Adam Isacson

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

Border Updates

Weekly U.S.-Mexico Border Update: September 22, 2023

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.


Arrivals of migrants, mostly asylum seekers, at the U.S.-Mexico border rose to about 8,000 per day this week, a level last seen in April 2023 before the termination of the Title 42 policy. As shelters fill and Border Patrol begins releasing processed migrants on border cities’ streets, it is apparent that migrants’ post-Title 42 “wait and see” period is over. Asylum seekers are again opting to turn themselves in to Border Patrol despite the Biden administration’s “carrot and stick” approach of legal pathways and harsh limits on asylum access. Shelters and migrant routes are similarly full throughout Mexico.

Nearly 82,000 people migrated in August through the treacherous Darién Gap jungle region straddling Colombia and Panama. During the first eight months of 2023, over 330,000 people have taken this once-impenetrable route. So far this year, 60 percent have been citizens of Venezuela and 21 percent have been children, despite the dangers of the journey. In this region of dense forest and difficult terrain, governments have limited short-term options to control territory or channel the flow of people.

As the U.S. government heads for a September 30 budget deadline and an increasingly likely shutdown, the U.S. House of Representatives’ narrow, fractious Republican majority may be proposing a bill that would keep the government open through October 31 in exchange for some radical changes to border and migration policy that the Democratic-majority Senate and the Biden White House would be certain to oppose.


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U.S.-Mexico Border Update: September 15, 2023

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.


The International Organization for Migration (IOM) reported that nearly half of all migrant deaths worldwide in 2022 occurred in the U.S.-Mexico border zone. The 686 deaths counted by IOM’s Missing Migrant Project are an undercount, limited by available data. Border Patrol is preliminarily reporting a modest decrease in migrant deaths in 2023, but the full toll of this summer’s record heat remains unclear.

Media reports from throughout the Americas in the past week point to record numbers of migrants transiting Panama and Honduras, while large numbers are stranded at the Peru-Chile border, northern Nicaragua, southern Guatemala, southern Mexico, and of course northern Mexico.

As happened in May, asylum seekers trying to turn themselves in between layers of San Diego’s double border wall are not being processed right away. Border Patrol is leaving them outdoors between the walls for a day or more with little food, water, or bathroom facilities.

The Biden administration is considering a policy change that would require many asylum-seeking families to remain in south Texas while awaiting credible fear interviews. Texas’s state government has now put 36,000 migrants on buses to the U.S. interior. An Illinois coroner’s report about a Venezuelan girl who died aboard a Texas bus has discrepancies with Texas’s account of her health when her family boarded the bus. A federal appeals court is allowing Texas to keep a wall of buoys in the Rio Grande in Eagle Pass while it considers a Justice Department lawsuit to take them down.


UN draws attention to mounting migrant death toll

A report from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) found that the U.S.-Mexico border was “the deadliest land route for migrants worldwide on record” in 2022. IOM’s Missing Migrant Project, which maintains a large database of worldwide migrant deaths, counted 1,457 deaths hemisphere-wide last year, of which 686 occurred on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.

As the organization acknowledges, this is an undercount. On the U.S. side alone, “In FY [fiscal year] 2022, more than 890 migrants died attempting to enter the United States between ports of entry across the SWB [southwest border]”—more than the IOM figure, the U.S. Departments of Homeland Security (DHS) and Justice reported in March, in their draft of the May asylum “transit ban” rule. The departments offered no further detail, and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has yet to produce the 2022 version of its Border Rescues and Mortality Data report. The 890 figure, too, is an undercount, as regional humanitarian groups along the border find a higher count of migrant remains than Border Patrol does in the regions that they cover.

“Although the data shows that deaths and disappearances in the U.S.-Mexico border decreased by 8 per cent from the previous year, the 2022 figure is likely higher than the available information suggests,” IOM notes, “due to missing official data, including information from Texas border county coroner’s offices and the Mexican search and rescue agency.” Of the 686 documented deaths in 2022, 307 “were linked to the hazardous crossing of the Sonoran and Chihuahuan Deserts” in Arizona and New Mexico.

Elsewhere in the Western Hemisphere, IOM counted 350 deaths on migration routes in the Caribbean in 2022, a sharp increase over previous years, and 141 in the inhospitable Darién Gap jungle straddling the border between Colombia and Panama.

Between October 2022 and August 2023, according to a recent WOLA interaction with a Border Patrol official, the agency found the remains of 640 migrants, a 24 percent decrease over the same period in 2022. This could be due to a somewhat smaller migrant population—Border Patrol’s 2023 apprehensions were down 9 percent through July compared with 2022—and stepped-up search and rescue efforts.

On the other hand, this year’s record-breaking heat, especially in the Sonoran and Chihuahuan Deserts, may have killed more people than we yet know. Border Patrol told Border Report this week that it has found 140 remains since October in its El Paso Sector, which includes the area around the Texas city and all of New Mexico. That is up very sharply from 71 in 2022, and from an average of 13 in the 24 years between 1998 and 2021.

In the El Paso Sector, “the wall, the arrival of the Texas National Guard, the surge of Department of Public Safety patrols, all of that is pushing people to the desert,” Carlos Marentes, the executive director of the Border Farm Workers Center, told Border Report.

Reports of increased migration in transit, from Peru to Mexico

After a lull following the end of the Title 42 pandemic expulsions policy, countries along the northbound migration route are again experiencing elevated levels of migration, which may portend record arrivals at the U.S.-Mexico border this fall. These narratives all come from news coverage from the past seven days.

On Peru’s border with Chile, Infobae reported that dozens of Venezuelan, Colombian, Ecuadorian, and Haitian citizens are stranded and sleeping outdoors in the desert border city of Tacna, as Peruvian police prevent them from moving further. The migrants had been living in Chile, which ended a state of emergency in its northern border zone on August 27, making northbound migration somewhat easier.

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Weekly U.S.-Mexico Border Update: September 1, 2023

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.

Due to a holiday followed by an especially heavy event schedule next week, there will be no Border Update on September 8, 2023.


The military component of the Texas state government’s controversial border security operation came under heavier scrutiny this week, after an August 26 cross-border shooting incident in El Paso and an August 29 investigation into improper spying on civilian migrants. This component of Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) “Operation Lone Star” is a very rare domestic use of military force on U.S. soil with both a long timeframe and rules of engagement permitting use of force against civilians.

Panama is reporting over 70,000 migrants passing through the treacherous Darién Gap region so far in August, a record by far. Data releases from Honduras and Mexico also point to record levels of people in transit. Costa Rica, whose president met with President Biden this week, declared a state of emergency along its border with Panama. Migrants come from dozens of countries, but Venezuela is the predominant nationality.

Alarms went off in parts of the Biden administration earlier this year, CNN reported, after a smuggler who had facilitated some Uzbek asylum seekers’ arrival at the U.S.-Mexico border was alleged to have “links” to ISIS, a group on the U.S. government’s list of terrorist organizations. The migrants themselves, who were released into the United States pending immigration court hearings, are not believed to have terrorist ties.


Shooting, spying incidents deepen controversy about Texas National Guard border deployment

The military component of the Texas state government’s controversial border security operation came under heavier scrutiny this week, after an August 26 shooting incident at the border in El Paso and an August 29 investigation revealing improper spying.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), a border and migration hardliner and critic of the Biden administration, expects to spend over $9.5 billion between 2021 and 2025 on a set of border security initiatives he calls “Operation Lone Star” (OLS). These include building segments of border wall with state funds, deploying thousands of police and Texas National Guardsmen to arrest and jail migrants—including asylum seekers—on state charges of “trespassing,” and laying down miles of razor-sharp concertina wire along the Rio Grande, as well as a 1,000-foot wall of buoys in the middle of the river in Eagle Pass.

Since 2021 Abbott has used state funds to send several thousand National Guardsmen to the U.S.-Mexico border, in an unusually large and long mission for a state military force. That deployment has faced past controversies, including poor initial planning that left Texas troops in miserable living conditions and the deaths, in some cases by suicide, of eight assigned guardsmen.

While details about what happened at about 8:50 PM on August 26 remain under wraps, we know that a Texas National Guardsman stationed near the El Paso side of the Paso del Norte bridge fired a shot into Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, wounding  the leg of a Mexican man on the opposite riverbank.

Mexican authorities identified the victim as Darwin José García, 37, of Veracruz, Mexico. He was treated in a Ciudad Juárez hospital and released. The Juárez newspaper El Diario reported that police said García told them he was planning to cross the river to the United States; the victim told reporters he was “practicing a sport” on the Mexican side.

The circumstances leading the unnamed Texas guardsman to fire their weapon into Mexico remain unclear. The Washington Post, citing a CBP official who had been briefed about the incident, reported that “the Texas Guard member opened fire after three men on the Mexican side of the border started attacking a group of migrants with a knife as the migrants attempted to cross the river.”

The official added that “details are hazy.” If that is what happened—and it is possible, as Mexican criminal groups do use violence to keep migrants from crossing without paying fees—then the guardsman could argue that the action was within the limits of CBP’s use of force policy. That policy permits lethal force if personnel have “a reasonable belief that the subject of such force poses an imminent threat of death or serious bodily injury to the LEO [law enforcement officer] or to another person.”

