBP reported month-on-month declines in border-zone seizures of cocaine (-11 percent) and methamphetamine (-22 percent), and increased seizures of heroin (+7 percent) and fentanyl (+55 percent).
“Anxiety attacks happen frequently. And nonprofit medical clinics are swamped, attending to broken limbs, pregnancies, rashes and mental trauma,” reports Dianne Solis of the Dallas Morning News from the increasingly crowded and unsafe migrant encampment near the border bridge in the high-crime city of Reynosa, across from McAllen, Texas. A quickly-built shelter just opened in Reynosa that can accommodate about 250 parents and children, the Rio Grande Valley Monitor reports. That’s probably only enough to accommodate about a tenth of the people currently packed into the Reynosa square, awaiting Title 42’s end and a chance to request asylum at the port of entry.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s rule doubling the inspections for commercial trucks coming in from Mexico caused delays that cost the U.S. nearly $9 billion in gross domestic product, according to one analysis
DHS under the Biden administration has detained tens of thousands of asylum seekers, jailing many in newly opened or expanded facilities or in remote areas where they often face insurmountable barriers to fairly presenting their asylum claims
International Criminal Court prosecutor Karim Khan has rejected a request by Venezuela to delay an ICC probe into alleged human rights violations, according to documents released on Thursday, and he will seek to reopen a full investigation
Officials have reached out to Arizona and Texas leaders, arguing that under the Constitution’s “invasion clause” and “states self-defense clause,” states are entitled to define what they consider an invasion and defend themselves by expelling migrants
Es más, realmente tampoco se puede hablar de una “necesidad militar” – que según el DIH permite la afectación de civiles por la importancia del blanco o la ventaja militar de un operación – pues alias Bruno, el blanco de la operación, no figura entre los líderes de los Comandos de la Frontera, según el mismo Ejército
Leading the Cuban delegation will be Deputy Foreign Minister Carlos Fernandez de Cossio, two sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity. The delegation is expected to meet with senior officials of the U.S. State Department and other agencies
The group was one of the Sensitive Investigative Units (SIU) operating in about 15 countries which U.S. officials tout as invaluable in dismantling powerful smuggling rings and busting countless drug lords around the globe
Este 19 de abril se cumplen cuatro años de las masivas protestas contra el régimen Ortega-Murillo, que dejaron un saldo de 355 asesinatos y otros crímenes calificados de lesa humanidad que siguen en la impunidad
La construcción y el análisis de una base de datos, contrastada con familiares de las víctimas e información de organismos de derechos humanos, expone el resultado de la represión sandinista: 34 víctimas mortales
In total, there were 221,303 encounters along the southwest land border in March, a 33 percent increase compared to February. Of those, 28 percent involved individuals who had at least one prior encounter in the previous 12 months
Tanto organizaciones pro derechos humanos como movimientos de trabajadores y sindicales, que incluyen al chavismo disidente, exigen libertad plena para los que aún están detrás de las rejas y los que han sido excarcelados bajo medidas cautelares
El Ejército intentó usar la disputa entre dos grupos armados ilegales en el Putumayo para obtener resultados militares y acabó masacrando a civiles inocentes. Esta es la relación completa de los hechos y el contexto
Ha dirigido las investigaciones sobre los civiles, como Andrés Escobar, que salieron armados el 28 de mayo a disparar en las calles del sur de Cali. El funcionario también le sigue la pista a la Primera Línea y a policías, pero ha recibido llamadas amenazantes y hostigamientos
Since 2005, Texas Govs. Rick Perry and Greg Abbott have launched a multitude of widely publicized and costly border initiatives, which usually kicked off during their reelection campaigns or while they were considering bids for higher office
With this series of weekly updates, WOLA seeks to cover the most important developments at the U.S.-Mexico border. See past weekly updateshere.
Texas’s Republican governor, an immigration policy hardliner, responded to Title 42’s imminent lifting by imposing onerous cargo inspections at border crossings, snarling trade between Texas and Mexico and causing a supply-chain crisis. Greg Abbott also began sending busloads of released asylum-seeking migrants to Washington, an attempt to use migrants as political props that, in fact, covers the transportation costs—at Texas taxpayers’ expense—of people who intend to pursue their asylum cases in the U.S. east coast.
Customs and Border Protection data show the agency processed nearly 10,000 Ukrainian migrants between February 1 and April 6. Because of dysfunction in the U.S. immigration system, the fastest way for Ukrainians to take advantage of the Biden administration’s offer of protection is to arrive in Mexico first and apply for asylum at the U.S. border, mainly San Diego. Several hundred Ukrainians are now taking this route every day, causing a growing backlog in Tijuana.
