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

July 2022

Weekly U.S.-Mexico Border Update: July 29, 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:

  • Leaked data show that 2022 is already the worst year on record for deaths of migrants on the U.S. side of the U.S.-Mexico border.
  • Mayors’ complaints indicate that Texas and Arizona governors’ steady flow of migrants bused to Washington, D.C. has begun to strain local services.
  • A new report shows how a rapidly changing smuggling business is using social media to sell its services, often with highly misleading claims, to an increasingly online migrant population.

Migrant deaths: 2022 is the worst year on record

2022 is already the worst year on record for deaths of migrants on the U.S. side of the U.S.-Mexico border, according to internal data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Anna Giaritelli of the Washington Examiner obtained and confirmed data showing that, since the U.S. government’s 2022 fiscal year started in October, CBP has found 605 remains of migrants. That already exceeds the fiscal 2021 full-year total of 566, which itself was a record. It is roughly double the amount of deaths CBP recorded each year from 2014 to 2020.

Most migrants die painful deaths. Dehydration, heat exhaustion, or exposure at night in deserts and dry brushland appear to be the most common causes. An increasing number are drowning in the Rio Grande, irrigation canals, and other bodies of water. An increasing number are killed, or badly injured, trying to climb segments of 30-foot-high border wall installed during the Trump administration. This year’s 609 deaths include the 53 migrants who perished in a hot, airless cargo trailer between Laredo and San Antonio, Texas, on June 27.

In a June 28 analysis, WOLA noted that “migrants continue to die at the U.S.-Mexico border, usually of drowning, dehydration, exposure, or falls from the border wall, with a frequency that seems unprecedented.” The new data confirms that the frequency is without precedent.

The Examiner and Reuters—which published an in-depth examination of border migrant deaths this week—both reported that CBP recorded 151 “CBP-related” deaths during the 2021 fiscal year. The term refers to deaths in CBP custody, at a port of entry or checkpoint, or while trying to elude CBP personnel.

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) maintains a separate count of migrant deaths along the U.S.-Mexico border (as well as other migrant routes). The UN-affiliated agency counts 357 dead so far during the 2022 calendar year, on pace to match or exceed the 728 it counted in 2021.

“In addition to these deaths—the worst of all outcomes—there are countless other grave injuries sustained by people migrating as a result of the dangerous routes they are forced to undertake,” recalls a July 23 statement from Annunciation House, an El Paso respite center that attends to thousands of migrants released from CBP custody each month. “Many of our guests at Annunciation House are recovering from broken bones, amputations, or other injuries that were sustained because of the border wall and draconian immigration policies. In many cases, these injuries will permanently affect their mobility, well-being, and ability to earn a living.”

As WOLA’s July 28 analysis noted, border deaths increase as enforcement policies harden in an effort to deter migrants. (Today’s record levels of migration show that decades of deterrence policies have had no effect, other than increased fatalities.) Reuters cites the “towering wall” along the border, which has channeled migrants to more dangerous desert routes, and the Title 42 pandemic expulsions policy, prolonged in May by a Louisiana federal court order, that forces many countries’ asylum seekers to avoid detection rather than turning themselves in to U.S. authorities.

“The U.S. immigration enforcement system has operated under a single premise since the creation of the Border Patrol in 1924: deterrence,” wrote Jason Buch in a July 25 essay at the Texas Observer. “It’s the idea we can somehow make coming to this country more miserable than the natural disasters, civil wars, gang violence, and economic hardship that displace people in the first place.”

Border Patrol divides the U.S.-Mexico border into nine geographic sectors. According to the 2022 data, the sector with the most reported deaths this year is the easternmost one, south Texas’s Rio Grande Valley, with 173 remains found. Giaritelli wrote, “The Del Rio region of Texas followed with 154 bodies; 72 in Tucson, Arizona; and 64 in Laredo, Texas.”

Many of the deaths in the Rio Grande Valley region actually take place about 80 miles north of the border, in Brooks County, where Border Patrol maintains a highway checkpoint that migrants seek to evade by walking for miles through dry brushland where it is easy to get lost. “There have already been 60 migrant deaths so far this year in Brooks County,” Sandra Sanchez of Border Report told the Texas Standard this week. “Last year there were 119, and in the entire Rio Grande Valley sector, there have been 140. So you can see almost half of the deaths occur in this area, Brooks County.” (For more, see the award-winning 2021 documentary Missing in Brooks County and WOLA’s podcast interview with its creators.)