The incident is being investigated by the state government’s Texas Rangers and by Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) division. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is serving as a liaison between Texas and Mexican authorities. At an August 30 meeting with Texas authorities, Mexico’s consul-general in El Paso “reiterated that the Texas National Guard member’s action was inadmissible,” according to a statement.

This is the second time this year that a Texas National Guardsman has fired a weapon at a civilian. On January 13 near McAllen, Spc. Angel Gallegos shot migrant Ricardo Rodríguez Nieto in the shoulder with his pistol, wounding him. The guardsman claimed that the shooting happened during a scuffle, which Rodríguez Nieto and other migrants dispute; Hidalgo County prosecutors nonetheless declined to seek an indictment. In January 2022, a guardsman also fired his rifle in Laredo to disable a vehicle whose driver had reportedly attempted to run over another guardsman.

In the United States, which since the 1870s has placed strict limits on using military personnel for internal law enforcement, it is exceedingly rare for U.S. military personnel to use lethal force against civilians on U.S. soil. (See WOLA’s 2010 report contrasting the U.S. civil-military model at home with the model its aid programs promote in Latin America.)

All U.S. state governors command National Guard units, soldiers who receive training with the regular U.S. military and serve on a part-time basis unless called up for an emergency. National Guardsmen can also be called up for federal government duty, at which point they are no longer at the governor’s command. Many served lengthy tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and presidents since George W. Bush have deployed National Guard and active military personnel to the border.

Those 21st-century federal border missions have restricted guardsmen to duties (“support for CBP”) and rules of engagement that seek to minimize potential contact with civilians. The Biden administration has sent 2,500 National Guard personnel border-wide in a federal support role, but they are rarely in view. (Biden augmented this force with an additional deployment of 1,500 regular military personnel in May, in preparation for the end of the Title 42 pandemic border policy; that force is to be drawn down by the end of August.)

The Operation Lone Star National Guard mission is different because it was ordered by Gov. Abbott, and is funded entirely with Texas’s state budget. That places the guardsmen under the governor’s command, authorized by a different section of the U.S. Code. Abbott has taken the unusual step of authorizing them to detain civilians, and otherwise to be in situations that may involve use of force against them.

Texas National Guardsmen wear uniforms, use weapons, and receive training—including combat training—identical to what the regular U.S. armed forces wear, use, and receive. For a military force to carry out a domestic mission this long in duration, and with such a high probability of hostile interactions with civilians, is highly unusual in the modern United States.

The civil-military risks were underscored on August 29, when two reporters who have covered Operation Lone Star’s military component since 2021, Davis Winkie of Military Times and James Barragán of the Texas Tribune, revealed that members of a Texas National Guard intelligence unit had “secretly infiltrated invite-only WhatsApp group chats filled with migrants and smugglers.”

This activity violated rules against domestic U.S. military spying on civilians, and against state governments running their own espionage operations. Those rules have been in place for decades for a reason, Winkie and Barragán explained: “Defense Department personnel ran massive domestic intelligence operations during the Vietnam War that targeted Americans based solely on how they legally exercised their First Amendment rights.”

The allegations, deeply detailed in the journalists’ report, assert that First Lieutenant Emmanuel Pierre, a guardsman of Haitian descent, infiltrated private WhatsApp groups used by Haitian migrants starting in 2021, when large numbers of Haitian asylum seekers began arriving at the Texas border.

Pierre’s digital spying was overseen by Maj. Dezi Rios, Operation Lone Star’s deputy intelligence director at the time who, when named to the position in October 2021, “had resigned from the San Antonio Police Department that same month after his involvement in a third road rage incident in four years led to misdemeanor criminal charges.” Rios claimed that he voiced concerns about the WhatsApp operation to superiors, but was rebuffed.

At least four Texas National Guard intelligence officers “have faced interim administrative discipline” for the WhatsApp operation and for improperly sharing classified FBI intelligence with colleagues.

The report claims that Operation Lone Star commanders “demanded military-style intelligence from their intelligence personnel.” One service member put it: “Everyone [in charge] wanted to pretend it was like Iraq in 2003… They wanted to do Army stuff, even though this is [legally] not Army stuff.”

“Such intelligence work is essentially unheard of for National Guard members on state active duty,” the Military Times and Texas Tribune report explained, noting that it sets a troubling precedent. “You give intel soldiers enough tools—we’re violating many constitutional rights very quickly,” an unnamed service member told the reporters. “If they’re willing to compromise their integrity over something like that,” one National Guard source said, “who knows where they’ll stop?

In other Operation Lone Star news from the past week:

  • Oklahoma, one of about 15 Republican-led states to send National Guardsmen to Texas to support Operation Lone Star, ended up paying $825,000, or $550 per person per day, for a 30-day deployment of 50 personnel, according to the Oklahoman.
  • A Border Report dispatch from Eagle Pass, Texas recalled that the controversial buoys and concertina wire that Operation Lone Star has placed along the town’s riverfront have done nothing to deter migrants seeking to turn themselves in and request asylum.
  • A petition circulated by Faithful America, a Christian social justice group, accused Gov. Abbott, who is Catholic, of taking “neither Catholic social teaching nor the Gospels’ instructions to welcome the stranger seriously” with his management of OLS. The document has over 10,000 signatures, Newsweek reported.

From the Darién Gap to Mexico, migration levels break records

As August draws to a close, reports from countries south of the U.S.-Mexico border point to migration reaching unprecedented levels.

(On the evening of August 31, as this Update neared publication, the Washington Post published preliminary estimates pointing to 177,000 Border Patrol migrant apprehensions at the U.S.-Mexico border in August, including a record 91,000 family unit members. Measured in migrant encounters, that would make August about 77 percent busier than June, and the 16th busiest month of the Biden administration.)

Panama’s Public Security Ministry tweeted that as of August 28, 68,340 people had migrated in August through the Darién Gap, a roadless region of treacherous primary jungle straddling Panama’s border with Colombia. That number of migrants—which has since grown beyond 72,000 in August—vastly exceeds Panama’s earlier single-month record of 59,773 (October 2022).

The Darién Gap was considered an impenetrable barrier between North and South America until migration increased in the mid-2010s and vastly expanded in 2021. Scores of migrants die each year there of drownings, disease, wild animals, and criminal attacks, and many more are injured, robbed, or sexually assaulted.

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Weekly U.S.-Mexico Border Update: August 25, 2023

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.


Border Patrol’s apprehensions of migrants between ports of entry increased 33 percent from June to July. While still far fewer than in July 2022, the numbers signal that a post-Title 42 lull in migration has come to an end. Nearly all of the increase was arrivals of children and families, with Ecuador, Guatemala, and Honduras the nationalities whose numbers grew the most. Though large numbers of Venezuelan migrants are en route to the border, the number of Venezuelan migrant encounters actually declined. More than 50,000 people were processed at ports of entry, a record.

The Justice Department’s lawsuit against the state of Texas, seeking to compel Gov. Greg Abbott (R) to remove a “wall” of buoys in the Rio Grande in Eagle Pass, went before a federal judge in Austin. Texas’s attorneys were not permitted to use their “invasion defense” argument to justify the barrier’s placement. This is one of several recent controversies surrounding Gov. Abbott’s “Operation Lone Star” security buildup.

Mexico’s immigration agency and Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley opened a facility, on the grounds of an unused hospital, in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, across the river from Brownsville, Texas. The site intends to provide an alternative to a sprawling tent encampment that has formed along the Rio Grande in Matamoros, as asylum seekers there struggle to secure appointments using the CBP One smartphone app.



CBP releases July migration details

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) released data on August 18 revealing a 33 percent increase in July, compared to June, in the number of migrants whom U.S. Border Patrol apprehended between the U.S.-Mexico border’s ports of entry (99,539 to 132,652).

Data table

This was still 27 percent fewer migrants than a year ago, in July 2022 (181,834), when the Title 42 pandemic expulsions policy was in full effect. In July 2023, 9 percent of migrants had been encountered at least once before in the previous 12 months; that was way down from 22 percent in July 2022. This “recidivism” number was much higher during the Title 42 period, when quick expulsions eased repeat crossings.

Data table

The sharp increase over June indicates an end to the sharp drop in migration that followed Title 42’s May 11, 2023 termination. July’s partially recovered migration flow differs from the pre-May 11 period, though, in its demographic makeup, in the part of the border where migrants are arriving, in migrants’ ability to use ports of entry, and to some extent by migrants’ nationalities.

Demographic makeup

Nearly all of the July increase was child and family migrants, whose numbers grew 85 percent from June to July (38,002 to 70,206, combining family-unit members and unaccompanied children). The 60,161 family-unit members apprehended in July 2023 were the most in a single month since December 2022, and before that since September 2021.

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Weekly U.S.-Mexico Border Update: August 18, 2023

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.


