Adam Isacson

Defense, security, borders, migration, and human rights in Latin America and the United States. May not reflect my employer’s consensus view.

Archives

June 2022

Latin America Security-Related News: June 28-29, 2022

(Even more here)

June 29, 2022

Western Hemisphere Regional

Consisting of five separate booklets, the World Drug Report 2022 provides an in-depth analysis of global drug markets and examines the nexus between drugs and the environment within the bigger picture of the Sustainable Development Goals, climate change and environmental sustainability

Brazil

Before the deaths of Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira, Chico Mendes’ murder in 1988 and Dorothy Stang’s assassination in 2005 shook Brazil

Colombia

Al dejar su cargo hace menos de tres meses, expresó que como comisionado fue estigmatizado por su vida en la milicia

Después de semanas de especulación sobre su futuro en el nuevo gobierno, el comandante dijo que dejará el cargo a partir del 20 de Julio, cuando se instale el nuevo Congreso

Con expectativa y algo de incredulidad fueron recibidas las respuestas del presidente electo Gustavo Petro, durante la entrevista que le concedió a Cambio sobre cómo será su relación con la fuerza pública

El informe final ofrece propuestas para cambiar la cultura de la guerra del país por una que promueva la paz

A special truth commission criticized Colombia’s security forces and the United States for their role in a half-century conflict that left at least 450,000 people dead

The truth commission, appointed as part of the 2016 peace deal between the government and rebel groups, recommended authorities stop focusing on prohibiting illicit drugs

Militarización, poder sobre las armas a civiles, hacer de la Policía un cuerpo para atacar la violencia, apoyo de paramilitares, fomentar la doctrina militar con el enfoque del enemigo interno, entre otros

El saliente ministro de Defensa, Diego Molano, deberá entregar información sobre el destino de ocho millones de dólares donados por Estados Unidos a la Policía

Dice que las rentas del tráfico de cocaína tienen relación estructural y orgánica con la economía.

  • Gwen Burnyeat, Petro Wins (London Review of Books, June 29, 2022).

Petro’s win, like the election of Gabriel Boric in Chile, means change for the region

Read More

Supply and demand

Here’s what it looks like when you chart out Table 8.3 in the just-released 2022 UNODC World Drug Report. This is the average price of a gram of cocaine sold on U.S. streets over the 31 years between 1990 and 2020, in 2020 inflation-adjusted dollars, adjusted for purity.

Two things stand out:

  • If the purpose of “supply side” drug policy is to make cocaine scarcer, it has largely failed to do so. The only moment when cocaine prices were a bit higher than usual—indicating some relative scarcity—was the late 2000s and early-to-mid 2010s. That was a time when aerial fumigation was declining in Colombia, and manual eradication and territorial governance efforts were increasing.
  • The White House’s last update on Andean cocaine showed the region’s total potential production of the drug increasing from 1,521 tons in 2016 to 2,132 tons in 2020. That’s a 40% potential supply increase. But this chart shows almost no decrease in price over those four years, just $6, or 3 percent. That probably tells us that the Andes’ big increase in coca and cocaine production is going to other countries’ drug markets, not to the United States, where there’s some balance between supply and demand.

The Wrong Man at the Wrong Time

After about 2 1/2 years, the commander of Colombia’s army, Gen. Eduardo Zapateiro, is leaving. This is not a bad thing. His exit is long overdue.

Why overdue? I can’t speak to the corruption allegations President-Elect Gustavo Petro hints at here, in a June 25 interview with Colombia’s Cambio magazine.

Rather, Gen. Zapateiro has been most problematic because of his public messaging on human rights and civil-military relations.

The General posted this charming tweet, a video of slithering snakes, the day after Colombia’s transitional justice tribunal (the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, JEP) published findings that the armed forces had killed 6,402 civilians between 2002 and 2008, falsely counting most victims as armed-group members killed in combat.

The investigators and JEP personnel denouncing “false positives,” you see, were reptiles.

Here’s the General, at one of the most intense moments of Colombia’s 2021 National Strike protests, calling the feared ESMAD riot police “heroes in black,” urging them to “keep working in the same manner that you have been.” At the time, the ESMAD were killing many protesters, and maiming dozens more.

https://twitter.com/DeCurreaLugo/status/1389459283746729986

Following a March 2022 raid in which soldiers likely killed at least 4 non-combatants, the General said, “This isn’t the first operation in which pregnant women and minors get killed.”

When candidate Petro, on Twitter, accused officers of colluding w/ the neo-paramilitary Gulf Clan, the General made a highly irregular foray into electoral politics, reviving an accusation that Petro had taken a cash bribe (charges were dropped in 2021).

Gen. Eduardo Zapateiro sent damaging messages on human rights. His public statements made the armed forces appear improperly aligned with a specific political ideology.

Meanwhile, Colombia’s insecurity measures worsened, and armed groups proliferated. So no, I won’t miss him.

Latin America Security-Related News: June 27, 2022

(Even more here)

June 27, 2022

Western Hemisphere Regional

UN human rights experts* have called on the international community to bring an end to the so-called “war on drugs” and promote drug policies that are firmly anchored in human rights

The Biden administration had instructed ICE agents to focus on immigrants who were considered a threat. But a judge’s order means millions more could now be targeted for deportation

Brazil

Brazil leads the world in the number of murders linked to land rights and environmental issues, with most of them occurring in the Amazon

Colombia

The relevance of this case-study goes well beyond the army operation in March or Comandos de la Frontera. It illustrates the difficulty of assessing armed groups in highly dynamic contexts

El Informe Final que el país conocerá mañana tendrá capítulos que ninguna otra comisión de la verdad en el mundo ha incluido: género y población LGBTIQ+, étnico, exilio y testimonial

The former paramilitary commander and drug lord, alias “Memo Fantasma,” may walk out of prison in Colombia on June 28

Gimena Sánchez-Garzoli, director for the Andes at the Washington Office on Latin America, joins Ryan Grim to discuss what Petro’s election means and how it happened

Integrantes de la coalición del Pacto Histórico han trabajado en una propuesta para acelerar la implementación del Acuerdo de Paz y otros temas urgentes para cerrar los ciclos de violencia que vive Colombia

Demuestra que las nuevas generaciones de Colombia creen en una salida institucional a las demandas sociales de la población

El nuevo gobierno empieza a pensar, basado en la premisa de que no hay enemigo interno, en unas Fuerzas Armadas que se concentren ya no en la guerra sino en la construcción de la paz

Primera entrevista del presidente electo Gustavo Petro. Habla de su reunión con Álvaro Uribe, de los acuerdos políticos y la inconformidad en sus filas, de sus relaciones con los militares y la Policía, de una propuesta para modificar la extradición

Más que desaparecerlo, lo que se espera es que cambie la figura por una que no sea una amenaza para la comunidad, pero sí pueda actuar en situaciones graves de orden público

Viajará hasta Washington para conversar con la vicepresidenta de Estados Unidos

Colombia, U.S.-Mexico Border

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Dominican Republic, Haiti

El Cuerpo Especializado de Seguridad Fronteriza Te­rrestre (Cesfront) informó que tres haitianos resulta­ron heridos por balines de goma, en momentos que intentaron agredir a un miembro del Ejército

Ecuador

Ecuador’s government and indigenous leaders met on Saturday for the first formal talks since mass protests began two weeks ago, and President Guillermo Lasso eased security measures

As in 2019, when pre-pandemic protests led by the Indigenous brought Ecuador to a standstill, organizers are harnessing frustration over fuel prices

El Salvador

Varios de ellos son los que llevaron las negociaciones del pacto entre el gobierno salvadoreño y la pandilla M-S13. Sus testimonios en cortes estadounidenses podrían abrir para el presidente un camino similar al del hondureño Juan Orlando Hernández

Honduras

He defends the reinstatement of more than 2,000 officers, attributing the decision to the institution’s being shorthanded

Mexico

Organizaciones independientes estiman que, entre 2006 y 2021, se han denunciado más de 27,000 casos de tortura en México, similar al número registrado en la cruenta dictadura militar de Chile. Pero los expertos advierten que la cifra podría ser mucho mayor

Se les entregaron documentos migratorios por razones humanitarias, para un tránsito regular por territorio nacional

Dysfunction

I just updated this slide for a talk I’m giving tomorrow, and… wow. The U.S. government has confirmed ambassadors serving in South American countries containing less than a quarter of South America’s population. (105 million out of 431 million people, according to WolframAlpha.)