Just west of the Rio Grande Valley, in Laredo, the organization Texas Nicaraguan Community reported that the bodies of four men and one woman remain in the city morgue two months after they perished because of difficulties in repatriating them to Nicaragua. “The organization says that ‘there are many suspicions of more Nicaraguans in that morgue in unidentified condition,’” according to Nicaragua Investiga.

Further west in El Paso, Border Report noted, CBP has counted 56 migrant deaths since fiscal 2022 began. Of those, 20 were drownings in fast-flowing irrigation canals, most of them in the past two months. The El Paso Sheriff told Border Report that a 42-year-old Mexican man was recovered from an irrigation canal on July 22, while the El Paso Times reported the recovery of a boy’s body from a canal that same day.

Border Report this week also profiled work to recover and identify bodies, and to help bring closure to victims’ families, in Tucson, Arizona by the Pima County Medical Examiner and the Colibrí Center for Human Rights.

Though not at the border, U.S.-bound migrants are also dying in elevated numbers at sea this year. At least 17 Haitians, including a child, died on July 24 when their 30-foot speedboat, loaded with up to 60 people, capsized about 7 miles off the coast of the Bahamian island of New Providence. “The passengers paid $3,000 to $8,000 to travel on the boat,” according to Bahamian officials cited in the New York Times.

Border Patrol “rescues” data also highlight migrants’ plight. The agency counted 16,897 search-and-rescue efforts carried out during the first 9 months of fiscal 2022, up from 12,833 in all of 2021 and about 5,000 each in 2019 and 2020.

The Washington Examiner border-wide data are revealing because CBP has not updated its official count of migrant deaths since 2020. Section 5(a) of the Missing Persons and Unidentified Remains Act ( Public Law 116-277, passed on December 31, 2020) requires CBP to produce a public annual report on migrant deaths, including—where possible—information about the decedents’ gender, nationality, and location of death. The first report was due at the end of 2021; a WOLA inquiry to congressional oversight staff found that it is still forthcoming, but the timetable for release is not clear.

Washington and New York mayors appeal for help with Texas and Arizona migrant buses

In April, Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R), an immigration hardliner up for re-election in November, began paying to place willing asylum-seeking migrants on buses to Washington, DC, after their releases from CBP custody. Since then, Texas has bused over 5,400 migrants to Washington, Abbott’s office told DCist this week. In May, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) began a similar operation; Arizona has bused 1,151 migrants to Washington, according to Border Report.

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Latin America Security-Related News: July 26, 2022

(Even more here)

July 26, 2022

Western Hemisphere Regional

South American countries are bracing for an autumn of discontent, as spiking global fuel prices threaten to provoke more protests in the upcoming months

China’s influence and Russia’s disinformation are two challenges Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will face on his first visit to Latin America

Brazil

Those expected remarks – while not specifically directed at Brazil – are likely to turn heads there ahead of its Oct. 2 election

Chile, South America, Venezuela

Venezuelan gang, Tren de Aragua, has gradually become one of South America’s main threats, with Chile its latest target

Colombia

“El narcotráfico es un negocio que paga los costos en pesos (mano de obra y precursores químicos, entre ellos la gasolina) y recibe los ingresos en dólares”

Entre los miembros imputados de la Brigada XVI están el mayor general (r) Henry William Torres Escalante, 2 coroneles, 3 tenientes coronel, y otros 10 oficiales, además de 6 suboficiales, un funcionario del extinto DAS y dos terceros civiles

Should this be interpreted as a group desperate to avoid decline or confident in its strength?

Es el director de la Comisión Intereclesial de Justicia y Paz (CIJP) y fue señalado dentro de la polémica visita a la Picota durante la campaña presidencial

Colombia, Venezuela

En los acercamientos que se han dado entre empresarios y gremios del departamento y del estado Táchira, de cara a una pronta reapertura comercial de la frontera con Venezuela, ha participado Centrales Eléctricas de Norte de Santander

Cuba, Venezuela

It is absolutely unacceptable that Joe Biden stayed silent on the recent anniversary of the July 11 democracy demonstrations, and I won’t let him continue to ignore the suffering of the Cuban people

Guatemala

A lack of U.S. regulation is undermining Guatemala’s gun control laws by allowing hundreds of thousands of illegal firearms to be brought into the country

El mandatario guatemalteco, Alejandro Giammattei, se reunió con su homólogo Volodimir Zelenski, en una visita oficial en Kiev, en la que el mandatario guatemalteco expresó su apoyo a ese país

Honduras

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas is traveling to Honduras this week to meet with the president over increasing migration from the Central American country