A little girl, placed on a bus to Chicago by Texas authorities in Brownsville, died of still-unclear causes as the bus traveled through southern Illinois. This new tragedy, plus a survey finding that most of Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) Rio Grande “buoy wall” lies on Mexico’s side of the river, added new layers of controversy this week to the Texas state government’s “Operation Lone Star,” a $9.5 billion series of politicized border security measures.

New data from Panama showed that 55,387 people, 69 percent of them Venezuelan, migrated through the treacherous Darién Gap region in July 2023. It was the second-largest monthly total ever measured in the Darién, and it pushed Panama’s count of migrants for 2023’s first seven months ahead of its total for all twelve months of 2022.

The Biden administration is asking Congress for $40.1 billion in additional emergency spending for what remains of 2023, including about $4 billion for border and migration-related priorities. These include nearly $1 billion for “responding to migration surges,” nearly $800 million to help Latin American countries accommodate migrants, more than $400 million to counter fentanyl, and authorization for a new program of “community based residential” facilities for asylum-seeking families placed in expedited removal proceedings.


Death of three-year-old Venezuelan girl draws fresh attention to Texas state government crackdown

A three-year-old Venezuelan girl died on August 10 aboard one of the buses that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has contracted to take asylum-seeking migrants from his state’s border areas to cities run by Democratic mayors.

The bus, full of asylum seekers who had been released from Customs and Border Protection (CBP) custody into Brownsville, Texas, had traveled 1,200 miles into southern Illinois. The girl, who was with her parents, showed symptoms of illness—fever and diarrhea—then lost consciousness. The coroner of Marion County, Illinois told the Dallas Morning News that “preliminary autopsy results were inconclusive, but additional tests are being done that could establish what happened.” Those tests could take “a couple of weeks.”

Jismary Alejandra Barboza González, born in Colombia to Venezuelan parents in August 2019, traveled with her parents through the Darién Gap and across Central America and Mexico. The state of Illinois is covering the funeral costs for her family, who planned to live in Indiana while pursuing their asylum claim. A GoFundMe page exists to help her parents with “medical and psychological expenses.” She would have turned four on August 25.

The Texas state government’s Division of Emergency Management stated that every bus passenger had been processed by CBP before their release, and that Texas authorities checked all for fevers or medical conditions before boarding them onto the bus.

The death aboard the Texas bus is the latest in a string of controversies involving “Operation Lone Star” (OLS), a set of strategies that Gov. Abbott—a hardliner on border and migration policy—launched in 2021, with a price tag expected to reach $9.5 billion by 2025. They include:

  • Busing more than 30,000 migrants to Washington, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Denver, and Los Angeles, at a cost of more than $2,000 per passenger, without coordinating with or notifying those cities’ governments.
  • Deploying several thousand Texas National Guardsmen to the border, at first on very little notice and under miserable conditions (see WOLA’s December 10, 2021 Border Update). Eight guardsmen assigned to the mission have died: one while performing risky duties, some by suicide.
  • Sending police and guardsmen to arrest migrants on state charges of trespassing, often by encouraging asylum seekers to turn themselves in on what turns out to be state land. Migrants— mostly men—are jailed; when they get to court, judges usually release them with “time served” as their penalty. Most then go on to pursue asylum claims.
  • Arresting and jailing fathers, on at least 26 occasions this summer, separating them from the rest of their families who end up in CBP custody (see WOLA’s August 4 Border Update). An August 15 letter from 28 members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus called on the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to “immediately launch an investigation” into Texas’s family separations.
  • Facing questioning, after scrutiny from outlets like ProPublica, about the veracity of Operation Lone Star’s statistics claiming inflated results against drugs and criminality.
  • Laying down 60 miles of razor-sharp concertina wire along, and within, the Rio Grande around Eagle Pass, Texas, where in July the Texas state government installed a 1,000-foot “wall” of buoys, with jagged circles of sharp metal between the individual spheres. The razor wire has injured migrants, while a Texas state police whistleblower revealed that police and guardsmen are encouraging asylum seekers on U.S. soil to get back into the river, denying them water and medical care despite record heat (see WOLA’s July 21 Border Update, among other Updates from July and August 2023).

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre called the Venezuelan child’s death in Illinois “devastating and heartbreaking… horrific news and horrific to hear that,” expressing condolences to the family. She criticized Gov. Abbott for taking “dangerous” and “unlawful actions,” adding, “it doesn’t just put, sadly, young migrants at risk or migrants at risk, but it also puts at risk the Border Patrol who are trying to do their job. And he gets in the way of that every day.”

Asked whether CBP, a federal agency, would halt cooperation with OLS while a Justice Department lawsuit against Gov. Abbott’s “buoy wall” proceeds, Jean-Pierre responded, “I don’t have a response to that.”

That lawsuit, filed on July 24, seeks to force Abbott to take down the buoys in the middle of the river in Eagle Pass, asserting that they violate laws, and treaties with Mexico, governing management of the Rio Grande. “In Eagle Pass, sediment falling into the river from the installation of fences and buoys is already altering the water’s flow, according to environmentalists,” Reuters reported. U.S. District Court Judge David Alan Ezra will hear arguments in San Antonio on August 22.

About 80 percent of the “buoy wall” is in fact on Mexico’s side of the borderline, which runs down the center of the river, according to an August 15 Justice Department filing in the case. The filing includes the results of a July 27-28 survey carried out by the International Boundary and Water Commission, a binational body governing use of the river. The results uphold a claim that Mexico’s government has been making since the buoys were installed in July.

Alicia Bárcena, Mexico’s foreign minister, raised the issue in a joint August 10 appearance with Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Bárcena added that Mexico will not take unilateral action to remove the buoys until the Justice Department’s lawsuit plays out. Blinken, contending that “we’re a country and a government that proceeds by rule of law,” said that the Biden administration would not remove the buoys until the courts rule on their legality.

The Texas state government’s response to the Justice Department lawsuit argues that the state “has a federal constitutional right to defend itself against invasion from even non-state actors.”

Elsewhere in Texas, amid a historic heat wave in the southernmost part of the state where people frequently find the remains of migrants who died of dehydration and heatstroke, someone has been stealing barrels of water left out on ranch lands by the South Texas Human Rights Center, a humanitarian group. The Associated Press reported that the cause could be road crews moving obstacles, wildfires, or something more nefarious.

In El Paso, the city “is again seeing small groups of migrants sleeping on the streets of Downtown and South El Paso as area shelters are at capacity and migrants are ‘timing out’ of their allowed stay,” El Paso Matters reported, as Border Patrol has been transferring and processing migrants from other parts of the border that are once again seeing elevated migration.

Darién Gap saw second-largest ever monthly total of migrants in July

On August 10 the government of Panama posted July statistics documenting migration through the Darién Gap, a highly treacherous region straddling the country’s eastern border with Colombia. Until a few years ago, this region, requiring a 60-mile walk through inhospitable jungle, fast-flowing rivers, and criminals operating unimpeded, was considered an impassable barrier to most transit.

The Darién jungle “is not a migratory route,” Samira Gozaine, director of Panama’s National Migration Service (SNM), told the U.S. Southern Command’s Diálogo website earlier this month. Panama’s numbers, though, show otherwise.

  • Panama counted 251,758 migrants passing through the Darién Gap during the first 7 months of 2023. That already exceeds the 248,284 migrants counted in all of 2022, which at the time was a shockingly large number. The 2010-2020 average was 10,717 migrants per year.

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Weekly U.S.-Mexico Border Update: August 11, 2023

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.


In July, Arizona’s hottest month on record, Border Patrol apprehended more migrants in its Tucson Sector—which comprises most of the state’s border miles—than in any month since April 2008. Large groups of migrants are arriving in very remote desert areas west of Nogales, straining U.S. agencies’ capacity to process them. Preliminary data point to many migrants perishing in the intense heat.

False rumors spread on social media, pointing to some sort of change in CBP policy at ports of entry, caused hundreds of migrants to gather at border bridges in Ciudad Juárez and Matamoros on August 7 and 8. U.S. personnel employed tear gas and pepper balls in El Paso, and closed a main Brownsville-Matamoros bridge for about nine hours.

A visiting delegation of Democratic members of Congress highlighted the integration of serrated, saw-like metal discs in the design of buoys that Gov. Greg Abbott (R) ordered installed in the middle of the Rio Grande in Eagle Pass, Texas. Media revealed that federal agencies have repeatedly been communicating to Texas that its border-hardening measures along the river are illegal. A hearing in the Justice Department’s lawsuit seeking to take down the Eagle Pass buoys is scheduled for August 22.


Despite intense summer heat, Arizona is migration’s new geographic epicenter

Much of the U.S.-Mexico border is experiencing its hottest summer on record, and the heat has been especially intense in Arizona. Temperatures in Phoenix reached or exceeded 110 degrees Fahrenheit every day between June 30 and July 30; closer to the border in Tucson, residents experienced a record 45 straight days of temperatures of 100 degrees or more.

Surprisingly, the record-breaking hot month of July 2023 appears also to have been the heaviest month for migrant arrivals in Arizona since April 2008.

