Adam Isacson

Still trying to understand Latin America, my own country, and why so few consequences are intended. These views are not necessarily my employer’s.


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April 2022

Latin America Security-Related News: April 14, 2022

(Even more here)

April 14, 2022


Mistakes happen in combat. For leaders to insist that none occurred in Alto Remanso—that what happened on March 28 was an exemplary operation—carries serious and lasting risks to the credibility of Colombia’s security sector, when much careful reporting indicates otherwise

Molano pointed out that, as part of the Arauca Stabilization Plan, drones operated by 24 military personnel of the Army’s 14th Special Energy and Road Battalion will work in precision aerial operations and monitor strategic assets and critical structure

La respuesta más sencilla a la pregunta de por qué hay más muertos que armas es porque no todos los muertos en la matanza de la vereda Alto Remanso, en Putumayo, eran combatientes

Piden garantías para seguir ejerciendo su trabajo periodístico

Organizaciones manifiestan su preocupación la muerte de civiles en Putumayo y la implementación del acuerdo de paz

Colombia, Venezuela

LA ONG denunció que esa zona fronteriza es empleada por organizaciones delictivas «para captar personas que terminan en manos de redes de trata, explotación y esclavitud»


Los soldados fueron recibidos a balazos cuando trataban de llegar a una pista para evitar el aterrizaje de una supuesta narcoavioneta


Un comité de la ONU, que visitó México para investigar desapariciones forzadas, ha instado al Gobierno de AMLO a abandonar la militarización de la seguridad pública. ¿Traen estas medidas más peligro que beneficios?

En un nuevo informe, la CNDH analiza la recomendación que emitió en 2018 y cuestiona el desempeño de la Oficina Especial que se creó desde el propio organismo


Reichler believes the United States should “compete with Russia now for influence over the Nicaraguan army,” not to foment regime change but in anticipation of a post-Ortega transition

U.S.-Mexico Border

The Colombia bridge is just one of 13 commercial crossings between the two countries and the only one connected to Nuevo León

Gov. Greg Abbott said the state police would no longer inspect all trucks coming from one Mexican state after officials there agreed to increase border security

Several cargo trucks were set ablaze by Mexican cartel operatives Wednesday in an effort to force commercial truckers to end a traffic blockade they started earlier this week

Twenty-four migrants from Colombia, Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela were transported by bus from the Texas border to the heart of the nation’s capital

About 30 people from Colombia, Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua traveled to the U.S. capital as part of Gov. Greg Abbott’s new plan in response to the end of Title 42

The growing, and dangerous, politicization of Colombia’s security forces

Here’s translated English of a brief Twitter thread from Sandra Borda, a political science professor at Bogotá’s Universidad de los Andes, which sounds right to me.

  1. The security forces’ problem is one of civilian leadership: a government that encourages abuses against the citizenry to exercise control, and is incapable of preventing or at least sanctioning misconduct for the sake of keeping the military and police on its side, is a government responsible for every outrage.
  2. Uribismo has politicized the security forces in order to use it as an extension of their campaigning, to place them on their side and against those who they perceive to be their enemies. The continuity of this policy, at the direction of their candidate, is a threat to democracy.
  3. The project that we must seek is one of security forces that are on citizens’ side, and not on the side of a particular political project; a professional force that the people trust. This is the only way to keep us safe. We need leadership, not complicity.

During the past four years in Colombia, the current military and police leadership’s identification with the country’s main right-wing party has gone hand in hand with an increase in human rights abuse events.

This should worry the U.S. government, which continues to invest heavily in its relationship with Colombia’s security forces. The danger is that this investment evolves into an investment in one particular party’s worldview, one that I don’t believe most officials in the Biden administration share.

Some news links from the past few days

I’m back from a few days of personal travel (events for my college-bound daughter). I’ve just caught up on what’s been happening around the region and at the U.S.-Mexico border, security-wise. Here are 57 links since Monday.

(Even more here)

April 13, 2022

Western Hemisphere Regional

Over the past two decades, China has developed close economic and security ties with many Latin American countries, including Brazil and Venezuela. But Beijing’s growing sway in the region has raised concerns in Washington and beyond


Colombian authorities are facing growing calls to investigate a botched army raid in which at least four civilians – including a 16-year old boy, a pregnant woman, and an Indigenous leader – were killed

Denuncian la no participación de la sociedad civil en el Consejo de Seguridad

Basados en los informes y testimonios recogidos por Colombia+20, Vorágine y Revista Cambio, se reconstruyó el día a día desde la incursión militar hasta el retorno de algunos pobladores

Revela un problema mucho más profundo en las Fuerzas Armadas: la justificación de la ejecución de civiles para conseguir objetivos de alto valor militar

El 28 de marzo el Ejército Nacional de Colombia realizó un operativo en el municipio de Puerto Leguizamo, departamento de Putumayo, en el que perdieron la vida 11 personas, y resultaron heridas, al menos, 4

In Tibú, a small town along the border with Venezuela, a rising wave of violence in Colombia’s primary coca-producing region is targeting women

El presidente de Colombia, Iván Duque Márquez, ha anunciado la llegada de 40 vehículos blindados ASV-M1117, parte de un lote de 145 vehículos ofrecidos

Colombia, Mexico

Mexican drug cartels appear to be shipping high-powered weapons to Colombia to purchase shipments of cocaine, a trade Colombian authorities say is fueling the deadly struggle between rival traffickers for control of the nation’s drug routes

El Salvador

Some National Civilian Police commanders in El Salvador have been pressuring their officers to meet daily arrest quotas as part of the government’s crackdown on street gangs that have yielded more than 10,000 arrests


Luego de que la presidenta Xiomara Castro ordenara la desmilitarización de los centros penitenciarios en todo Honduras, la Policía Nacional tomó el mando del sistema penitenciario y tendrá 10 meses para reordenar a las autoridades de las distintas cárceles


Detrás del fenómeno de la seguridad y la violencia se mueven intereses estatales, industriales, empresariales y de distintos agentes privados (legales e ilegales)

“Esta es una cuestión que le corresponde al propio estado mexicano analizar y discutir, sobre todo, frente a la situación que presentamos y por la impunidad que se ha señalado”, dijo la experta del CED


“Con este curso, si ocurre alguna tragedia ustedes podrán sobrevivir” y auxiliar a quienes lo necesiten, explica el entrenador al grupo

U.S.-Mexico Border

U.S. Customs and Border Protection called the state inspections ordered by Gov. Greg Abbott “unnecessary” and said commercial traffic at the Texas-Mexico border has dropped 60% since they began

Two major international bridges were effectively shut down after Mexican truckers blocked lanes in both directions to protest a new border security initiative from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott

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

New safety inspections are part of Gov. Greg Abbott’s effort to crack down on border smuggling. But industry groups say it is stifling trade

The Los Angeles-based law firm Karns & Karns, LLP said in a press release last week they will represent the family of 32-year-old Carmelo Cruz-Marcos, adding that his “brutal shooting” should be probed by the FBI and an outside agency