Mexico

La Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos (CNDH) emitió medidas cautelares hacia autoridades federales y estatales para que de manera coordinada, garanticen la atención humanitaria de urgencia al grupo de personas en contexto de migración internacional

La amenaza de Trump se hizo pública el jueves 30 de mayo de 2019. Ese mismo día, López Obrador confirmó que Ebrard viajaba de emergencia a Washington

U.S.-Mexico Border

For half a century, families living on both sides of the border have reunited at Friendship Park. Now 30ft walls threaten the experience

Several groups that were involved in the early efforts to wind down the policy say they have yet to be contacted in the wake of the court ruling

More than 1,000 migrants have died along the US-Mexico border since Biden took office, from drownings in the Rio Grande to falls from the border wall

The filing marks a change in strategy for the families who previously sought a settlement with the Biden Justice Department only to have those negotiations fall apart last fall

With demand for smugglers on the rise, organized crime has moved in, with cruel and violent results

Reuters: In Brazil, Biden’s defense chief to call on region’s militaries to respect democracy

From Reuters today:

U.S. President Joe Biden’s defense secretary, Lloyd Austin, is expected to call on militaries to respect democracy at an Americas-wide defense gathering this week in Brazil, a senior U.S. defense official said.

Those expected remarks – while not specifically directed at Brazil – are likely to turn heads there ahead of its Oct. 2 election, where Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro formally launched his re-election bid on Sunday by saying “the Army is on our side.”

This is the right, and really the only possible, move. Otherwise, a Defense Ministerial meeting in Brazil just 68 days before the presidential election risks appearing like a commercial for Bolsonaro.

Latin America Security-Related News: July 21-25, 2022

(Even more here)

July 25, 2022

Bahamas, Haiti

The number of “illegal migrants and seizures and repatriations is through the roof, frankly”

Brazil, Western Hemisphere Regional

Secretary Austin will participate in hemispheric discussions regarding integrated deterrence; cyber defense; Women, Peace, and Security; and humanitarian assistance and disaster response

Colombia

El saliente comandante del Ejército, general Eduardo Zapateiro, le contó a SEMANA por qué se retiró y le sugirió una rectificación al presidente electo, Gustavo Petro

El nombramiento del exmagistrado Iván Velásquez sacude a una institución cuestionada por episodios de abusos y violaciones a derechos humanos

They welcomed the commitment of President-elect Gustavo Petro to deepen its implementation and seek broader peace through dialogue with other illegal armed groups

Un contrato de construcción de paneles solares en zona rural de Becerril (Cesar) fue adjudicado a empresas que consolidan un “cartel” que acaparó ocho licitaciones más

Uno de los asuntos centrales para la paz total de Petro sera diferenciar de manera clara el sometimiento de estos grupos

El nombramiento del exmagistrado que logró la caída del presidente de Guatemala Otto Pérez Molina por corrupción supone un vuelco total en la jefatura de las Fuerzas Armadas

En el norte del Cauca, no muy lejos de las zonas donde renace la guerra, las montañas testifican el auge de la marihuana

Jon Finer, Consejero Principal Adjunto de Seguridad Nacional, también mencionó que la representación de EEUU en la posesión del presidente electo será Samantha Power, la cabeza de USAID

La primera reunión entre el presidente electo y una delegación del gobierno de Joe Biden dejó claro que los temas que ocuparán la agenda bilateral serán el cambio climático, el desarrollo económico, la implementación de acuerdo de paz y la lucha contra el narcotráfico

The bill would also impose terrorism sanctions on seven individuals affiliated with the group

El Salvador

Josselyn fue la persona más visible de las marchas y eventos en los que se exigió la libertad para los inocentes capturados arbitrariamente en el régimen de excepción. Eso también la hizo el blanco de difamaciones y amenazas de muerte desde cuentas en redes sociales presuntamente administradas por policías

Guatemala

El magistrado Eduardo Galván Casasola es un militar que pertenece a la promoción 80 de la Escuela Politécnica

Mexico

La Oficina en Washington para Asuntos Latinoamericanos asegura que puede resolverse solo si los gobiernos de Estados Unidos y México se comprometen

“Acá en Honduras todos sabemos que en México hay mucho crimen organizado, que es muy peligroso para los migrantes”, dice Alicia

In 1985, US agents had a chance to stop Mexico’s top drug lord. Years later, evidence from that night proved valuable in a way no one could predict

Almost 40 years later, the case may be too old and too tainted by prosecutorial misconduct to be successfully prosecuted. There’s also the awkward allegations by several witnesses of the CIA’s involvement in Camarena’s death

U.S.-Mexico Border

Officials in Arizona, Missouri, Texas and other GOP-controlled states have convinced federal judges, all but one of whom was appointed by former President Donald Trump, to block or set aside seven major immigration policies

Some of the deaths, medical experts and advocates told Reuters, are a legacy of Trump-era policies. The towering wall – built as high as a three-storey building in some sections – has multiplied serious injuries

July 22, 2022

Brazil

A raid of Rio de Janeiro’s largest complex of favelas that left at least 18 people dead has sparked renewed complaints of excessive police violence

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Quite a spending spree…

…by the populist president of El Salvador, which is one of the world’s governments most likely to default on its debt by early next year.