Border Patrol may have apprehended 40,664 migrants last month in its Tucson Sector, which includes most of Arizona, according to preliminary agency data leaked to the Center Square, a conservative website. (A month ago, this website published leaked data for June, which ultimately proved to be about 3 percent greater than Border Patrol’s final total.) That would make Tucson, one of nine Border Patrol sectors along the U.S.-Mexico border, the destination for nearly one in three migrants border-wide last month. Another 7,127 may have been apprehended in Border Patrol’s Yuma Sector, which includes slivers of western Arizona and eastern California.

If accurate (similar, though less exact, preliminary July numbers have been reported by the Washington Post and NBC News), that would mean Border Patrol apprehended over 1,300 people per day in the Tucson Sector in July. That appears to have risen to 1,900 per day “in recent days,” CBS News reported on August 7. That would be “an increase of 134% from an average of 812 in June.”

Border Patrol has been reporting several apprehensions of large groups of migrants, often including children and parents, in very remote desert areas west of Nogales. The Border Patrol station in the desert community of Ajo, west of the Tohono O’odham Nation Reservation and north of Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, has vastly exceeded the capacity of its austere holding cells.

In late July, The Intercept found “roughly 50 migrants confined in a chain-link pen” outside the Ajo station, in heat above 110 degrees Fahrenheit, “gathered under a carport-like structure, crowding themselves into a single, narrow strip of shade to escape the desert sun.” Border Patrol told CNN and CBS that it has transferred personnel to Ajo and nearby Lukeville and is endeavoring to move migrants as quickly as possible to facilities elsewhere with more food, water, and medical services. “Currently, the average time in custody at the Ajo station is 15 hours, with some migrants spending a portion of those hours outside waiting to be transported,” CNN reported.

The dangerously high heat continues to kill many who attempt to migrate. The data from the Center Square point to Border Patrol recovering the remains of 64 people border-wide in July, down from 70 in June. Of those recoveries, 21 were in the Tucson sector in July, up sharply from 8 in June. These numbers are far from final, and Arizona-based humanitarian groups like No More Deaths and Humane Borders routinely find a much larger number of remains in the state’s borderland deserts.

An August 4 Customs and Border Protection (CBP) release recounted Border Patrol’s rescue of a severely heat-exhausted Colombian woman near Three Points, Arizona in the late afternoon of July 11; she died of cardiac arrest in a Tucson hospital early the next morning.

Rumors mislead migrants into gathering at border bridges

A false rumor, which spread quickly over social media, alleged that U.S. authorities would be suspending the Biden administration’s restrictive asylum rule on August 8. On that day, messages indicated, CBP would allow people to turn themselves in at land-border ports of entry without first making appointments using the CBP One smartphone app.

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Weekly U.S.-Mexico Border Update: August 4, 2023

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.


Preliminary data revealed by the Washington Post point to Border Patrol apprehensions of migrants increasing from just under 100,000 to about 130,000 from June to July. The lull in migration that followed the end of the Title 42 policy has ended. This erodes the narrative that the Biden administration’s tough new asylum rule—recently struck down by a federal court but still in place for now—has deterred migration. Rights groups filed a new legal challenge to CBP’s use of its “CBP One” app to limit asylum seekers’ access to ports of entry. Meanwhile, data from Panama, Honduras, and elsewhere point to continued increases in migration.

The past week’s developments in Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) “Operation Lone Star” include revelations that Texas police are arresting migrant fathers for “trespassing” and separating them from their families; the discovery of two deceased people’s remains in or near the “buoy wall” that Abbott ordered built in the Rio Grande at Eagle Pass in July; the Eagle Pass City Council’s revocation of a legal document that Operation Lone Star has used to carry out its activities there; and the Biden administration’s imminent drawdown of active-duty troops deployed border-wide in May.

As of July 27, the appropriations committees of the Democratic-majority Senate and the Republican-majority House of Representatives have both approved draft legislation funding the Department of Homeland Security in 2024. The bills, which Congress must reconcile into a single budget, differ widely in overall amounts, and in border-relevant items like funding for wall construction, Border Patrol hiring, shelter funds, and ICE detention beds.


Border Patrol apprehensions increased 30% in July

Citing preliminary data from Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the Washington Post reported that Border Patrol’s apprehensions of migrants between the U.S.-Mexico border’s ports of entry jumped by more than 30 percent from June to July. “U.S. agents made more than 130,000 arrests along the Mexico border last month, preliminary figures show, up from 99,545 in June,” reporters Nick Miroff and Maria Sacchetti revealed.

The fastest growth was in Border Patrol’s Tucson sector, which comprises most of Arizona, despite a long string of days there with temperatures exceeding 110 degrees. The 40,000 apprehensions in July were the most that the Tucson sector has measured since April 2008. As recently as December 2022, Tucson was in 5th place for migrant apprehensions among Border Patrol’s 9 U.S.-Mexico border sectors. Unnamed CBP officials told the Post that migrant smugglers have shifted to desert areas west of Nogales “because they know U.S. authorities have limited detention space and migrants who cross into Arizona are more likely to be quickly released.”

NBC News, also citing preliminary data, reported that Border Patrol’s daily average apprehensions of family-unit members (parents traveling with children) tripled from early June to late July, from 790 to 2,230 per day. An unnamed CBP official told the Washington Post that “parents with children comprise about half of the migrants currently held in CBP custody.”

Based on current trends, NBC predicted that August’s Border Patrol migrant apprehensions could increase to 160,000. If that happens, migration will have recovered to the high levels last seen in May (171,387), the last month before the Biden administration replaced the Title 42 pandemic policy with a restrictive new asylum rule. Migration dropped sharply in the weeks after Title 42’s termination, but as WOLA’s recent Border Updates have noted, that lull is now ending.

The asylum rule, facing revocation

As covered in many recent updates, the Biden administration had replaced Title 42 with an administrative rule that blocks access to asylum, with some exceptions, to all non-Mexican migrants who (a) come to the border between ports of entry (land border crossings), instead of making an appointment using Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) “CBP One” smartphone app; and (b) did not try and fail to seek asylum in at least one other country along their route. People subjected to the rule are deported—and deported into Mexico if they are citizens of Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, or Venezuela—and banned from entry into the United States for five years.

In a July 27 exchange with Spanish-language journalists, the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) assistant secretary for border and immigration policy, Blas Núñez-Neto, revealed that since the rule went into effect on May 11, his Department has deported more than 85,000 people to 115 countries (not all of them asylum seekers). Of that total, 4,000 of the deportees were citizens of Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela returned back into Mexico, as the Mexican government agreed when Title 42 ended. The rest are Mexican citizens sent back to Mexico, or other countries’ citizens placed aboard deportation flights, which total about 120 per month.

The emerging July apprehension totals indicate that this asylum rule is not deterring desperate migrants. “Each crackdown is followed by a short-term drop in apprehensions, as migrants adopt a “wait and see” approach,” Dara Lind observed in a July 28 analysis for the American Immigration Council’s Immigration Impact site. “But as it becomes clear that at least some people are successfully getting into the U.S. – and as situations in migrants’ home countries, or the countries they’re waiting in, may become harder to bear – border apprehensions start to increase again.”

As noted in WOLA’s July 28 Border Update, the asylum ban is in legal peril anyway. A U.S. district judge struck it down on July 25, agreeing with migrant rights defenders who argued that it is contrary to existing law guaranteeing the right to seek asylum. The Biden administration is appealing this decision, and on August 3 the  federal judiciary’s Ninth Circuit kept the asylum rule in place while deliberations continue. Should the Ninth Circuit’s eventual decision concur with the district court and strike the rule down, the administration may go to the Supreme Court.

203 civil, human rights, and immigrant rights organizations (including WOLA) signed an August 2 letter to President Joe Biden asking him to desist from appealing the district judge’s July 25 decision and “redouble your focus on effective, humane, and legal solutions.” A letter to DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and Attorney General Merrick Garland from 13 U.S. senators and 53 representatives, all Democrats, called for an end to application of “expedited removal” to asylum seekers, a process requiring people to defend their cases within days of apprehension while still in CBP’s austere custody conditions, usually with no access to counsel.

CBP One, an insufficient “carrot”

Along with its tough asylum rule, the Biden administration has sought to keep post-Title 42 Border Patrol apprehensions low by steering asylum seekers to the ports of entry (official border crossings), creating a system of appointments accessible from northern Mexico using CBP One, a smartphone app. CBP One appointments now total 1,450 per day, leading in recent months to record numbers of migrants able to access the ports of entry instead of crossing rivers, climbing border fencing, or otherwise ending up in Border Patrol custody.

That number of appointments still means migrants must wait, usually unemployed and insecure, for weeks or months in Mexican border cities before they get a chance to approach the ports of entry. In Matamoros, across from Brownsville, Texas, that has spurred the formation of a massive encampment of migrants along a mile-long stretch of the Rio Grande, despite a recent reported increase—from 350 to 600 per day—in CBP One appointments at the Brownsville port of entry.