There’s something to keep in mind the next time you hear a U.S. official, or U.S. senator whose job it is to confirm nominees, rending their garments about China’s growing influence in the hemisphere.

Adding up the pro-Petro coalition in Colombia’s new Congress

Surprisingly (to me, anyway), the congressional delegations of three of Colombia’s mainstream political parties have lined up in support of the left government of President-Elect Gustavo Petro.

By my best count—which could be off by a bit, and is subject to constant change—Gustavo Petro’s pro-government coalition now includes 78 of 108 senators, and 135 of 188 House members. Here, I added yellow highlights to graphics created by El Tiempo to show, as best as I can approximate, what the incoming President’s majorities look like:

The Liberal Party, led by former president César Gaviria, announced its support for the incoming government on June 22, joining the Green Party, Petro’s Pacto Histórico, Comunes (the former FARC), at least 9 of the 16 legislators representing special temporary districts for victims, a result of the peace accord, and some smaller parties.

On June 25, 14 senators and 25 House members from the Conservative Party signed a declaration reading, “We will not be an opposition party, and we declare our support for the legislative agenda that the incoming government proposes.”

On June 26, the “La U” party—which backed every sitting government since its creation in 2005—declared its decision “to be part of the government’s parliamentary coalition.”

Cambio Radical, another traditional center-right party, has yet to declare that it will back Petro’s government, but it has not closed the door.

The only large party now clearly in opposition to Petro’s incoming government is the far-right Centro Democrático of ex-president Álvaro Uribe and outgoing President Iván Duque. Petro and Uribe are likely to meet this week.

Latin America-related events online and in Washington this week

Monday, June 27, 2022

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

  • 12:00 at YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram: []Transmisión Virtual del Acto Público de Presentación del Informe Final de la Comisión de la Verdad](https://twitter.com/ComisionVerdadC/status/1537140383175438337).
  • 12:30-2:00 at thedialogue.org: Low-Carbon Hydrogen in LAC – Prospects and Pathways (RSVP required).

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Colombia: I hope someone’s taking notes

If you have the time—say, an extra hour or two per day—this week is an amazing moment to start chronicling the Gustavo Petro presidency in Colombia. Whatever you think of Petro and his coalition, it’s a historic break, and it’s going to be an epic, roller-coaster narrative.

Who are the main characters in this drama and what motivates them? Where is there friction within the coalition? How might daily life and power relations change in Latin America’s third most-populous country? Who is being given a voice who never had it before? How does the conservative traditionalist bloc resist? Where will the armed forces come down? How do the United States and other foreign powers respond, and why? What mistakes do Petro and his coalition commit, and why? Do they cling to their ideals or does power corrupt? What will this four-year story tell us about politics and human relations at this moment of economic, racial, climate, and justice crisis in our hemisphere? In the world?

Sounds expansive, I know, but what a huge and dramatic story. If you were ever looking for a subject for a book, a blog, a podcast series, a video product, or a combination of all of the above and more, this is a big one, and now is when to start taking copious notes.

Act I (Petro’s and Francia’s campaign and the conditions that made possible a left victory in Colombia) has just ended. But Act II just started this week, and now is the time to jump aboard, for anyone who has the time and inclination to interpret this story.

Weekly U.S.-Mexico Border Update: June 24, 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:

  • Several data points across border sectors—including a shocking 10 drownings in El Paso’s irrigation canals since June 9—point to a historically high number of migrants dying in the Rio Grande and on U.S. soil this year, mainly of drownings, dehydration, and falls from tall segments of the border wall.
  • The Supreme Court was expected to issue a ruling this week on the Biden administration’s effort to end the “Remain in Mexico” program, but no decision came. Media reports this week revealed that one woman assigned to Remain in Mexico attempted suicide in June, and three men were kidnapped in April.
  • Migration levels remain very high in June across the border. A court filing showed that CBP is increasingly granting parole—which doesn’t include an assigned immigration court date—while releasing migrants with tracking devices. Remnants of an early June caravan are arriving near the U.S. border, though Mexican states have been preventing the mostly Venezuelan migrants  from boarding buses.
  • Mexico sent hundreds more troops to the border cities of Tijuana and Matamoros in response to outbreaks of violence. A document from Mexico’s Defense Department shows the current extent of the military’s border-security and migrant-interdiction mission.

The migrant death toll increases further

Migrants continue to die at the U.S.-Mexico border, usually of drowning, dehydration, or falls from the border wall, with a frequency that appears unprecedented. WOLA’s Border Updates of May 13, May 27, June 3, and June 17 discussed migrant deaths. While U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has not reported official border-wide deaths data since 2020 (despite a legal requirement to do so), partial information points to the trend worsening further.

Since the U.S. government’s 2022 fiscal year began in October, CBP has reported 14,278 “search and rescue efforts,” which already exceeds 12,833 rescues in all of fiscal 2021 (October 2020-September 2021).

The U.S. Border Patrol divides the Mexico border into nine sectors. In its El Paso Sector, which covers 264 border miles in far west Texas and all of New Mexico, the agency reports recovering the remains of 37 migrants who died of injuries, drowning, dehydration, or vehicle strikes since October, according to a thoroughly reported El Paso Times story. Border Patrol had recovered 39 remains in all of fiscal 2021, and fiscal 2022 still has 3 very hot months to go.

Fifteen of the thirty-seven migrants who have died in the sector in 2022 have drowned in fast-flowing irrigation canals that run from the Rio Grande. At least 10 people have drowned in the two weeks since June 9, as “irrigation season”—when authorities increase the flow of water through the canals—has just begun.

“The purpose of the canal is to get water as fast as possible to our agriculture community,” Border Patrol Agent Orlando Marrero told the El Paso Times. “At 62 pounds per square foot, the water traveling nine miles per hour will create exactly 302 pounds of force. Imagine an average person, five-feet-eight or nine, in 10-foot deep water: There is no way. They are going to be swept.” Fernando García of the El Paso-based Border Network for Human Rights, said, “We have never seen so many deaths in a short period of time. The structure of that canal means that whoever falls there does not come out alive.”

The danger is worse in El Paso’s American Canal, where the most drownings have occurred, because it runs right alongside a segment of border fence that was built to 30 feet during the Trump administration. “That made it more dangerous,” Irrigation district manager Jesus Reyes told the El Paso Times. “Those people are coming over and, in some cases, they climb over and fall directly into the canal.”

Five of the sector’s thirty-seven deaths in 2022 have been heat-related: while the El Paso area’s Chihuahuan Desert is not as intensely hot as Arizona’s Sonoran Desert to the west, it is still deadly, and climate change is making it more so.