Texas governor blocks trade, offers free voluntary transport to asylum seekers
The Republican governor of Texas, a critic of the Biden administration’s border and migration policies, put in place two measures at Texas’s border with Mexico that may be generating political blowback for him. In response to the announced May 23 end of the Title 42 pandemic policy—which has expelled migrants, including asylum seekers, from the United States over over 1.7 million times since March 2020—Greg Abbott (R) sent police to impose stringent vehicle inspections on all cargo entering Texas, and sent busloads of asylum-seeking migrants to Washington.
The vehicle inspections have snarled trade along the 13 ports of entry used to ship cargo between 4 Mexican border states and Texas. Calling it one of several “aggressive actions by the State of Texas to secure the border in the wake of President Biden’s decision to end Title 42 expulsions,” Abbott ordered the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) to conduct “safety inspections” of all cargo vehicles. State police installed checkpoints just beyond the ports of entry, where Customs and Border Protection (CBP) personnel already carry out inspections of entering cargo traffic, forcing Mexican trucks to undergo two separate procedures.
The Texas police have been taking more than 45 minutes to inspect each truck; as of April 13 they had turned nearly a quarter of them back to Mexico, citing defective headlights or taillights, brakes, or tires. The operation “hasn’t intercepted any drugs or immigrants,” DPS Director Steven McCraw said to the Wall Street Journal.
“I know in advance this is going to dramatically slow traffic from Mexico into Texas,” Gov. Abbott said before the operation began. The resulting slowdown has been dramatic, backing thousands of trucks as much as eight miles into Mexico from some ports of entry. The “safety inspections” forced some truckers to wait more than 36 hours to cross, often while carrying perishable products.
Abbott is seeking re-election in November. His Democratic opponent, former congressman Beto O’Rourke, took advantage of the cargo chaos with an event and messaging blaming the Governor for worsening already strained supply chains and contributing to inflation.
The outcry, though, has also come from quarters that rarely criticize tough border policies. A CBP statement made clear that “the longer than average wait times—and the subsequent supply chain disruptions—are unrelated to CBP screening activities and are due to additional and unnecessary inspections being conducted by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) at the order of the Governor of Texas.” Business leaders voiced increasing concern as losses mounted over the week. Texas’s Republican Agriculture Commissioner issued a statement accusing the Governor of “turning a crisis into a catastrophe,” warning that it could “quickly lead to $2.00 lemons, $5.00 avocados and worse.” The governors of Mexico’s four states bordering Texas (Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas) sent Abbott a letter noting, “political points have never been a good recipe to address common challenges or threats.” Texas state legislators representing border districts sent a letter criticizing Abbott for failing to consult local officials.
Cargo traffic came to a total halt early in the week at busy bridges between Ciudad Juárez and El Paso, and between Reynosa and Pharr, as Mexican truckers staged protests that blocked vehicle lanes. The Pharr bridge is the busiest cargo crossing in south Texas’s Rio Grande Valley region, with about 3,000 trucks on a normal day, and the United States’ busiest land port for produce.
Both trucker protests stood down by April 13. That day, organized crime operatives in Reynosa set fire to trucks in an apparent effort to force an end to the protests. All illegal drugs except marijuana cross into the United States mostly through ports of entry, and the blockages were apparently hurting criminal business, too.
On April 13 Abbott held a press conference with the governor of Nuevo León, a Mexican state that shares 9 miles of Mexico’s 1,254-mile border with Texas, including one port of entry. In what appeared to be a face-saving deal, Gov. Samuel Alejandro García agreed to step up security on his state’s side of the border, and Abbott responded by lifting vehicle inspections at Nuevo León’s port of entry. Similar deals were reached with governors of Chihuahua and Coahuila states on April 14. It is not clear how greatly the Mexican governors’ new measures will depart from current practices. As of April 14, no agreement was in place with the government of Tamaulipas, and Abbott’s vehicle inspections continue in southeast Texas’s busy Rio Grande Valley region.
Imports from Mexico to Texas totaled $104 billion—$284 million per day—in the pre-pandemic year of 2019, so the cost of Abbott’s slowdowns has been significant. CBP and White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that commercial traffic into Texas dropped by 60 percent. “Just-in-time” supply chains for household goods and car parts have been disrupted, and produce is in danger of spoiling. The inspections have cost “hundreds of thousands of dollars” to Texas-based Little Bear Produce, a company official told the Washington Post. “It’s at crisis level now,” the president of the Texas International Produce Association told the New York Times.
