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

Border Updates

Daily Border Links: March 28, 2024

Get daily links in your email

Developments

A Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals panel decided, by a two-to-one margin, to maintain a stay on Texas’s controversial S.B. 4 law, preventing it from going into effect while the Court considers legal challenges. The law would empower Texas law enforcement to arrest people anywhere in the state on suspicion of having crossed the border improperly; if found guilty, defendants would have the choice of prison or deportation into Mexico. (Mexico’s government has declared that it will not permit state-government deportations.)

The court will hear arguments on S.B. 4’s constitutionality on April 3. At stake is whether states can devise and implement their own independent immigration policies, and whether there is any validity to the claims of politicians like Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) that asylum seekers and other migrants meet the constitutional definition of an “invasion.”

In Ciudad Juárez, the Casa del Migrante, one of the city’s principal migrant shelters, “has been filling up in recent days as families and single adults looking for an opportunity to seek asylum in the United States are again arriving in Juarez in large numbers,” according to Border Report. Rev. Francisco Bueno Guillen, the shelter’s director, said it “went from being 20 percent full a couple of weeks ago to 75 percent capacity as of Monday.” The city’s municipal shelter is also three-quarters full.

The Los Angeles Times reported from “Gate 36” in the border wall south of El Paso, across the Rio Grande from Ciudad Juárez, where Texas national guardsmen have been confronting asylum seekers hoping to turn themselves in to the federal Border Patrol.

481 organizations sent a letter to President Joe Biden asking him to extend Temporary Protected Status for Haitian migrants in the United States, to halt deportation flights and maritime returns to Haiti, and to increase the monthly cap on access to Humanitarian Parole for people still in the country, where governance is near collapse.

Participants in a “Migrant Via Crucis” march through Mexico’s southernmost state, Chiapas, told EFE that they reject Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s offer of $110 per month, six-month stipends for citizens of Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela who return home.

Asked during his visit to Washington whether he believes that border walls work, Guatemalan President Bernardo Arévalo told CBS News, “I think that history shows they don’t. What we need to look for is integrated solutions to a problem that is far more complex than just putting a wall to try to contain.”

The six construction workers presumed dead in the collapse of Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge were people who had migrated from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

Analyses and Feature Stories

A jump in Mexican encounters with Venezuelan migrants contrasts with low numbers of Venezuelan migrants on the U.S. side of the border, indicating that many Venezuelan citizens are stuck in Mexico right now. The Associated Press confirms that Mexico’s increased operations to block migrants have many Venezuelan citizens stranded in the country’s south, including in Mexico City, which is within the geographic range of the CBP One app and its limited number of available appointments.

NBC News highlighted the dilemma of migrant women who were raped by criminals in Mexico while en route to the United States, and now find themselves in states like Texas where, following the 2022 Supreme Court Dobbs decision, it is illegal to obtain an abortion. Often, the rapes occur while migrants are stranded—usually for months—in Mexican border cities as they await CBP One appointments.

At the London Review of Books, Pooja Bhatia combined a narrative of Haiti’s deteriorating security situation with an account of the challenges that Haitian asylum seekers face at the U.S.-Mexico border. Bhatia reported from the dangerous border in Tamaulipas, Mexico, and highlighted the role of humanitarian workers and service providers, including staff of the Haitian Bridge Alliance.

  • Pooja Bhatia, Leaving Haiti (London Review of Books, March 28, 2024).

Colleen Putzel-Kavanaugh and Muzaffar Chishti of the Migration Policy Institute explained that many of today’s proposals to restrict asylum access and otherwise crack down on migration will not work because the U.S. government can no longer “go it alone.” Reasons include the diversity of countries migrants are coming from, as well as the policies of other governments, such as varying visa requirements, refusals to accept repatriations, and the Mexican government’s unwillingness to receive expelled migrants from third countries.

On the Right

Daily Border Links: March 27, 2024

Get daily links in your email

Developments

Mexico’s president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, revealed some U.S. data from March about migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border. (U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) probably won’t share March data until the second half of April.)

Slides posted at López Obrador’s March 26 morning press conference indicated that CBP encountered 6,307 migrants per day during the first 21 days of March. Removing the approximately 1,450 per day who get CBP One appointments at ports of entry shows Border Patrol apprehending less than 5,000 people per day during the month’s first 3 weeks.

Though migration usually increases in springtime, these revealed numbers show that is not happening this year. In February, CBP averaged 6,549 migrant encounters per day (4,890 per day in Border Patrol custody). In other words, it appears that slightly more migrants per day came to the border in February than so far in March. If the trend continues, this would be only the second time that March migration is less than February migration in the 25 years for which we have data (since 2000).

The March data show that U.S. encounters with migrants from Venezuela continue to be far fewer than the past two years’ average. The United States’ encounters with Venezuelan migrants dropped sharply in January and have not recovered: they totaled 20,364 in January and February. On March 25 Mexico updated its own migrant encounter numbers, which show 56,312 encounters with Venezuelan citizens in January and February—almost 3 times more than the U.S. figure. That points to a strong likelihood that the Venezuelan population in Mexico is increasing sharply right now.

Mexico’s data show that its migration authorities encountered almost exactly 120,000 migrants in February, for the second straight month. Before January, Mexico’s monthly record for migrant encounters was about 98,000. This is evidence that Mexico’s government has stepped up efforts to interdict migrants in its territory so far in 2024.

At his press conference, López Obrador added that he is seeking to expand to citizens of Colombia and Ecuador a program that would pay US$110-per-month stipends to citizens of Venezuela who agree to return to their home countries. The program would depend on the cooperation of Mexican corporations with a presence in South America.

Mexico’s National Guard has increased patrols in an area of Tijuana, not far from the Pacific, where smugglers frequently help migrants climb the border wall to turn themselves in to Border Patrol agents.

An annual Easter week march of migrants near Mexico’s southern border—not exactly a “caravan,” but an organized “Migrant Via Crucis”—has walked over 10 miles through Chiapas, the country’s southernmost state, and plans to cover a similar distance today. Its numbers have reportedly dwindled to about half of the approximately 3,000 participants with which it began.

Texas’s state government deployed about 200 members of its National Guard’s “Texas Tactical Border Force” to El Paso. El Paso Mayor Oscar Leeser said, “It’s something that we didn’t request, and we won’t request from the state of Texas.”

The head of Guatemala’s migration agency, who worked in the government that left power in January, resigned yesterday. While the reason for Stuard Rodríguez’s departure is not known, it is notable that it takes place while the new president, Bernardo Arévalo, is in Washington and discussing migration with U.S. officials.

“Rodriguez made several reports during his administration of the increase of migrant expulsions, especially of Cubans and Venezuelans,” noted the Guatemalan daily Prensa Libre.

In Tucson, Arizona, local authorities now believe that federal funds—made possible by Congress passing a budget over the weekend—will arrive in time to prevent closure of shelters that receive migrants released from CBP custody. The prospect of “street releases” in Tucson and other Arizona border towns is now unlikely.

Analyses and Feature Stories

Conservative politicians and media outlets are going after the non-profit shelters that receive migrants released from CBP custody in U.S. border cities, along with other humanitarian groups, noted Miriam Davidson at The Progressive. Tucson’s Casa Alitas and El Paso’s Annunciation House have been subject to aggressive misinformation and legal attacks so far this year.

On the Right

Daily Border Links: March 26, 2024

Get daily links in your email

Developments

Guatemala’s reformist new president, Bernardo Arévalo, visited the White House yesterday, where he met separately with President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. Migration was a central topic in both of Arévalo’s conversations.

Arévalo and Harris reportedly discussed “providing lawful pathways to migrants, increasing cooperation on border enforcement, and… U.S. support for Guatemala’s migration management efforts.” A White House release stated that the Biden administration plans to provide Guatemala with an additional $170 million in security and development assistance, pending congressional notification.

Vice President Harris touted the administration’s “Root Causes Strategy,” which she claimed has created 70,000 new jobs, helped up to 63,000 farmers, supported 3 million student’ education, and trained more than 18,000 police officers and 27,000 judicial operators in Central America.

The leaders announced no changes to the U.S.-backed “Safe Mobility Office” (SMO) in Guatemala that links some would-be migrants to legal pathways. The prior administration of President Alejandro Giammattei (whose U.S. visa has since been revoked amid corruption allegations) had reduced the SMO’s scope to serve only citizens of Guatemala.

Despite a crushing backlog of cases, the number of U.S. immigration judges actually declined in the first quarter of fiscal 2024, from 734 to 725. That means “each judge has 3,836 cases on average,” pointed out Kathleen Bush-Joseph of the Migration Policy Institute. (That number is greater if one uses TRAC Immigration’s higher estimate of the immigration court backlog.)

In less than three years, Texas state law enforcement has arrested 13,000 migrants under the framework of Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) so-called “Operation Lone Star.” About three quarters of the arrests are for misdemeanor trespassing. Texas has carried out these arrests and imprisonments even without S.B. 4, a pending law that—if courts allow it to proceed—would empower Texas law enforcement to arrest, jail, and deport people on suspicion of crossing the border improperly.

Now that Congress has approved a 2024 federal budget, Arizona community leaders are wondering when funds will arrive to help non-profits receiving migrants released from CBP custody at the border. Those funds are about to run out, which could lead to CBP leaving released migrants on the streets of Tucson and other Arizona border-zone cities.

As Easter week begins, about 2,000 migrants participated in a “Migrant Via Crucis” march, what has become an annual event in Mexico’s southern border-zone city of Tapachula.

In a Twitter response to comments that Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador made in a 60 Minutes interview, House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana) accused Mexico’s president of “coddling cartels and demanding the United States bankroll even more mass migration into our country.” Johnson called for a revival of the Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” policy.

Analyses and Feature Stories

Mexico’s government’s ability and willingness to help control migration flows make it a key player on an issue with the potential to sway the election,” a New York Times analysis found. However, “behind closed doors, some senior Biden officials have come to see [Mexican President Andrés Manuel] López Obrador as an unpredictable partner, who they say isn’t doing enough to consistently control his own southern border or police routes being used by smugglers.”

At Lawfare, Ilya Somin of the Cato Institute dismantled an argument that has become increasingly mainstream among Republican politicians: that asylum seekers and other migrants crossing the border constitute an “invasion” and that states have a constitutional right to confront them with their own security forces. Somin warns that the “invasion” idea, if upheld, could allow border states “to initiate war anytime they want,” and permit the federal government to suspend habeas corpus rights.

On the Right

Daily Border Links: March 25, 2024

Get daily links in your email

Developments

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) provided updated data late on Friday about migration through February at the U.S.-Mexico border. (Search this data at cbpdata.adamisacson.com.)

Some key points:

  • Border Patrol apprehended 140,644 migrants in February, up 13 percent from January but still the 7th-fewest apprehensions of the Biden administration’s 37 full months.
  • 49,278 migrants came to ports of entry, 42,100 of them (1,452 per day) with CBP One appointments. This is similar to every month since July 2023.
  • Combining Border Patrol and port-of-entry encounters, CBP encountered 189,922 migrants at the border in February. The top nationalities were Mexico (33 percent), Guatemala (13 percent), Cuba (7 percent), Colombia (6 percent), and Ecuador (6 percent).
  • Migration from Venezuela continues to drop, despite elevated numbers of Venezuelan migrant encounters measured in Mexico, Honduras, and Panama’s Darién Gap. U.S. authorities encountered 8,769 Venezuelan citizens in February, the fewest since March 2023. Of that total, 64 percent (5,585) reported to ports of entry; Border Patrol apprehended only 3,184.
  • Border-zone seizures of fentanyl totaled 1,186 pounds in February, the fewest fentanyl seizures at the border of any of fiscal year 2024’s five months. After five months, fiscal year 2024 fentanyl seizures total 8,021 pounds, 27 percent fewer than the same point in fiscal year 2023. This is the first time fentanyl seizures have declined since the drug began to appear in the mid-2010s. Ports of entry account for 85 percent of this year’s fentanyl seizures.

In late February, press reported that the Biden administration was considering new executive actions at the border, like limits on access to asylum or a ban on crossings between ports of entry. But then nothing happened: Politico reported that the White House has stood down “in part, to the downtick in migration numbers” so far this year.

Executive actions are not off the table, however. Axios reported that “President Biden is still considering harsh executive actions at the border before November’s election.” These actions, which may involve expelling migrants regardless of asylum needs, would stand on shaky legal foundations and be difficult to apply to migrants of many nationalities.