In the midst of a deadly, historic heat wave in much of the border zone, this has been intolerable for many migrants, Sister Norma Pimentel, who runs Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley and its migrant shelter services in south Texas, told NBC News. “She said many of the families who come to her shelter are there because they can no longer wait in the ‘merciless heat’ and live under the threat of violence in Mexico.”

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Weekly U.S.-Mexico Border Update: July 28, 2023

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.


A federal judge has vacated the Biden administration’s two-month-old rule restricting access to asylum for many migrants at the border. The rule, which puts asylum out of reach for migrants who don’t make an appointment or first seek it in another country en route, went into effect after the Title 42 policy’s termination. The ruling, in response to a lawsuit brought by several organizations, found that the so-called “transit ban” rule is contrary to existing law. Judge Jon Tigar stayed his own decision for 14 days, and the administration will appeal it.

Mexican authorities apprehended 58,097 migrants during June 2023. This breaks Mexico’s previous migrant apprehensions record by more than 11 percent. Venezuela was the number-one nationality of migrants encountered, but several other nationalities doubled from May to June. Along with data from Honduras and Panama, Mexico’s numbers point to a sharp increase in migration following Title 42’s termination, even as authorities on the U.S. side of the border encounter fewer migrants.

Fallout continues from a whistleblower’s revelation that police and National Guardsmen deployed to the border by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) are being instructed to mistreat asylum-seeking migrants: telling them to swim across the river back to Mexico, denying them water amid extreme heat, and laying down concertina wire that is wounding many. Meanwhile the Department of Justice has filed suit to compel Texas to remove a “wall of buoys” in the middle of the river in Eagle Pass; Mexico has filed diplomatic protests; and Abbott’s deployed forces are arresting female migrants and employing mobile phone surveillance software.


District court strikes down Biden administration asylum rule

A federal court in California struck down the Biden administration’s two-month-old rule restricting access to asylum for many migrants. If courts take no further action to stay Oakland District Court Judge Jon Tigar’s ruling, the administration’s “Circumvention of Lawful Pathways” rule will be lifted by August 9.

The rule (a subject covered in numerous WOLA Border Updates, especially in March, April, and May) went into force on May 11, 2023, the day that the “Title 42” pandemic expulsions policy ended. It blocks access to asylum, with some exceptions, to all non-Mexican migrants who (a) come to the border between ports of entry (land border crossings), instead of making an appointment using Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) “CBP One” smartphone app; and (b) did not try and fail to seek asylum in at least one other country along their route. People subjected to the rule are deported—and deported into Mexico if they are citizens of Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, or Venezuela—and banned from entry into the United States for five years.

Judge Tigar’s decision to strike down the rule resulted from a lawsuit ( East Bay Sanctuary Covenant v. Biden) brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Northern California, Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, and National Immigrant Justice Center, on behalf of East Bay Sanctuary Covenant, American Gateways, Central American Resource Center, Immigrant Defenders Law Center, National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the Tahirih Justice Center. Tigar had promised to issue a decision shortly after hearing arguments on July 19 (see WOLA’s July 21 Border Update).

In 2019, Judge Tigar had struck down a similar “transit ban” rule, when the Trump administration sought to ban asylum for migrants who failed to seek it elsewhere along the way. Though the Biden administration added more exceptions and sought to accompany its rule with alternative legal pathways, Tigar decided that the 2023 rule contravened existing law (especially Section 208 of the Immigration and Nationality Act) in similar ways.

According to the ruling:

  • The Biden administration’s rule is contrary to existing law, which specifically states that the right to asylum exists without regard to how a migrant arrived on U.S. soil. The “clear intent” of the law, Tigar’s decision adds, is that migrants are only expected to seek asylum in another country when it “actually presents a safe option.” Though the law allows the government to impose additional rules on asylum, those must be “consistent” with the law.
  • The rule is “arbitrary and capricious” because it relies on other legal pathways for migration to the United States, like “CBP One” appointments or humanitarian parole for four countries’ citizens, which are unavailable to many asylum seekers.
  • The rule is procedurally invalid because the administration gave the public only 30 days to submit comments. This, in Judge Tigar’s view, did not comply with the Administrative Procedure Act, which lays out the rulemaking process.

The July 25 decision echoes some of the arguments made in tens of thousands of comments that individuals and organizations, from human rights defenders to members of Congress to the UN Refugee Agency, submitted during the 30-day period, which ended on March 27 (WOLA linked to 167 comments, including its own, in its March 31 Border Update).

Some of what many commenters warned about was already coming to pass.

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Weekly U.S.-Mexico Border Update: July 21, 2023

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.


An internal email from a Texas state policeman shed alarming light on the state-funded border security crackdown in Eagle Pass. Migrants are being injured by spools of concertina wire, and local authorities appear to be under orders to refuse humanitarian aid and make them swim back to Mexico in a notoriously dangerous segment of the Rio Grande.

In June, the first full month after the Title 42 pandemic policy ended, U.S. border authorities’ encounters with migrants dropped significantly. The number processed at ports of entry, however, increased to a record level, amid a jump in appointments granted using the “CBP One” smartphone app.

A court in Oakland, California, heard arguments about the Biden administration’s controversial rule limiting access to asylum, which went into effect upon Title 42’s termination. The rule denies asylum to most non-Mexican migrants who fail to make appointments at ports of entry and don’t first seek protection elsewhere along the way. Litigants and migrants’ rights defenders contend that the rule violates U.S. law and endangers migrants waiting in Mexican border cities.


Whistleblower report: Texas border deployment is actively harming asylum seekers

The Houston Chronicle and Hearst Newspapers shared an internal e-mail from Texas State Trooper Nicholas Wingate, a medic assigned to Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s (R) state-funded border security crackdown in Eagle Pass, along the Rio Grande a few hours from San Antonio. It contains troubling revelations—now being confirmed by additional sources—of harm done to migrants by state personnel, apparently on the orders of superiors.

In that part of the border, Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) police and state-funded National Guardsmen have strung miles of razor-sharp coils of concertina wire along the riverbank and shallows. As covered in WOLA’s July 14 Border Update, they are also building a 1,000-foot floating “wall” of buoys in the middle of the river in front of downtown Eagle Pass.

Among recent results of these state operations, from Wingate’s e-mail (with excerpts in quotes):

  • On June 25, 120 people were waiting to turn themselves in on the riverbank, “exhausted hungry and tired” during a record heat wave. The Texas DPS shift officers in command twice gave orders “to push the people back into the water to go to Mexico” despite the drowning risk.
  • On June 30, Texas National Guardsmen, acting on orders, “pressed back” a 4-year-old girl “who attempted to cross the wire.” The girl soon passed out in the 100-plus-degree heat and needed medical attention.
  • That day, troopers found a man with “a significant laceration in his left leg” from the concertina wire. “We asked him what happened and he stated that he had a child who was stuck on a trap in the water. He said that there was a barrel that had casualty wire all over it and his child was stuck on it.”
  • Also that day, a 15-year-old boy broke his leg after a roll of concertina wire forced him to re-enter the river in an area of dangerous currents.
  • That evening, troopers came across a 19-year-old woman “who was in obvious pain stuck in the casualty wire who was doubled over.” She was pregnant and having a miscarriage.

“Due to the extreme heat, the order to not give people water needs to be immediately reversed,” Wingate wrote, adding: “I believe we have stepped over a line into the inhumane.”

The Houston Chronicle had already reported on the federal U.S. Border Patrol’s concern that the concertina wire would complicate rescues. On June 30, Fox News footage showed Border Patrol agents having to use shears to cut through the wire to reach migrants in the river.

Since 2021, Eagle Pass has been a prime crossing point for people seeking to turn themselves in to U.S. authorities and ask for asylum in the United States. It is also a treacherous section of the Rio Grande. In the roughly 75 miles of riverfront of Texas’s Maverick County—which includes Eagle Pass—the sheriff’s office has counted 103 drownings since 2022, according to the New York Times. That includes the July 1 death near Eagle Pass of a Guatemalan woman, her infant daughter, and another child whose body was never recovered.

The Texas state government issued a denial, stating that “no orders or directions have been given under Operation Lone Star that would compromise the lives of those attempting to cross the border illegally.” Texas DPS told The Hill, “There is not a directive or policy that instructs Troopers to withhold water from migrants or push them back into the river.”

Emerging evidence, however, points to the issuance of orders compelling behavior that endangered migrants. According to the New York Times, three other officers have corroborated that “there were explicit orders to deny water to migrants and to tell them to go back to Mexico. Three said they had been told by supervisors that troopers were not to inform the Border Patrol when migrants were in the water or at the Texas riverbank.”

A Texas DPS text message addressed to sergeants, obtained by the Times, read: “Can you please push out a message to your troopers. They are NOT to call BP when they see a group approaching or already on the bank.” The text, the Times added, “directed officers to tell migrants to ‘go back to Mexico’ and to cross the border at one of the international bridges.” To go “back to Mexico” would mean swimming back across a dangerous stretch of river.

A migrant interviewed by the Times showed wounds on his foot from stepping on concertina wire that Texas personnel had submerged in the river’s shallows, causing blood to gush through his tennis shoe. Another witnessed a woman caused “to hit her face on a spike, leaving a gash on her forehead” after a Texas agent roughly pulled a blanket off of a coil of wire at the riverbank, as people were climbing over it.