The other new measure Abbott adopted this week was also of unclear political benefit to the governor. Arguing that Washington should deal with asylum-seeking migrants who get released into the United States, he ordered Texas officials to send some of them on buses to the District of Columbia. At least two buses arrived near the Capitol starting on April 13, dropping off a few dozen migrants outside the building that houses Fox News studios.
The bus trips are voluntary, and many migrants wish to live with relatives or sponsors on the U.S. east coast while pursuing their asylum cases. So in staging a political stunt using migrants as props, Abbott was also doing them a favor, saving them or their relatives hundreds of dollars in transportation fares by having Texas taxpayers foot the bill.
On the morning of April 13, the first bus dropped off 24 migrants from Colombia, Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, the endpoint of a 30-hour trip from Del Rio, Texas. Many went to nearby Union Station to arrange transportation to other eastern U.S. destinations. “We are very thankful for all the help that has been given to us,” a Venezuelan mother of two told a reporter from the Texas Tribune. “Frankly, we did not have the money to get here otherwise, so we are very thankful for the help.” The White House’s Psaki told reporters, “These are all migrants who have been processed by CBP and are free to travel, so it’s nice the state of Texas is helping them get to their final destination as they await the outcome of their immigration proceedings, and they’re all in immigration proceedings.”
Sister Sharlet Wagner, of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, was on hand to receive the bus; she told CBS news that the migrants’ journey was only sort of voluntary: “they felt it was the only way to get out of Texas. I don’t know how much choice they were given.” Gov. Abbott said the buses, and perhaps charter planes, would continue to arrive in Washington.
This is the latest in a series of hardline border policies that Greg Abbott has imposed. The Governor has spent over $3 billion in Texas funds on fence construction, a National Guard deployment, and an effort to imprison migrants on state trespassing charges. This week’s measures are harder to understand from a purely political point of view. Causing large money-losing delays and giving free rides to asylum seekers may not be going down well with Abbott’s pro-business, anti-immigrant political base as re-election nears.
Ukrainians keep arriving in Tijuana
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) data obtained by CBS News show that U.S. border officials processed 9,926 undocumented Ukrainian migrants between February 1 and April 6. (The Russian invasion of Ukraine began on February 24.) On April 6 alone, CBP processed 767 Ukrainian migrants.
The vast majority have come to ports of entry, rather than trying to cross the Rio Grande or climb the border wall. The 9,926 probably includes many who arrived at airports. In February, only 272 out of the 1,147 undocumented Ukrainians CBP encountered “nationwide” were at the Mexico border, and 17 at the Canadian border.
The same set of statistics obtained by CBS shows 5,207 Russian migrants processed between February 1 and April 6.
Most Ukrainians are arriving in Tijuana. The Biden administration has announced an intention to receive up to 100,000 refugees from Ukraine, often through offers of “humanitarian parole.” So far, though, the most common process by which Ukrainians have been able to take advantage of this offer has been by arriving in Mexico—which does not require visas of visiting Ukrainians—and traveling to the U.S. border. The most established migration route goes to Tijuana and San Diego.
That the Mexico border route is the best approach for Ukrainians seeking refuge in the United States indicates the dysfunction of the backlogged U.S. immigration system. In March, just 12 Ukrainian refugees were resettled in the United States—all of them “likely in the resettlement pipeline before the Russian invasion,” CBS News notes.
The backlog at U.S. ports of entry has caused a backlog of Ukrainian citizens in Tijuana—a city where the Title 42 policy has already contributed to a burgeoning population of protection-seeking migrants from many other countries. “As of a few days ago,” National Public Radio reported on April 13, the main Tijuana shelter set up for Ukrainians awaiting their turn to present at the port of entry “had registered about 10,000 people.”
CBP has effectively given Ukrainians a “fast lane” at the San Ysidro port of entry between Tijuana and San Diego. This has shown a greater ability to process large numbers of migrants than has been common in the past. It has also been controversially selective, surpassing migrants from all other nationalities, who have been waiting weeks or months in Tijuana for a chance to present before authorities. Several hundred Ukrainians are now arriving in Tijuana each day, overwhelming even the increased CBP capacity at the port of entry. What had been a two to three day wait for Ukrainians in Tijuana is beginning to lengthen further.
Republican officials in 21 states have signed on to a lawsuit seeking to block the Biden administration’s plan to end the Title 42 pandemic restriction on asylum seekers at the border.
The New York Times published one of the most thorough accounts of the Biden administration’s infighting around border and migration policy, with the President reportedly demanding in March 2021, “Who do I need to fire to fix this?” Disagreements led to delays in developing new rules and procedures to speed asylum processing, which won’t be in place during the anticipated mid-2022 jump in migration at the border.