Officials in Panama reported that the number of migrants crossing the Darién Gap so far in 2024 has now exceeded 101,000. At the end of February, the number stood at 73,167; this means that the March pace remains, as in January and February, at a bit over 1,200 people per day. Of this year’s migrants, nearly two thirds (64,307) are citizens of Venezuela.

Texas police have begun firing rubber bullets at migrants, a Ciudad Juárez human rights activist told EFE. Texas authorities fired tear gas canisters at migrants camped on the El Paso bank of the Rio Grande, after they began pulling on the concertina wire that Texas has laid between the river and the border wall.

The Houston Chronicle reported that Texas state National Guardsmen threatened migrants on the Eagle Pass riverbank with deportation under Texas’s controversial S.B. 4 law—even though the law is not in effect while judicial challenges continue.

Authorities in El Paso say they will not prosecute migrants arrested under S.B. 4 if their arrests are found to have resulted from profiling. In the Rio Grande Valley, sheriffs say they do not expect to arrest many people under S.B. 4 because they don’t expect to witness many illegal border crossings.

Guatemala’s government added its voice to international opposition to Texas’s S.B. 4 law.

“I think the migrants that we encounter, that are turning themselves in, yes, I think they absolutely are, by and large, good people,” Border Patrol Chief Jason Owens told CBS News’s Face the Nation. But “what’s keeping me up at night is the 140,000 known got-aways” so far this fiscal year.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams, who has loudly complained about asylum seekers arriving in his city, canceled a trip to Brownsville and McAllen, Texas, citing unspecified “safety concerns” about the Mexico segment of his visit. Adams was responding to an invitation from Sr. Norma Pimentel of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, which runs a large respite center in McAllen.

Analyses and Feature Stories

The New York Times reported on the recent movement of migration away from the Texas border, with more people coming to California, Arizona, and New Mexico. Though the picture is complex, the Texas state government’s crackdown, especially the unknown consequences of the currently on-hold S.B. 4 law, is a factor. (However, migration has also been declining all year, even during the spring, in Border Patrol’s busy Tucson, Arizona sector.)

Ransom kidnappings and other attacks on migrants are worsening at the Mexico-Guatemala border, especially the central region where the Pan-American Highway crosses into Chiapas, reported Milenio.

At the New York Review of Books, Caroline Tracey documented an abandoned, unpopular plan to construct a massive Border Patrol checkpoint on I-19, the highway between Tucson and the border at Nogales, Arizona. The case highlighted the tension between security concerns and economic and human rights considerations.

  • Caroline Tracey, Checkpoint Dreams (The New York Review of Books, March 23, 2024).

As Mexican farmworkers migrate to the United States, often on temporary work visas, Mexico is facing its own farm labor shortages and is considering setting up its own guest-worker program for citizens of countries to Mexico’s south, the Washington Post reported.

On the Right

Weekly U.S.-Mexico Border Update: March 22, 2024

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.

Support ad-free, paywall-free Weekly Border Updates. Your donation to WOLA is crucial to sustain this effort. Please contribute now and support our work.

THIS WEEK IN BRIEF:

A report and database from No More Deaths document a rapid increase in the number of migrant remains recovered in Border Patrol’s El Paso Sector, which covers far west Texas and New Mexico. A preponderance of deaths occur in or near the El Paso metropolitan area, within range of humanitarian assistance. CBP meanwhile released a count of migrant deaths through 2022, a year that saw the agency count a record 895 human remains recovered on the U.S. side of the border. Heat and drowning were the most frequent causes of death.

Nearly six months into the fiscal year, Congress on March 21 published text of its 2024 Homeland Security appropriation. As it is one of six bills that must pass by March 22 to avert a partial government shutdown, the current draft is likely to become law with few if any changes. Congressional negotiators approved double-digit-percentage increases in budgets for border security agencies, including new CBP and Border Patrol hires, as well as for migrant detention. The bill has no money for border wall construction, and cuts grants to shelters receiving people released from Border Patrol custody.

Texas’s state government planned to start implementing S.B. 4, a law effectively enabling it to carry out its own harsh immigration policy, on March 5. While appeals from the Biden administration and rights defense litigators have so far prevented that, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court have gone back and forth about whether Texas may implement the controversial law while appeals proceed. As of the morning of March 22, S.B. 4 is on hold. Mexico’s government has made clear it will not accept deportations even of its own citizens if carried out by Texas.

THE FULL UPDATE:

Read More

Daily Border Links: March 22, 2024

Get daily links in your email

Developments

Mexico filed an amicus curiae brief in federal court in support of the ongoing challenge to Texas’s state immigration law, S.B. 4. The brief argues that the law, which would allow state law enforcement to arrest, imprison, or deport people suspected of crossing the border improperly, would do significant harm to Mexican citizens living in Texas.

Mexican Foreign Minister Alicia Bárcena told the Washington Post that her government would place “increased vigilance and controls” along the Texas border to prevent Texas state authorities from carrying out their own deportations without Mexico’s permission.

Across Texas’s 254 counties, sheriffs are unclear about how they are meant to enforce S.B. 4 if courts give the strict law a green light, the Associated Press reported. “If we start going and talking to everybody and asking for papers, where do we stop?” asked the president of the Texas Sheriff’s Association.

In El Paso, a group of migrants on the U.S. bank of the Rio Grande pushed their way past Texas state National Guard personnel blocking access to the border wall, where they hoped to turn themselves in to federal Border Patrol agents. Video showed a chaotic scene.

S.B. 4 is “not going to stop us from doing our job,” Border Patrol Chief Jason Owens said in a CBS News interview, adding that there is “no better partner for the Border Patrol than the Texas Department of Public Safety.” Owens called for “jail time” for more migrants who cross the border between ports of entry, and cited a “need to take a look at the asylum laws and make it where only people that have a legitimate claim can claim asylum.”

CBP released body-worn camera footage of the February 17 death, apparently by suicide, of a man in a holding cell at a Laredo, Texas checkpoint. The footage does not show the exact circumstances of how the man died because “the video recording system at the Border Patrol checkpoint was not fully functioning at the time of the incident.”

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas was in Guatemala. With President Bernardo Arévalo, the Secretary reviewed nine topics including migration. The migration talks focused on information sharing and “coordinated operational plans” against smugglers.

Arévalo will be in Washington Monday, where he will meet Vice President Kamala Harris. Mayorkas noted that the “Safe Mobility Office” established in Guatemala in mid-2023 has “already helped more than 1,500 Guatemalans safely and lawfully enter the United States” via legal pathways.

Speaking to Guatemala’s Prensa Libre, Assistant DHS Secretary for Border Policy and Migration Blas Nunez-Neto said that organized crime has taken over the migrant smuggling business all along the U.S.-bound route: “The cartels that previously had no direct participation in the movement of people in an irregular manner are increasingly controlling these flows.”

So far in 2024, the U.S. and Mexican governments have deported 20,018 citizens of Guatemala back to their country by air, more than 5,000 above the total at the same time in 2023. The United States has returned 18,437 people on 154 flights, while Mexico has returned 1,632 on 15 flights.

Mexico’s government reached an agreement with Venezuela’s government to facilitate aerial deportations of Venezuelan citizens back to Caracas. As part of the deal, some of Mexico’s largest corporations, would employ Venezuelan deportees, paying them a “stipend” of US$110 per month for a six-month period. “We’re sending Venezuelans back to their country because we really cannot handle these quantities,” said Foreign Minister Alicia Bárcena.

Criminals have kidnapped a group of 95 Ecuadorian migrants in the Pacific coastal region of Chiapas, Mexico’s southernmost state.

Federal authorities arrested a historic leader of the MS-13 gang at the San Ysidro port of entry south of San Diego on March 7.

On the Right

Daily Border Links: March 21, 2024

Get daily links in your email

Developments

This morning the congressional appropriations committees made public the text of the 2024 Homeland Security appropriations bill, one of six budget bills that Congress needs to pass by Friday to avert a government shutdown.

The legislation provides the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with $61.8 billion for fiscal year 2024, which is nearly half over—DHS has been operating at 2023 funding levels. Provisions include:

  • A $3.1 billion increase in Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) budget, to $19.6 billion.
  • $496 million to sustain 22,000 Border Patrol agents. (As of the 4th quarter of 2022, Border Patrol had 19,359 agents; reaching 22,000 has been more an issue of attrition and recruitment challenges than lack of budget.)
  • $19 million to hire 150 new CBP officers at ports of entry.
  • Funding for 41,500 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention beds, which is 7,500 above the 2023 level and the amount in the Republican-majority House of Representatives’ version of the bill.
  • $650 million to fund state and local governments’ efforts, usually funding NGOs, to receive recently released asylum seekers and other migrants through FEMA’s Shelter and Services Program (SSP). This is probably similar to 2023 levels, depending on whether CBP would transfer additional money for the SSP’s activities as it did last year.
  • “Up to an additional $2.2 billion is available to ensure that asylum seekers are processed quickly, ports and other border facilities are not overcrowded, and Border Patrol has the tools it needs to improve border security,” reads a release from Senate appropriators.
  • There is no money in the bill for additional border wall construction. Congress rejected the administration’s $165 million request for a third joint processing center for apprehended migrants.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals held a hearing to consider whether to maintain a stay on Texas’s controversial migration restriction law, S.B. 4, which is currently on hold as appeals of legal challenges continue (see yesterday’s border links). The three judges in yesterday’s proceedings were a Biden nominee, a Trump nominee, and a George W. Bush nominee.

It is unclear how the panel will decide on whether to allow Texas to implement S.B. 4 while appeals proceed, or when that decision might come. Judges’ comments during the hearing indicated clear disagreements.

The law would allow state law enforcement to arrest people suspected of migrating from Mexico into Texas without authorization, and to imprison them if they do not agree to allow Texas authorities to deport them into Mexico. Texas state lawyers said that the state does not plan to carry out its own deportations—Mexico refuses to accept non-federal deportees—but instead to turn captured migrants over to CBP personnel at ports of entry. But the Biden administration’s DHS has declared that it would not cooperate with enforcement of S.B. 4, a law that it is challenging in court.

Texas lawyers sought to argue that S.B. 4 aims to work within the framework of a 2012 Supreme Court decision striking down an Arizona immigration-restriction law. While the hearing was ongoing, though, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) gave remarks arguing that the law instead reflects the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s dissenting opinion in that 2012 ruling.

The appeals court will hold another hearing on April 3 about S.B. 4’s overall legality (not just the question of whether it can be implemented during appeals).

Immigration judges have thrown out about 200,000 deportation cases during the Biden administration “because the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) hadn’t filed the required Notice to Appear (NTA) with the Court by the time of the scheduled hearing,” according to documentary evidence obtained by TRAC Immigration. “In three-quarters of these 200,000 cases the immigrant was effectively left in legal limbo without any way to pursue asylum or other means of relief,” TRAC’s analysis notes.

The DHS Inspector-General reported on unannounced July 2023 inspection visits to CBP holding facilities in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley. Though this was a moment of relatively less migration—the post-Title 42 lull—the agency’s investigators found Border Patrol routinely holding migrants at processing centers for more than the 72-hour limit set by policy.

Analyses and Feature Stories

With its migration policies—its cooperation on blocking northbound migrants, its response to Texas’s S.B. 4 law—the government of Mexico has leverage over U.S. election outcomes, argue analyses by Washington Post columnist Eduardo Porter and Los Angeles Times reporter Patrick McDonnell.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador condemned S.B. 4 as “dehumanizing” during his morning press conference yesterday. Foreign Minister Alicia Bárcena said that the law could cause “phenomenal chaos.”

At the Darién Gap, the New York Times covered visits from right-wing social media influencers, who interview migrants at posts on the Panamanian end of the trail, often taking their statements out of context in order to make them appear more threatening. Their videos focus on single male, Muslim, and Chinese migrants.

At the Los Angeles Times, Andrea Castillo reported on vulnerable Democratic legislators’ recent tendency to vote for harder-line Republican border and migration legislation in order to stave off conservative attacks.

The Republican governors of Texas and California were far more moderate on immigration issues twenty years ago, noted an analysis at Time from University of Houston Professor Brandon Rottinghaus, which narrates the party’s rightward lurch.