Law enforcement and recovery specialists say Ohio’s addiction rates and overdose deaths won’t be curbed by border security alone

With so much misinformation circulating about border and immigration policies, it doesn’t help to have Border Patrol union leaders stoking fear and white-supremacist conspiracy theories


An outcry from both Democrats and Republican lawmakers in Washington over a potential deal with Maduro forced the White House to put the brakes on any future talks

April 12, 2022

Chile, Mexico

Una comitiva de la Guardia Nacional de México, compuesta por seis personas arribó la semana pasada a Santiago, con el objetivo de adentrarse en los planes formativos de Carabineros


Colombia’s dynamic peace process – which saw fresh strides with the holding of a largely peaceful parliamentary election last month – will succeed or fail based on efforts to halt the deadly violence faced by former combatants, social leaders and human rights defenders

¿Cómo retomar el control de los territorios cuando la Fuerza Pública carece de legitimidad y credibilidad? El monopolio de la fuerza en Colombia parece una utopía


“Tenemos un protocolo de acción que trabajamos con EE. UU. para que en las próximas semanas se defina la ruta de acción ante el posible levantamiento del Título 42”, señaló


Public agents and organised crime are responsible for Mexico’s soaring numbers of enforced disappearance, the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances said in findings published today

While Mexico has condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at the United Nations, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s refusal to impose sanctions and the establishment of a new Mexican-Russian friendship caucus in Mexico’s Congress risk relations with the United States


  • Jo-Marie Burt, La Justicia Devuelta (Washington Office on Latin America, La Republica (Peru), April 12, 2022).

Las víctimas del fujimorismo lograron, una vez más, imponer la ley ante la insistencia del fujimorismo de actuar fuera de ella, en beneficio de su propio poder y agenda política

U.S.-Mexico Border

Commercial traffic at the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge stopped Monday and a similar protest affected traffic into and out of El Paso. The blockades could impact the flow of produce to restaurants and grocery stores

On April 6 alone, 767 Ukrainian migrants were processed by CBP

Democrats in tough re-election fights have joined Republicans in warning against the end of Title 42 expulsions at the southern border

April 11, 2022


Miembros de la comunidad de Alto Remanso dicen que los militares se identificaron como guerrilleros para atacar a un supuesto grupo de los Comandos de la Frontera. Un número aún indeterminado de civiles murieron en el operativo

Denuncias de abusos de autoridad, cifras irregulares, voces oficiales y opiniones de expertos dejan en duda el verdadero aporte de Artemisa en la protección de los ecosistemas

Los muertos son once, los heridos cuatro y el Ejército reporta que solamente incautaron seis armas. ¿Quince personas dispararon contra la tropa, pero solo tenían seis armas?

Lo que sucedió durante la hora y media en que se extendieron los combates parece sacado de una película de terror

Bandas criminales están inmersas en un enfrentamiento que, según denuncias, deja 70 homicidios

‘Una mujer queda rota no por perder su virginidad, sino su alma’: aseguró

Cuba, Nicaragua

En un día pueden llegar a Managua entre cinco y diez vuelos directos o conexiones desde diferentes partes de la Isla

El Salvador

El salvadoreño Juan Carlos Torres, director de la Maestría en Políticas para la Prevención de Violencia Juvenil y Cultura de Paz de la Universidad Don Bosco de San Salvador, habla con BBC Mundo y analiza la evolución de las pandillas

Guatemala, Western Hemisphere Regional

For as long as immigrants fleeing conflict have arrived in the United States, fugitive war criminals have been among them, an infinitesimal percentage of those arriving at American borders, but a profound challenge


Since the start of the year, more than 800 Haitians have landed in the Florida Keys


El juez natural José Olivio Rodríguez Vásquez determinó la extradición del exdirector de la Policía Nacional, Juan Carlos “El Tigre” Bonilla

Honduras, Mexico


An estimated 20,000 people have fled violence in the past year in Michoacán state

This paper maps out the network of alliances and subgroups within the two most powerful cartels in Mexico — the Sinaloa Cartel and the Cártel de Jalisco Nueva Generación — and reveals key structural differences that could have important implications for policymakers

En MILENIO hicimos un recuento de las comunidades que se han visto afectadas por estos hechos que dejan una gran huella de dolor en la poblacion

A días de las vacaciones de abril, el gobierno de Estados Unidos difundió la alerta de viaje por México, donde llamó a no viajar por ninguna carretera de Tamaulipas y advirtió sobre un “toque de queda nocturno”

Mexico, U.S.-Mexico Border

The Biden administration faces mounting pressure from both sides of the political spectrum to stave off an even bigger surge of immigrants as it plans to lift a pandemic-era public health order at the border


The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) on Friday confirmed a ruling ordering Peru not to release jailed ex-President Alberto Fujimori, who was on the verge of leaving prison last month after a presidential pardon was reinstated

El periodista Gustavo Gorriti fue secuestrado por las Fuerzas de Seguridad a las pocas horas del autogolpe

U.S.-Mexico Border

In business parlance, time is money. And business leaders and trade experts are on edge

Facing his bickering staff in the Oval Office that day in late March 2021, Mr. Biden grew so angry at their attempts to duck responsibility that he erupted

Known as El Chaparral, the camp was a temporary home for hundreds of migrants who had escaped deadly situations in Mexico and Central America

Weekly Border Update: April 8, 2022

With this series of weekly updates, WOLA seeks to cover the most important developments at the U.S.-Mexico border. See past weekly updates here.

This week:

  • The CDC’s April 1 decision to end its “Title 42” pandemic order, which would reopen the border once again to asylum-seeking migrants after May 23, was a hotly debated issue in Washington this week. Most Democrats—including those at an April 6 House hearing—hailed the decision. Conservative Democrats, and those facing stiff re-election challenges seven months from now, criticized the Biden administration for a lack of clear planning to manage a likely increase in protection-seeking migrants at the border. A legislative push to prolong Title 42 could complicate big COVID relief legislation moving through Congress.
  • DHS has exempted Ukrainian citizens—and only Ukrainian citizens—from Title 42, allowing them to cross in steadily growing numbers at ports of entry, especially in Tijuana where at least 2,800 are now waiting for a chance to cross to San Diego.
  • The non-governmental watchdog POGO revealed documents pointing to timid oversight at the DHS Inspector-General’s office, even in the face of very grave findings about sexual harassment and domestic abuse among the workforce of the Department’s troubled law-enforcement agencies.

Amid concerns about capacity, Title 42’s end faces political blowback

One of the thorniest political issues in Washington this week surrounded the April 1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) decision to terminate “Title 42,” the pandemic authority allowing even asylum-seeking migrants to be quickly expelled from the U.S.-Mexico border. (See last week’s Border Update for details about that decision.)