CBP reports that 229 migrants have suffered injuries since October, in the El Paso Sector alone, from falls from the border wall. Injuries range “from ankle injuries to brain injuries,” according to CNN. Some falls are fatal, like that of a man who fell from an El Paso Sector border wall segment near the Santa Teresa, New Mexico port of entry in the pre-dawn hours of June 17. He died the next day after suffering “a brain hemorrhage, skull fracture, sternum fracture and broken ribs.”

In Border Patrol’s Big Bend Sector in remote west Texas—the part of the border that sees the fewest migrants—the agency has recovered 24 remains during the first 8 months of fiscal year 2022, already tying the number for all of fiscal year 2021.

Partial data point to migrant fatalities increasing in other sectors. In the Tucson Sector, which comprises most of Arizona’s border with Mexico, Border Patrol reports finding the remains of 48 people since October, according to the Tucson Sentinel. The agency’s fatality numbers, though, are consistently lower than those compiled by local officials and humanitarian groups: the Pima County Medical Examiner has processed the remains of 98 people found in the Sonoran Desert since October. Together with the humanitarian group Humane Borders, the Medical Examiner recovered 225 remains of people believed to have been border crossers during the 2021 calendar year; some of that number may have died in prior years.

In the Tucson Sector, migrants who seek to avoid apprehension rather than turning themselves in to ask for protection are “nearly 90 percent of people crossing,” according to Sector Chief John Modlin. This population is seeking to avoid stepped-up enforcement by “increasingly attempting to cross the stark reaches of Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, as well as craggy heights in the Baboquivari Mountains to get into Arizona,” the Sentinel reported.

Further west, in Border Patrol’s Yuma Sector, in western Arizona and eastern California near the Colorado River, Sector Chief Chris Clem reported “six migrant deaths” during the week of June 12 to 18.

To the east, in south Texas’s Laredo Sector, which has reported just 5 percent of all border migrant encounters this year, Sector Chief Carl Landrum stated that Border Patrol has rescued “over 5,000 people this fiscal year.” This number seems oddly high, since Border Patrol has reported 14,278 rescues in all 9 sectors so far this year, including 2,192 in the deserts of the Tucson Sector. Landrum did not report a number of deaths in the Laredo Sector.

This year’s increase in fatalities along the border is partly a consequence of a larger overall population of migrants: as noted below and in WOLA’s June 17 Border Update, this is a record year for migration at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The situation is worsened, though, by the “Title 42” pandemic border policy, which closes official border crossings to people who wish to seek asylum, and incentivizes repeat border crossing attempts by quickly expelling those who are caught. (The Biden administration’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had sought to end Title 42 by May 23, 2022, but a Louisiana judge has ordered that it remain in place.)

Across from El Paso, according to Border Report, “Officials estimate that at least 15,000 migrants are in [Ciudad] Juarez waiting for the end of Title 42 so they can apply for asylum in the U.S. “ El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego said, “If Title 42 was not in place, they would be able to form, be able to come across and the process would flow. When the process doesn’t flow, there is a huge sense of desperation.” As a result, said García of the Border Network for Human Rights, “They are still crossing, and they are dying in extraordinary numbers.”

Supreme Court may rule soon on Remain in Mexico

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling soon on whether the Biden administration can terminate the Migrant Protection Protocols or “Remain in Mexico” Program, which a Texas judge forced it to restart last August. A ruling was thought probable on June 21 or 23, but the Court did not issue it.

When migrants from the Western Hemisphere who are not from Mexico ask for asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border, CBP may place them in the “Remain in Mexico” program, which sends them back into Mexico until their next immigration court hearing date. The Trump administration, which invented Remain in Mexico and began implementing it in January 2019, sent 71,076 migrants back into Mexico. At least 1,544 of them suffered “murder, rape, torture, kidnapping, and other violent assaults” in Mexican border towns, Human Rights First reported. Since its court-ordered restart of the program got underway in December, the Biden administration has sent more than 4,300 (or 5,114, or at least 5,600) migrants, primarily from Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, back to Mexico to await hearings.

The Biden administration began shutting down the Remain in Mexico program in January 2021, bringing many of the asylum seekers into the United States. That process was halted when Amarillo, Texas judge Matthew Kacsmaryk ruled—in a suit brought by the Republican attorneys-general of Texas and Missouri—that the Biden administration had not properly terminated Remain in Mexico. Kacsmaryk ordered the program to restart, and the Biden administration appealed.

The Supreme Court heard arguments in April, and its decision is imminent. Though the Court has a conservative majority, it is not guaranteed to rule against the Biden administration, believe court-watchers like Aaron Reichlin-Melnick of the American Immigration Council, who explained his view in a June 21 Twitter thread. If they do not uphold Kacsmaryk’s decision, justices could “punt,” determining that the courts have no jurisdiction on immigration enforcement, or they could throw the case back to lower courts to determine whether the Administration’s second attempt to terminate Remain in Mexico met requirements.

Meanwhile, very troubling outcomes of the program are emerging.

  • The Syracuse University-based Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse project found that only 2.4 percent of the 1,109 Remain in Mexico asylum cases decided so far have resulted in grants of asylum, compared to half of cases in 2022 in the regular immigration court system.
  • Earlier this month, a woman assigned to Remain in Mexico attempted suicidewhile waiting at a migrant shelter in Monterrey, Mexico.
  • Reuters revealed that three men whom the program returned to the dangerous border city of Nuevo Laredo were kidnapped on April 10, while local authorities were transporting them to a shelter. (Most of those made to “remain” in Nuevo Laredo get transported further south, to Monterrey, but these three men were COVID-positive, requiring them to quarantine in Nuevo Laredo.) One of the victims, a man from Peru identified as “Raúl,” said they were held in a two-story house with about 20 other migrants. They beat him and released him after contacts wired a $6,000 ransom payment. Reuters reports: “‘You think you’re in good hands,’ Raul said of the U.S. government, asking that his last name be withheld out of fear of retaliation from the kidnappers. ‘But that’s not the case.’” After the kidnapping, Raul successfully petitioned to remain in the United States for the duration of his asylum case.

Migration levels remain high in June

As discussed in WOLA’s June 17 Border Update, U.S. authorities reported in May 2022 their largest number of encounters with undocumented migrants since they began publishing monthly records in 2000 (though with many repeat crossings, the number of individual migrants—177,793—may not have been a record). Arrivals at the border appear to remain very high so far in June.

In south Texas’s Rio Grande Valley Border Patrol Sector, which usually sees more migrant arrivals than any of the agency’s nine U.S.-Mexico border sectors, the agency reported encountering 533 migrants in 3 large groups during the 4 days ending on June 21. “A group of more than 100 migrants is considered a large group,” reads a CBP release; Rio Grande Valley Border Patrol has encountered over 100 large groups, totaling more than 15,000 people, since fiscal year 2022 began in October 2021.

In the mid-Texas Del Rio Sector, which gets about 50 percent of the border’s “large groups” right now, Sector Chief Jason Owens tweeted on June 18, “In the past 48 hours, agents encountered 8 groups totaling 1,780 migrants.”

In Border Patrol’s El Paso Sector, Border Report disclosed, agents were apprehending about 1,000 migrants per day in mid-May, in the runup to the expected May 23 termination of Title 42. When a Louisiana judge ordered Title 42 to remain in place, “apprehension numbers went down to 700 to 800 a day in the sector.”