Further evidence indicates that officials were aware that endangerment of migrants was occurring, and worsening. Texas DPS director Steve McCraw sent an internal e-mail over the July 15-16 weekend, with photos of wounds, noting “that the razor wire had led to an increase in injuries for migrants.” In a July 17 report, USA Today found that, at an Eagle Pass migrant respite center, “the migrants who do stagger in often have slashes from the razor wire.”

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Weekly U.S.-Mexico Border Update: July 14, 2023

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.


Border Patrol found the remains of 10 migrants over the July 8-9 weekend amid a prolonged heat wave in Texas and Arizona. Preliminary data point to another 70 deceased migrants recovered along the border in June. Shifts intensified by climate change are making the border deadlier during the summer’s hottest months.

In Eagle Pass, Texas, a site of frequent migrant drownings, Texas’s hardline state government is experimenting with a “wall” of floating buoys in the middle of the river to block would-be migrants. This and other state government measures have drawn criticism from environmental defenders, a local business, and those—including Border Patrol, in a leaked internal memo—who worry about danger to migrants and the difficulty of rescues.

Preliminary data point to a 39 percent drop in Border Patrol apprehensions of migrants from May to June. This owes to a strict Biden administration rule, imposed after the Title 42 policy ended, that limits access to asylum, as well as a crackdown in Mexico. It also owes to a sharp increase in the availability of daily appointments for asylum seekers to approach land-border ports of entry. June data from Panama point to a 24 percent decrease, from May, in migration through the treacherous Darién Gap region. Data from Honduras, however, show a sharp increase in migration during the first nine days of July.


Extreme heat brings even more migrant fatalities

Border Patrol Chief Jason Owens shared in a July 10 tweet that, just during the July 8-9 weekend, his agents found the remains of 10 people who had died in the U.S.-Mexico border zone “due to the dangerous heat and conditions.” As noted in WOLA’s July 7 Border Update, a July 5 tweet from Owens had alerted about the recovery of 13 deceased migrants in the previous week.

These are the hottest months of the year in the border zone, and “heat dome” phenomena—a result of climate change-related changes to the jet stream and a very strong 2023 El Niño ocean current shift—have brought many consecutive days of triple-digit temperatures to Texas, northern Mexico, and now Arizona. In South Texas, wet bulb temperatures in the low 90s and heat indices near 120 are perilously close to levels ( 95 for wet bulb, 125 for heat index) considered fatal after several hours of exposure, as they overwhelm the human body’s ability to keep cool.

The historic heat in the borderlands is taking a heavy toll on residents with insufficient access to air conditioning and, of course, on the migrant population: both those seeking to cross into the United States undetected, and those waiting in northern Mexico for asylum appointments using the “CBP One” smartphone app.

  • “Preliminary” data passed to the conservative Center Square news website from Border Patrol personnel point to agents having found the remains of 70 deceased migrants near the U.S.-Mexico border in June. Border Patrol’s Del Rio Sector, in mid-Texas, was the most lethal of the agency’s nine southern border sectors, with 22 migrant remains recovered last month. (In regions where they operate, local humanitarian organizations tend to find more remains than Border Patrol reports.)
  • “This year in Brooks County,” in South Texas where many migrants perish while trying to walk around a Border Patrol checkpoint, “there has been 22 confirmed deaths, in terms of recoveries of human remains and bodies,” Eddie Canales of the South Texas Human Rights Center told Democracy Now.
  • In Border Patrol’s El Paso Sector, which includes New Mexico, Sector Chief Anthony “Scott” Good tweeted on July 7 that agents have “recorded over 70 migrant deaths in the remote desert of New Mexico” since October 2022.

“Crossings have historically dipped during the peak summer months when temperatures along the border soar past 100 degrees,” the Washington Post noted on July 12. The Biden administration’s tough post-Title 42 asylum rule, however, may be causing more migrants who cannot access asylum to try to evade capture, and doing so in “more remote areas with greater risk. They may be U.S. deportees, or have criminal records, making them ineligible for CBP One.”

Dehydration and heat stroke are not the only causes of migrant death. A column at The Hill by University of California San Diego neurological surgery resident Alexander Tenorio recalls that the Trump administration’s construction of 30-foot border wall segments south of San Diego caused hospital admissions from migrants falling from the wall to multiply sevenfold since 2019. “Spinal injuries after border falls have cost an additional $26 million.”

Drownings in the Rio Grande and in irrigation canals remain too-common causes of death. On July 1, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) personnel and Texas state police retrieved from the river the bodies of a mother and infant daughter from Guatemala near Eagle Pass. It was near that city, in the Del Rio Sector, where 13 migrants drowned to death in a single September 1, 2022 tragedy (see WOLA’s September 9, 2022 Border Update); about 2 months before that, authorities recovered the bodies of 12 people from the river in a single day.

Texas state government installs a 1,000-foot “wall of buoys”

On July 10, the Rio Grande in Eagle Pass was in the news again, this time as the site of the latest attention-grabbing attempt to seal the border by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R), a vociferous critic of the Biden administration’s border and migration policies.

Trucks delivered, and workers began installing, a 1,000-foot “wall” of large spherical buoys, floating in the middle of the river along the actual aquatic borderline between Eagle Pass and Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico. The line of buoys is anchored to the riverbed and equipped with underwater netting to prevent migrants from swimming under them.

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Weekly U.S.-Mexico Border Update: July 7, 2023

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.


Anecdotal information points to an increase in migrant deaths in the U.S.-Mexico border zone, amid skyrocketing early summer temperatures in the southern United States and Mexico. Border Patrol reported recovering 13 human remains in the past week. A child died of apparent heat exposure in Arizona, and an infant was among the remains of four people recovered from the Rio Grande in a 48-hour period in Texas.

The number of migrants apprehended by Border Patrol remains much lower than before the end of Title 42, while CBP has steadily increased the number of asylum-seeking migrants who may obtain daily appointments at ports of entry. Further south, northern Mexico border cities appear to have a somewhat smaller migrant population, but numbers may be increasing in southern Mexico. Migration through Honduras increased in June, but decreased in Panama’s Darién Gap.

So far in fiscal year 2023, U.S. border authorities have seized about one-quarter less heroin, methamphetamine, and marijuana than they did during the same period a year earlier. Cocaine seizures are up slightly, though, and fentanyl seizures are up 169 percent. Supplies of the potent opioid appear to be glutted, and the U.S. government stepped up interdiction with a “surge” operation between March and May.


More reports of migrants dying in near-record heat

Jet-stream fluctuations left much of the southern United States and northern Mexico trapped in an early summer “heat dome” for about two weeks in June. Reports are pointing to severe consequences for U.S.-bound migrants, both those who attempt to walk through deserts to avoid detection, and those waiting in northern Mexico, often in squalid conditions, for appointments to present themselves to U.S. authorities to seek asylum.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reported receiving a distress call on June 15 from a woman who was attempting to migrate through southern Arizona’s deserts with her two children. Somewhere outside Tubac, a town about halfway between Nogales and Tucson, her 9-year-old son began experiencing seizures. “The female migrant stated her son did not have prior existing medical issues and believed the heat contributed to his medical complications during their walk.” Despite being aerially evacuated, the boy died on June 16.

It used to be unusual to see families attempting to migrate through the desert, seeking to avoid apprehension. Further west, in Arizona’s Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Laurie Cantillo, a board member and volunteer for the Arizona-based organization Humane Borders, told NBC News that she came across “a mother with an infant strapped to her back, neither wearing sun protection” walking in 115-degree heat (46 degrees Celsius).

Just west of El Paso lies Sunland Park, New Mexico, a border municipality in the Chihuahuan Desert. In all of 2022, the Albuquerque Journal reported, the remains of 16 people attempting to cross the border were found in Sunland Park, a figure that combines deaths from heat exposure with deaths by falls from the border wall. In May and June 2023 alone, the number of recorded deaths in Sunland Park is 13, including 5 remains in a 4-day period during the June heat wave.

On the border’s eastern edge, in the Mexican city of Matamoros, Tamaulipas across from Brownsville, Texas, humanitarian workers worry about conditions in a makeshift tent camp. As many as 2,000 asylum seekers are waiting there in the blistering heat for a chance to seek asylum at a port of entry using the “CBP One” smartphone app. On July 5, Reuters published a detailed article and photo essay about conditions at the Matamoros camp, which now extends for a mile along the riverfront. Sister Norma Pimentel of the Texas-based Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley told NBC that many migrants in the camp “are fed up waiting to book appointments.” Efforts to replace the encampment with a more adequate facility are “so disorganized right now,” Pimentel lamented.

“Last week alone,” Border Patrol’s new chief, Jason Owens, tweeted on July 5, the agency “recovered 13 dead migrants” with heat “the leading cause,” and reported 226 heat-related rescues.

