Adam Isacson

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


Border Updates

Daily Border Links: January 25, 2024

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In the Senate, Republican efforts to tie migration restrictions to Ukraine aid are sputtering, as former president and likely Republican nominee Donald Trump has been calling conservative Republican Senators and urging them to reject a deal.

The Biden administration has asked Congress for a $110.5 billion package of Ukraine and Israel aid, border spending, and other priorities. Republicans have refused to support the spending measure unless Democrats agree to include stricter border and migration measures; a small group of senators has been negotiating these demands since November.

Rights defenders and some Democratic legislators have sounded alarms about concessions that the negotiators may have already agreed on, including a new Title 42-like authority to expel asylum seekers on days of heavy migration (with a rumored threshold of 5,000 per day to trigger expulsions), tougher criteria for credible fear interviews, more detention, and perhaps some curbs on presidential humanitarian parole authority.

Senators on the Republican Party’s rightmost wing are arguing that the migration-restriction measures don’t go far enough. Hardline Republican senators apparently shouted at their moderate colleagues during a lunch meeting on January 23. They could scuttle a deal even before it goes to the Republican-majority House, where leaders may also take a hard line.

Just a few days ago, negotiators were raising expectations that a deal might be reached this week—that most of what remained was to work with appropriators to gauge the cost of the new restrictions. The change in prospects in the Senate is sharp, and indicates the sway that Donald Trump holds over the Republican Party.

The impasse may leave current asylum laws and standards in place, even as it puts in doubt the administration’s ability to provide Ukraine with new assistance to repel Russia’s invasion. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), who favors Ukraine aid, hinted yesterday that he might favor standing down and de-linking migration restrictions from the Ukraine package: “The politics on this have changed.”

“In effectively backing away from the border-security-for-Ukraine construct that Hill Republicans clung to for the last few months, McConnell is acknowledging Trump’s continued stranglehold on the GOP,” wrote Jake Sherman and John Bresnahan at Punchbowl News. “Democrats will get to say they made huge concessions on parole and asylum during these talks, and Trump tanked it.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) published an open letter asserting his state’s “constitutional right to self-defense” against an “invasion,” a term that conflates asylum seekers and economic migrants with an invading army. The missive follows a January 22 Supreme Court finding allowing the federal Border Patrol to access the Rio Grande riverbank by cutting through razor-sharp concertina wire laid by Texas state police and national guardsmen.

Some Republican politicians are urging Texas to ignore the Supreme Court ruling. This would be unconstitutional—but it’s not clear what “ignoring” means, since Monday’s ruling doesn’t compel Texas to do anything except abstain from confronting Border Patrol agents when they determine that they need to cut through the concertina wire.

The Court did not require Texas to remove any wire or prohibit Texas from adding new wire, as the state has been doing this week in Eagle Pass. The decision was limited to the scope of Texas’s October lawsuit seeking to stop agents from cutting it. That case remains before the federal courts’ 5th Circuit.

DHS sent Texas’s attorney-general a new letter (following one issued January 14) reiterating its demand that federal agents be permitted access to Shelby Park, which occupies 50 acres of riverfront border in Eagle Pass. The letter contends that the Supreme Court’s decision not only allows agents to cut the concertina wire but to be present in the park, and the border area in general.

Border Patrol’s San Diego Sector reported 6,025 migrant apprehensions during the week of January 17-23, a notable increase from 4,606 the previous week. Across the border, Border Patrol apprehended about 4,000 migrants on Tuesday, which remains a bit less than half the reported December average.

CBP sources leaked to Fox News an estimate that 96,000 migrants evaded detection during October-December 2023. If accurate, that would point to Border Patrol apprehending about 85 percent of attempted migrants, which is in line with the past few years and historically high.

Analyses and Feature Stories

“More Border Patrol agents will not stop what’s happening right now, we’re not having a difficulty encountering people,” Border Patrol Tucson Sector Chief John Modlin told Arizona Public Radio, referring to large numbers of asylum seekers turning themselves in to agents in remote Arizona desert. “The difficulty is what’s happening after we’re encountering them. That’s where the system is now overwhelmed.”

TRAC Immigration found a serious shortage of attorneys as the U.S. immigration courts’ backlog inflated to 3,287,058 cases by the end of December. In many cases, the shortage affects both sides: “ICE has adopted the practice of not sending an attorney to many hearings.”

The 42,637 northbound refugees and migrants recorded transiting Honduras in December included fewer Venezuelans, Cubans, and Haitians than in November, but 11 percent more people from Sub-Saharan African countries and 31 percent more from Asian countries, according to a UNHCR monitoring report.

As it has moved to abandon fentanyl smuggling, the Sinaloa Cartel faction controlled by Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán’s sons is aggressively pursuing migrant smuggling, including ransom kidnappings, reported Milenio.

A letter from prominent Miami Cuban-American leaders, many of them Republican, urged House Republicans to abandon their effort to impeach DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, who is Cuban-American.

On the Right

Daily Border Links: January 24, 2024

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Senators negotiating a border and migration deal now say that the chamber is unlikely to act this week on legislation that might fund the Biden administration’s request for aid to Ukraine and Israel, border spending, and other priorities, while meeting some Republican demands for new limits on asylum and perhaps other legal migration pathways. Negotiators had voiced mild optimism at the beginning of the week that they would reach agreement on migration measures and begin moving a bill forward.

There will be no bill this week, said chief Republican negotiator Sen. James Lankford (R-Oklahoma), but it is still possible that the negotiators might start sharing agreed-upon legislative text.