Latin America-related events online and in Washington this week

Tuesday, July 26, 2022

  • 10:00 in 216 Hart Senate Office Building and online: Hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee on Fighting Fentanyl: The Federal Response to a Growing Crisis.
  • 11:00-12:00 at thedialogue.org: Cancer & Covid-19: New Challenges to Controlling Cancer in Latin America and the Caribbean (RSVP required).
  • 1:00-2:00 at the Wilson Center: A Conversation with President Irfaan Ali of Guyana (RSVP required).

Wednesday, July 27, 2022

  • 11:00-12:00 at the Inter-American Dialogue: Colombian Energy Policy under Petro (RSVP required).
  • 1:00-2:00 at CSIS and online: Strengthening the Guyana – U.S. Relationship (RSVP required).
  • 2:00 in 310 Cannon House Office Building and online: Hearing of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border Security, Facilitation, & Operations on Assessing CBP’s Use of Facial Recognition Technology.
  • 3:00-3:45 at AS-COA Zoom: How to Make Nearshoring in Latin America a Reality (RSVP required).
  • 4:00-5:00 at USIP and usip.org: Images From Central America’s Wars and Its Unfinished Peace (RSVP required).
  • 8:00pm at CCINOC Zoom, Facebook, YouTube: La Lista Engel en el Norte de Centroamérica (RSVP required for Zoom).

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Friday, July 29, 2022

  • 10:00-11:15 at the Brookings Institution and brookings.edu: The future of the US-Colombia relationship: A conversation with Ambassador Juan Carlos Pinzón (RSVP required).
  • 12:00-1:30 at Georgetown Zoom: Extraction and Exploitation: The Effects of Mining on Religious Communities (RSVP required).

Weekly U.S.-Mexico Border Update: July 22, 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 encountered 14 percent fewer migrants at the border in June than in May, though it was still the busiest June since public monthly reporting began in 2000. 44 percent of encounters ended with Title 42 expulsions.
  • The nationality of migrants that increased the most was Venezuelans. This is despite Mexico’s January requirement of  visas for visiting Venezuelans: more are migrating through the dangerous Darién Gap region.
  • CBP’s data show border-zone seizures of nearly all major drugs, except possibly fentanyl, falling behind their 2021 pace. As in past years, the overwhelming majority of drugs—except cannabis—are seized at border ports of entry.
  • Following the July 12 meeting between the U.S. and Mexican presidents, Mexico detailed new border infrastructure investments, assigning many to its military. Mexico signaled that the U.S. government would offer more temporary work visas, but U.S. officials won’t confirm that.
  • Texas’s state law enforcement is rounding up migrants and dropping them at ports of entry, and sending released migrants on buses to Washington. A sergeant died on July 15, the eighth loss since October of a Texas National Guard soldier deployed to the border.

CBP’s migrant encounters dropped 14 percent in June

U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported encountering 207,416 undocumented migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border in June. This was the most encounters ever for a month of June but 14 percent fewer than in May.

The Title 42 pandemic expulsions policy, prolonged by a federal court order, continues to ease repeat attempts to cross the border because it involves minimal time in CBP custody. As a result, the 207,416 “encounters” were with 153,379 actual individual people. 26 percent of CBP’s reported encounters were with people who had already been encountered at least once before in the past 12 months.

The “encounters” total includes 15,518 migrants who appeared at land ports of entry (official border crossings). The other 191,898 encounters occurred in the spaces between the ports of entry, where Border Patrol operates. This was Border Patrol’s smallest monthly total since February.

It is still a historically large number. Border Patrol has encountered migrants 1,634,104 times since October 2021, when the U.S. government’s 2022 fiscal year began. With three months to go before fiscal 2022 ends, that nearly exceeds 2021’s 1,659,206 encounters, which were the most ever reported.

Of those encountered in June, 44 percent were swiftly expelled under the Title 42 authority, which had been scheduled to end on May 23 but was prolonged by a Texas federal judge’s decision. Since the pandemic began in March 2020, Title 42 has been used to expel migrants from the U.S.-Mexico border 2,116,211 times.