Migrants’ rights advocates and progressive Democrats applauded the decision to return to the regular asylum system laid out in U.S. law, after more than two years and 1.7 million expulsions, though some lamented the CDC’s decision to delay Title 42’s end until May 23. Republicans, conservative Democrats, and a few Democratic legislators from conservative states criticized the decision to end the public-health authority. Democratic critics argue that the Biden administration has not yet put in place the planning and processing capacity necessary to avoid forcing migrants into overcrowded and ill-equipped facilities, along with images of politically damaging chaos, once—as most expect—Title 42’s lifting causes a sharp rise in migration.

Even with Title 42 in place, migration numbers are already high; Border Patrol is reporting several daily apprehensions of groups exceeding 100 people at a time. Migrants from countries whose citizens are difficult or costly to expel have hit historic highs. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) apprehended more than 32,000 Cuban citizens in March, according to unpublished figures revealed by the Washington Post. That will almost certainly make Cuba the number-two nationality, after Mexico, of migrants encountered at the border last month. (The sharp increase in Cuban migration owes largely to Nicaragua’s November 2021 decision to suspend visa requirements for Cuban visitors.)

Ricardo Zúniga, the State Department’s principal deputy assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere affairs, told the Los Angeles Times to expect an initial decrease in migrant arrivals at the border, as single adults will likely no longer attempt repeat crossings. (WOLA echoed this analysis in a March 31 Q&A document.) After that, though, Zúniga expects numbers to increase, as asylum seekers—especially families—from Mexico and Central America take advantage of the renewed opportunity to ask U.S. officials for protection in the United States.

While there could “very well” be a spike in arrivals at the border after May 23, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told CBS News that the Department is planning and preparing for “different contingencies.” As last week’s Border Update discussed, DHS has formed a “Southwest Border Coordinating Center,” headed by a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) official, to coordinate inter-agency responses. “Having DHS physically in the room with other agencies makes a huge difference,” former Biden immigration adviser Tyler Moran told Vox.

A 16-page March 28 “Southwest Border Strategic Concept of Operations” document signals an intention to increase CBP holding capacity to as much as 25,000-30,000 migrants awaiting processing, nearly double current space. Managing this sort of flow would call for an additional 1,500-2,500 law enforcement officers, the document adds, requiring CBP to borrow personnel from other agencies. “600 additional Border Patrol agents have been deployed and a senior DHS official said the department is prepared to mobilize other officers,” notes an April 1 DHS statement. The Defense Department has agreed to a DHS request to provide additional assistance for at least 90 days, including buses to transport migrants, contracted medical personnel, and perhaps space on military installations to hold and process recently arrived migrants.

An April 4 document from CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus includes a bulleted list of additional steps the agency is taking to prepare for a post-May 23 spike in migrants requiring orderly processing, but as Reuters notes, the list lacks “details about the number of agents being deployed or specific locations for deployments.”

Critics worry that these plans are insufficient, or not specific enough, to handle a big increase in migration. Those outside the government, like humanitarian NGOs and members of Congress, say they’ve received little detailed information about what the plan is, though WOLA is hearing that DHS has begun to reach out to border-area NGOs. “The most important thing will be to know the method for receiving asylum applications once Title 42 is eliminated,” said the official in charge of migrant response for Tijuana’s municipal government, Enrique Lucero. “Let’s hope that this announcement is very clear to see the methodology, because if it must happen in person, it will be chaos at the border, inevitably. But if they do it online, upload their application and they are given their appointment, that will make our job easier, because they would no longer have to travel to the border.”

Citing the lack of a plan, a small but significant number of Democratic legislators has called not for getting CBP to hurry up and install capacity by May 23, but instead for prolonging Title 42, despite the suffering that would cause for asylum seekers. These include conservative Democrats (Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, Sen. Jon Tester of Montana, Rep. Henry Cuéllar of south Texas) and moderate Democrats from conservative states whose vulnerable seats are up for re-election this year (Sen. Mark Kelly of Arizona, Sen. Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, Sen. Raphael Warnock of Georgia, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, Rep. Vicente González of south Texas).

Five Democratic senators joined six Republicans in sponsoring a bill that would block the CDC from lifting Title 42 until 60 days after the end of the U.S. government’s declared COVID-19 emergency. During those 60 days, DHS would have to submit a plan to address increased migrant arrivals; if it failed to do so, Title 42 would remain in place for 30 more days.

This bill would not be a standalone piece of legislation: the senators expect to attach it to a $10 billion COVID relief package currently on a fast track for congressional approval. While this amendment might have the necessary votes in the 50-50 Senate, its approval in the Democratic-majority House is less certain. Most House Democrats, like those who led the House Homeland Security Committee’s first-ever hearing on Title 42, on April 6, have strongly supported terminating the pandemic expulsions provision and restoring asylum.

Already, Senate Republicans blocked an effort to push through the COVID relief bill before this weekend, when Congress begins a 2-week recess—an express step that would have required all 100 senators’ consent—by demanding that the process include amendments, including one to preserve Title 42.

Republicans are gearing up to make post-Title 42 migration a top issue in their campaigning for 2022 elections. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), a fierce Biden critic who is up for re-election this year, held an April 6 news conference announcing a further hardening of state-government border measures in response to the CDC announcement. Abbott plans to step up “safety inspections” of cargo coming across the border from Mexico, even though it would “ dramatically slow” vehicle traffic coming from border ports of entry.

The governor also announced an intention to put asylum-seeking migrants, upon their release from CBP custody, on buses going directly to Washington, DC. As that would technically constitute kidnapping across state lines, the governor’s office revised this proposal to clarify that it is “voluntary.” If this proposal goes forward, Gov. Abbott would ironically be doing a favor for migrants whose relatives, support networks, and immigration court dates are on the U.S. east coast: by paying their way to Washington, Texas taxpayers would be saving migrants and their families hundreds of dollars in transportation costs that they would otherwise have to pay themselves. “I think that would be good if they ask the migrants, ‘are you going to the East Coast? So, yes? Great!’” said Sr. Norma Pimentel of Rio Grande Valley Catholic Charities.

Gov. Abbott has used state funds to deploy about 10,000 Texas state National Guardsmen to respond to increased migration, about 6,500 of them physically at the border. The governor announced plans to send riot gear and concertina wire, and to have guardsmen hold “mass migration rehearsals,” in preparation for a foreseen post-Title 42 migration increase.

Meanwhile, though, Abbott’s military deployment is running out of money. Stars and Stripes reported that the Governor’s $3.9 billion “Operation Lone Star” state border security effort, which includes the National Guard presence, will be out of funding by May 1. “The Guard would need about $531 million to maintain its current force at the border through the end of the fiscal year in Texas, which is Aug. 31,” Texas State Adjutant General Thomas Suelzer told a Texas State Senate committee. Gen. Suelzer expects to begin reducing the troop footprint soon.

Ukrainian migrants are arriving in ever-greater numbers

The Biden administration announced in March that the U.S. government would accept 100,000 Ukrainians fleeing the Russian invasion “through the full range of legal pathways.” It has not, however, revealed details about how this will work. Mexico, meanwhile, does not require visas of Ukrainian tourists—they can legally remain in the country for 180 days—so thousands have been arriving by air. They then seek to cross into the United States, where DHS appears to be granting humanitarian parole to most of them.