The Biden administration’s latest monthly court filing in the “Remain in Mexico” litigation, shared by the Associated Press (AP), found that CBP and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) released 95,318 migrants into the U.S. interior in May, slightly over half the 177,793 individuals encountered at the border last month. The rest were either held in ICE detention centers or expelled (at times more than once) under Title 42.

Of the 95,318 released into the country, 64,263 were released on parole, which the AP calls a “rapidly expanding practice” in recent months brought on by lack of detention space, overwhelmed processing personnel, and the difficulty of expelling many countries’ citizens under Title 42. The AP explains “parole,” which does not come with an immigration court appointment:

Parole shields migrants from deportation for a set period of time but provides little else. By law, the Homeland Security Department may parole migrants into the United States “only on a case-by-case basis for urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefit.” Parolees can apply for asylum within a year.

Processing asylum-seeking migrants for immigration court—which happened about 33,000 times in May—can take “more than an hour each,” agents told the AP. “Parole, by comparison, is processed in minutes.”

All paroled migrants “have their criminal histories checked and generally arrive in families with an address where they will stay in the U.S.,” the AP reported. They are given a handheld device with an app that tracks their movements via GPS, and required to keep it with them. The devices cannot make or take calls, other than from ICE, Border Report notes.

The June 15 court filing reports that CBP’s daily approximate holding capacity is 6,535, combining spaces at ports of entry (935) and Border Patrol detention facilities (about 5,600). In May, Border Patrol was holding an average of 12,899 people per day.

During the week of June 6, at least 7,000 mostly Venezuelan migrants had participated in a “caravan” from the city of Tapachula, in Mexico’s southern border zone near Guatemala. As discussed in WOLA’s June 10 and June 17 Border Updates, that caravan quickly dispersed after Mexican migration authorities distributed Multiple Immigration Form (Forma Migratoria Multiple, FMM) documents reportedly requiring migrants to leave Mexico or regularize their status (mainly by applying for asylum) within 30 days.

During those 30 days, these migrants can travel freely through Mexico, and many appear to have headed for the U.S. border. Federal and local law enforcement officials in mid-Texas’s Del Rio Border Patrol Sector told the Washington Examiner that “many from the caravan successfully evaded Mexican authorities and were able to cross the border illegally into the United States over the past several days.”

This included a group of about 200 migrants apprehended near Eagle Pass, Texas. Citing federal authorities, the sheriff of Val Verde County, Texas, which includes Del Rio, said, “They’re getting remnants of the caravan. Yesterday, they had just shy of 2,000 people apprehended in the sector, which is probably an all-time high for the day.”

With arrivals at the U.S.-Mexico border averaging about 8,000 per day in May, a dispersed 7,000-member caravan over several days would bring only a modest, barely perceptible increase.

As noted in WOLA’s June 17 update, the governors of Mexican border states Coahuila and Nuevo León have been preventing caravan participants from boarding buses to the border, leaving hundreds of migrants stranded in the bus station in Monterrey, the capital of Nuevo León.

It is not clear what legal authority is being employed to deny the ticket sales, since the migrants, having received travel documents, are not undocumented. Governors of the Mexican states bordering Texas appear to be wary of angering Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), who responded to increased migration in April by using state authority to step up vehicle inspections near the border, badly snarling trade for nearly a week (see WOLA’s April 15 and April 22 Border Updates). Abbott said on June 17 that Texas state troopers and National Guardsmen were stepping up efforts to repel caravan arrivals.

This week, about 250 migrants stranded at the Monterrey bus station began walking to Coahuila, and to the border. (The border city of Piedras Negras, Coahuila, is about 240 miles from Monterrey.) The sheriff of Maverick County, Texas, which includes Eagle Pass across from Piedras Negras, told the Washington Examiner that many other migrants, blocked from buying bus tickets, were likely paying smugglers. “It’s actually giving business to the cartel, to the smugglers,” Sheriff Tom Shmerber said of the bus prohibitions.

Security worsens in Mexico’s border cities and the government sends more troops

Tijuana, considered the most violent city in Mexico, suffered 110 homicides during the first 15 days of June and has measured more crimes so far this year than in any year since 2019. Mexico’s federal government responded this week by sending 400 more Army personnel to the city: 200 paratroopers and 200 Special Operations Forces elements. Today, the city now hosts 3,600 military or paramilitary personnel: 1,600 from the Army and 2,000 from the National Guard, a recently created force largely made up of soldiers and marines.

At the border’s other extreme, the city of Matamoros, across from Brownsville, Texas, began the morning of June 19 with about 16 road blockades. Armed men positioned stolen buses and trucks across main entrances to the city and set them on fire, apparently in response to the detention (or imminent detention) of a leader of the Gulf Cartel, the city’s dominant criminal organization. Mexico’s Defense Department responded by sending 200 more army troops to the city.

Defense Secretary Luis Cresencio Sandoval presented the latest in a series of security updates at a June 20 presidential news conference. Gen. Sandoval’s slideshow revealed that 28,463 Army personnel are currently deployed on missions supporting the government’s “Migration and Development Plan for the northern and southern borders.”

Military personnel, it continued, have contributed to the capture of 518,668 migrants since 2019, 105,795 of them so far in 2022. 85 percent of these captures occurred in Mexico’s southern border zone. Troops are focused along four “lines of contention”: along both of Mexico’s borders, across the Isthmus of Tehuántepec in Oaxaca and Veracruz, and in an arc passing through Guerrero, Puebla, Tlaxcala, and Veracruz.