In late June, Republican legislators succeeded in adding language to two 2023 appropriations bills that would keep Title 42 in place potentially for years, as reported in WOLA’s July 1 Update. More than 180 U.S. organizations, including WOLA, signed a July 15 letter calling on Congress to remove this “poison pill” language from the bills.

Mexico agreed in March 2020 to accept expelled citizens of Central America’s so-called “Northern Triangle” (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras), and in May 2022 to accept limited numbers of expelled Cubans and Nicaraguans. Other migrants are expelled by air, although only Haiti has seen a significant percentage of its migrants returned on planes (33 percent during this fiscal year).

June saw a slowdown in expulsions of citizens of countries other than Mexico and the Northern Triangle. Expulsions of Cubans and Nicaraguans dropped from 3,979 in May to 593 in June. Mexico had committed to accepting expelled Cubans and Nicaraguans until May 23, the day that Title 42 was originally slated to end. The numbers show that Mexico did not resume accepting those expulsions after the court order prolonged Title 42. Planes to Haiti, meanwhile, largely ceased: Just 15 Haitians were expelled in June.

In fact, in an encouraging development, Border Patrol encountered only 143 Haitian citizens crossing between the ports of entry in June, down from more than 7,000 in May.

The reason is a change at the ports of entry: in coordination with humanitarian organizations, CBP has been allowing a larger number of migrants considered more vulnerable to approach the ports to seek protection. The 15,518 undocumented migrants who came to ports of entry in June were the sixth-largest monthly total measured since fiscal year 2012; May was the fourth-largest monthly total. Nearly 4,000 of the  migrants allowed to approach the ports last month were Haitian. About three-quarters of them arrived at ports of entry in south Texas.

The recent experience with Haitian migrants—orderly processing of protection claims at ports of entry, with a sharp drop in improper crossings—offers a potential model for managing today’s large hemisphere-wide flows of protection-seeking migration.

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Latin America-related events in Washington and online this week

All times are U.S. Eastern.

Monday, July 18

  • 10:00 at IACHR and online: Cuba, one year after #11J (RSVP required).

Tuesday, July 19

Wednesday, July 20

Friday, July 22

Deeply unfortunate

He may do good elsewhere, but future histories of Joe Biden’s human rights record will begin with this photo.

Weekly U.S.-Mexico Border Update: July 14, 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 released a long-awaited investigation into the September 2021 incident in Del Rio, Texas, when horse-mounted Border Patrol agents were caught on camera behaving aggressively toward Haitian migrants. The report finds fault with agents’ behavior, Border Patrol command and control, lack of crowd control training, and other issues. Administrative punishments appear likely.
  • President Biden and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador met in Washington on July 12. Mexico agreed to make $1.5 billion in border infrastructure investments over the next two years. There was no agreement on temporary work visas.
  • 15,633 people migrated through Panama’s treacherous Darién Gap jungles in June, a number that has increased nearly every month this year. Almost three quarters of the migrants were Venezuelans who are now unable to fly visa-free to Mexico.
  • The once-quiet Del Rio border sector appears poised to become the busiest, leading all others in migrant encounters, with more than 13,000 in an early July week. Most are not from Mexico or Central America’s “Northern Triangle.”
  • An executive order from Texas’s governor, whose language adopts “invasion” rhetoric, empowers state law enforcement to apprehend migrants and transport them to border ports of entry.

CBP concludes Del Rio investigation

On July 8 U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) released a long-awaited report on the September 2021 incident along the Rio Grande in Del Rio, Texas, when horse-mounted Border Patrol agents were caught on camera charging and swinging reins at Haitian migrants during a mass migration event. The investigation by CBP’s Office of Public Responsibility (OPR, a body that reports directly to CBP’s commissioner) foundfailures at multiple levels of the agency, a lack of appropriate policies and training, and unprofessional and dangerous behavior by several individual Agents.”

An outcry followed publication of the September 19 images and videos of mounted agents charging at, grabbing, swinging reins, yelling, and maneuvering the Haitians back into the river. Condemnation and promises of swift action came from President Joe Biden, Vice-President Kamala Harris, and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, among many others. “I promise you, those people will pay. There is an investigation underway right now and there will be consequences,” said Biden.