On the Right

Daily Border Links: March 20, 2024

Get daily links in your email

Developments

Texas’s strict new immigration law, S.B. 4, is currently on hold after a roller-coster day of judicial proceedings that defies description. The main question at issue has been whether Texas can begin implementing the law while federal courts consider appeals.

Between December 18 and March 17Between March 18 and the morning of March 20
December 18, 2023: Texas governor Greg Abbott (R) signs S.B. 4 into law. It would go into force on March 5.

December 19: The ACLU, El Paso County, Las Americas Immigrant Advocacy Center, and American Gateways sue to challenge the law.

– January 3, 2024: the Biden administration Justice Department sues to challenge S.B. 4. This suit and the ACLU suit are later combined.

February 29: U.S. District Court Judge David Ezra, a Reagan appointee, blocks S.B. 4’s implementation. Texas appeals.

March 3: The federal Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals allows Texas to implement S.B. 4 while it considers Texas’s appeal. However, it delays implementation until March 10, to allow the Biden administration to ask the Supreme Court to rule whether the law may go into effect while appeals continue.

March 4: The Supreme Court keeps S.B. 4 on hold until March 13 while it decides how to proceed.

March 12: The Supreme Court extends its stay until 5:00PM Eastern on March 18.
March 18: just after 5:00PM, the Supreme Court keeps in place its hold on S.B. 4, without an end date.

– March 19: by a 6-3 decision, with its Republican-appointed majority of justices voting together, the Supreme Court allows S.B. 4 to go into effect while appeals continue.

– March 19: with a late-night order on a 2-1 vote, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals suspends implementation of S.B. 4 while deliberations continue.

– March 20: the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals is to hear arguments about the stay of S.B. 4’s implementation.

– April 3: The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals is to hear arguments about the challenges to S.B. 4 that Judge Ezra upheld on February 29.

If it goes into effect, S.B. 4 would allow Texas state police and National Guard personnel to arrest people on suspicion of having migrated without authorization. Courts could then imprison defendants or deport them to Mexico. Rights advocates worry that this would allow Texas to carry out its own immigration enforcement—a federal responsibility—while upholding spurious claims that asylum seekers constitute an “invasion” and creating incentives for racial profiling throughout the state.

A dissent yesterday from Supreme Court Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ketanji Brown Jackson warned that the law “will disrupt sensitive foreign relations, frustrate the protection of indi­viduals fleeing persecution, hamper active federal enforce­ment efforts, undermine federal agencies’ ability to detect and monitor imminent security threats, and deter noncitizens from reporting abuse or trafficking.”

After the Supreme Court’s decision allowing S.B. 4 to go ahead, Mexico’s government issued a strongly worded statement refusing to receive migrants deported by Texas state authorities. “We fundamentally disagree with the Supreme Court’s order allowing Texas’ harmful and unconstitutional law to go into effect,” read a White House statement.

Analyses and Feature Stories

Lighthouse Media, El Paso Matters, and La Verdad de Juárez published a detailed investigation and a 16-minute video about the March 2023 Ciudad Juárez migrant detention facility fire that killed 40 people whom migration authorities had locked inside. The report highlighted glaring safety failures and Mexican authorities’ likely criminal behavior. It is based on newly revealed security footage, court documents, and survivor interviews. The report notes that a year later, Francisco Garduño, the commissioner of Mexico’s National Migration Institute (INM), remains in his post.

Daily Border Links: March 19, 2024

Get daily links in your email

Developments

A “handshake agreement” between congressional leaders and the White House appears to have resolved differences over the 2024 Department of Homeland Security (DHS) appropriation, the largest federal budget sticking point that negotiators needed to overcome to avoid a partial government shutdown after Friday (March 22).

Details of the Homeland Security budget compromise are not yet available, but should be coming shortly. It will be an actual appropriations bill for 2024, instead of—as some reporting had indicated was likely—a “continuing resolution” freezing the Department at 2023 levels through the end of the year.

A group of 41 ultraconservative House Republicans wrote a letter urging their colleagues to reject a bill that doesn’t include “core elements” of H.R. 2, a bill approved on party lines last May that would, among other things, all but end the right to seek asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border. It is unclear (but unlikely) whether hardliners in either congressional chamber will have opportunities to offer amendments this week.

Minutes after a 5:00 deadline expired, the Supreme Court indefinitely suspended application of Texas’s draconian new state immigration law, S.B. 4, while lower-court appeals continue. S.B. 4 would allow Texas law enforcement, anywhere in the state, to imprison or deport non-citizens who cross the border improperly—allowing the state to enforce federal immigration law and possibly enabling “show me your papers” scenarios statewide.

S.B. 4 was to go into effect on March 5. The Biden administration Department of Justice, the ACLU, and other organizations sued to challenge the law, and on February 29 a federal district judge blocked its implementation. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals “un-blocked” the law, staying the lower-court judge’s decision while considering Texas’s appeal, but gave time for the Supreme Court to decide whether to keep it blocked. Justice Samuel Alito temporarily suspended S.B. 4’s implementation twice—through March 13 and through March 18—but this latest stay is open-ended.

A new report and database from No More Deaths, an organization that has mainly worked in Arizona, provided the first documentation of migrant deaths in Border Patrol’s El Paso Sector, which includes far west Texas and New Mexico. Its mapping finds that a majority of deaths are happening not in remote areas of the Chihuahuan Desert, but in the immediate environs of El Paso and neighboring Sunland Park, New Mexico. This means many migrants are dying painful and preventable deaths within a short distance of help.

The report confirms local organizations’ longstanding contention that Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) estimates of migrant deaths on U.S. soil, which total over 9,500 between 1998 and 2022, under-report the true number.

Yesterday, Border Patrol agents found the remains of a migrant not far from Sunland Park.

CBP yesterday released its own reporting on migrant deaths—for fiscal year 2022, which ended nearly 18 months ago. The agency’s Border Rescues and Mortality Data document reported the recovery of 895 migrants’ remains in 2022, a record by far.

Of remains whose gender could be identified, 79 percent were men. Where cause of death could be identified, 43 percent were heat-related and 20 percent were water-related (mainly drowning). The deadliest of Border Patrol’s nine sectors was Del Rio, Texas (29 percent), where drownings in the Rio Grande are frequent, followed by the Texas’s Rio Grande Valley and Arizona’s Tucson. Of the 23 nationalities that could be identified, 64 percent were citizens of Mexico.

Migration will be on the agenda next Monday (March 25) when Guatemala’s new president, Bernardo Arévalo, meets with Vice President Kamala Harris. Arévalo plans to host a regional ministerial meeting on migration in April.

Texas state national guardsmen prevented a large group of asylum-seeking family migrants from turning themselves in to federal agents at the border wall’s Gate 36 in El Paso.

An internal Border Patrol memo recounted the apprehension of a Lebanese man in El Paso on March 9 who told agents he had come to “try to make a bomb.”

Daily Border Links: March 18, 2024

Get daily links in your email

Developments

Friday is the deadline Congress has set to approve the 2024 Homeland Security appropriations bill, among other long-delayed budget legislation for a fiscal year that is nearly halfway over. Congressional negotiators have yet to publicize the text of any agreed legislation.

Failure to pass this and five other budget bills could cause a partial government shutdown unless Congress passes another “continuing resolution” keeping federal departments running at 2023 levels for a fixed period of time.

A shutdown would not immediately impact the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), most of whose employees are considered “essential” or are funded by fees.

Congress may decide to fund DHS with a continuing resolution all the way to the end of fiscal year 2024, as border programs are proving too controversial to permit bipartisan agreement during an election year. A full-year continuing resolution could fund DHS at levels approved at the end of 2022, by what was then a Democratic-majority Congress.

The Supreme Court is to decide today whether to allow Texas to start implementing a controversial migration-restriction law while appeals continue in lower courts. The law, S.B. 4, allows Texas state law enforcement anywhere in the state to arrest migrants whom they believe crossed the border irregularly, then jail them or deport them to Mexico. Critics “have said the law could lead to racial profiling and family separation,” the Associated Press observed. The Supreme Court stayed the law until March 18. It is currently before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals after a district court judge struck it down.

The Biden administration’s Family Expedited Removal Management program, a very strict “alternatives to detention” program that closely monitors some family asylum seekers after release into the United States, has been applied to 19,000 people since May, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) data obtained by the New York Times. “More than 1,500 of them have been deported and around 1,000 have absconded by prying off their ankle monitors.”

Pima County, Arizona, which includes Tucson, is running out of federal funds to provide short-term shelter for asylum-seeking migrants released from CBP custody. As is already happening in San Diego, where funds ran out last month, this could mean daily drop-offs of hundreds of homeless migrants on Tucson’s streets, Reuters reported.

Al Otro Lado and the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS), groups based in California and Baja California, have filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit to get information about Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP)’s policies for “open-air detention sites.” The term refers to the austere outdoor encampments on the borderline where Border Patrol agents have been making asylum seekers wait to turn themselves in, often for days.

An upsurge in organized crime violence along the border between Mexico’s violent northern-border state of Tamaulipas and adjacent Nuevo León, south of southern Texas, is displacing thousands of people, some of whom are seeking to cross the U.S. border. Some towns in the area have lost 80 percent of their population.

Kidnappers in Tamaulipas released a Russian migrant without forcing her to pay ransom, handing her over at a police station in Reynosa, the city across the river from McAllen, Texas.

Though violence in Haiti has reached emergency levels, the U.S. Coast Guard continues to return Haitians encountered at sea to the island. “There is a specific disdain when it comes to Haitian asylum-seekers,” Guerline Jozef of the Haitian Bridge Alliance told NBC News. “The first [U.S.] act is not ‘How do we protect the people?’ it is ‘How do we deter them and how do we make sure they don’t make it to our shores?’”

U.S. diplomats met with counterparts from Ecuador on March 13-14. Ecuador committed to extend the “Safe Mobility Office” operating in its territory through the end of 2024, and U.S. diplomats agreed to “facilitate access to lawful pathways, such as H2 visas, for Ecuadorian citizens.” The State Department “confirmed receipt” of an Ecuadorian request for Temporary Protected Status for citizens of Ecuador who have migrated to the United States.

The government of Honduras has done away with a seven-day “pre-check” requirement for visiting Nicaraguans, a policy that had been in place since 2017. That eases travel through Central America for Nicaraguan citizens; under a 33-year-old arrangement, citizens of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua may visit each others’ countries without use of passports.

Analyses and Feature Stories

The Washington Post’s Nick Miroff reported that the Biden administration has doubled last year’s pace of the credible fear screening interviews that asylum officers administer to some protection-seeking migrants at the border. However, as the DHS workforce includes only about 1,000 asylum officers, “the number of people screened remains a small fraction of the number who cross the border illegally. And the government does not have the detention capacity to hold others long enough to interview them.”

Of those subjected to the interviews—about 24,500 in January—59 percent are passing, Miroff reported. This is down from about 85 percent between 2014 and 2019, before the Biden administration raised the “fear” standard that interviewees must meet.

A new memo from Human Rights First cited several cases of migrants, from China, Venezuela, Egypt, and Ecuador, who faced strong examples of persecution but, now that credible fear standards have been raised, failed to clear the screening and were ordered deported.

Smuggler use among migrants in Latin America and the Caribbean is not as common as perceived, with two out of every five respondents hiring smugglers, according to a new report from the Mixed Migration Center, based on over 3,000 surveys of migrants in Costa Rica, Honduras, and Mexico. It found that use of smugglers declined from 49 percent of respondents in 2022 to 34 percent in 2023.

The San Diego Union-Tribune covered muralists’ work on newly rebuilt, taller segments of border wall near the Pacific Ocean in Tijuana.

Weekly U.S.-Mexico Border Update: March 15, 2024

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.

Support ad-free, paywall-free Weekly Border Updates. Your donation to WOLA is crucial to sustain this effort. Please contribute now and support our work.

THIS WEEK IN BRIEF:

73,167 people made the treacherous northbound journey through the Darién Gap region straddling Colombia and Panama during the first two months of 2024. That is 47 percent ahead of the same period in 2023, a year that ended with over 520,000 people migrating through. Panama’s government suspended Doctors Without Borders’ permission to provide health services at posts where the Darién trail ends; the announcement’s timing is curious because the organization had been denouncing rapidly increasing cases of sexual violence committed against the people whom their personnel were treating.