Other News

  • In a new WOLA Podcast, staff discuss what they saw and heard at the June 8-10 Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles, including that meeting’s migration declaration, and discuss findings of recent field research along the U.S.-Mexico and Mexico-Guatemala borders.
  • As this update is being written on the morning of June 24, the House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee, which is meeting to mark up its 2023 appropriation, has adopted a Republican amendment keeping Title 42 in place for at least six months after the lifting of a COVID-19 emergency, which could be years from now. It passed by voice vote. That language will now go to the full Appropriations Committee.
  • The May 24 death of Abigail Román Aguilar, a 32-year-old man from Chiapas, Mexico, has been ruled a homicide by the Pima County, Arizona Medical Examiner. Under circumstances that remain unclear, Aguilar died of stab wounds to the chest and blunt force injuries, apparently after an altercation with a Border Patrol agent, in Douglas, Arizona. The agent “ultimately stabbed Aguilar with a knife,” reported the Arizona Daily Star. The incident is under investigation by the FBI and by CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility.
  • A very brief June 20 statement from CBP recounts a June 18 vehicle pursuit near Falfurrias, in south Texas, “which later resulted in a use of force incident. One person is dead.”
  • “Under current practice, children who arrive in the United States without their parents…are taken to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) processing centers. But it doesn’t make sense to send children to the care of a law enforcement agency that has no expertise in child welfare,” reads a Vera Institute of Justice commentary finding that the agency continues to separate close relatives in custody. “A better system would place ORR [Office of Refugee Resettlement] officials at the border to immediately evaluate family relationships. This should be done in trauma-informed and developmentally appropriate settings, rather than in jail-like holding centers.”
  • As ORR struggled to keep up with increased arrivals of unaccompanied children in 2021, many kids assigned to the agency’s massive emergency reception facilities considered or attempted suicide while awaiting handover to relatives or sponsors in the United States, Reveal News reported based on documents obtained through litigation. Those who expressed thoughts of, or attempted, suicide had been in ORR custody for an average of 37 days.
  • The United States led the world in new asylum applications received in 2021 with 188,900, according to the UN Refugee Agency’s just-released Global Trends Report 2021. The number two through four countries are Germany (148,200 applications), Mexico (132,700), and Costa Rica (108,500).
  • During the first five months of 2022, Cuban authorities reported receiving 3,289 citizens deported from other countries: 1,276 from Mexico, 1,177 from the United States, 213 from the Bahamas, and 23 from other countries. Between January and May, U.S. authorities encountered 118,603 Cuban citizens, about 1 percent of the island’s population, at the U.S.-Mexico border.
  • More than 5,000 migrant children have walked through the dangerous jungles of Panama’s Darién Gap during the first five months of 2022, according to UNICEF. 170 were unaccompanied by parents or relatives, or had been separated on the way.
  • A new report from Refugees International examined migration through the Darién Gap from Colombia. Last year, the largest single nationality migrating through this route was Haitian. This year, the flow is mostly Venezuelan. Smuggling operations originating in Colombia, the report finds, are sophisticated and lucrative.
  • The nearly 180,000 Nicaraguans who have sought refuge in Costa Rica since 2018, when the Ortega regime’s crackdown on dissent intensified, is now greater than the number of Nicaraguan applications for protection in Costa Rica during the Contra war of the 1980s.
  • DHS announced that “it would overhaul the disciplinary process for its employees,” the New York Times reported, after the Times and the Project on Government Oversight found that the Department’s Inspector-General had failed to release disturbing findings about the extent of sexual harassment within the DHS workforce and the number of personnel facing domestic abuse allegations. The DHS Inspector General, Trump administration appointee Joseph Cuffari, had responded in May with a letter blaming his subordinates. “I would never have written this,” Gordon Heddell, a former Defense Department inspector-general, said of the letter in the Times article. “To me, what he’s saying is, ‘I’m leading a very dysfunctional office.’”
  • Four former Border Patrol chiefs and other former senior officials sent a letter to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas demanding that the ongoing, slow-moving investigation of agents involved in the so-called Del Rio “whipping” incident be impartial. The letter criticizes President Biden and Vice President Harris for “predictively prejudging” the investigation’s outcome. Biden and Harris had called for consequences after photos showed agents on horseback charging at Haitian migrants who had arrived en masse in Del Rio, Texas in September 2021. The National Police Association announced a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit demanding records about CBP’s investigation of the Del Rio incident.
  • Border Patrol reported capturing 15 people in May who were in the FBI’s terrorist screening database. Analysts were quick to note that none of those captured face specific charges. “This is an indictment of terror watch lists because zero of these individuals ended up being terrorists,” tweeted Alex Nowrasteh of the Cato Institute.

I haven’t aged a bit

A colleague at the Institute for Policy Studies sent me this photo from October 2007, when Colombian President-Elect Gustavo Petro won the organization’s Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Award.

Latin America Security-Related News: June 17, 2022

(Even more here)

June 17, 2022

Western Hemisphere Regional

At the end of 2021, 89.3 million individuals worldwide were forcibly displaced as a result of persecution, conflict, violence, human rights violations or events seriously disturbing public order.

Latin America is stuck in a development trap, argues Michael Reid

The US is touting the resettlement of 20,000 refugees from this hemisphere as a bold deliverable when there are 5 MILLION REFUGEES from Venezuela alone

Brazil

Bruno Pereira highlighted the ravaging of the rainforest and abuse of human rights. Dom told his story. We should honour them

Brazil, Colombia, Peru

A key police outpost lies in ruins after a daring raid – a sign of the growing danger in an increasingly lucrative smuggling route

Colombia

Con más de 20 capturas, decenas de allanamientos y otros procedimientos, la Policía arremetió contra líderes de las protestas del paro nacional del 2021

Will the historically conservative country select its first leftist president? Or will it take a gamble on a political outsider?

Neither candidate has a clear plan to contain rising levels of conflict and armed violence in the countryside

Colombia, Panama

>

Guatemala

El proyecto, que fue apoyado por todos los integrantes de la Comisión de la Defensa, propone que se otorgue un aporte total de Q36 mil, durante tres años, a cada miembro del personal de tropa que prestó servicio militar durante el conflicto armado interno

“The desire is to erase any legacy, any vestige” of anticorruption efforts, said political analyst Edgar Gutiérrez. “They are constructing an authoritarian state”

Haiti

Helen La Lime, the top U.N. official in Haiti, said insecurity is rapidly deteriorating in the country of more than 11 million people, with an average of almost seven kidnappings reported a day

Honduras

En las últimas horas, la Policía Militar del Orden Público (PMOP), bajo control de las Fuerzas Armadas, ha realizado operaciones de saturación en diferentes barrios de Tegucigalpa

Mexico

La Comisión Estatal de Derechos Humanos reveló este jueves que recibieron mil 500 reclamos de migrantes venezolanos por robo, maltrato y discriminación

U.S.-Mexico Border

The announcement comes as Congress investigates the removal of damaging findings from reports on domestic violence and sexual misconduct by department employees

>

“These coins anger me because the hateful images on them have no place in a professional law enforcement agency,” CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus said

Immigration arrests along the U.S. southern border rose in May to the highest levels ever recorded, as growing numbers of migrants arrived from outside the Western Hemisphere, U.S. Customs and Border Protection figures show

This update is based on interviews with 74 asylum seekers conducted by Human Rights First researchers in Ciudad Acuña, Nuevo Laredo, and Piedras Negras, Mexico

Weekly U.S.-Mexico Border Update: June 17, 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:

  • CBP reported a record number of migrant encounters at the border in May. Nearly half of migrants were not from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, or Honduras. 42 percent were expelled under the Title 42 pandemic authority, which continues under court order. The 2 millionth migrant was expelled last month.
  • Thousands of participants in a large migrant caravan that was “dispersed” on June 10 are now in northern Mexico. Many are being prevented from boarding buses, though they have documents allowing them to be present in Mexico. Most are from Venezuela, and more are coming: over 9,800 Venezuelan migrants walked through Panama’s treacherous Darién Gap jungles in May.
  • Along with increased migration, an alarming series of reports points to a sharp increase in migrants dying in the U.S.-Mexican border region of dehydration amid extreme summer heat, drownings in the Rio Grande and canals, and falls from the border wall.
  • Several media reports this week pointed to an aggrieved internal culture and toleration of human rights abuse at Border Patrol. They include agents complaining to conservative press about the Biden administration, offensive “challenge coins” being produced by an unknown party, a harrowing upcoming book from a former female agent, and revelations that a third of migrants who have passed through CBP’s jail-like facilities in recent years have been children.

Record number of migrant encounters in May

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) released data on June 15 detailing its encounters with migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border the previous month. In May 2022, the agency took undocumented people into custody 239,416 times, a 2 percent increase over April. Since fiscal year 2022 started in October, CBP has apprehended migrants 1,536,899 times at the border. 2022 is certain to be a record year for migrant encounters, exceeding the 1,734,686 measured in 2021.

CBP’s Border Patrol component encountered migrants 222,656 times, the largest monthly total since the agency began reporting data by month in fiscal year 2000. The record for between ports of entry had been 220,063 apprehensions, measured in March 2020.

It is unclear, though, whether more “encounters” last month meant more “people” than 22 years ago. May’s 239,416 “encounters” were with 177,793 individual people; there is no record of how many individual people were encountered during the previous record-breaking month of March 2020. Still, 177,793 is the most since CBP started reporting individuals in its monthly releases last July, and 15 percent more than reported in April.