A 32-year-old Mexican woman died painfully, hanging upside down, while attempting to rappel down the border wall near Douglas, Arizona on April 11. Mexican authorities recovered the body of a 52-year-old Nicaraguan man who drowned in the Rio Grande along with his adult son. Luis Alberto Jiménez and his son “are added to about 10 Nicaraguans who have perished in the Rio Grande’s waters during the first three months of 2022,” reportsNicaragua Investiga.
Agence France Presse profiled a swim instructor in Estelí, Nicaragua who is giving free lessons to people planning to migrate, so that they might avoid drowning in the Rio Grande. Most of his pupils are single mothers planning to flee with their children.
Since Nicaragua dropped visa requirements for migrants from Cuba last November, “The minimum price of a flight to Nicaragua from Cuba is $3,000” and “at least five airplanes a day leave Cuban passengers in Managua, and not infrequently they return empty,” reports the Central American investigative website Expediente Publico.
The family of Carmelo Cruz Marcos, a migrant from Puebla, Mexico who was shot to death by a Border Patrol agent, is pushing for an investigation of what happened on the night of February 19 outside Douglas, Arizona. The Border Patrol agent involved said that Cruz, seeking to avoid capture, was about to throw a rock at close range; the agent fired his weapon repeatedly, hitting Cruz four times. Cruz’s family is contemplating a lawsuit, the Tucson Sentinelreports, noting that a Border Patrol Critical Incident Team—a secretive and controversial unit accused of interfering with investigations of agents when alleged abuses occur—was on the scene.
Yahoo News obtained a March 16 CBP intelligence document indicating that Border Patrol officials in the Del Rio, Texas sector had reached out to Mexican counterparts for help to “deter migrant traffic,” including asylum seekers, “away from the sector’s overwhelmed ports of entry.” Officials in Coahuila state agreed to set up four “tactical checkpoints” manned by state police. (Coahuila’s state force, known as Fuerza Coahuila, has a troubled human rights record.)
Forced displacement is on the rise in Mexico, as fighting between organized crime groups comes to resemble wars, Mary Beth Sheridan reports at the Washington Post. About 20,000 people have fled Michoacán state in the past year, and “thousands more have abandoned their homes in other states like Zacatecas and Guerrero.” Some may seek refuge in the United States after Title 42 is lifted.
Longtime Tijuana shelter operator José María García told local media he expects “a new migrant caravan” after Title 42 comes to an end on May 23. He is concerned because shelters “are at 90 percent capacity” already. In Guatemala on April 11, government authorities met to plan responses to a possible post-Title 42 “caravan.”
Tijuana is in the midst of a wave of violence with five armed attacks taking place in a 12-hour period on April 9. Meanwhile, KPBS reports that asylum-seeking migrants ejected in February from a tent encampment near the main Tijuana-San Diego port of entry “have been pushed out to dangerous neighborhoods in the outskirts of Tijuana, where they have limited access to jobs, social services and stable housing options.”
At the Border Chronicle, Melissa del Bosque accuses Border Patrol union leaders of “echoing the ‘great replacement theory,’ a white-supremacist belief with roots in the French nationalist movement of the early 20th century,” in their media statements.
There’s some guesstimating here, because I don’t have current numbers for Defense Department “train and equip” aid, and I don’t have a breakdown for how much of the State Department’s International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement aid goes to the military/police and how much goes to the judiciary and other civilian priorities. But I think this pretty close, for Latin America’s largest U.S. aid recipient:
A new analysis at colombiapeace.org tries to explain in English what looks like a serious case of human rights abuse committed by a U.S.-aided military unit in the part of Colombia where “Plan Colombia” began 21 years ago.
The Guardiancalled it a “botched army raid.” An Indigenous group called it a “massacre.” The commander of Colombia’s army insisted that it took place “with strictest observance of human rights and international humanitarian law.”
Early on the morning of March 28, dozens of people were gathered in a communal space in the town of Alto Remanso, near the Ecuador border in Colombia’s southern department of Putumayo. They had been partying all night, the ground littered with beer cans. Speakers were still blasting music. It was the third day of a community “bazaar,” a festival to raise money to pave a nearby stretch of dirt road.
Just after 7:00 AM, shots rang out. Community members say that men dressed in black, shouting “we’re not the security forces,” fired at the gathering. Some people at the bazaar—almost certainly members of an ex-FARC dissident group active in the area—returned fire. Shooting continued for at least an hour and a half. At that point, helicopters arrived, and the townspeople were shocked to find out that the black-clad invaders were Colombian soldiers.