The White House sent Congress a $62 billion budget request to fund the Department of Homeland Security in 2025. The base budget for Customs and Border Protection would decrease slightly, though the agency would share in a $4.7 billion contingency fund for responding to surges in migration. The administration proposes to hire 1,300 Border Patrol agents, 1,000 CBP officers, 1,600 USCIS asylum officers, and 375 new immigration judge teams. The budget request stands almost no chance of passing this year, as Congress has not even passed the Department’s 2024 budget.

For at least a few more days, the Supreme Court has kept on hold Texas’s controversial S.B. 4 law, which allows state authorities to jail and deport migrants, while lower-court appeals continue. A federal judge threw out Texas’s and other Republican states’ challenge to the Biden administration program offering humanitarian parole to citizens of Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. A state judge blocked Texas’s legal offensive against El Paso’s Annunciation House shelter.

The Republican response to President Biden’s March 7 State of the Union address included a graphic, harrowing story of a woman being subjected to years of sexual violence at the border. Further scrutiny revealed that Sen. Katie Britt’s (R-Alabama) account described crimes committed in Mexico during the Bush administration. President Biden voiced regret for using the term “an illegal” to refer to a migrant who allegedly killed a Georgia nursing student in February, in an off-the-cuff response to Republican hecklers during his address.

THE FULL UPDATE:

Read More

Daily Border Links: March 15, 2024

Get daily links in your email

Developments

Posting to Twitter while on a visit to Panama’s side of the Darién Gap, human rights lawyer Julia Neusner reported that Panamanian police used force to put down a peaceful protest staged by migrants stranded at a government-run reception center. At least 12 migrants who had participated in the protest were detained, and their relatives do not know where they are.

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana) told Politico that he expects to pass a “stand-alone” Ukraine and Israel aid bill, with Democratic votes. If accurate, this would be a significant about-face, because it could mean dropping Republican legislators’ insistence that such a bill include border and migration language, like new limits on access to asylum.

The Speaker has been blocking consideration of a foreign aid bill that the Senate passed in February, because it had no border language attached to it. The Senate had failed to pass an earlier version with negotiated “border deal” language, which would have allowed some expulsions of asylum seekers at the border.

The number of cross-border incursions of drones, apparently operated by Mexican organized crime groups, “was something that was alarming to me as I took command last month,” Gen. Gregory Guillot, the commander of U.S. Northern Command, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 14. “We could probably have over a thousand” drones crossing over the border each month, Guillot added. “I haven’t seen any of them manifest in a threat to the level of national defense, but I see the potential only growing.” Organized crime uses drones for surveillance—what Guillot called “spotters trying to find gaps”—or to move small amounts of high-value drugs.

“The number of Chinese [citizens] that are coming across the border is a big concern of mine,” Gen. Guillot added, in response to a question from Sen. Eric Schmitt (R-Missouri). Among Guillot’s concerns: “while many may be political refugees and other explanations, the ability for counter intelligence to hide in plain sight in those numbers.”

Asylum seekers released from CBP custody, and seeking to board commercial flights from border cities to their U.S. interior destinations, must now submit to facial recognition technology when passing through airport security if they lack passports. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) abruptly rolled out the new policy this week, apparently without informing airlines or other Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agencies. As a result, dozens of migrants ended up stranded in Texas border towns, the Associated Press reported, after being unable to board flights for which they had purchased non-refundable tickets.

With federal funds for migrant shelters running out, raising the likelihood that CBP may start releasing asylum seekers on the street, Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs (D) wrote a letter to congressional leaders asking for $752 million to pay for migrant services and shelters.

Analyses and Feature Stories

Analysts at Mexico City’s Universidad Ibero published a 250-page report on the militarization of Mexico’s civilian migration agency (National Migration Institute, INM). It points to the agency’s increasing portrayal of migrants as “internal enemies”; the use of military-grade weapons in migrant detention operations (by Mexican National Guard personnel accompanying INM agents); placement of retired officers in INM managerial positions; and use of surveillance technologies, among other indicators. The report sees a U.S. government role in encouraging some of these changes.

Coyotes bringing a group of migrants over the border wall will sometimes “intentionally push [a] person off the wall so that Border Patrol has to provide healthcare, so the remaining individuals can scramble and get away more freely,” Rajiv Rajani, chair of the Department of Orthopedic Surgery and Rehabilitation at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) in El Paso, told Newsweek.

“The CBP One app is plagued with technical problems and privacy concerns, and it raises troubling issues of inequitable asylum access, including facial recognition software that misidentifies people of color,” Sen. Ed Markey (D-Massachusetts) told NextGov in a statement.

Daily Border Links: March 14, 2024

Get daily links in your email

Developments

Panama’s government reported data through February about migration in the treacherous Darién Gap region. During the first two months of 2024, 73,167 people made the journey, much more than the 49,291 who did so during January-February 2023. By the end of 2023, a once-unthinkable total of 520,085 people had transited the Darién jungles.

Of this year’s migrant population, 64 percent are citizens of Venezuela—similar to 2023 (63 percent). The next four most frequent nationalities are Ecuador, Haiti, Colombia, and China—also similar to 2023. (View graphics and data of Darién Gap migration by year and month.)

In 2023, U.C. San Diego Health “saw 500 head injuries” from migrants who had fallen from the 30-foot-high Trump-era border wall between San Diego and Tijuana, “with many patients needing surgery,” a local television station reported. The per-patient cost for surgery got treat traumatic head injuries is about $250,000; UCSD Health neurosurgeon Joseph Ciacci said that “taxpayers are footing the bill.”

A Mexican National Guard and National Migration Institute (INM) deployment has brought a sharp drop in the number of asylum-seeking migrants coming to Jacumba Springs, California, just over an hour’s drive east of San Diego. Daily crossings, which were so frequent that people were stuck in encampments on the borderline waiting for Border Patrol to process them, have dropped from 800 to 70, said the INM delegate to Baja California. The official added that the agency expects people to seek to cross elsewhere as a result. (Border Report noted last week that crossings have increased sharply in nearby Campo, California.)

As the political and security situation in Haiti devolves further into a humanitarian emergency, CNN revealed that the Biden administration is considering reactivating a facility to process Haitians interdicted at sea, at the U.S. naval base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Those processed will be returned to Haiti or a third country.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), an opponent of protection-seeking migration from Latin America, has sent 250 national guardsmen and state police, and over a dozen air and sea craft, to the state’s southern coast to “combat illegal vessels” carrying “a potential influx of illegal immigrants” from Haiti, in DeSantis’s words.

Analyses and Feature Stories

WOLA’s Adam Isacson (this update’s author) made public a tool (cbpdata.adamisacson.com) that improves public access to CBP’s 2020-24 migration dataset. It generates custom tables of numbers revealing migrants’ nationalities, demographic characteristics, geographic areas of arrival, and whether they came to ports of entry or areas in between.

On the Right

Daily Border Links: March 12, 2024

Get daily links in your email

Developments

The Biden administration sent its 2025 budget request to Congress yesterday. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) submission repeats many items that appeared in a supplemental funding request that failed to pass the Senate in early February. These include the hiring of 1,300 Border Patrol agents, 1,000 CBP officers, 1,600 USCIS asylum officers, and 375 new immigration judge teams, along with “$849 million for cutting-edge [fentanyl and other contraband] detection technology at ports of entry.”

The Customs and Border Protection (CBP) request foresees a reduction in the agency’s overall budget, from an enacted level of $20,968,070 in 2023 to a requested level of $19,764,120 in 2025.

As in the 2024 budget request—which Congress still has not passed, with the next deadline coming up on March 22—the administration is seeking a flexible $4.7 billion “emergency fund” to deal with migration surges. Republican legislators refused to support the idea last year, calling it a “slush fund.”

A close read of the CBP request finds some notable performance metrics:

  • 11.8 percent of Border Patrol’s apprehended migrants made “at least a second attempt” to enter in fiscal 2023, down from 16.6 percent in 2022. The decline owes mainly to the end of the Title 42 policy, when re-entries followed large numbers of rapid, consequence-free expulsions.
  • Border Patrol estimated that agents interdicted 75.6 percent of illegal entries in 2023, similar to 75.9 percent in 2022 but down from 82.6 percent in 2021 and 86.3 percent in 2019.
  • Border Patrol carried out 26 joint operations with Mexican “law enforcement partners” in 2023, up from 23 in 2022 but down from 39 in 2019.

President Biden told reporters that he is no longer considering executive action on migration at the border, like a legally dubious order to expel asylum seekers when daily migration exceeds a particular amount. On February 21, several media outlets had reported that the White House was considering such an action. Yesterday, Biden instead called on Congress to change the law.

If the Supreme Court does not act, a controversial Texas state law will go into effect tomorrow (March 13). S.B. 4 would allow authorities to imprison and deport people who cross the border irregularly, which may imply authorities in Texas’s interior demanding that people they encounter prove that they did not enter the United States that way. A federal judge blocked S.B. 4 on February 29, but the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals un-blocked it while deliberations continue.

Texas and other Republican states will appeal a federal judge’s March 8 ruling throwing out their effort to end the Biden administration’s use of humanitarian parole authority to permit the entry of some citizens of Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela.

In El Paso, a Texas state judge blocked the conservative state government’s legal attacks on Annunciation House, a decades-old shelter that receives migrants released from CBP custody. In early February Texas Attorney-General Ken Paxton (R) demanded that the shelter turn over a large amount of records on very short notice or risk revocation of its operating license. In a hearing last week, State District Court Judge Francisco Dominguez’s written opinion called out “the Attorney General’s efforts to run roughshod over Annunciation House, without regard to due process or fair play,” alleging politicized motives.

“When an organization leaves there is always a concern for the organizations to be able to meet those needs,” said Panama-based UNICEF official Margarita Sánchez, about Doctors Without Borders’ (MSF) forced departure from the Darién Gap. ” So, in this case, we hope that, surely, the Panamanian state can respond to that need.” Last week, MSF revealed that Panama’s government had revoked the organization’s permission to provide medical care to migrants arriving at posts where the dangerous Darién trail ends.

MSF had been denouncing a sharp recent rise in cases of sexual abuse, which raises questions about the motives and timing of the Panamanian government’s decision to suspend the group’s activities. “Blocking the operations of MSF sends a chilling message to the international aid community to censor their communications,” International Crisis Group investigator Bram Ebus told the New Humanitarian. There is no word yet on whether Panama might be persuaded to reconsider.

The State Department announced that it has begun denying visas of executives of charter airline companies that offer flights to Nicaragua, which requires visas of few arriving nationalities, to people who intend to migrate from there to the U.S.-Mexico border.

Analyses and Feature Stories

Deaths of migrants by drowning are worsening in the Rio Grande, which is swollen by recent rains, Aaron Nelsen reported at Texas Monthly. “No U.S. or Mexican agency, however, keeps a comprehensive count of migrant deaths,” and there is little coordination between local and national agencies on either side of the border.

Though the actual policy is “murky,” Mexico is busing apprehended people to the country’s south at an increased pace in order to slow U.S.-bound migration, the Guardian reported. The PBS NewsHour spoke to migrants stranded in Mexico’s southern border-zone city of Tapachula.

President Biden’s off-the-cuff State of the Union remark referring to a migrant as an “illegal,” Jose Antonio Vargas wrote at CNN, “does underscore the political reality that, in the Trump era, the country has veered right on immigration, and the language that shapes the anti-immigrant policies being pushed at almost all governmental levels reflects it.”

At the New Republic, a lengthy analysis by Luisita Lopez Torregrosa looked at recent Republican gains in south Texas’s Latino-majority Rio Grande Valley border region.

Daily Border Links: March 11, 2024

Get daily links in your email

Developments

A helicopter crash near Rio Grande City, Texas claimed the lives of a Border Patrol agent and two members of the New York National Guard. A third New York National Guardsman is seriously injured. The cause of the UH-72 Lakota crash, while on a routine flight, is as yet unknown. The Guard personnel were working with Joint Task Force-North, a decades-old Defense Department Northern Command component that supports Customs and Border Protection (CBP)—not the state National Guard mission within Texas’s separate, state-funded “Operation Lone Star.”

In the televised Republican response to President Joe Biden’s Thursday State of the Union address, Sen. Katie Britt (R-Alabama) told a harrowing story about migration and the border. Further coverage revealed that Britt left out key context and manipulated the narrative.