The Biden administration’s continued use of the Trump-era “ Title 42” pandemic policy—after its lifting was blocked by a federal judge last month—and which quickly expels many migrants with few consequences, has incentivized repeat crossings. Last month, 25 percent of migrants encountered had already been in CBP custody at least once in the past 12 months; in the six years before the pandemic, the percentage of repeat encounters had been much lower: 15 percent.

69 percent of May’s border encounters were with single adults, a greater share than was common in the years before the pandemic. (Though many single adults turn themselves in to seek asylum, they are less likely to do so than children and families; as a result, a greater share of repeat crossings inflates numbers of single-adult encounters.)

Single adult encounters declined by 2 percent from April to May, to 165,200. Encounters with members of family units (defined as parents with children) increased 8 percent, to 59,282, from April to May, and encounters with children arriving unaccompanied increased 21 percent, to 14,699. “In May, the average number of unaccompanied children in CBP custody was 692 per day, compared with an average of 479 per day in April,” CBP reported.

May saw the migrant population at the border diversify further. Migration from the number one and two countries, Mexico and Cuba, actually declined from April. Migrants from April’s number-three country of origin, Ukraine, declined sharply as the Biden administration’s “United for Ukraine” effort created a process for seeking refuge that no longer involved crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. Migration from Haiti, Brazil, and Ecuador increased the most, in percentage terms, from March to May. Migrants from Colombia—whose citizens do not need visas to visit Mexico—climbed to fifth place, virtually tied with Hondurans.

As recently as 2019, more than 90 percent of migrants at the border were from four countries: Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. That is no longer the case: these countries combined to total only 53 percent of migrants at the border in May. Only 29 percent of migrants arriving as families were Mexican, Salvadoran, Guatemalan, or Honduran.

This is a result of the pandemic increasing desperation, and migration, throughout the hemisphere. But it is also a result of how Title 42 has been implemented: because Mexico accepts expulsions of its own citizens, and citizens of the other three countries, across its land border, citizens of Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras comprise the overwhelming majority of migrants expelled under the pandemic authority (94 percent in May).

Citizens of countries where expulsions or removals are difficult—because of the cost of air travel, or because of poor diplomatic relations—are expelled much less frequently. Migrants’ chances of expulsion after being encountered in the United States, and thus their ability to seek protection in the United States,  vary dramatically by nationality. So far in 2022, 88 percent of Mexicans and 67 percent of Guatemalans have been expelled, compared to 4 percent of Colombians, 2 percent of Cubans, and 0.4 percent of Venezuelans.

Cuba  stopped accepting flights from U.S. migration authorities in 2018 (when the U.S. stopped operations for the Cuban Family Reunification Parole program, which was resumed this past May). Nicaragua’s November 2021 decision to stop requiring visas of visiting Cubans has opened up a route through Managua, with Cubans routinely paying about $4,000 for one-way tickets there. The Biden administration pressed Mexico into agreeing to accept some land-border expulsions of Cubans and Nicaraguans, however, and about 3,000 had Title 42 applied to them in May.

Because so many migrants come from these “other” countries, CBP expelled 42 percent of migrants it encountered in May, a smaller share than had been normal. (55 percent of single adults were expelled, as were 17 percent of family unit members.)

Still, May saw the expulsion of the 2 millionth migrant from the U.S.-Mexico border since Title 42 went into effect in March 2020. The Biden administration has carried out over 77 percent of those expulsions. The administration’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) sought to end the pandemic policy by May 23, 2022, but were rebuffed by a Louisiana judge hearing a lawsuit from Republican-led states.

One country, however, has seen a significant percentage of its citizens expelled by air. So far this year, CBP has applied Title 42 to 36 percent of Haitian migrants, including 30 percent of those encountered in May. Last month, the tempo of expulsion flights to Haiti increased sharply, to 36. This happened, according to the New York Times, “after renegotiating agreements with the island nation.”

Among the more than 26,000 people removed to Haiti by air during the Biden administration, many are so desperate to leave that a shady industry of charter flights has sprung up, according to a remarkable Associated Press investigation. Haitians who had earlier emigrated to Brazil or Chile and now have some migratory status there are paying thousands of dollars to be taken back, often to attempt the journey once again to the U.S.-Mexico border.

The probability of being put on a plane back to the hemisphere’s poorest nation, currently undergoing a paroxysm of gang violence, has caused many Haitians to pause in Mexican border cities rather than attempt to cross into the United States and turn themselves in to authorities. A June 12 Los Angeles Times feature documented attacks, discrimination, and lack of access to health care suffered by Haitians stranded in Tijuana, where the Haitian Bridge Alliance, a U.S. non-governmental organization, “has funded funerals for 12 Haitian migrants since December, mostly because of violence and medical negligence.”

Meanwhile, a new DHS report shows that the court-ordered revival of the “Remain in Mexico” program continues, and continues to expand. 7,259 asylum seekers, all adults, have been enrolled in the program since December 2021, of whom 4,387 have been made to wait in Mexican border towns for their hearing dates. 59 percent of those enrolled—52 percent in May—have been citizens of Nicaragua.

A report from Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), which requests and shares government data, found that while most asylum cases within the program (81 percent) have been decided within six months, only 5 percent of those made to remain in Mexico have been able to find an attorney to represent them. Of 1,109 Remain in Mexico asylum cases that had been decided by the end of May, only 27—2.4 percent—ended with grants of asylum. “This is a dismal asylum success rate,” TRAC notes. “During the same period of FY 2022, fully half of all Immigration Court asylum decisions resulted in a grant of asylum or other relief.”

Caravan participants, given visas, approach U.S. border

WOLA’s June 10 update reported that a migrant “caravan,” with several thousand mostly Venezuelan participants, was dispersing in Mexico’s southernmost state of Chiapas, about 25 miles from the Mexico-Guatemala border zone city of Tapachula, where it began on June 6. Thousands of participants, given documents allowing them to stay in Mexico for a month, have traveled north to seek refuge in the United States.

A June 11 statement from Mexico’s National Migration Institute (Instituto Nacional de Migración – INM) reported that, following negotiations with caravan organizers, the agency provided “an immigration document certifying their stay in the country” to about 7,000 participants. The document reportedly requires migrants to leave Mexico within 30 days, during which they can travel freely through the country.

Thousands of migrants boarded buses to Mexico’s border state of Coahuila, from where more than half of the 97,696 Venezuelan migrants apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border in fiscal year 2022 (October 2021-September 2022) have crossed. However, Coahuila’s governor, Miguel Ángel Riquelme, has sought to block their progress. Riquelme had signed an April agreement with Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R), who had sought that month to pressure Mexico into blocking migration by stepping up state vehicle inspections, snarling cross-border cargo trade for days.

Though the caravan participants had valid travel documents, Coahuila authorities turned away buses bringing as many as 2,000 to the capital, Saltillo, diverting them back to Monterrey, capital of the neighboring state of Nuevo León. Hundreds remain in the Monterrey bus station, trying to figure out where to go next. Many complain that they bought bus tickets but did not receive refunds after being blocked from boarding.

It is not clear what legal authority the local governments are using to prevent the migrants’ progress, or whether the intent is merely to meter their flow in order to prevent a mass arrival at the U.S. border. Either way, with about 8,000 migrants arriving at the border each day right now, an extra few thousand may get little notice.