Mayorkas promised that an investigation “will be completed in days—not weeks.” In fact, it took OPR nearly 10 months to produce its 511-page report. CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus, who took office last December, said he was “not happy about the length of time.” Much of the delay owed to the agency’s choice to treat the case as a criminal matter, referring it to the Department of Justice. The U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Texas considered it for nearly six months before deciding, on March 11, 2022, not to pursue criminal charges. During that long period, OPR was unable to interview the Border Patrol agents directly involved in the incident.

What imprecisely became known as the “whipping incident” happened during an unusual immigration event. CBP noted that “over the course of several days, U.S. Border Patrol Agents processed, screened, and vetted more than 30,000 migrants by the international bridge” in Del Rio, a mid-Texas border city of 30,000 people that until recently had seen only modest levels of migration.

Much of this population was Haitian: over the course of 2021, approximately 100,000 Haitian citizens who had been living in Brazil and Chile migrated north through Panama’s Darién Gap, then to Mexico. (Panama recorded 101,072 Haitians passing through the dangerous Darién in 2021, including children born in South America, while Mexico apprehended 18,924 Haitians and received asylum requests from 51,076.)

In late August and early September (as noted in WOLA’s Border Updates at the time) thousands of Haitian migrants bottled up in Mexico’s far south organized “caravans” seeking to continue toward the U.S. border. Mexican forces broke these up, often brutally—but then, in mid-September, for reasons that don’t remain fully clear, roughly 15,000 mostly Haitian migrants were able to transit the country and arrive in Ciudad Acuña, Coahuila, across from Del Rio, over the same few days. The migrants forded the river, which had shallow areas at the time, and gathered by the thousands in areas near the border bridge.

The mass arrival appeared to take CBP by surprise. Border Patrol, which had just 1,504 agents assigned to its once-quiet Del Rio Sector in 2020, surged personnel from elsewhere. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), an immigration hardliner, deployed state police to Del Rio.

While Abbott’s Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) personnel appeared to be seeking to block migrants’ access, CBP was seeking to process the Haitian migrants on U.S. soil. (The Title 42 pandemic order has curtailed the right to seek asylum, so many of the Haitians “processed” in Del Rio ended up being among the more than 26,000 whom the Biden administration has flown back to Haiti.)

Border Patrol, which could barely accommodate the thousands of migrants waiting to be processed on the banks of the river, was allowing them to cross into Mexico to buy food and water, then cross back.

During the mid-day on September 19, though, journalists’ cameras caught members of a Border Patrol horse patrol unit, brought in from Carrizo Springs, Texas, aggressively seeking to block the migrants—many of them carrying bags of food—from re-entering the United States. “At the time the agents used or threatened to use force, the migrants were not threatening” the mounted agents, the OPR report found.

The report includes the following findings about what happened over approximately a half hour on September 19.

  • There was no evidence that the agents “whipped” the migrants or that the riders’ reins struck any migrants. In future crowd control events, though, CBP will prohibit mounted agents from “twirling” their reins as “a distancing tactic.”
  • “Several mounted Border Patrol Agents used force or the threat of force to drive several migrants back into the Rio Grande River, despite the fact the migrants were well within the territorial boundary of the United States.”
  • In addition to swinging reins, aggressive tactics included charging horses at migrants to keep them from entering, in one case maneuvering a horse very close to a boy, and in another causing a man to fall back into the river; grabbing a man by his shirt and flipping him around; and yelling “unprofessional” comments, including “Hey! You use your women? This is why your country’s s***, you use your women for this.”
  • By pushing migrants back to the river and Mexico, the horse-patrol agents were following orders given not by Border Patrol, but a request from Texas state DPS. Though blocking migrants was not CBP’s objective, the Border Patrol supervisor approved the state agency’s request without checking with higher-ups.
  • This owed much to faulty command and control within Border Patrol. The horse patrol agents’ supervisor “was unable to obtain additional guidance from higher in the USBP chain of command at the time of the request” from Texas DPS. The agents “repeatedly sought guidance from the USBP incident command post” by radio, and backed off after being “eventually told to allow all the migrants to enter.”
  • Though assigned to a crowd control mission—a difficult job with a high risk of escalation and human rights abuse—the horse patrol unit’s members’ responses indicated that they had not received crowd control training. Commissioner Magnus said that from now on, horses would not be used for crowd control without the commissioner’s approval.

With the OPR report complete, a CBP Disciplinary Review Board, separate from OPR and made up of senior officials, is now considering punishments for the agents involved. Four agents may face administrative measures. CBS News reported that no firings are recommended, and that the Review Board proposed a seven-day suspension for the supervisor who approved the Texas state DPS request.