Speaking from her kitchen, the senator told of meeting a woman in the border town of Del Rio, Texas, who told of being a victim of human trafficking and suffering thousands of rapes from the age of 12.

Sen. Britt used the story as an example of the failure of Joe Biden’s border policies, but closer scrutiny—led by a TikTok video from former AP reporter Jonathan Katz—revealed that the crimes happened more than 15 years ago, during the Bush administration. The victim, activist Karla Jacinto Romero, has spoken publicly about what was done to her, including in U.S. congressional testimony, and the crimes happened in Mexico, not the United States.

President Biden voiced regret about using the word “illegal” to refer to a migrant who allegedly killed a Georgia nursing student in February, in an off-the-cuff response to Republican heckling during the State of the Union address.

A federal district court judge in Texas threw out a lawsuit from Texas and 20 other Republican-led state governments that sought to block President Biden’s use of a 1950s humanitarian parole authority to give a temporary documented status in the United States to citizens of Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela with passports and U.S.-based sponsors. (The “CHNV” program has allowed 365,000 citizens of those countries—up to 30,000 per month permitted—to fly to the United States since late 2022.)

Judge Drew Tipton, a Trump nominee, ruled that Texas lacks legal standing to stop Biden’s use of the policy because the state government failed to demonstrate that it “suffered an injury,” particularly since the parole program is linked to a drop in arrivals of those countries’ citizens at the border. Texas can still appeal.

In a separate decision on a suit brought by Texas and other Republican-led state governments, Tipton temporarily blocked the Biden administration from stopping Trump-era border wall construction and redirecting money to environmental remediation. The administration can still appeal.

A March 9 video from Samira Gozaine, the director of Panama’s Migration Service, said that more than 82,000 people have migrated through the Darién Gap so far this year. That is nearly equal to the total Panama measured for the entire first three months of 2023 (87,390). During all of 2023, Panama counted over 520,000 migrants, a previously unthinkable sum for a route that rarely exceeded 1,000 before the mid-2010s.

Of 2,600 migrants put on buses to Costa Rica on March 8, Gozaine said that about 2,100 were citizens of Venezuela, followed in number by citizens of Ecuador, China, Colombia, and Haiti.

Panama has not yet posted February data about Darién Gap migration.

There is no new word on Panama’s controversial decision last week to ban Doctors Without Borders, which has been providing essential health services at reception posts where the Darién Gap jungle trail ends. The organization has been the only source about many hundreds of reports of sexual violence committed against migrants on this route.

Migration has begun to rise in Border Patrol’s El Paso sector, which includes far west Texas and New Mexico. CBP is averaging 1,113 migrant “encounters” per day, up from less than 700 in January, according to the El Paso municipal government’s migration dashboard. Migrant shelter occupancy across the Rio Grande in Ciudad Juárez has increased by 30 percent in the past few days as more people arrive in the region, EFE reported.

The Spanish news agency indicated that word-of-mouth spread about federal courts delaying Texas’s implementation, originally scheduled for March 5, of a draconian state law that would imprison or deport migrants who cross the border irregularly. That law, S.B. 4, will go into effect on Wednesday March 13, unless the Supreme Court decides to keep it on hold while appeals proceed.

Mexico’s government is about to open a new migrant detention facility about 50 miles south of Ciudad Juárez, nearly a year after a March 2023 fire that destroyed a facility in the city, taking the lives of 40 migrants whom guards left locked inside.

At a March 9 party convention in Oklahoma City, 225 state-level Republican leaders voted by a wide margin to censure their senior U.S. senator, James Lankford, for having negotiated the bipartisan “border deal” that failed a month ago in the face of Republican opposition.

Analyses and Feature Stories

A Los Angeles Times column from Brown University’s Ieva Jusionyte links the heavy southbound flow of illegal U.S. weapons into Mexico and Latin America with the northbound flow of migrants. The link between arms trafficking and migration is the subject a forthcoming book by the column’s author.

On the Right

Weekly U.S.-Mexico Border Update: March 8, 2024

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.

Support ad-free, paywall-free Weekly Border Updates. Your donation to WOLA is crucial to sustain this effort. Please contribute now and support our work.

THIS WEEK IN BRIEF:

Leaked data points to a 13 percent increase in Border Patrol migrant apprehensions at the U.S.-Mexico border from January to February. Last month’s unofficial total is high for a typical February, but lower than most months during the past three years. The top two sectors for migrant arrivals were in Arizona and California. Mexico broke its single-month migrant apprehensions record in January, capturing nearly as many people that month as the U.S. Border Patrol did. Migration through Honduras illustrates many migrants’ use of a route that involves flights to Nicaragua.

Boats ferrying people to the beginning of the Darién Gap migration trail halted for five days at the end of February. The transport companies called a strike to protest the Colombian Navy’s seizure of two vessels. Ferries restarted after an agreement with the Colombian government, at a meeting that included the presence of a U.S. embassy official. The Darién route into Panama is growing more treacherous, as Doctors Without Borders is reporting an alarming increase in sexual assaults committed against migrants in the jungle so far this year.

As Democratic senators call on the Biden administration to increase funding for fentanyl interdiction at the border, CBP is reporting fewer seizures so far in fiscal year 2024. The agency is on pace to seize 25 percent less of the synthetic opioid than it did in 2023. This would be the first year-on-year decline after several years of very rapid growth. WOLA charts also depict a reduced pace of heroin and marijuana seizures, and an increased pace of cocaine and (less sharply) methamphetamine seizures.

THE FULL UPDATE:

Read More

Daily Border Links: March 8, 2024

Get daily links in your email

Developments

As expected, President Joe Biden’s State of the Union speech last night referred to the situation of elevated migration at the U.S.-Mexico border. Biden repeated his call on Congress to pass a border bill based on a bipartisan Senate compromise, that was defeated amid Republican opposition in early February. Among its provisions was an authority to expel asylum-seeking migrants when daily encounters reach 4,000 or 5,000 per day, which migrants’ rights defenders vehemently oppose.

Less expected was Biden’s unscripted exchange with Republican House members heckling his remarks. Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene called on the President to say the name of Laken Riley, a nursing student murdered in February, allegedly by a Venezuelan migrant who had been released into the United States after turning himself in to Border Patrol in El Paso in 2022, when the Title 42 expulsions policy was in effect.

Biden complied, referring to the victim as an “innocent young woman who was killed by an illegal,” using a pejorative term to describe undocumented migrants that his administration has discouraged.

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Arizona), who left the Democratic Party in 2022 and helped negotiate the Senate border compromise, invited the head of Border Patrol’s union, an outspoken Biden critic, to be her guest at the State of the Union address. Brandon Judd had appeared alongside Donald Trump during his February 29 visit to the border in Eagle Pass, Texas. Sinema announced this week that she will not seek re-election in November.

Earlier in the day, the Republican-majority House passed a bill called the “Laken Riley Act,” mandating the detention of migrants who enter the country irregularly and are charged with committing theft, as Riley’s alleged killer was. Though this bill will not move in the Democratic-majority Senate, 37 House Democrats voted for it despite language sharply criticizing the Biden administration’s border and migration policies.

The government of Panama has suspended that activities of Doctors Without Borders (MSF), which operates health posts at sites where migrants emerge from the days-long journey through the Darién Gap. The ostensible reason for the suspension is the lack of “a collaboration agreement in force” with Panama’s Ministry of Health. MSF stated that it “has been trying in vain to obtain such a renewal since October 2023.”

The suspension comes just a few days after MSF put out a statement denouncing a sharp increase in their encounters with victims of sexual violence along the Darién route: 233 cases in the first two months after 676 cases in 2023, of which a majority occurred during the final 3 months of last year.

A Journal of the American Medical Association article, covered in the Washington Post, found a sharp increase in drowning deaths of migrants in the Pacific Ocean near San Diego after the Trump administration replaced existing border barriers with taller wall segments.

A Wall Street Journal poll found majority support for tougher border security, including the Senate border compromise, and strong support for a pathway to citizenship for undocumented migrants who have been in the United States for many years.

A CBP statement provided more information about a Border Patrol agent’s fatal March 3 shooting of a man it identified as part of a gang robbing migrants at gunpoint along the borderline east of San Diego. A sniper killed an individual who “demanded money from the group, racked his pistol to chamber a round, and pointed the weapon at one of the migrants.”

Analyses and Feature Stories

A survey study by the UN Refugee Agency and non-governmental groups found that 56 percent of migrants who crossed Mexico in 2023 suffered some kind of abuse. Of 207 surveyed who had been deported by the United States, 139 were people “who may require international protection after “fleeing violence” in their countries.”

At Arizona Luminaria, John Washington reported on the long wait for CBP One appointments in Nogales, Sonora, where Customs and Border Protection (CBP) makes only 100 appointments available each day at the port of entry. The nearest ports of entry offering appointments are hundreds of miles away in Calexico and El Paso. As a result, many migrants are tempted to cross in the desert and turn themselves in to Border Patrol.

Also reporting from Nogales, Todd Miller visited a garden tended by migrants at the city’s Casa de la Misericordia de Todas las Naciones shelter.

New York featured a collection of images from Alex Hodor-Lee, a photographer with a background in crafting images of luxury fashion goods, depicting objects that migrants abandoned after Border Patrol agents told them to throw away any “non-essential” belongings.

On the Right

Daily Border Links: March 7, 2024

Get daily links in your email

Developments

Tonight President Joe Biden will give his last State of the Union address before the 2024 election. Los Angeles Times immigration reporter Andrea Castillo expects the President’s address to mention the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border and related policy proposals, referencing his February 29 visit to Brownsville and his embrace of a Senate deal that would have allowed some expulsions of people seeking asylum. Because polling shows the border and migration to be a weak spot for Biden, though, press previews agree that his speech will probably not dwell on them for very long.

Members of Congress seek to draw attention to the border and migration situation by inviting relevant guests to view the speech from the House of Representatives’ gallery. These range from migrants’ rights activists and DACA recipients to Border Patrol agents, border-area sheriffs, and victims of crimes committed both by migrants and by people motivated by anti-migrant hate.

Citing “authorities in Mexico,” Breitbart reported that 50 migrants have died so far in 2024, mainly of drownings in the Rio Grande, along the border between Coahuila and mid-Texas. The number includes two men whose remains authorities recovered from the river this week in Eagle Pass. “The drownings come as rising water levels of the Rio Grande result in swifter, more dangerous currents.”

A migrant woman abandoned in the New Mexico desert by her smugglers died on Monday after being struck by a train.

Campo, California—about 50 miles east of San Diego, where the Pacific Crest Trail begins—has replaced nearby Jacumba Springs as the principal site in the central California border where migrants are crossing, usually to turn themselves in to Border Patrol to seek asylum. According to Border Report, the geographic shift owes to Mexican security and migration forces stepping up patrols across from Jacumba Springs.

Analyses and Feature Stories

CBP intercepted 1,171 southbound guns at the U.S.-Mexico border in 2023, up from 173 in 2019, The Trace reported. But In the six years between 2017 and 2022 alone, Mexican authorities seized 83,000 guns at crime scenes that came from the United States.

Daily Border Links: March 6, 2024

Get daily links in your email

Developments

Adding to a scoop reported yesterday by CBS News, NewsNation and Border Report published more detail about Border Patrol’s apprehensions of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border in February. CBS had reported 140,000 apprehensions last month, an increase over 124,220 in January but the 7th-fewest of the Biden administration’s 37 full months. The new reporting points to 140,709 apprehensions, with Tucson (49,474) and San Diego (31,570) the busiest of Border Patrol’s nine U.S.-Mexico border sectors.

As normally occurs in spring, migration is increasing. The first three days of March saw migrant encounters reach 7,000 per day, and 5,500 on March 4.

8,368 people applied for asylum in Mexico’s system in February, reported Mexico’s Refugee Assistance Commission (COMAR). That is fewer than in February 2022 (10,192) and February 2023 (11,321).

During the first two months of the year, COMAR is behind its 2023 pace but about the same as 2022, when it ended the year with 119,225 asylum applications. (They totaled a record 140,948 in 2023.) So far this year, at least 1,000 migrants have sought asylum in Mexico from Honduras, Cuba, Haiti, and El Salvador.

NBC News reported that, lacking congressionally appropriated funds, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has been unable to install already-purchased scanners at border ports of entry that would be able to detect more smuggled fentanyl. The agency needs “approximately $300 million [to] actually put the technology in the ground,” said Acting Commissioner Troy Miller.