Though not necessarily heat-related, Texas’s state Department of Public Safety meanwhile reported recovering the bodies of four people from the Rio Grande in the vicinity of Eagle Pass: two on July 1, one on July 2, and another on July 3. The victims included an infant found with “an unresponsive woman.” None of them possessed identifying documents, so their identities and nationalities are unknown. Two other migrants were pulled from the river alive during those days.

It is not yet clear whether border-zone deaths of migrants in 2023 are on track to exceed the record-breaking levels of 2021 and 2022. “In an emailed statement,” NBC reported, CBP “said it has recorded recent deaths but did not provide a number.” We still await CBP’s count of remains recovered in fiscal year 2022 (October 2021-September 2022), which the agency was required by law to report by December 31, 2022. The unofficial number in the below chart, “more than 890,” comes from the February 2023 text of the Biden administration’s rule limiting access to asylum for people who didn’t first seek it in other countries.

Local humanitarian organizations routinely report higher totals of deaths than CBP does in the regions they cover. For its part, the International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) Missing Migrant Project counted 666 instances of missing migrants along its “U.S.-Mexico border crossing” migration category in the 2022 calendar year, and 222 so far in 2023.

Current U.S.-bound migrant population appears reduced in northern Mexico and Panama, increased in southern Mexico and Honduras

A July 3 New York Times analysis noted that the number of migrants apprehended by authorities on the U.S. side of the border remains roughly half of what it was before May 11, when the Biden administration replaced the Title 42 pandemic expulsions policy with a new rule limiting many migrants’ access to asylum.

The U.S. Border Patrol Chief’s most recent “Week in Review” post to Twitter, covering an 8-day period ending June 29, reported an average of 3,542 migrant apprehensions per day. That was the largest average the Chief’s account had reported since May 19, but still less than half of the more than 7,000 per day reported during the first two weeks of May.

(As Border Patrol does not manage official ports of entry, the agency’s numbers do not include the 1,000-plus people per day, discussed below, who are now securing CBP One appointments at the border since Title 42 ended.)

The Times relayed U.S. border officials’ view that the lull in migration is probably temporary. “Officials believe that migrants have been in a wait-and-see mode since May 12,” as they see what happens to others who attempt to cross.

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U.S.-Mexico Border Update: June 30, 2023

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.


Official reports and video released and divulged over the past week shed more light on two troubling mid-May fatalities involving Border Patrol: the May 17 death in custody of 8-year-old Panamanian migrant Anadith Danay Reyes Álvarez, and the May 18 shooting death of 58-year-old U.S. citizen and Indigenous community member Raymond Mattia.

Regional migrant processing centers, an initiative of the State and Homeland Security departments working with UN agencies, began accepting online applications in Colombia, Costa Rica, and Guatemala. So far, the Centers’ scope appears to be more modest than the departments’ original announcements had indicated, with only a small number of nationalities able to access them, and capacity limits quickly saturated.

For Mexico’s authorities, May 2023—which included the final 11 days of the Title 42 policy—was the 10th-busiest month this century, with 40,020 migrant apprehensions from 99 countries. A large plurality of migrants, 43 percent, were Venezuelan. Haiti leads the nationalities of Mexico’s 63,463 asylum applicants so far this year, with 41 percent of the total.


More information emerges about May Border Patrol-involved deaths

Official reports and video released and divulged over the past week shed more light on two troubling mid-May fatalities involving Border Patrol: the May 17 death in custody of 8-year-old Panamanian migrant Anadith Danay Reyes Álvarez, and the May 18 shooting death of 58-year-old U.S. citizen and Indigenous community member Raymond Mattia.

On June 22, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP, Border Patrol’s parent agency) released edited body-worn camera footage depicting Raymond Mattia’s death. (The video contains heavy profanity and graphic violence.) At about that time, the Pima County, Arizona Medical Examiner’s autopsy report also became public.

The evidence confirms that three agents, shooting rapid volleys of bullets, hit Mattia nine times on the evening of the 18th, as he stood outside his home on the lands of the Tohono O’odham nation in southern Arizona. The video shows:

  • A call from Tohono O’odham police informs Border Patrol of a report of shots fired in a general area, and the two forces respond jointly. The call does not name any person or address. As NBC News coverage noted, “It is unclear how agents determined the shots came from Mattia,” if shots in fact were fired.
  • As they move through the desert toward Mattia’s home, agents sound highly agitated; one in particular, as Reason’s analysis put it, was “clearly already in a nervous, aggressive, hunter mindset.” The footage, NBC remarked, indicated that the agents “knew Mattia and had pinpointed him as the person responsible for firing shots.” As they search for him, one agent refers to Mattia as “this motherf——.”
  • As 10 Border Patrol agents and Tohono O’odham police converge on his house, Mattia comes outside. Tribal police tell him to put down his weapon. Mattia complies, tossing toward the police a sheathed machete or hunting knife, which according to a family member he had recently used while chasing off some migrants who had entered his home.
  • Border Patrol agents, shouting profanity-filled commands, order Mattia to take his “hands out of his f—ing pocket.” Mattia, complying, abruptly removes his hand, holding an object down and to the right. Three agents, apparently believing the object to be a weapon, immediately open fire multiple times, and Mattia falls to the ground. The object in Mattia’s hand was a mobile phone.

Mattia’s relatives say they know nothing about “shots fired” in the area that evening, and that Mattia “thought the agents were there to respond to his previous call about migrants on his property,” NBC reported. Family members told the Intercept that they are perplexed about why agents decided to zero in on Mattia’s home. “The dispatcher states that they couldn’t pinpoint where the shooting was coming from, but yet, when they are there at the rec center, they’re coming straight to my uncle Ray’s house, with their guns drawn,” said Mattia’s niece, Yvonne Nevarez.

Mattia appears to have had a complicated past relationship with Border Patrol. The Intercept noted that Mattia, a member of his village’s community council, “had been outspoken against the corruption he saw on the border, including corruption involving border law enforcement.” Amy Juan, a leader of the Tohono O’odham Nation in southern Arizona and northern Sonora, told the Border Chronicle podcast that Mattia had “been vocal, not just now, but in the past and recently, about the activity happening that he’s seen in his community, namely, involving Border Patrol. Corruption, and being involved in illegal activities there.” On an episode of the Border Patrol union-affiliated podcast, meanwhile, National Border Patrol Council Vice President Art del Cueto was quick to point out that Mattia had a prior arrest record.

The agents who fired their weapons are currently on leave with pay, as is standard in such use-of-force incidents. CBP’s most recent statement notes that the incident “is being investigated by the Tohono O’odham Police Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation and is being reviewed by CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR).” Once these investigations conclude, CBP’s National Use of Force Review Board will review the incident and make disciplinary recommendations, if any.

In fiscal year 2021, the last year for which data are available, this Review Board and local review boards declined to issue sanctions in 96 percent of the 684 cases they reviewed. Of the other 24 cases, 11 ended up with counseling for the agents involved, and the other 13 remained under investigation or pending action as of April 2022.

“There’ll be an investigation, an assessment of the force used, and we are going to look at tensions in the community,” Gary Restaino, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona, said on June 23. Frank Figliuzzi, a former civil rights supervisor for the FBI in San Francisco, shared with NBC News his belief that the agents may not be disciplined “given that officers were responding to a ‘shots fired call,’ the way Mattia pulled out his phone, and the darkness of the environment, among other factors.”

The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times reported on internal Department of Homeland Security (DHS) documents finding fault with CBP’s care for medically fragile migrants in the agency’s custody, following the May 17th passing of Anadith Reyes. That day, her family’s ninth in Border Patrol custody and the day after measuring a 104.9 degree fever, Reyes—who had a documented history of heart problems and sickle-cell anemia—died of influenza in Border Patrol’s Harlingen, Texas station holding facility.

Reyes’s parents—most recently in an interview with ABC’s GMA3 program, have said that they asked agents and contract medical personnel many times to give Anadith more urgent care. Her mother reiterated that personnel were not interested in reviewing the medical documents that she had brought with her. “She says she felt like medical personnel thought she was lying about how sick her child was feeling,” according to ABC. “She says Anadith told the staff ‘I can’t breathe from my mouth or my nose.’” CBP’s initial review of what happened upholds the family’s account of refusals of multiple requests for more urgent assistance.

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Weekly U.S.-Mexico Border Update: June 23, 2023

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.


CBP released data covering migration at the U.S.-Mexico border in May, which was an important transitional month because the Title 42 pandemic expulsions policy came to an end on May 11. The agency encountered 61 percent fewer migrants after May 11 than it did during the month’s first 11 days. CBP expanded appointments for asylum seekers using the “CBP One” app, but other asylum seekers subject to the Biden administration’s new “transit ban” rule faced high barriers to protection.

The House of Representatives Appropriations Committee passed, on a party-line vote, its 2024 budget bill for the Department of Homeland Security. It reflects the priorities of the House’s Republican majority and directly confronts Biden administration priorities at the border. The bill, which stands little chance of passage in anything resembling its current form, would restart border wall building, hire 1,800 Border Patrol agents, expand migrant detention, and slash funding for processing, humanitarian assistance, alternatives to detention, and detention oversight.