In Tapachula, where the caravan began, many migrants remain stranded, made to remain in Chiapas, Mexico’s poorest state, while they wait for the country’s overwhelmed asylum system to adjudicate their applications. (See WOLA’s June 2 report on conditions in Tapachula.) Local media report that thousands are gathering each day outside the offices of INM and the refugee agency, COMAR, in Tapachula and in the nearby town of Huixtla, Chiapas.

Arrivals of Venezuelan migrants are likely to continue, and increase. Panama recorded 9,844 Venezuelans passing through the treacherous Darién Gap jungle region in May alone, 3.6 times more than in April, and part of an overall flow of 13,894 people last month.

This is a very dangerous part of migrants’ journeys. Doctors Without Borders, which maintains a humanitarian aid facility near where migrants emerge from the Darién Gap, has attended to 100 victims of sexual violence so far this year, and 328 last year. Colombia’s human rights ombudsman meanwhile counted 210 children traveling unaccompanied through the Darién in May, of whom 169 were apparently less than 13 years old.

Migrants are dying at the border of drownings and extreme heat

“The terrain along the Southwest Border is extreme, the summer heat is severe, and the miles of desert that migrants must hike after crossing the border are unforgiving,” CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus stated in May’s migration update. As the border region enters a very hot summer, deaths from dehydration and exposure threaten to hit record levels along with record overall migration.

  • In Brooks County, Texas, where dozens die each year while walking to evade a Border Patrol checkpoint, Eddie Canales of the South Texas Human Rights Center told USA Today that 36 human remains have already been found. The grim count for all of 2021 was 119.
  • In Pima County, Arizona, which includes Tucson, the Medical Examiner’s office has received 110 remains so far this fiscal year, USA Today reports. It examined the remains of 226 migrants last year, the highest count since 2000.
  • Border Patrol’s El Paso Sector “has recorded 23 deaths due to falls from the border wall, hypothermia, drownings and heat strokes” so far this year, the Dallas Morning News reports. Last year’s total was 39.

In the El Paso sector, Border Patrol has installed more solar-powered rescue beacons that make it more possible for lost or dehydrated migrants to call for help. This, the Morning News reports, has kept fatalities from being much worse. In Arizona, Border Patrol announced on June 9 that it is piloting a new “heat mitigation effort,” handing out “Heat Stress Kits/Go-Bags that will be distributed to 500 agents” at two desert stations.

Drownings in the Rio Grande, and in irrigation canals, remain severe.

  • As WOLA’s June 3 Border Update noted, more than 20 Nicaraguan citizens drowned in the river between March 4 and May 19. Authorities continue to search for Nicaraguan child Sofía Abigail, whose mother, Irma Huete Iglesias, drowned trying to cross the river between Coahuila and mid-Texas last week.
  • Mexico’s Interior Secretariat reported this week that INM recovered 33 bodies from the Rio Grande between January and May, of a total of 37 migrant remains recovered throughout the country during those months. Of the 37, five were women. Most of the drownings happened between Coahuila and mid-Texas.
  • A June 11 Border Patrol statement counted five drownings in the El Paso sector’s fast-flowing irrigation canals, which drain water from the Rio Grande, in the “last several days.” The New York Post recalled that “agents are not allowed to go in and perform a water rescue, even if it is to save a drowning person.… Only members of a specially trained Border Patrol team are authorized to perform a water rescue, or a rescue/recovery team of another agency must be called in.”

Falls from especially high new segments of the border wall continue to cause a higher death toll, as the Washington Post reported in April. A June 15 CBP statement documented the May 6 death of a man who fell in the space between two layers of fencing between San Diego and Tijuana.

Border Patrol morale and organizational culture under scrutiny

A series of feature stories in U.S. and U.K. media this week have explored aspects of a troubled institutional culture at the Border Patrol. The agency has faced serious human rights abuse allegations, while its membership (as evidenced by the posture of its union, which claims to represent 90 percent of agents) detests the Biden administration’s approach to border security and migration.

  • Eight agents and managers, speaking anonymously to the Washington Examiner, voiced their view that “the last shreds of spirit have since been dashed by outright animosity from the Biden administration.” Agents are reportedly upset that the administration criticized the harsh response, caught on camera, to Haitian migrants crossing the Rio Grande in September 2021, while President Biden has yet to thank the agency for its response to the May 24 Uvalde, Texas school shooting. “Agents are afraid of ending up on the news for doing their job or getting in trouble for doing their job. There is no morale,” said an agent in Arizona. Another, who opposes releasing asylum seekers into the U.S. interior pending court dates, said, “It feels like we’re committing a crime by allowing all these people into our country.”
  • The National Border Patrol Council union president in the Del Rio, Texas sector sounded off to the Daily Caller on rumors that those involved in the aggressive actions against Haitians will be charged with “administrative violations.” Jon Anfinsen said of the Biden administration, “They’re trying to save face and propose some kind of discipline just so they can justify their claims from day one.”
  • The aggrieved mood at Border Patrol may be reflected in “challenge coins” available on eBay and elsewhere, documented by the Miami Herald and the Los Angeles Times, defiantly depicting the Del Rio incident with pride. “Whipping ass since 1924” and “Haitian Invasion,” reads one coin with an image of the iconic September 2021 photo of a Border Patrol agent on horseback grabbing a Haitian migrant’s shirt. These are not official items, and the coins’ tie to active-duty agents remains unclear. “These coins anger me because the hateful images on them have no place in a professional law enforcement agency,” said CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus.
  • Former Border Patrol agent Jenn Budd will soon release a memoir of her time in the force, when she endured severe harassment as one of its few female agents—including rape while a student at the Border Patrol Academy in the 1990s. At the Guardian, Budd discusses her role in uncovering Border Patrol’s Critical Incident Teams ( CITs), secretive units that have interfered with past investigations of agent wrongdoing. The CITs are to be shut down by the end of September.
  • “Of the total people detained by the Border Patrol between February 2017 and June 2021, 1 in 3 was under 18 years old,” finds an investigation by the Marshall Project, published by Politico. The report follows up on some shocking findings about children’s treatment in Border Patrol custody during 2021, which appeared in an April complaint by four legal aid groups. “The Border Patrol has resisted making changes to its facilities and practices to adapt to children,” the Marshall Project’s Anna Flagg and Julia Preston report, “even while officials acknowledge that the conditions young people routinely face are often unsafe.”

Other news

  • As noted in WOLA’s June 10 Border Update , the Summit of the Americas concluded with the “ Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection,” with four “pillars” covering assistance for communities affected by migration, legal pathways for migration and protection, “humane migration management,” and coordinated emergency response. The White House shared a list of “deliverables” that signatory countries would produce. Analysts and advocates struck a generally hopeful tone, with skepticism about how concrete the signatory countries’ commitments would be, in comments to the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Financial Times, Al Jazeera, and Criterio, among others.  Organizations throughout the region, including WOLA, also issued a statement calling for the governments to “ensure that they develop action plans for fulfilling the rights-respecting commitments assumed in the Declaration with clear indicators and timelines for follow-up.”
  • Human Rights First published the latest in a series of in-depth reports documenting harm done by the Title 42 expulsions policy. It contains numerous alarming anecdotes about abuses that migrants have suffered, and calls on CBP to exercise discretion with Title 42 and afford more asylum seekers a chance to seek protection.
  • CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus and the director of Mexico’s National Migration Institute (Instituto Nacional de Migración – INM), Francisco Garduño, met on June 13, touring the border near Reynosa and McAllen.
  • Mexican non-governmental organizations submitted an amicus curiae brief to their country’s Supreme Court arguing that the National Guard, a militarized police force created by the current administration of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, should not play a role in migration enforcement.
  • Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) claims that his “Operation Lone Star” surge of security personnel to the border has resulted in more than 14,000 arrests. But a Dallas Morning News investigation found that a fifth of that number were arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana, mostly of U.S. citizens, mostly at routine traffic stops, and many of them far from the actual border.