The Cato Institute’s David Bier reported that known successful evasions of Border Patrol, also known as “gotaways,” have declined—in the agency’s estimate—from 2,671 per day the week before the Title 42 policy ended last May to about 800 per day in fiscal year 2024.

Candidate Donald Trump and billionaire Twitter owner Elon Musk posted outrage at a Daily Mail article “revealing” a “secret” activity to fly 320,000 “illegal” migrants to the United States. The activity is in fact the Biden administration’s very public humanitarian parole program for citizens of Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela who have U.S.-based sponsors. It is authorized by a 1950s law, and beneficiaries buy their own tickets on regular commercial flights.

The House of Representatives’ Republican majority has not yet officially sent to the Senate its articles of impeachment for Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, because they apparently want assurances that the Senate—which is certain to acquit Mayorkas—will hold an actual trial. In a February 13, vote, Republican legislators accused Mayorkas of high crimes and misdemeanors for his management of the border and migration.

The Department of Justice has ordered members of the immigration judges’ union not to speak without approval to outside sources. The National Association of Immigration Judges has been critical of flaws in the immigration adjudication system and migrants’ rights protections. No constraints have been announced about the Border Patrol agents’ union, whose statements and social media issue constant and vociferous attacks on Joe Biden and his administration.

Analyses and Feature Stories

At the Christian Science Monitor, Whitney Eulich spoke to Father Pat Murphy of Tijuana’s Casa del Migrante, and other service providers in the city, about how border cities’ migrant shelters have adapted to the past ten years’ sharp changes in the size, nationality, and demographics of the population they serve.

New arrivals of migrants from China to New York have risen to their highest levels in more than a decade, the New York Times reported, amid growing numbers of Chinese citizens who have traveled overland on a route beginning in South America and passing through the Darién Gap to the U.S.-Mexico border.

A Bloomberg Law analysis recalled that federal courts repeatedly reject conservative state officials’ claims that large arrivals of migrants at the border meets the Constitution’s definition of an “invasion.” However, some judges on the federal judiciary’s deeply conservative Fifth Circuit, which covers Texas and Louisiana, and possibly on today’s more conservative Supreme Court, may sympathize with the “invasion” thesis.

Though Texas authorities are preventing most Border Patrol agents from entering Eagle Pass’s riverfront Shelby Park, they are granting access to “far-right media personalities,” reported Avery Schmitz at the Border Chronicle.

Daily Border Links: March 5, 2024

Get daily links in your email

Developments

Border Patrol apprehended about 140,000 migrants in February, up from 124,000 in January, CBS News reported. If that is the final number, February will end up being the 7th-heaviest month for migration at the border, of the Biden administration’s 37 full months.

CBS reporter Camilo Montoya-Galvez noted that, as usually happens during spring, migration numbers are now increasing more rapidly: “On some days this past week, U.S. border officials processed more than 7,000 migrants in 24 hours.”

The Supreme Court has delayed the State of Texas’s implementation of S.B. 4 until March 13, while justices decide whether to allow the controversial state law to take effect while appeals continue. Passed in December and originally set to go into effect on March 5, the state law would empower Texas law enforcement to jail migrants, or deport them into Mexico, if they crossed the border irregularly; in the state’s interior, rights defenders fear that police may use their new powers profile non-White people.

The Biden Justice Department, the ACLU, and other organizations’ challenge to S.B. 4 is currently before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, after a lower-court judge temporarily blocked it on February 29.

Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs (D) yesterday vetoed a somewhat similar law (the “Arizona Border Invasion Act”) that her state’s Republican-majority legislature sent to her.

3,000 people have departed Necoclí, Colombia since Friday to begin their journey through the Darién Gap, following a five-day stoppage by operators of the boats that ferry migrants across the Gulf of Urabá. The boat operators were protesting Colombian authorities’ late-February seizure of two vessels.

Passage through the Darién jungles is more treacherous than ever. Doctors without Borders, which maintains health posts in reception centers where the trail ends in Panama, reported treating 233 victims of sexual violence in January and February alone; the organization reported 676 cases in all of 2023. “In the latest assaults, the level of brutality is extreme. A dozen armed men are holding more and more migrant groups of between 100 and 400 people.”

Measured by the number of removal flights per weekday, February 2024 was ICE’s busiest month for aerial deportations of the past 12, according to the latest monthly report from Tom Cartwright at Witness at the Border. 99 of 137 planes went to El Salvador, Guatemala, or Honduras. 10 went into Mexico’s interior (Morelia, Guadalajara, Mexico City). The rest went to Colombia (7), Ecuador (4), Peru (3), the Dominican Republic (2), Nicaragua (2), and one each to Brazil, Jamaica, Cuba, Senegal, Nigeria, South Korea, Nepal, Bangladesh, Chad, and Egypt.

Border Patrol agents reportedly engaged in an exchange of gunfire on March 3 with “a crew aiming to rob migrants” along the border east of San Diego, the Los Angeles Times reported. Agents killed one person. The incident occurred in an area where asylum seekers have been waiting for hours or days outdoors to turn themselves in to agents.

A Pew Research Center survey found that, compared to the general U.S. adult population, Latino U.S. citizens are less likely to favor tough measures against asylum seekers, though they do share the view that high levels of migration at the U.S.-Mexico border constitute “a major problem or a crisis.”

Analyses and Feature Stories

At Arizona Luminaria, John Washington explained the asylum process and what it looks like right now at the Arizona-Mexico border, where CBP offers just 100 “CBP One” appointments per day. “In Arizona, the average wait time, as of early 2024, for a recently arrived migrant to have an asylum hearing in immigration court is 984 days, according to Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse.”

In Senegal, the Associated Press reported, social media has made it widely known that travel to Nicaragua, which does not require visas for those visiting by air, offers a way to migrate to the U.S.-Mexico border without having to pass through the Darién Gap. Smugglers charge about $10,000 for the trip.

The Guardian looked at Border Patrol agents’ continued use of the derogatory word “tonk” to refer to migrants (reported by the Huffington Post in February) and concluded that banning the language won’t make a difference: a “cultural change” is necessary.

Using a “virtual reality tour,” Dave Maass of the Electronic Frontier Foundation explained U.S. border agencies’ deployment of surveillance technology along the border to reporter Monique Madan at the Markup. It raises civil liberties questions: “you start to see things like towers that are able to look into people’s back windows, and towers that are able to look into people’s backyards, and whole communities that are going to have glimpses over their neighborhood all the time.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center warned that “border calls to action,” like one issued by an extremist group calling itself the “United Patriot Party of North Carolina,” could facilitate violence against migrants and Border Patrol agents.

On the Right

Daily Border Links: March 4, 2024

Get daily links in your email

Developments

In Texas, the federal Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has temporarily reversed a district judge’s February 29 decision blocking S.B. 4, the Texas state government’s new law empowering local law enforcement to arrest people who cross the border irregularly, and to imprison them if they do not return to Mexico. S.B. 4 could now go into effect soon, though the Court gave plaintiffs in the suit against Texas—the Biden Justice Department, the ACLU, and other organizations—seven days to appeal to the Supreme Court. This case’s outcome may determine whether individual states can carry out their own independent immigration policies.

After a five-day pause, migration has resumed through the treacherous Darién Gap region straddling Colombia and Panama. During the week of February 19, Colombia’s navy had seized two of the boats that ferry migrants across the Gulf of Urabá to Acandí, where the jungle route begins. Boat operators carried out a “strike,” ceasing operations and causing the beachside towns of Necoclí and Turbo, migrants’ departure point, to fill up with about 5,000 stranded people from many countries.

The strike has ended, and boats have resumed, following a meeting between boat operators, Colombian local and national government officials, and a representative of the U.S. embassy in Colombia. They agreed that from now on, all migrants aboard the boats must register on a mobile phone app.

At the other end of the Darién route in Panama, about 250 migrants staged a disturbance at the San Vicente Temporary Migratory Reception Station. Acts of vandalism damaged or destroyed about 10 modular buildings. Panama plans to prosecute 44 people.

At least 11 migrants were injured, 3 of them parents who were traveling with children, after falling from the border wall in San Diego on March 2. On February 27, a man from Mexico died from a fall off the wall elsewhere in San Diego County, in Otay Mesa.

In the camera frame with ex-president Donald Trump during his February 29 border remarks in Eagle Pass, Texas was a uniformed U.S. Air National Guard general, a situation that raised alarms about norms of civil-military relations in the United states. Gen. Thomas Suelzer, a 2-star general in Texas’s National Guard, heads the Texas state Military Department and oversees border operations.

Though he is under the command of Gov. Greg Abbott (R), Suelzer’s uniform is identical to that worn by federal troops, and the National Guard is often used for federal duty. As the general stood behind Trump, the candidate tore into President Biden and the governor of California, among others, in a politicized speech that Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut) called “disgusting.” “racist and xenophobic.”

In a March 1 Twitter thread, Military Times reporter Davis Winkie explained the complex arrangements under which National Guard personnel operate, concluding that while Gen. Suelzer’s presence may have run afoul of norms, it was not illegal.

A letter from 17 Democratic Senators called on President Biden to include “robust funding for border security and drug interdiction efforts to stem the flow of fentanyl and similar illicit drugs” in the 2025 budget request that the White House will send to Congress on March 11.

“More than 8 million asylum seekers and other migrants will be living inside the U.S in legal limbo by the end of September,” up from 3 million in 2019, according to data obtained by Axios.

Ecuador’s president, Daniel Noboa, discussed migration in a March 1 phone call with New York City Mayor Eric Adams, who has vocally asserted that New York is unable to absorb the current flow of asylum seekers.

U.S. border authorities encountered migrants from Senegal 20,231 times between July and December 2023, according to data obtained by the New York Post. (Senegal is one of many nationalities that Customs and Border Protection does not specify in its monthly reporting, lumping it in an ever-expanding “Other” category.)

Analyses and Feature Stories

The latest quarterly “asylum processing” report from the University of Texas Strauss Center finds migrants waiting up to six months in northern Mexico to obtain CBP One appointments at U.S.-Mexico border ports of entry, while “walk-up” appointments for the most vulnerable are exceedingly scarce. Human rights violations against migrants include a 70 percent rise in reports of sexual violence along with more kidnappings in Reynosa, and a Mexican government policy of busing migrants to the country’s interior that has caused some to miss their U.S. appointments.

At The Hill, Rafael Bernal noted that whether President Biden pursues an executive order curbing asylum access or a big expansion to the asylum system, he currently lacks the budget to do either.

“As long as the United States is a destination for migrants, we’ll need organizations like El Paso’s Annunciation House,” a non-profit shelter that has come under attack from Texas’s ultraconservative state government, wrote Laura Collins of Southern Methodist University’s George W. Bush Institute at the Dallas Morning News. At the American Immigration Council’s Immigration Impact blog, Dara Lind agreed that “Texas is trying to eliminate one of America’s strongest bulwarks against chaos at the U.S./Mexico border.”

Raúl Ortiz, who was chief of Border Patrol for about two years of the Biden presidency and is now retired, had critical words for both Texas Gov. Abbott and the Biden administration in a CBS News 60 Minutes feature about the situation at the Texas-Mexico border. “We’re gonna be barricading every area where people are crossing,” Abbott told reporter Cecilia Vega.

At the Atlantic, former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum wrote that with his alleged ability to control migration flows, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador may have the power to determine the outcome of the U.S. presidential election.

Weekly U.S.-Mexico Border Update: March 1, 2024

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.

Support ad-free, paywall-free Weekly Border Updates. Your donation to WOLA is crucial to sustain this effort. Please contribute now and support our work.

THIS WEEK IN BRIEF:

President Joe Biden visited Brownsville, Texas on February 29, the second U.S.-Mexico border visit of his administration. His remarks—calling for Trump to work with him to pass legislation that might, among other measures, deeply reduce migrants’ access to asylum—reflect the President’s recent rightward shift on border and migration issues. On the same day, Republican candidate Donald Trump was several hours’ drive west, at the border in Eagle Pass, where he offered anti-immigrant rhetoric alongside Texas state officials.

Numerous statements from Republican politicians and GOP-aligned media figures are raising the idea of “migrant crime” after the brutal murder of a Georgia nursing student, allegedly at the hands of a 26-year-old Venezuelan man who arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border in El Paso in September 2022. Analyses, though, continue to point out that migrants commit less violent crime than U.S. citizens, and that the alleged perpetrator of the Georgia murder arrived at a time when U.S. border policy was already very restrictive, with Title 42 firmly in place.