CBP is processing Ukrainians at ports of entry, but has not built capacity to handle more than a few hundred per day. As a result, the Ukrainian population in Mexico’s border cities is growing fast. This is especially the case in Tijuana, where most are arriving, though we are now hearing about arrivals in Ciudad Juárez and, anecdotally, in Reynosa.

“More than 2,000 Ukrainians have made their way to the U.S. border from Mexico over the past 10 days,” up from 50 a week earlier, the New York Times reported on April 6. Local media reported 2,800 in Tijuana alone on April 8.

At first, Ukrainians in Tijuana gathered near a small bus stop by the San Ysidro port of entry leading to San Diego, the border’s busiest official crossing, as they waited a turn to petition CBP personnel for protection. Tijuana’s municipal government opened up a nearby athletic facility, which about 1,800 are now using as a shelter. (It is the same facility where participants in a highly publicized “migrant caravan” first gathered in late 2018.)

CBP has slowly but steadily increased its capacity to receive and process the arriving Ukrainians. Earlier this week, the port of entry was only taking about 200 people per day; the number now able to cross, according to local authorities, is about 400-600 per day. In a scene familiar to those who’ve worked with asylum-seeking migrants in Tijuana in the past, migrants organized their own “waitlist” to approach the port of entry, using a yellow legal pad. (Volunteers assisting the migrants have since computerized this waitlist.)

The Ukrainians’ ability to approach the port of entry is a giant exception to Title 42, which has closed the ports to all other nations’ undocumented, protection-seeking migrants. Cities like Tijuana are full of migrants from numerous countries—including Russia—waiting for Title 42 to end so that they, too, might approach the port and ask for asylum or other protection.

Many of those blocked migrants are seriously threatened, but the vast majority are non-European, a fact that gives rise to allegations of racism. While she applauds the decision to welcome Ukrainian refugees, Blaine Bookey of the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies at University of California Hastings, who has been assisting Ukrainians in Tijuana, told the New York Times, “There is no way to look at what’s happening at the southern border other than along racial lines.”

DHS Inspector-General suppressed information about sexual harassment and domestic violence in the workforce

The Project on Government Oversight (POGO) obtained documents from the DHS Office of Inspector-General (OIG) indicating that the agency’s independent watchdog has been suppressing, delaying, and watering down information about serious patterns of sexual harassment and domestic abuse within the Department’s law enforcement agencies.

Past weekly Border Updates have recorded numerous allegations of improper use of force, racist messaging, mistreatment of migrants, and other indicators of serious organizational culture issues within agencies like CBP and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). These concerns call for strong internal oversight controls—but POGO’s findings indicate that those controls, at least at the OIG, are weak.

The POGO report, “Protecting the Predators at DHS,” is a worthwhile read with some shocking findings, as is the New York Times’s April 7 coverage of the report. Some key points include:

  • A 2018 OIG survey found that more than 10,000 CBP, ICE, Secret Service, and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employees had experienced sexual harassment or sexual misconduct at work. That is more than a third of the 28,000 survey respondents. Of these, 78 percent said they did not report the incident, often out of a belief that doing so would derail their careers. Examples included “surreptitious videotaping in bathrooms, unwelcome sexual advances and inappropriate sexual comments.” The survey was part of an OIG report for which fieldwork ended two and a half years ago, in October 2019—but the report has still not seen the light of day.
  • Of 1,800 sexual harassment cases within the Department, 445 were at ICE and 382 were at CBP.
  • The unpublished OIG report found that DHS agencies paid 21 employees nearly $1 million in settlements from sexual harassment-related complaints over six years, but there are few records of any investigations or disciplinary actions against the aggressors. One victim received a $255,000 payout. Senior officials at the OIG objected to mentioning these settlements in the as-yet unpublished report.
  • The unpublished OIG report notes that “women made up only 5 percent of CBP’s Border Patrol workforce,” well below the federal law enforcement average of 15 percent.
  • Another OIG report, published in 2020, covered DHS law-enforcement personnel found to have committed domestic violence when off duty. Inspector-General Joseph Cuffari and his staff pushed to withhold many key findings that had appeared in this report’s earlier drafts. Initially, the report found that agents who committed domestic abuse received “little to no discipline.” In an internal memo, Cuffari ordered that removed, calling it “second-guessing D.H.S. disciplinary decisions without full facts.” This language is troubling, as second-guessing disciplinary decisions is something that inspectors-general are often compelled to do.
  • Employing law enforcement personnel with a demonstrated propensity for abusing domestic partners and family members places at risk the other populations these personnel might encounter, like migrants. “It raises questions about someone’s fitness for the job if they abuse someone they have committed their life to,” James Wong, a former CBP deputy assistant commissioner for internal affairs, told POGO. “How are they going to treat a total stranger they have no relationship with? Who’s going to stop them?” The OIG report’s draft had raised concerns that allowing these agents to keep their weapons “put[s] victims and the public at risk of further violence,” but Cuffari ordered that language removed for risk of “appearing biased.”

POGO, a non-governmental watchdog group, has published past reports and allegations critical of Cuffari, whom Donald Trump named to the DHS Inspector-General post in 2019. “The suppressed DHS watchdog reports on sexual misconduct and domestic violence are part of a pattern where Cuffari has appeared unwilling to oversee his department as an independent watchdog,” POGO’s report contends. “Sadly, Cuffari himself has an undeniable pattern of removing significant facts and evidence from major reports. As a result of this pattern, his independence and impartiality are in question.”

In other CBP accountability news:

  • NBC reported an October 2021 letter from a National Archives and Records Administration official voicing strong concern about Border Patrol agents’ and CBP officers’ use of Wickr, an Amazon-owned encrypted messaging app that automatically deletes messages. CBP has spent more than $1.6 million on Wickr subscriptions for its personnel since 2020. “This has had real consequences for accountability by impeding investigations and oversight of the agency’s activities,” said Nikhel Sus of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), which has filed a lawsuit against CBP to obtain records about the agency’s implementation of Wickr.
  • On April 4, border-district Reps. Raúl Grijalva (D-Arizona) and Veronica Escobar (D-Texas) sent a letter to CBP Commissioner Magnus “urging him to implement measures that would increase accountability and transparency within the agency.” Four other House Democrats, including two whose districts touch the border, joined the letter, which includes a long list of issues and steps that the agency should address in order to treat “migrants, border community residents, and all others who encounter CBP with dignity and respect.”