The agents’ defenders—including the National Border Patrol Council union, House Homeland Security Committee ranking Republican Rep. John Katko (R-New York), and several former Border Patrol leaders in a mid-June letter—argue that they are not receiving due process because President Biden had demanded in September 2021 that they “pay” for their actions. Border Patrol union President Brandon Judd said that the union will appeal any punishments.

Commissioner Magnus said on July 8 that despite the “reins” incident, “the vast majority of Border Patrol Agents and U.S. Customs and Border Protection personnel acted with honor and integrity and provided an unprecedented response to the situation in Del Rio.”

While that could be accurate for much of the Del Rio migration event, the OPR report’s scope does not go beyond what happened in the approximate half-hour on September 19 when the horse patrol was caught on camera. Much of the report, in fact, describes scenes that are already familiar to anyone who has reviewed the much-publicized footage. Migrant rights groups like the Haitian Bridge Alliance and Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights have documented other alleged abuses in the context of the Del Rio event.

Critics of the OPR report have meanwhile lamented that investigators did not speak to a single Haitian migrant about what happened. Among those who would have been available is Mirard Joseph, the man whose shirt was grabbed by a horse-mounted agent in one famous image. Joseph was removed to Haiti and is suing the U.S. government.

Biden and López Obrador discuss the border and migration

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador was in Washington on July 11- 12 for his second visit since Joe Biden took office. Much media attention focused on the frosty relationship between the two leaders’ administrations, who disagree on issues ranging from energy policy to the Ukraine conflict to the June Summit of the Americas’ invitation list. López Obrador’s 30-minute-plus oratory during the presidents’ Oval Office photo op also drew comment.

Read More

Latin America Security-Related News: July 13, 2022

(Even more here)

July 13, 2022

Brazil

Brazil is looking to buy as much diesel as it can from Russia and some of the deals were being closed “as recently as yesterday,” Brazilian Foreign Minister Carlos Franca said on Tuesday, without giving further details on the transactions

Para o general, apesar dessa situação, os militares vão prestar continência a quem quer que seja o presidente da República eleito

Colombia

Hoy se entrega el último informe “No enreden la paz”, el documento de control político que hace este Congreso sobre la implementación del Acuerdo de Paz

Gustavo Petro and Francia Márquez will seek to lay the foundation for bringing the country’s decades-long armed conflict to a close

Luis Gilberto Murillo would take Colombia’s most important diplomatic post when he’s sworn into office next month

La próxima semana un representante de “alto nivel” del Gobierno de Estados Unidos, de Joe Biden, vendrá a Colombia para reunirse con el presidente electo, Gustavo Petro

Guatemala

La iniciativa de ley no busca fortalecer la paz, busca dejar libres a asesinos, violadores, torturadores y esclavistas

Haiti

Local humanitarian and human-rights activists say it’s still unclear how many people have been killed in the latest carnage, but Joël Janéus, the interim mayor of Cité Soleil, told the Miami Herald that at least 52 people have been killed

Mexico

A month after boycotting Biden’s Western Hemisphere summit, Andrés Manuel López Obrador goes to the White House for a make-up meeting

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Mexico has committed to invest $1.5 billion on border infrastructure between 2022 and 2024

Temas de largo plazo -y mucha voluntad- para resolverse. Un día alcanza sólo para la foto

Following the ongoing spike in extrajudicial killings and concerning levels of impunity, the resolution encourages the Government of Mexico to ensure thorough and impartial investigations into violence against journalists

Nicaragua

According to Ortega, it is a “group of very elderly nuns”, who are praying to kill him, and he considers this to be a serious threat to national security

U.S.-Mexico Border

Operation Lone Star has cost taxpayers at least $4B, which Abbott says is needed to combat smuggling. Critics say it violates migrants’ civil rights

A campaign by Mexican governors, under pressure by Gov. Greg Abbott, to stem the flow of migrants from Central America and beyond to Texas has led to a surge of complaints of abuse by state authorities, including violent attacks, extortion and even forcing migrants to disembark from private buses

Little information has been released from U.S. Border Patrol about a shooting that left one person injured from apparent gunshot wounds

Sectors like El Paso still recording hundreds of daily encounters despite triple-digit heat, harsh desert terrain

“We live with this daily fear of leaving the shelter that something will happen to us,” one migrant said

Border migration leveling off, it seems

These tweets give us one-off reports on migrant encounters in three of Border Patrol’s nine U.S.-Mexico border sectors, in a single week.

Take these together, you get 27,200+ migrant encounters in these three sectors in one early July week.

These sectors made up 56 percent of Border Patrol migrant encounters in May. (June numbers should be released any day now.) That rate would yield 48,990+ migrant encounters border-wide in a week, or 7,000 per day, in early July.