El Paso community leaders rallied around a Catholic non-profit migrant shelter under attack from the Texas state attorney general, who accuses Annunciation House of “alien harboring and human smuggling.” The incident drew attention to the vital role played by non-profit respite centers along the border that receive migrants from Border Patrol custody and help connect them to their destinations in the U.S. interior. Those that depend on federal funding are in danger of cutting back services or shutting their doors, which would force Border Patrol to leave migrants on border cities’ streets. This is already happening in San Diego and appears imminent in Tucson.

THE FULL UPDATE:

Read More

Daily Border Links: March 1, 2024

Get daily links in your email

Developments

President Joe Biden and ex-president and Republican candidate Donald Trump paid coinciding visits to the Texas-Mexico border yesterday.

Biden met with Border Patrol, law enforcement, and local political leaders in Brownsville, but did not reach out to the many nonprofits working with the migrant population in south Texas’s Rio Grande Valley.

In his public remarks, the President maintained a “triangulation” stance, moving rightward on border and migration issues in an attempt to reduce Trump’s apparent polling advantage on an issue that election-year voters have identified as a top concern.

In Brownsville, Biden seized on Republicans’ rejection of a compromise Senate bill that, much to migrant rights’ advocates alarm, would have suspended the right to asylum at the border. Among its new bars to asylum, the bill would have imposed Title 42-style migrant expulsions when daily arrivals average 4,000 or 5,000 people. With that legislation now far from passage, the President is considering executive actions that might do something similar.

“Join me—or I’ll join you—in telling the Congress to pass this bipartisan border security bill,” Biden said, addressing Trump. While he has moved toward Trump on the border issue, the New York Times’ Shane Goldmacher pointed out, Biden is trying to distinguish his position with an argument about democracy: he would pursue these hardline changes through the institutional process, not through the authoritarian means that Trump promises.

Trump met with Texas state government and law enforcement, along with Border Patrol union activists, in Eagle Pass. Trump and Gov. Greg Abbott (R) visited the city’s riverfront Shelby Park, where Abbott has ordered state forces to deny entry, under most circumstances, to the federal Border Patrol. “We have languages coming into our country, we have nobody that even speaks those languages” was one of the ex-president’s many warnings about cross-border migration.

In Austin, Federal District Judge David Ezra blocked implementation of Texas’s controversial new law empowering state law enforcement to arrest people who cross the border irregularly and imprison them if they do not return to Mexico. S.B. 4 was to go into effect on March 5.

Texas is appealing the decision of Judge Ezra, a Reagan appointee, but this is a victory for the Biden administration and non-governmental plaintiffs including the ACLU.

When President Biden told him, in a recent meeting, that Mexico’s government would not agree to a renewal of the Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” program for asylum seekers, House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana) told reporters that he replied, “Mr. President. We’re the United States, Mexico will do what we say.”

Fact checks by the Washington Post and NBC News debunked the notion that migrants increase crime. This has been a frequent conservative talking point following the February 22 murder of a Georgia nursing student, allegedly committed by a man from Venezuela.

A Mexican government crackdown has left about 800 migrants stranded in a tent encampment along the Suchiate River, at Mexico’s border with Guatemala near Tapachula. “People are being forced to wait up to seven days to get answers from the INM [Mexico’s migration agency] and be transferred to Tapachula or Tuxtla Gutierrez,” the capital of Mexico’s southernmost state of Chiapas, read a statement from local human rights defenders. “During this time, they do not receive any type of assistance.”

Authorities in Tijuana count four migrant deaths along the border with San Diego so far in 2024: two drownings, a hypothermia case, and a February 27 fall from the border wall.

Migrants are filling up the Colombian beach town of Necoclí, across the Gulf of Urabá from the entrance of the Darién Gap route to Panama, reported the Associated Press and Financial Times following a story published on Wednesday in the New York Times. The boats that take migrants cross the Gulf are on strike following the Colombian Navy’s seizure of two of them last week, leaving thousands stranded in Necoclí.

The Times reported yesterday from Colombia‘s airport, where an increasing number of migrants, many from Africa, change planes en route to Nicaragua, which does not require visas for most nationalities, via El Salvador. This route, for which they pay more than $10,000 per person, allows migrants to bypass the treacherous Darién Gap jungles.

Analyses and Feature Stories

Federal funding will run out on March 31 for Tucson’s Casa Alitas migrant shelter, which received more than 195,000 people released from CBP custody in 2023 in what is now Border Patrol’s busiest sector, wrote John Washington at Arizona Luminaria.

At the Texas Tribune, Uriel García and William Melhado talked to Texas migrant shelters and local leaders resisting the state government’s legal attacks on El Paso’s Annunciation House and conservatives’ rhetorical attacks on other charities helping migrants.

The Biden and Trump visits “were but another reminder of how the border is used for political theater,” wrote journalist Michelle García in a column at the New York Times, contending that much of today’s border debate recalls violence in Texas’s past.

In the Houston Chronicle, Mark P. Jones of Rice University looked at how the Texas state government’s hardline border and migration stances overlap with exceptionalist and even secessionist currents in the state’s politics.

On the Right

Daily Border Links: February 29, 2024

Get daily links in your email

Developments

President Joe Biden will be in Brownsville, Texas today for the second U.S.-Mexico border visit of his presidency. About 300 miles upriver along the Rio Grande, Donald Trump will be in Eagle Pass.

We can expect Trump to attack Biden’s border policies, and immigration in general, which is one of his campaign’s principal themes and, according to polls, an electoral vulnerability for the President. We can expect Biden to blame Trump and Republicans for blocking reforms, including a “border deal” that died in the Senate earlier this month even though it conceded significant parts of the Republican agenda by curbing migrants’ right to seek asylum.

We do not expect Biden to announce any new executive actions to implement new curbs on asylum, a step that the White House continues to consider.

The dual visits highlight the deadlock in Washington on any decisions regarding the border and migration: no change—whether a reform or a crackdown, or even a new budget—has passed the 118th Congress, which began in January 2023.

Budget shortfalls have limited the Biden administration’s effort to subject more asylum seekers to rapid screening interviews shortly after apprehension, in a process called “expedited removal,” the Associated Press reported. Asylum officers carrying out the credible-fear interviews “are too understaffed to have much impact,” able to interview a number of migrants equal to about 15 percent of those who were instead released with “notices to appear” in immigration court.

Colombia’s navy last week seized two of the many boats that take migrants—with the permission of local organized crime—across the Gulf of Urabá from the town of Necoclí to Acandí, where the treacherous Darién Gap route into Panama begins. As a result, the New York Times reported, all boat transportation has halted and Necoclí, a small beach resort, is filling up with hundreds of migrants arriving each day, who are now stranded there.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, accompanied by Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, met in Washington to discuss migration approaches with the foreign ministers of Mexico and Guatemala. They discussed addressing migration’s root causes and expanding legal pathways, and agreed to form a trilateral “operational cell” to share information and coordinate strategies.

The three governments agreed to launch a new “dashboard” of migration flows data, “which will enhance data-driven decision-making and coordination.”

U.S. officials praised Mexico’s recent increase in operations to control U.S.-bound migration flows, crediting them for some of the recent drop in migrant arrivals at the U.S.-Mexico border, though some of the cause is seasonal.

Guatemala will host the next ministerial-level meeting of the 22 signatory nations of the 2022 Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection. There is no date yet for that meeting.

A tweet from Border Patrol’s chief indicates that the agency apprehended about 136,000 migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border during the first 27 days of February. At that pace, the month-long apprehensions number will be about 146,000: 22,000 more than January, but the 7th-fewest of the Biden administration’s 37 full months in office.

Republican politicians, and a dramatic spike in Fox News stories, are promoting the idea of “migrant crime” as a Venezuelan man who arrived at the border in 2022 stands accused of murdering a nursing student in Georgia last week.

Analyses continue to point out that “migrant crime” is a myth, as migrants proportionally commit less violent crime than do U.S. citizens. The alleged perpetrator of the Georgia murder, meanwhile, arrived at the border during the height of the Title 42 expulsions policy, showing the irrelevance or futility of harsh curbs on asylum.

A 29-year-old Mexican man died after falling from a 30-foot-tall Trump-era segment of border wall east of San Diego on February 27. Mexico’s consulate, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported, recorded 29 deaths and 120 injuries at the San Diego-area border in 2023 alone, down slightly from 42 and 124 in 2022 (not all were wall-related).

In 2009, Canada imposed visa requirements on arriving Mexican citizens, amid an increase in asylum applications. In 2016, Canada lifted those requirements. Yesterday, Canada reimposed those visa requirements; more than 25,000 Mexican citizens sought asylum there last year.

Analyses and Feature Stories

Bloomberg mapped out where asylum seekers are settling after they reach the United States, finding a remarkable dispersal to both urban and rural areas. On a per capita basis, states experiencing the largest numbers of migrant arrivals in 2023 were probably New York, New Jersey, Florida, Texas, Colorado, and Illinois.

The Washington Post published a series of maps detailing Texas’s security buildup along the Rio Grande in the Eagle Pass area.

At the New York Times, Jack Healy visited the border near Sásabe, Arizona, where asylum seekers continue to turn themselves in to Border Patrol in large numbers, though they are fewer than they were in the record-setting month of December.

Diego Piña Lopez, the director of Tucson’s Casa Alitas network of migrant shelters, worried that federal funding is running out for non-profit facilities receiving migrants released from Border Patrol custody, which means street releases may come to Tucson next month. “It’s not going to be a trickle. You broke the faucet completely off.”

El Toque counted the deaths or disappearances of more than 800 Cuban migrants over the past 10 years at the U.S.-Mexico border, at sea, in Mexico and Central America, and in the Bahamas and Cayman Islands.

On the Right

Daily Border Links: February 28, 2024

Get daily links in your email

Developments

President Biden will visit Brownsville, Texas tomorrow, the second U.S.-Mexico border visit of his administration. Republican candidate Donald Trump will be several hours’ drive west, at the border in Eagle Pass.

The President will not announce any new executive actions tomorrow, like new limits on asylum seekers’ ability to seek protection at the border, said White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre. Media reports last week indicated that the White House is considering such a step, despite a lack of firm legal footing for curbing asylum access.

Border visits, the New York Times noted, have “become a compulsory bit of political theater for leaders who want to show they care about immigration.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas are meeting today with counterparts from Guatemala and Mexico to discuss “actions to strengthen humane migration management, joint collaboration to address the root causes of irregular migration and displacement, and ways to expand lawful pathways in the Western Hemisphere.”

For the first time since 2019, a Gallup Poll found that immigration is what Americans regard to be “the most important issue facing the country.” 28 percent of respondents cited immigration, up from 20 percent a month ago.

PBS NewsHour analyzed the February 22 murder of a Georgia nursing student, allegedly committed by a Venezuelan man whom Border Patrol released from custody in September 2022, when the Title 42 policy was still in place. Charis Kubrin, a professor of criminology, law and society at U.C. Irvine, recalled: “across all this research, by and large, we find that immigrants do not engage in more crime than native-born counterparts, and immigration actually can cause crime to go down, rather than up.”

CalMatters covered the resumption of “street releases” of asylum seekers released from CBP custody in San Diego, where elevated numbers of migrant arrivals exhausted resources for a county-funded “welcome center,” which closed its doors last week. Confused migrants are now being left at a trolley station, as volunteers struggle to orient them. Advocates allege that the county’s money was not spent sustainably.

San Diego County supervisors voted down a motion asking the federal government to shut down the border temporarily at moments of large-scale arrivals of asylum seekers. (“Shutting down” the border would make little difference, as asylum seekers have already crossed the border onto U.S. soil where they have a legal right to petition for protection.)

Analyses and Feature Stories

A harrowing, in-depth report from Quinto Elemento Lab described criminal organizations’ trafficking of Honduran women in the dangerous southern Mexican border town of Frontera Comalapa, Chiapas, and the complicity of Mexican and Honduran government officials.

A judicial settlement for victims of the Trump administration’s family separations allows them to apply for temporary legal status, work authorization, and some services in the United States, but does not guarantee them legal representation for their applications, reported Isabela Dias at Mother Jones.