  • WOLA published two resources this week. Adam Isacson of the Defense Oversight program reflected, based on recent fieldwork in Tamaulipas, Mexico, on how current policies directly benefit Mexican organized crime. Kristen Martínez-Gugerli of the Venezuela program gave an overview of recent Venezuelan migration, including Mexico’s recent reinstatement of visa requirements and increasing travel through Panama’s treacherous Darién Gap.
  • Colombian authorities told Camilo Montoya-Galvez of CBS News that the United States has expelled or removed 1,800 Colombian migrants by air since a flight program intensified in early March. The latest monthly flight-monitoring report from Witness at the Border counted 10 U.S. expulsion or removal flights to Bogotá during March—up from 2 in February—with 9 of them occurring between March 11 and 31.
  • Citing UN Migration Agency data, Montoya-Galvez also found that U.S. authorities had sent 1,958 asylum seekers across the border into Mexico under the “Remain in Mexico” program, which restarted under a Texas federal court’s order in early December. (That number, up from less than 900 at the end of February, could be too high, as it may double-count those who return to Mexico after their initial U.S. hearings.) “A senior DHS official said the US will enroll more migrants in the program once Title 42 is lifted,” Montoya-Galvez added.
  • As of April 3, CBP had apprehended an average of 346 unaccompanied children per day at the U.S.-Mexico border during the previous 30 days, and was holding 436 in short-term custody. Another 10,326 children were in shelters managed by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). While a historically high number, this is much fewer unaccompanied kids than a year ago. On April 2, 2021, the 30-day average was 505 apprehensions, 5,381 children were in CBP custody, and 13,359 were in ORR shelters.
  • At Texas Monthly, James Dobbins profiles “Patriots for America,” a heavily armed far-right militia group that has been patrolling the border with the support, or at least the toleration, of authorities in Kinney County, Texas.
  • The Departments of Justice, Homeland Security, and State held a “Smuggling Roundtable” in Mexico on April 4-5, with counterparts from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. A Justice Department release offers little detail about what the event achieved. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, meanwhile, will visit Panama within two and a half weeks for a meeting with regional foreign ministers to discuss migration.
  • 72 Ecuadorian migrants have disappeared in Mexico or the United States during their northward journeys between 2019 and 2021, according to a BBC report. The actual number is likely greater: 72 is only the number of disappearances reported to Ecuadorian authorities.
  • Expediente Publico counts 284,000 Nicaraguans—about 4 percent of the country’s population—who have fled to other countries since a vicious government crackdown on protesters in 2018. The main destinations are the United States and Costa Rica, with others going to Spain, Panama, and Mexico.
  • Ursula Roldán, a migration expert at Guatemala’s Rafael Landivar University, told Reuters that U.S. deportations of Guatemalans have dropped even as Guatemalan emigration continues at high levels. “It’s not that people aren’t trying to leave Guatemala. It’s that the containment is in Mexico, at the southern and northern borders. That’s where the problem is building.”
  • Mexican migration agents and National Guard personnel confronted, then broke up a migrant caravan in the southern state of Chiapas, apprehending 701 people including 126 women and 75 children. The group included citizens of Haiti, Venezuela, Cuba, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Brazil, Chile, Dominican Republic, Senegal, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Argentina, Uruguay, Bangladesh, Peru, and Mauritania. This caravan was the latest edition of the “Migrant Via Crucis,” an annual event begun by Mexico-Guatemala border zone advocacy groups to draw attention to migrants’ plight in the weeks before Easter. The 2018 Migrant Via Crucis became a fixture on Fox News and an obsession of then-president Donald Trump.

43 social leaders murdered in Colombia in 3 months: UN

During the 3 months ending March 28, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights’ Colombia Field Office “received information about killings of 43 human rights defenders and social leaders, including four women (7 documented, 35 under verification and 1 inconclusive or not verifiable).”

This from the latest quarterly report from the UN Verification Mission in Colombia, always a useful document:

Another rough year for humanitarian work in Brooks County, near the border in south Texas

“Last year there were 119 skeletal remains and bodies recovered in Brooks County. This year we’re already up to 20, and spring has just started. We haven’t even hit summer yet.”

That’s Eddie Canales, founder of the South Texas Human Rights Center in Falfurrias, Texas, interviewed by Melissa del Bosque at the Border Chronicle. (Hear a podcast I recorded with Eddie back in 2020.) Falfurrias, about 80 miles north of McAllen and the border, is where Border Patrol has a highway checkpoint. Migrants are instructed to get out of their vehicles and walk around the checkpoint, miles through the dry, flat ranchland of Brooks County (population 7,000). Every year, dozens die of dehydration and exposure.

Canales and his staff of mostly volunteers put out water stations and work with Texas State University forensic experts to help identify bodies. Since most land in south Texas is in private hands, he has to negotiate with ranchers to place the water stations—barrels full of water jugs. He tells Del Bosque where stations are needed, and names the Big Bend region, 500 miles to the west—a very remote area that, until very very recently, saw very few migrants.

Right now, we’ve got about 175 water stations, and we need a lot more. I’d like to set up more on the east side of Brooks County if I can get ranchers to agree to it. I’d also like to set up water stations in the Big Bend sector, where a lot of migration has shifted. The cartels have warehouses of people in Ojinaga, [a border town in Mexico near Big Bend] and are trying to get people through.

Del Bosque asks Canales about some ranchers’ argument that the water stations draw migrants to cross. He responds:

I don’t think that that bears out. The trail is created by the guides and coyotes. The water ends up being for stragglers, for people who are ill or who have gotten lost. Groups get chased and scattered by Border Patrol when they’re trying to apprehend them. Many get lost that way and die. I think it’s not a question of attracting more. It comes down to a question of trying to save lives and mitigating the suffering. It’s not aiding and abetting. It’s humanitarian aid.

In some recent years, Brooks County has led all other parts of the border in recovered human remains—and it’s more than an hour’s drive from the border. Eddie Canales sounds frustrated about the system that keeps sending migrants to their deaths, and pessimistic about what is to come.

As long as people already in this country are saying there’s plenty of work, people are going to keep coming. And, you know, decision makers could create more temporary work visas and other programs to regularize migration, but I think they’ll just keep the conditions that exist. And, you know, let people try to get through as best they can. And let the Border Patrol try to catch them, and then yell and scream that the border is unprotected.

[Del Bosque:] Does that mean that the deaths are going to go up in Brooks County?

Yes, I believe so.

It’s a great interview and a worthy newsletter. Read it here.

Victims of eye damage at the hands of Colombian police have had to leave the country

During Colombia’s April-June 2021 Paro Nacional protests, human rights advocates documented 82 cases of protesters who suffered severe eye damage, often resulting from Colombian National Police agents’ misuse of “less-lethal” weapons, like improperly fired tear gas canisters.

Some of the victims have not only lost their eyes or their eyesight: they are now being hounded out of the country by constant death threats. An article by José David Escobar in today’s El Especatador profiles two young women who have had to leave Colombia, their families selling all of their belongings in order to buy the plane tickets out. At least two more victims, Escobar adds, are trying to get out of Colombia for the same reasons.

This is why my colleagues and I get so stridently angry every time we see Biden administration officials offer unalloyed praise for Colombia’s National Police force. This is a really troubled institution, and the U.S. posture toward it is disastrous.

A few translated excerpts from Escobar’s article:

Sandra Pérez, mother of Sara Cárdenas, who was also attacked on May 5, 2021 by the Esmad [riot police squadron], says that they received messages and calls warning them that they were going to kill them or that “they were going to take out her daughter’s other eye”. Even, a week after leaving the country, her neighbors told her that the windows of their apartment had been broken.