Latin America Security-Related News: June 16, 2022

(Even more here)

June 16, 2022

Brazil

Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s president, risks losing his October bid for re-election. If he disputes the result, his shrinking but increasingly far-right support base might take to the streets. State institutions should prepare to deal with baseless fraud accusations and to curb possible violence

The announcement appeared to bring a grim conclusion to the disappearance of journalist Dom Phillips and former government official Bruno Pereira

Amarildo da Costa de Oliveira, 41, nicknamed Pelado, told officers he used a firearm to kill Pereira and Phillips

Colombia

Los grupos armados que se lucran del narcotráfico avanzaron en los últimos años sobre las fronteras con Venezuela, Ecuador y Panamá

MAPP/OEA expresa su altísima preocupación por la persistencia de acciones violentas por parte de grupos armados ilegales que afectan gravemente a las comunidades

Con estas detenciones el Fiscal General de la Nación mantiene una política de persecución, estigmatización y judicialización de la protesta social a los líderes sociales que acompañan las justas protestas

El sector de veteranos de la Fuerza Pública que adhirió a Gustavo Petro no lo ayuda a despolitizar sus propuestas de reforma a esta institución

Rodolfo Hernández bills himself as a paragon of democracy and a successful businessman who cares for the poor. A trip to Bucaramanga, the mountain-fringed city where he built his empire, reveals a different picture

El Salvador

InSight Crime focuses on the stories of Elvis and Flaca, two former gang members who left the MS13 for the church. Their experiences with violence, abortion and homosexuality reflect both what divides and unites these two ways of life

Mexico

Una sargento narra a EL PAÍS las trabas y el riesgo de acusar a un superior de una agresión sufrida en las instalaciones militares

Entregar la Guardia Nacional a la SEDENA sería el último clavo en el ataúd del Estado democrático de derecho

Cientos de migrantes siguen varados en la Central de Autobuses de Monterrey la mañana de este miércoles, casi 24 horas después de haber sido dejados a su suerte por autoridades del Instituto Nacional de Migración

U.S.-Mexico Border

When I learned of the death of Anastasio Hernández-Rojas, I felt I was in some way connected to it – I knew too much about how the system worked

May’s tally of migrant arrests surpassed the previous monthly record U.S. Border Patrol set in March 2000, when the agency recorded 220,000 apprehensions

More asylum seekers are risking their lives to cross deserts or trek over mountains to reach the U.S. during perilous summer months

The number of unique individuals encountered nationwide in May 2022 was 177,793, a 15 percent increase in the number of unique enforcement encounters over the prior month

Thousands of kids have been routinely detained in cold, overcrowded cells built for adults, while authorities have resisted improving conditions

Venezuela

To date, over 6.1 million have left their homes, of which 5 million are in the Americas

If implemented well, a mechanism allowing interested civil society actors to participate directly or indirectly could benefit future negotiations between political actors in Venezuela

The Nicolás Maduro regime has been exploiting the growth of armed groups in Venezuela, encouraging the strengthening of some illegal groups considered useful for social control and repression

Latin America Security-Related News: June 15, 2022

(Even more here)

June 15, 2022

Western Hemisphere Regional

Eduardo Núñez, director del programa de Seguridad Pública en Centroamérica del NDI, señala que los mecanismos internacionales deben reinventarse

Los acuerdos que firmaron Estados Unidos y países de América Latina en la Cumbre de las Américas sobre el derecho de asilo, las causas del desplazamiento o las alternativas legales para la migración son positivos, pero también hay muchas interrogantes

Carolina Jiménez Sandoval, president of WOLA, says that the recent Summit of the Americas failed to include a deep reflection or debate on how to curb authoritarianism

Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay

El Primer Comando Capital no es un grupo criminal tradicional. Sus miembros se definen como una “hermandad”

Argentina, Venezuela

Los posibles vínculos de la firma de Irán que manejaba la nave con una fuerza militar considerada terrorista. El enigma de la tripulación y los viajes previos

Brazil

Suspect is brother of first person held by police over disappearance of the British journalist and Indigenous rights activist

Central America Regional

This report, informed by the Dialogue’s Task Force on Climate Change in the Northern Triangle, complements the recommendations of the previous report in the series, on themes such as agriculture, water, energy, and finance, with strategic recommendations for US assistance to foster effective and sustainable adaptation, especially through empowering local leadership

Colombia

Un informe publicado por decenas de organizaciones sociales, bajo la Coordinación Colombia Europa Estados Unidos, raja al gobierno de Iván Duque en derechos humanos e implementación de la paz

El candidato de izquierdas les promete vivienda, salud y educación como parte de su propuesta de transformación de la fuerza pública

Los habitantes de varios municipios en los departamentos de Cauca, Nariño, Caquetá y Guaviare han vivido en las últimas semanas con temor ante las amenazas de disidencias de las Farc que estarían presionándolos en su intención de voto en las elecciones de este 19 de junio

Those concerns came to a head in January, when a military spouse anonymously texted a senior enlisted leader in 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade and directly accused an advising team in Tolemaida, Colombia, of debauchery

Cuba

Of those, 36 people were sentenced to up to 25 years in prison for sedition

El Salvador

Llamamos a la comunidad internacional a seguir vigilando de cerca la situación de El Salvador y a exigir al Estado salvadoreño el cumplimiento de sus compromisos internacionales en materia de respeto a los derechos humanos

Guatemala

Fiscalía contra la Corrupción asegura que no encontró indicios para poder perseguir penalmente al exmandatario

Haiti

Many of the customers are Haitians who had been living in Chile and Brazil before they made their way to the Texas border in September, only to be expelled by the Biden administration and prevented from seeking asylum

Haiti, U.S.-Mexico Border

Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Professional Responsibility is investigating the creation of the coins and whether anyone at CBP is selling them

Mexico

The Mexican state of Veracruz hired a prominent lawyer to recover billions laundered in the Houston suburbs. Then things went awry

Colectivos presentan “amicus curiae” para respaldar acción de inconstitucionalidad en contra de las leyes secundarias del cuerpo de seguridad

Se transformó el tipo de violencias ejercidas hacia las mujeres. Es decir, con la estrategia militarizada, México se volvió un país armado. Tenemos un país altamente armado y eso tiene consecuencias muy puntuales

Durante casi cinco horas dispararon, quemaron vehículos, bloquearon calles, tomaron el control de una parte de San Cristóbal de Las Casas y, hasta que empezó la lluvia, o se hartaron, se fueron sin que ninguna autoridad se presentara en la zona afectada

Panama

La Defensoría del Pueblo de Colombia alertó este lunes, 13 de junio, que en mayo pasaron por el Darién, frontera de Colombia y Panamá, 210 niños sin compañía de adultos

Panama, Venezuela

La organización ha atendido a 100 pacientes por violencia sexual, y en salud mental se atienden en promedio siete pacientes cada día por problemas asociados a ansiedad, depresión, estrés agudo y otras afectaciones que deja el peligroso trayecto del tapón del Darién

U.S.-Mexico Border

Beacons placed in desert for those making dangerous crossing from Mexico in summer

The initial evidence from just six months of operation under MPP 2.0 is that history is largely repeating itself

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