At the Guardian, Luke Taylor covered studies from the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and the UN Refugee Agency indicating that in South America, integrating Venezuelan migrants and refugees will contribute 0.1 to 0.25 percentage points to host countries’ economic growth every year between 2017 and 2030.

Daily Border Links: February 27, 2024

Get daily links in your email

Developments

On Thursday the 29th, President Joe Biden plans to visit Brownsville, Texas. It will be the second visit to the U.S.-Mexico border of Biden’s presidency. Former president and presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump plans to be elsewhere at the Texas border, in Eagle Pass, on the same day. “We welcome that split screen,” a senior administration official told NBC News.

Biden plans to meet with Border Patrol agents and other law enforcement, and to call on Congress to pass border and migration legislation and funding. He is not expected to announce executive actions imposing new limits on asylum seekers’ ability to seek protection at the border, a step that the White House is considering and might announce ahead of the March 7 State of the Union presidential address.

“Immigration was by far the most dominant topic of discussion” during a February 23 White House meeting with state governors, NBC News reported.

Senate Democrats appear likely to dismiss the Republican-majority House’s impeachment of DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas without holding an actual trial, a move that would require just a simple majority vote.

Republicans, including Trump, are blaming Biden for the February 22 murder, allegedly committed by a Venezuelan man, of a 22-year-old nursing student in Georgia.

Border Patrol had released José Ibarra from custody in El Paso in September 2022, at a time when the El Paso sector was the second-busiest of the agency’s nine U.S.-Mexico border sectors. It is not clear whether Ibarra applied for asylum. ICE claims that he was arrested in New York City in August 2023 but released without a transfer to ICE custody; New York officials say they have no record of an arrest.

Progressive Democratic Reps. Adriano Espaillat (D-New York) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) introduced legislation that would provide Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to over 300,000 Ecuadorians in the United States fleeing “unspeakable violence.”

A Monmouth University poll found a majority of U.S. respondents (53 percent), for the first time, favoring border wall construction.

Analyses and Feature Stories

Curbed visited St. Brigid, a former Catholic school in New York City, which has become a “reticketing center” for migrants seeking new shelter. Many endured harrowing journeys and are now struggling with the city’s shelter system and often ending up living on the streets; some voice a desire to return home.

Of more than 100 ancient saguaro cacti that construction crews dug up and transplanted while building Trump-era border wall in Arizona, “dozens” have died.

On the Right

Daily Border Links: February 26, 2024

Get daily links in your email

Developments

In a February 23 White House meeting with state governors, President Joe Biden confirmed that he is considering executive actions to make asylum harder to obtain at the U.S.-Mexico border, but added that existing laws and budgets leave him with few options.

Migrant rights defense groups and progressive legislators continue to voice outrage about the possible executive actions, which came to light in news reporting on February 21.

As of February 25, year-to-date migration through the Darién Gap totaled over 68,400 people, about 22,700 more than the same period in 2023, EFE reported.

So far this year, the U.S. government has returned 12,144 Guatemalan citizens to their country on deportation flights.

The Texas Newsroom obtained invoices for four flights that Texas’s state government chartered to fly asylum-seeking migrants to New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago. The total price tag of $845,000 was well over $1,000 per passenger.

A poll of Venezuelan citizens living in the United States found that more than 65 percent would return to Venezuela if the political opposition were to win this year’s presidential elections, a dim possibility amid rising political repression.

Analyses and Feature Stories

Analyses at the Washington Post and Los Angeles Times examined why migrant apprehensions are up (though leveling off) at the Arizona and California borders and declining in Texas. “Stepped-up enforcement efforts by the governments of Mexico, Panama and Colombia, and heightened violence by cartels on the Mexican side of the Texas border have likely slowed expected migration into that state,” wrote Andrea Castillo at the LA Times.

Asylum-seeker arrivals, and resulting Border Patrol releases, into San Diego have increased so rapidly that they have exhausted a county budget for a short-term migrant welcome center. As a result, CBP is leaving migrants outside a bus station.

The New Yorker, profiling El Paso’s Annunciation House, and the Arizona Daily Star, profiling Casa Alitas, pointed to the key role that migrant shelters play in receiving asylum seekers released from CBP custody. Shelters are facing a rising wave of rhetorical and legal attacks from right-wing politicians.

The Center for Public Integrity revealed that the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which receives and finds sponsors for migrant children who arrive unaccompanied, handled 2,724 reports of missing migrant children in the United States in 2022, many more than in previous years. Federal efforts to locate the missing children are insufficient.

In Eagle Pass, Texas, first responders are “overwhelmed and increasingly traumatized” by the frequency with which they rescue migrants—or recover their bodies—from the Rio Grande, NBC News reported. “On some shifts, firefighters with the Eagle Pass Fire Department can spend three to five hours in the water.”

A Rolling Stone feature looked at the impact that the Texas state government’s border security and migration crackdown is having on daily life in Eagle Pass.

In Arizona, younger Democratic voters are voicing frustration at the Biden administration’s rightward turn on border and migration policy, the Washington Post reported.

Congressional Republicans often urge President Biden to revive the Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” policy despite its human rights impact, even though “it’s not clear Mexico’s government would play along,” Joseph Zeballos-Roig wrote at Semafor.

Voice of America and Mexico’s Milenio both published articles about Haitian migrants who have decided to settle in Mexico instead of pushing on to the United States.

On the Right

Weekly U.S.-Mexico Border Update: February 23, 2024

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.

Support ad-free, paywall-free Weekly Border Updates. Your donation to WOLA is crucial to sustain this effort. Please contribute now and support our work.

THIS WEEK IN BRIEF:

Media reports indicate that the White House is considering executive orders that would restrict asylum access. Possibilities include a new expulsion authority and a higher bar in credible fear screening interviews, though those could run counter to existing law or duplicate current policies. Meanwhile, a group of 10 moderate Republicans and centrist Democrats is sponsoring a bill that would mandate expulsions and “Remain in Mexico” along with Ukraine and Israel aid.

On March 5, depending on what a federal judge decides, Texas will begin enforcing a law making it a state crime, punishable by imprisonment, to cross the border without inspection. Texas is also accusing a respected El Paso migrant shelter of “harboring” and “smuggling” migrants and threatening to shut it down. The state’s governor is building a giant National Guard base near Eagle Pass.

The week of February 9-16 saw nine known examples of alleged human rights abuse, misconduct, or other reasons for concern about the organizational culture at U.S. border law enforcement agencies. Two senior Border Patrol officials were suspended, emails revealed widespread use of a slur to describe migrants, a new report detailed seizures of migrants’ belongings, and a whistleblower complaint revealed a bizarre incident involving “fentanyl lollipops.”

THE FULL UPDATE:

Read More

Daily Border Links: February 23, 2024

Get daily links in your email

Developments

Yesterday saw few new developments after Wednesday’s multiple media reports indicating that the Biden administration is considering drastic limits, via executive order, on the right to seek asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border. (See yesterday’s Daily Border Links.) According to some reporting, these limits could include expulsions of asylum seekers when daily migrant encounters reach a certain level.

Progressive Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) and Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington) voiced firm opposition to the proposal: “Doing Trump impressions isn’t how we beat Trump,” tweeted Ocasio-Cortez.

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana) wrote that a Biden executive order or similar actions would be “election year gimmicks.”

The El Paso Times covered the Texas government’s legal attack on the city’s Annunciation House migrant shelter. “Annunciation House isn’t a place, per se. It’s a community of like-minded people, driven by their faith to help the most vulnerable regardless of circumstance,” wrote reporter Lauren Villagrán.

“We are now witnessing an escalating campaign of intimidation, fear and dehumanization in the state of Texas,” Bishop Mark Seitz of the Catholic Diocese of El Paso wrote in a statement. Further support for the shelter came from a group of Catholic and El Paso and Ciudad Juárez-based humanitarian and human rights groups.

A U.S. deportation flight brought 51 Cuban citizens to Havana yesterday. This is the 11th removal flight to Cuba since they resumed last April: 1 each month.

The Wall Street Journal confirmed that deportation flights to Venezuela stopped in late January. Between October and then, 15 planes had sent 1,800 Venezuelan migrants back to Caracas.

The director of Mexico‘s migration agency (National Migration Institute, INM) in Baja California called for the provision of bulletproof vests for agents in the face of attacks from smugglers. INM agents don’t carry lethal weapons, “but that could change,” though not soon, David Tejada Padilla told Border Report.

13,101 pounds of methamphetamine aboard a tractor trailer at Laredo’s Camino Real bridge on February 18 were CBP’s largest-ever meth seizure at a port of entry.

Analyses and Feature Stories

“I went through dozens of reports, scores of articles, on the discussion of this migration bill, and the reporters talked to zero migrants and zero migrant rights groups. At all. None. Zero,” media analyst Adam Johnson told Todd Miller at the Border Chronicle.

At the Washington Post, Philip Bump tried to envision Trump advisor Stephen Miller’s plan to use “red-state” National Guard soldiers to round up undocumented immigrants in Democratic-majority states. Bump’s conclusion: “It’s cosplay.”

By busing migrants to Democratic-governed cities, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has “played into the idea of pitting immigrants against the American people in general and against immigrants who have been here for years,” a Democratic political strategist told CNN, noting that “it’s working” politically.

On the Right

Daily Border Links: February 22, 2024

Get daily links in your email

Developments

Several media outlets reported that the Biden administration is considering an executive order to adopt asylum restrictions at the border. Some of those restrictions may resemble measures agreed by Senate negotiators in a deal that fell to Republican opposition earlier this month.

Actions could include expelling asylum seekers when migrant encounters reach a certain daily threshold, or increasing standards of credible fear that asylum seekers would have to meet when subjected to initial screening interviews.

However, existing law does not allow expulsions of asylum seekers for reasons of volume, and Mexico’s reception of expelled people is not guaranteed. Meanwhile, the administration’s May 2023 asylum “transit ban” rule has already raised the credible fear standard for most asylum seekers apprehended between ports of entry.

The measures could invoke Section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which empowers the President to refuse entry to broad classes of migrants. Courts have ruled, however, that this statute does not allow blocking asylum to people already on U.S. soil and requesting it.

In their opposition to the Senate “border deal,” some congressional Republicans had argued that the changes were unnecessary because President Biden already has the authority to “shut the border.” While President Biden would appear to be upholding the Republicans’ argument if he used executive authority, a very likely outcome is that courts would again strike down any blanket refusal of asylum.

The State Department broadened a policy of canceling or refusing U.S. visas to owners and senior managers of companies “providing transportation services designed for use primarily by persons intending to migrate irregularly to the United States.” State first announced this policy in November for charter flight operators taking migrants to Nicaragua, which does not require visas of most nationalities and has become an important route for U.S.-bound migrants. Officials are considering extending the visa ban to social media influencers who encourage migrants to pursue irregular travel.

The Mexican magazine Proceso revealed that the country’s migration authority, the National Migration Institute (INM), awarded irregular contracts to private detention center operators with few employees and little track record.

A 24-year-old man from Jamaica died of hypothermia just south of the border in Tecate, Baja California. “He died within an eighth of a mile of jackets and blankets and mittens and water left out by Border Kindness as part of their humanitarian aid mission,” tweeted journalist Wendy Fry.

CBP reported that a tractor-trailer driver detained at a Laredo, Texas checkpoint died in his holding cell on February 17. While the agency’s account points to a possible suicide, “the video recording system at the Border Patrol checkpoint was not fully functioning at the time of the incident”—a chronic problem noted in CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility reports.

Texas nonprofits and political leaders are rallying around Annunciation House, a longtime Catholic migrant shelter network in El Paso that Texas’s state government is accusing of “alien harboring, human smuggling and operating a stash house.” For many years Annunciation House has received busloads of released asylum seekers from CBP and Border Patrol, cooperating closely with the agencies.

Guatemala’s congress may increase the budget and activities of its national commission for migrants (Conamigua), which assists Guatemalan migrants abroad and deportees. The agency does not have history of spending out even its small annual budgets.

Analyses and Feature Stories

The National Immigrant Justice Center published a list of 10 actions that the Biden administration could take now, through executive action, to “reclaim the narrative” on immigration. They include a White House role in coordinating processing, adjudication, and work authorizations; a steep reduction in migrant detention; and dismantling Texas’s “Operation Lone Star.”

On the Right

Newer Posts
Older Posts
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.