”After receiving the attack, we denounced everything that happened that day. From then on we started receiving calls and messages from unknown people threatening us. …I had to hide my other daughter with a relative in another area of the city. We were very scared. Also, before they broke the windows of where we lived, they pointed a laser at the windows of the apartment three times.”

…In the case of Leidy Cadena, she also said that in the months after her attack, she and her boyfriend were searched for no reason. “When I was attacked by the Esmad, there was even a policeman who went to the San Ignacio hospital to make me testify, hours after I had lost my right eye, something inexplicable. But the event that forced us to leave the country was when, in October 2021, we found that they had put gunpowder tubes under the door of my house. That’s when I felt that my life was really in danger.”

…While this article was being written, El Espectador learned of complaints filed last December and April 6, 2022 by one of Sara Cardenas’ aunts, who lives in Colombia and has been in charge of closely following the investigations of her niece’s case. The documents show that, since December 2021, she has been receiving calls and that she was approached by a stranger who told her: “You look better when you are quiet”, “Do you want to die? Stop investigating”, among other phrases.

32,000 Cubans at the border in March

From Christine Armario and Nick Miroff at the Washington Post:

Last month, more than 32,000 Cubans were taken into U.S. custody along the Mexico border, double the number who arrived in February, according to unpublished U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) figures obtained by The Washington Post.

That number will almost certainly make Cuba the number-two country of origin, after Mexico, of migrants apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border in March. That’s a position that Cuba has never occupied before.

The increase owes heavily to Nicaragua’s elimination of visa requirements for Cuban visitors last November, which opened up a new route up through Central America and across Mexico.

But it also puts in a difficult spot conservative Republicans currently ginning up “Biden Border Crisis” rhetoric as the November midterm elections draw near. What do they propose be done with these 32,000 people? Do people like Rubio, DeSantis and Scott propose that they be sent back to the regime in Havana?

Latin America-related online events this week

Wednesday, April 6

Thursday, April 7

Friday, April 8

  • 8:30-9:15 at Brazil’s path ahead: A conversation with Brazil’s former Minister of Justice Sergio Moro (RSVP required).

Weekly U.S.-Mexico Border Update: April 1, 2022

With this series of weekly updates, WOLA seeks to cover the most important developments at the U.S.-Mexico border. See past weekly updates here.

Title 42 may end in late May

Every 60 days, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) must decide whether to renew or terminate the “Title 42” pandemic border provision, which has allowed the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to expel undocumented migrants quickly from the U.S.-Mexico border without affording them a chance to seek asylum.

The most recent 60-day period expired on Wednesday, March 30. At mid-day on April 1, the CDC published its order. Title 42 is to be terminated and phased out by May 23.

This decision is unsurprising in the face of public health data pointing to a waning pandemic, including very low positivity rates for migrants currently arriving at the border and in 91 percent of U.S. border counties, making the pandemic authority’s continued use difficult to justify. A blistering March 23 article in the New England Journal of Medicine concluded, “The rationale behind the Title 42 order not only is unsupported by evidence but also, in some respects, is blatantly false.” Biden administration officials continue to indicate that they will abide by whatever the CDC decides.

WOLA published a March 31 overview of what might happen after Title 42’s late-May repeal. “This return to normal U.S. asylum law will bring an end to a policy that has placed tens of thousands of people in harm’s way in Mexican border cities,” it finds—but DHS will need to adjust nimbly and surge resources to the border in order to avoid chaos and overcrowding. WOLA’s analysis expects already-high levels of migration to increase further in the weeks or months up to and after Title 42’s lifting: though arrivals of single adults may decline, families’ numbers will increase, especially those from the four countries subject to 98 percent of today’s Title 42 expulsions: Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. WOLA’s overview voices concern that DHS preparations so far are insufficient to process a large flow of protection-seeking migrants in an orderly way.

As usually happens in spring—and especially during a worldwide increase in pandemic-spurred migration—arrivals at the U.S.-Mexico border are already heavy. Border Patrol Chief Raúl Ortiz told this week’s “Border Security Expo” convention that March migrant encounters are likely to reach 200,000, a monthly threshold crossed only a few times in this century. In a March 29 call with reporters, unnamed DHS officials said that personnel are currently encountering about 7,101 migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border each day, up from 5,900 per day in February. Facilities in Border Patrol’s Yuma Sector, which straddles the Arizona-California border and has been a major destination for non-Mexican and non-Central American migrants, are at nearly 300 percent of capacity, and the Del Rio, Texas Sector is also “maxed out,” the Washington Post reported.

When Title 42 ceases, officials expect migration to increase still further. DHS personnel on the March 29 press call said they are preparing for scenarios of 12,000 migrants per day and 18,000 migrants per day. That latter figure adds up to 540,000 per month, nearly 2 1/2 times the largest monthly number Border Patrol has ever publicly reported. Officials caution that these are planning scenarios, not projections or predictions.

A DHS official told reporters that 30,000 to 60,000 migrants currently in northern Mexico are in “wait and see” mode, and “could seek entry within hours” of a Title 42 repeal, CNN reported. An “official familiar with the planning” told the New York Times that a post-Title 42 jump in border crossings “would likely last a few weeks.”

Chaos and overcrowding at U.S. border facilities would not only create a humanitarian crisis, but would create images that immigration hardliners who are skeptical of asylum would use as political fodder to attack the Biden administration in the runup to November’s hotly contested congressional elections. Officials have laid out a series of steps they are taking, or plan to take, ahead of Title 42’s likely late-May lifting. It remains to be seen whether these steps will be enough. They include the following.

Physical infrastructure to receive protection-seeking migrants: “CBP’s [U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s] processing capacity will be determinative,” a recent Migration Policy Institute report points out. “Officials will need to be able to quickly transport migrants to Border Patrol stations or processing centers and efficiently register migrants’ information and move them along, while maintaining safe and humane conditions.” That has been a problem in the past: recent years’ mass arrivals at the border have come with disturbing imagery of families and children packed for days or weeks in overcrowded Border Patrol facilities, or even under bridges near border crossings.

Right now, CBS News reports, CBP’s short-term processing facilities can hold about 16,000 migrants at a time. “But the government would need to expand CBP’s holding capacity to accommodate between 25,000 and 30,000 migrants in U.S. custody on any given day if the worst case scenarios materialize,” according to a DHS “Southwest Border Strategic Concept of Operations” document.

The planned DHS response is to expand capacity at “soft-sided” migrant processing facilities (the term means “comprised of big tents”) in Yuma, Del Rio, and Texas’s Rio Grande Valley. A longer-term plan, using 2022 appropriations, would build more permanent multi-agency “joint processing centers” for this purpose, but those won’t be online in the immediate post-Title 42 period.

DHS is also reportedly signing contracts for transportation of migrants needing processing, which could double the current capacity of about 5,000 migrants by land and 350 by air each day.