The family of 8-year-old Anadith Danay Reyes Alvarez laid her to rest at a June 16 funeral service in New York. “We want justice for her so that no one else has to go through this,” read a statement. Reyes died of influenza on May 17, after nine days in Border Patrol custody in Harlingen, Texas, where Border Patrol personnel and medical contractors failed to heed the family’s pleas for urgent aid.



May migration data reflect post-Title 42 decline

On June 20 U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) released data about its encounters with migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border in May 2023. This was an important transitional month, because the Title 42 pandemic expulsions policy came to an end on May 11.

The monthly numbers show a mixed picture, as they combine the period before May 11, when CBP’s daily migrant encounters at times exceeded 10,000, with the period after Title 42’s end, when migration dropped sharply amid uncertainty over how the Biden administration would apply a new rule restricting access to asylum.

In border areas between ports of entry, CBP’s Border Patrol component reported 169,244 “encounters” with migrants during May. That was 8 percent fewer than in April, and 25 percent fewer than in May 2022. A majority of those “encounters” (98,850) happened during the first 11 days of May. Border Patrol’s daily average dropped from 8,986 on May 1-11 to 3,520 on May 12-31. That is a reduction of 61 percent.

Regular posts to the Twitter account of outgoing Border Patrol Chief Raúl Ortiz indicate that encounter numbers remain lower in June, with daily averages staying flat, ranging between about 3,000 and 3,300.

In addition to Border Patrol’s encounters between ports of entry (official border crossings), CBP’s Office of Field Operations encountered 35,317 more migrants at the ports. This is a new single-month record, exceeding the number of migrants at ports of entry in April 2022, when CBP processed a large number of Ukrainians following the Russian invasion.

Of that 35,317, 4 out of 5 (28,696) were asylum seekers who had succeeded in making appointments to apply at ports of entry, using a feature on CBP’s smartphone app, “CBP One.” In mid-January, the app became—with very few exceptions—the only way to secure an asylum appointment at a port of entry. Between then and May 31, CBP reports that more than 106,000 people have used the app to make appointments.

After May 11, CBP increased the number of daily CBP One appointments it would accept. The daily average had been about 740-760 between December and April, but increased to 1,273 during the last 20 days of May. As of June 1, CBP is accepting 1,250 per day.

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Weekly U.S.-Mexico Border Update: June 2, 2023

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.

Border Updates will pause for the next two weeks as staff take vacation time. We will resume publication on June 23.


Very preliminary data indicate that, following a sharp fall in the days after the Title 42 policy’s end, numbers of U.S.-bound migrants have either flattened out or begun to increase again. Shelters are full in much of Mexico, meanwhile, where authorities continue to move large numbers of migrants toward the country’s southern border.

Asylum seekers who have been unable to secure “CBP One” appointments have begun lining up, for days at a time, at ports of entry in Nogales and Tijuana. The situation resembles CBP’s practice of “metering”—limiting asylum seekers’ access to ports of entry, and only allowing a small number per day to be processed—which a federal court declared to be illegal in 2020.

A few more details have emerged about the May 18 death of Raymond Mattia, a 58-year-old man shot multiple times by Border Patrol, while apparently unarmed, in the front yard of his house in the Tohono O’Odham Nation Reservation in Arizona. Family and friends have held protests and are pushing for accountability.

The Full Update

What we know about post-Title 42 migration

Three weeks have passed since the end of the pandemic-era Title 42 policy, which expelled migrants 2.8 million times from the U.S.-Mexico border over 38 months, regardless of asylum needs. Contrary to many predictions, the period following Title 42’s end saw a sharp drop in the number of migrants encountered at the border, from an early May high of over 10,000 per day to a mid-May low of less than 3,000 per day. (See WOLA’s May 19 Border Update.)

This drop is unlikely to persist for long, and early indications point to the number of migrant encounters already beginning to recover after touching their lowest level.

The quick drop after May 11, the last day of Title 42, likely owed to migrants adopting a “wait and see” stance amid uncertainty about the Biden administration’s new policies. On May 10, the departments of Homeland Security and Justice put in place a new administrative rule curtailing access to asylum, with a few exceptions, for all non-Mexican migrants (1) who were not first rejected for asylum in another country through which they passed, and (2) who did not make an appointment at a land port of entry (official border crossing) using CBP’s smartphone app, CBP One. Citizens of Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela who meet both of those conditions may be deported into Mexico.

Lacking clarity about how this rule will play out, migrants who intend to seek asylum are crossing in much smaller numbers, at least for now. But very partial data seem to point to overall migration numbers ticking up slightly during the final days of May.

Along the route that U.S.-bound migrants take, most countries’ migration authorities share monthly data within two or three weeks after a month ends. As we await this data, we have partial clues about what post-May 11 migratory flows have looked like. The few available indicators, though, mostly uphold the idea of a reduction in migration followed by a gradual increase.

In the United States, Border Patrol Chief Raúl Ortiz’s Twitter account shares periodic updates with some of the agency’s enforcement statistics from previous days. During May, these show Border Patrol’s migrant apprehensions rising during the first third of the month, falling during the second third, and leveling off or even recovering a bit during the final third.

Ortiz’s “past week” tweets show a continuous decline since May 11: a per-day average of 7,850 apprehensions on May 6, 9,680 on May 12, 4,068 on May 19, and 3,149 on May 26. However, a “past 96 hours” tweet posted May 30 showed a daily average higher than what it was in Ortiz’s two previous updates: 3,396 apprehensions per day. That is 16 percent more than what the Chief had reported in a “past 72 hours” tweet 8 days earlier, on May 22 (2,917).

We have close to real-time data from Border Patrol’s El Paso Sector, thanks to a “dashboard” that El Paso, Texas’s municipal government posts to its website. That resource does not show any increase in migration during the latter days of May. It shows 7-day averages of 1,522 Border Patrol migrant apprehensions per day during the week ending May 14, 734 per day the week ending May 21, and 672 per day the week ending May 28. As of May 31, the 7-day average in El Paso had dropped to 543.

The leveling-off, or slight increase, indicated by Chief Ortiz’s tweets does not appear to be happening in El Paso.

Honduras is the only country along the migration route that publicly shares data in something close to real time. Its early data do appear to point to some recent increase in migration transiting Honduras, after only a modest decline.

The number of migrants registering with Honduran authorities reached an average of 918 per day on May 1-10, the end of the Title 42 period. That fell to 805 per day the following week, and 690 the week after that. Interestingly, the drop from post-Title 42 week 1 to week 2 was entirely Venezuelan: the population of non-Venezuelan migrants actually increased.

Then, during the final four days that Honduras reports—May 25-28—the daily average increases once again, to 737 per day. Much of the increase is Venezuelan migration.

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Weekly U.S.-Mexico Border Update: May 26, 2023

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 in Brief:

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) released two notices this week about fatal incidents involving Border Patrol. Anadith Tanay Reyes Álvarez died on May 17, her 9th day in Border Patrol custody in Texas. Her mother said her appeals for medical assistance did not get a timely response. On the evening of the 18th, agents shot a 58-year-old member of the Tohono O’odham nation multiple times in southern Arizona. The shooting was captured on agents’ body-worn cameras.

Even as post-Title 42 migrant arrivals slow at the U.S.-Mexico border, the picture inside Mexico is confusing. Mexican authorities have temporarily closed some migrant detention centers while moving migrants from its northern and southern border zones to the nation’s interior. In Mexico City, the closure of a municipal shelter has left hundreds of migrants occupying a park near the offices of the government’s refugee agency.

April 2023 was the third-heaviest month ever for migrants transiting the Darién Gap, a treacherous jungle region straddling Colombia and Panama. 63 percent were from Venezuela. As the U.S., Colombian, and Panamanian governments carry out a “60-day surge campaign” launched April 20, senior Biden administration officials are considering sending U.S. military personnel.

Documents obtained by CBS News show more than 1.5 million people in the United States have signed up to sponsor migrants from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, for a new  humanitarian parole program that accepts 30,000 people per month. The largest number of applications are for Haitians.


The Full Update

CBP reports two fatal incidents involving Border Patrol

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) released two notices this week about fatal incidents involving Border Patrol: one in the agency’s custody, and one in a use of force incident.

On May 21, CBP offered some information about the May 17 death of an eight-year-old Honduran girl in a Border Patrol facility in Harlingen, Texas. Anadith Tanay Reyes Álvarez died—possibly of influenza, though medical examiners have not yet issued a finding—on her family’s ninth day in custody. Her parents had provided documents to Border Patrol showing she suffered from a heart condition and sickle cell anemia.

The family had turned themselves in to Border Patrol in Texas on May 9, two days before the Title 42 pandemic expulsion policy came to an end, a time when Border Patrol was apprehending more than 10,000 people per day. This may have prolonged the family’s time in custody, although the Associated Press reported that by May 14, the average time in custody border-wide had fallen to 77 hours while the rate of new apprehensions dropped rapidly. Under normal circumstances, migrants are meant to spend no more than 72 hours in Border Patrol’s austere holding facilities.

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