In May, Border Patrol apprehended 7,182 migrants per day. So these numbers may point to an ever-so-slight decrease in migration during these very hot months.

Also notable here: mid-Texas’s Del Rio Sector in first place. South Texas’s Rio Grande Valley Sector has been the number-one migrant destination every month since February 2013, with the lone exception of January 2022. Significantly more migrants appear to be coming to Del Rio, which is much more remote and harder to reach.

Migration through the Darién Gap increased further in June

Panama’s migration authority has released data through June detailing migration through the Darién Gap, a jungle region along the border with Colombia that is where the Pan-American Highway stops. It’s a barely governed area where violent criminal groups more or less have free rein. Migrants who dare to make the roughly 60-mile journey routinely report being robbed, beaten, or raped, and seeing dead bodies along the trail.

This year, most of the growing number of people taking the Darién route are coming from Venezuela. 11,359 Venezuelan people passed through the Darién in June, more than ever before. That’s nearly 3 out of 4 (73%) of the 15,633 people who took this once-avoided route just last month.

Nearly 50,000 people migrated through the Darién during the first half of 2022. That’s on pace to be second to 2021, when 133,726 took this dangerous route. Last year, three-quarters of migrants were Haitian. This year, nearly 60% are Venezuelan.

Venezuelans seeking to migrate north used to be able to skip Darién’s dangers and fly to Mexico. But in Jan 2022, at strong US suggestion, Mexico started requiring visas of arriving Venezuelans, as Human Rights Watch reported last week. Most now have to take the land route.

Growing numbers of migrants taking the Darién route are coming from Africa: 6,188 so far this year. Many came from Angola and Senegal earlier in the year. In recent months, more migrants are coming from Ghana and Somalia—both east and west Africa.

Latin America Security-Related News: July 12, 2022

(Even more here)

July 12, 2022

Brazil

It wasn’t the first violent episode associated with the country’s increasing political polarization

Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira set off deep into the Amazon to meet Indigenous groups patrolling the forest. Then they vanished

Colombia

Se trata del mayor general Carlos Iván Moreno Ojeda, quien actualmente se desempeña como la segunda cabeza del Ejército

Desde 2021, a Presidencia llegaron denuncias de hechos de corrupcion en esta instancia

“Lo que intentó hacer Acevedo es poner en el centro de la narrativa histórica a unas Fuerzas Armadas victoriosas y víctimas. Modificar la narrativa del conflicto armado”

Usted recibe un país con una paz fragmentada. Se ha avanzado lentamente durante 5 años en la implementación del Acuerdo de Paz con las Farc, pero el conflicto armado se ha reactivado en varias regiones

El Salvador, Guatemala

Images and videos that she uploaded to Instagram and Facebook substantiate Crook’s release late last year, a fact that the Salvadoran government has not publicly admitted

El Salvador, Mexico

Los Yagu soportan impactos de bala de alto calibre: tiene un blindaje de más seis; van acompañados de drones, de armas automáticas y de un mástil electrónico que se eleva más de diez metros

Mexico

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La OFAC designó a Obed Christian Sepúlveda Portillo, acusándolo de comprar armamento en EEUU y enviarlo ilegalmente a sicarios del CJNG

“At a crucial time in our bilateral ties with Mexico, we are facing the unprecedented challenge of having a foreign leader who publicly criticizes the long term bilateral commitments of both nations and turns a blind eye to the humanitarian crisis at our shared border,” said Rubio

87 U.S., Mexican, regional, and international civil society organizations sent an open letter to the two presidents outlining key points for an effective and sustainable response to high levels of migration

Senador Bob Menéndez urgió a Biden abordar las preocupaciones sobre erosión democrática y militarización en México durante reunión con AMLO

Peru

“Ya quisiéramos que nuestras fuerzas policiales y nuestras Fuerzas Armadas brindaran la misma seguridad a todo el país”

U.S.-Mexico Border

Federal authorities are referring more migrant cases to criminal federal courts, putting them at the highest levels since the coronavirus pandemic began

Venezuela

La competencia “Sniper Frontier” hace parte de los Juegos Internacionales del Ejército (Army Games), organizados por Rusia y varios países, anualmente, desde 2015

Jorge Toledo, who was sentenced to prison along with five other American oil executives in 2020, was convicted of corruption charges after traveling to Venezuela on a work trip with oil company Citgo

Only beneficiaries under Venezuela’s existing designation, and who were already residing in the United States as of March 8, 2021, are eligible to re-register

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