Personnel to staff these facilities: The processing of protection-seeking migrants continues to rely heavily on armed, uniformed Border Patrol agents. A big jump in migration will create an urgent need for additional personnel. Border Patrol has “detailed 350 additional Border Patrol agents to assist at the U.S. southern border and another 150 agents are helping with processing remotely,” according to CNN. A DHS strategic planning scenario cited by CBS News foresees augmenting that with “up to 2,500 law enforcement officers, 2,750 support staff and more than 1,000 medical personnel to the U.S.-Mexico border.”

Involving FEMA and setting up a coordination center: DHS has set up a “Southwest Border Coordination Center (SBCC)” that, a March 30 Department fact sheet notes, will “coordinate planning, operations, engagement, and interagency support” during a post-Title 42 increase in migration. On March 18 DHS named a senior official of its Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), MaryAnn Tierney, to head the SBCC. FEMA “is currently providing ‘technical assistance’ to border authorities, but has not deployed personnel to the southern border,” CBS News reported.

Vaccinating migrants in custody: On March 28 DHS began offering COVID-19 vaccines to migrants in custody who cannot show proof of vaccination. CBP plans cited by CBS news call for expanding vaccinations from a current rate of 2,700 daily doses to 6,000 per day by the end of May. Asylum seekers who refuse vaccines and cannot be detained will be released with monitoring devices and “stringent conditions” on their movements, the New York Times reported. The Times added that “President Biden’s domestic policy adviser, Susan Rice, has privately raised concerns that it would provide an incentive for more undocumented migrants to try to cross the border,” an argument that has lost relevance as U.S. vaccination rates have slipped below those of many Latin American countries.

New asylum rules: Regulations published March 29, to begin taking effect around May 28, will seek to speed up asylum adjudication by giving asylum officers the ability to decide claims, and by reducing timeframes at key steps in the process. Advocates like the American Immigration Council voice concerns that the sped-up procedures could harm asylum seekers’ due process and ability to obtain legal representation. Either way, the new rules will be rolled out slowly and may have little impact on the ability to process a post-Title 42 wave of asylum seekers.

The Migration Policy Institute, which developed a proposal on which the new rules are based, notes that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which employs asylum officers, would also have to expand dramatically: “As of March 2021, USCIS employed 785 asylum officers; the new rule predicts the agency will need to hire between 794 and 4,647 new officers and staff to process between 75,000 and 300,000 cases annually.”

Budget needs: In order to meet post-Title 42 asylum processing and adjudication needs, the Biden administration may need more money. The 2022 Homeland Security appropriation, signed into law as part of the federal budget on March 15, “would not be sufficient to fund the potential resource requirements associated with the current increase in migrant flows,” the DHS fact sheet warns. The Department says it will need to reallocate and reprioritize funds, and perhaps resort to “engaging with Congress on any potential need for supplemental appropriations.”

With Title 42 set to end in as little as seven weeks, it’s not clear whether these announced preparations will come in time, or be sufficient, to avoid disorder and overcrowding at the border. “There have been no major changes to how migrants are processed at the U.S.-Mexico border and no increase in holding facilities for them,” the Associated Press warns. “The immigration court backlog continues to soar to more than 1.7 million cases.”

The Biden administration’s conservative critics foresee a mess at the border. Noting that processing can take hours per person, the head of the Border Patrol employees’ union, Brandon Judd, told the New York Times, “There’s no way we’re prepared to deal with what’s coming. We’re going to see complete chaos.” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) told reporters, “Border Patrol agents told me they expect a tsunami of humans to come across the border and the Border Patrol has said they will lose control entirely.”

Most congressional Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, have been calling for Title 42’s end for a while. However, a handful of centrist and conservative Democrats, arguing that DHS is not ready to deal with an increased migration flow, have joined Republican calls to keep Title 42 in place for now. These include Texas border-district Reps. Vicente González and Henry Cuéllar, who signed a letter, along with all Republican members of Texas’s congressional delegation, calling to keep Title 42 in place because “DHS appears unprepared to handle a likely unprecedented increase in apprehensions along the southwest border.” Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) sent a letter to CDC Director Rochelle Walensky warning, “now is not the time to throw caution to the wind.” The Senator later told CNN, “Oh my goodness. Just watch the news y’all put out every day, what’s coming across.”

Arizona’s two moderate Democratic senators, Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly, wrote a March 24 letter making similar arguments to keep Title 42 in place until DHS is “completely ready to implement and coordinate a comprehensive plan.” Two prominent Arizona-based legal and humanitarian organizations, the Kino Border Initiative and the Florence Project, responded in a March 25 letter: “We agree with Senators Sinema and Kelly that the Biden administration should have an ascertainable plan to end Title 42 safely and humanely and should have begun coordinating with service providers months ago. However, there is little to be gained by continuing this policy to put a plan in place when federal agencies have already had over two years to plan for an end to what was supposed to be a short-term emergency measure.”

Many groups defending migrants’ rights are unhappy with Title 42 remaining in force until May 23, arguing that it should end immediately. “We have clients in crisis right now seeking asylum at the border who are sick or who have already been kidnapped and tortured in Mexico,” Jessica Riley of the south Texas-based Project Corazón told the New York Times.

Mexican border cities remain hazardous for those made to “Remain in Mexico”

Two reports BuzzFeed published this week point to dangerous and inhumane conditions suffered by asylum-seeking migrants who have been sent into Mexican border cities to await their U.S. asylum hearings, under the court-ordered revival of the “Remain in Mexico” program. Many are in substandard shelters, some have disappeared, and insecurity has forced DHS to suspend Remain in Mexico enrollments in one border city.

Between December and February, the Biden administration had complied with a Texas court’s order by sending nearly 900 single adults across into Mexico with orders to report at U.S. border crossings for asylum hearings. Unlike the Remain in Mexico program pioneered by the Trump administration, this iteration is meant to come with assistance for Mexican migrant shelters accommodating migrants made to “remain.” That aid is administered by the State Department’s Bureau for Population, Refugees, and Migration.

Despite that promised improvement, BuzzFeed found that conditions in these shelters fall short of the “safe and secure” standard foreseen in the Remain in Mexico program’s reboot, and in fact make it difficult for asylum seekers to obtain counsel and prepare their U.S. immigration court cases.

BuzzFeed reporters Adolfo Flores and Hamed Aleaziz cite letters from two legal aid organizations that have been trying to work with migrants enrolled in Remain in Mexico, the South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project (ProBAR) and the Vera Institute of Justice. Both organizations found their ability to communicate with clients restricted by “perceived threats from the shelter staff, safety concerns, lack of or limited availability of Wi-Fi connections, and restricted access to personal phones.” In San Diego, immigrants told Vera that when they go to attend their U.S. hearings, their shelter space “is not guaranteed upon return.”

Security concerns abound as well. In Ciudad Juarez, many migrants subject to Remain in Mexico  are staying in a large shelter run by Mexico’s federal government. There, a man who had been expelled under Title 42 was found dead on March 7, but his death had gone “unnoticed anywhere from more than 24 hours to up to three days.” ProBAR cites a shelter from which three migrants under Remain in Mexico left on an errand, were kidnapped, and have since missed their U.S. hearings. Two women disappeared from another shelter after leaving to purchase medicine on February 24; when migrants asked shelter operators to call police, “the staff refused, saying they didn’t trust authorities.” (A San Antonio television station this week profiled a gay Ecuadorian asylum seeker, enrolled in the Trump-era Remain in Mexico, whose case remains in limbo because he missed his U.S. court date while kidnapped.)

“Perhaps both governments created too high expectations when announcing MPP 2.0 and how it would work because these are civil society shelters and they struggle a lot,” James MaGillivray of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) Mexico office told BuzzFeed. “Even if they receive support from us and other NGOs and US agencies, at the end of the day… they’re going to keep struggling.”

BuzzFeed also obtained a March 18 email from a State Department official strongly advising DHS to pause Remain in Mexico enrollments in the border city of Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, across from Laredo, Texas. There, as WOLA’s March 18 Border Update noted, Mexican authorities arrested and extradited the city’s maximum organized crime figure, Juan Gerardo Treviño, alias “El Huevo” (“The Egg”), on March 14. The arrest triggered days of violence around the city, including cartel gunmen firing on, and lobbing grenades at, the U.S. Consulate. Migrants enrolled in Remain in Mexico from Laredo have the option of being transported to the somewhat safer city of Monterrey, a few hours south of Nuevo Laredo. Even that is currently unsafe, the State Department email finds, as “immigrants escorted in the area under the protection of the Mexican National Guard were attracting a lot of attention, which could put them in the crosshairs of criminal networks angry with the government,” BuzzFeed reported.

2023 budget request is out

On March 28, less than two weeks after the 2022 federal budget finally became law, the White House sent to Congress its budget request for fiscal 2023. This includes $56.7 billion in discretionary funding for the Department of Homeland Security next year, up $2.9 billion from 2022.

Key documents include the White House’s overall budget proposal and Appendix for Homeland Security, and the lengthy “Budget Justification” documents for each individual DHS agency.

While WOLA staff have not yet been able to do a “deep dive” into these documents, the following border-related elements stand out to us.

  • CBP’s budget would be $17.45 billion, up from $15.95 billion in 2022. That would be enough to fund 65,621 positions.
  • No new money would go to border barrier construction. However, “CBP is moving forward with some activities necessary to address life, safety, environmental, and remediation requirements, and is conducting robust planning (including environmental planning) and stakeholder engagement related to future/ongoing border wall projects.”
  • Over $1 billion would go to new border security technologies.
  • CBP would receive funding to hire 300 new Border Patrol agents and 300 new Border Patrol Processing Coordinators—non-law-enforcement personnel who assist with processing recently arrived migrants, particularly asylum seekers.
  • The proposal calls for $765 million for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), up from $250 million in 2022, to help the agency, among other purposes, “efficiently process increasing asylum caseloads.”
  • $375 million would go to implementing the Biden administration’s new asylum rule.
  • $494 million would go to “processing and care costs” for migrants apprehended at the border.
  • The DHS Inspector-General would see a budget increase from $220 million in 2022 to $233 million in 2023.
  • $20 million would go to the Family Reunification Task Force, which continues to seek to locate parents of children separated by the Trump administration’s so-called “Zero Tolerance” policy.
  • Holding adult migrants in detention centers will cost Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) $148.62 per day per detention bed, with a request to fund 9,000 fewer beds than in 2022.
  • The Justice Department request asks for $1.4 billion for the immigration court system, up $621 million from 2021, to address the system’s giant backlog of 1.7 million cases. This includes funds to hire 100 new immigration judges. On March 25, Justice announced the hiring of 25 new immigration judges. As of January, the system had 578 judges.

The CBP Budget Justification also includes some notable statistics among its performance measures.

  • CBP reports that 26.6 percent of migrants encountered at the U.S.-Mexico border in 2021 were “encountered multiple times.” That is up from less than 11 percent in the years just before the pandemic. The average number of repeat encounters was 3.14.
  • Border Patrol estimates that it apprehended 82.6 percent of all migrants who attempted to cross undocumented into the United States. That is the second-highest “interdiction effectiveness rate” reported in the five-year 2017-2021 period.
  • Joint operations conducted “by Border Patrol agents and Mexican law enforcement partners” declined to 22 in 2021, from 43 in 2018.


  • “For many years, Cubans began their journey to the U.S. border in South America,” notes a new WOLA commentary on migration from Cuba. “Things changed in November 2021, when Nicaragua lifted visa requirements for Cuban nationals, opening a new, and shorter, path to reach the U.S.”
  • Beyond the Bridge,” a new report by Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and the Haitian Bridge Alliance, documents examples of U.S. and Mexican personnel abusing and mistreating Haitian migrants during and after a large-scale migration event in Del Rio, Texas last September.
  • The U.S. government had used Title 42 to expel 600 Colombian migrants on 6 flights to Colombia during the first 4 weeks of March, CBS News reporter Camilo Montoya-Gálveztweeted, citing the head of Colombia’s migration agency.
  • In early February, Tijuana authorities evacuated and bulldozed a year-old tent encampment by the port of entry to San Diego, at which several hundred migrants had been living as they awaited a post-Title 42 opportunity to seek asylum. (See WOLA’s February 11 Border Update.) Almost two months later, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported, the people who lived in the encampment “have scattered.” Some are in shelters, some are living elsewhere in the city, some have crossed irregularly into the United States, and some are still living in tents.
  • In Ciudad Hidalgo, Chiapas, the busiest Mexico-Guatemala border crossing (near Tapachula), migrants continue to protest the slow pace of immigration officials’ processing of their status requests. Milenio notes that the Suchiate River, which separates Mexico from Guatemala here, is currently only two feet (60cm) deep at its deepest point.
  • At VICE, Nathaniel Janowitz reports on the proliferation of .50-caliber sniper rifles in Mexico, smuggled across the border after being purchased at U.S. gun shops. No U.S. federal law expressly prohibits trafficking in firearms.
  • VICE also reported about a “secret deal with Mexican officials” that allowed 35 Russian asylum seekers to cross from Tijuana to San Diego “under cover of night” at “a checkpoint that has been closed to the public for several months.” This allowed the Russian individuals to cross ahead of migrants from other nationalities who have been waiting for the chance to ask for asylum at the U.S. port of entry, which remains closed to asylum seekers, with rare exceptions, due to Title 42.
  • Bethesda Magazine published an interesting feature about Central American children who arrived at the border unaccompanied and are now trying to adjust to life and school in Montgomery County, in suburban Washington, DC, which  has one of the United States’ largest numbers of unaccompanied minors who have been released to sponsors.
  • In a new book Will Hurd, who represented a west Texas border district in Congress, tells of taking other Republican representatives to visit the border: “Some were nervous when I took them into Mexico. Many were expecting the Battle of Mogadishu in 1993, with shootouts in the streets like Black Hawk Down.”
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