A major sticking point continues to be a Republican demand for new limits on the 70-year-old presidential authority to grant migrants temporary humanitarian parole, which the Biden administration has employed about 1 million times to reduce disorder at the border for lack of other legal pathways. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), a frequent participant in the negotiations, continues to insist on strong curbs on parole authority, but the Democrats, who have a 51-49 Senate majority, have resisted that.

Whatever is agreed must still go to the House of Representatives, where the Republican majority—at the increasingly vocal urging of former president Trump—is likely to demand even more limits on asylum and migration in exchange for Ukraine aid.

Some Texas Republicans are calling on Gov. Greg Abbott (R) to defy or ignore the Supreme Court’s January 22 finding that allows the federal Border Patrol to cut through razor-sharp concertina wire that the state’s security forces have laid along many miles of the Rio Grande.

“This opinion is unconscionable and Texas should ignore it on behalf of the [Border Patrol] agents who will be put in a worse position by the opinion and the Biden administration’s policies,” Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) posted on Twitter. (Roy chairs the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution.)

Biden administration officials have not said that they plan to remove Texas’s wire at the border, but agents now have the right to cut or move it in order to access migrants or people in distress along the riverbank. (Texas had filed suit in federal court last October to prohibit federal agents’ wire-cutting.)

Should Gov. Abbott use the Texas National Guard to defy the Court’s ruling or to continue blocking Border Patrol access to parts of the border, Democrats like Rep. Joaquín Castro (Texas) say that President Biden should place the Texas state military force under federal control.

Immigration is now U.S. voters’ number-one concern, edging out inflation by 35 to 32 percent, according to a new Harvard CAPS-Harris poll.

Employees of the U.S. consulate in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, across the border from Brownsville, Texas, have been placed under curfew all week, as a security precaution following the arrest of “a high-level member of a criminal organization” near Monterrey, in nearby Nuevo León.

Organized crime in Tamaulipas preys heavily on migrants, David Agren wrote at National Catholic Reporter. “Everyone arrives kidnapped at the migrant shelter. People released from captivity arrive at the parish, at the Reynosa migrant shelter, too,” said longtime shelter manager Fr. Francisco Gallardo of the Diocese of Matamoros.

Republican senators contentiously raised border issues several times at an Armed Services Committee nomination hearing for Melissa Dalton, the Biden administration’s choice for Air Force secretary. Dalton has been serving as the assistant secretary of defense for Homeland Defense and Hemispheric Affairs. Among much Republican criticism of the Biden administration’s border policy, Sen. Rick Scott (R-Florida) asked Dalton, “Did you ever tell Secretary Mayorkas he was doing a crappy job?” (She had not.)

A January 23 CBP release details the death of a woman from Mexico on November 18 after she fell from the border wall in Clint, Texas, near El Paso. Three women had been “tied together” by their smugglers “about one foot apart as they climbed the barrier. When one woman panicked [upon seeing Border Patrol approaching], all three of them fell from the barrier.”

Analyses and Feature Stories

At Bloomberg Government, Ellen Gilmer analyzed the impact that House Republican efforts to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, alleging failure to secure the border, have on morale at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). “Homeland security professionals have concerns about impeachment’s long-term impacts on the department. The hearings and headlines further politicize the agency, undermine recruitment, and drive away prospective leaders, said the 20-year DHS career employee.”

At Capital & Main, Kate Morrissey reported on the dire situation of asylum seekers who are released onto U.S. streets after spending time in ICE detention facilities. “ICE, the agency responsible for long-term immigration detention, generally drops off people being released from its custody in San Diego sometime between 7 and 11 p.m. at a trolley station by the San Ysidro Port of Entry.”

“If there is one thing that Republicans have long understood keenly it is that fear drives voters to the polls. It’s why they’re not interested in solving the immigration puzzle,” wrote columnist Marcela García at the Boston Globe.

Because so many migrants now come from places other than Mexico and northern Central America, Amb. Mark Green of the Woodrow Wilson Center wrote, “Some of the policy tools we’ve been using in an attempt to control migration are likely to prove inadequate—such as the Partnership for Prosperity/Remain in Mexico policy.”

On the Right

Daily Border Links: January 23, 2024

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In a brief 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court sided with the Biden administration and granted the federal Border Patrol permission to cut through the spools of concertina wire that Texas’s state government has placed along dozens of miles of border along the Rio Grande. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Amy Coney Barrett sided with the high court’s three Democratic appointees.

In late October, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) had banned federal agents from cutting the razor-sharp wire, as they had been doing in order to access asylum seekers and people in distress along the riverbank. While a federal district court sided with the administration, the 5th Circuit had allowed Texas’s ban to remain in place while appeals proceeded, leading the Department of Justice to seek an emergency action from the Supreme Court. Texas’s appeal is ongoing, with arguments scheduled for February 7.

The January 22 Supreme Court ruling does not affect Texas’s January 10 banning of Border Patrol agents from a 50-acre riverfront park in Eagle Pass. Nor does it affect Texas’s placement of a string of buoys in the river in Eagle Pass, which remains while the 5th Circuit considers an appeal of its own earlier ruling ordering their removal.

“Border Patrol is not planning to use the order as a green light to remove the razor wire barriers if they do not present an immediate hazard,” a “senior agency official” told the Washington Post.

As of last August, Texas state police had treated 133 migrants for injuries caused by the concertina wire.

Since November, a small group of senators has been negotiating a compromise that might allow the Biden administration’s request for $110.5 billion in Ukraine and Israel aid, new border spending, and other priorities to move forward, in exchange for Republican demands for restrictions on asylum and perhaps on other migration pathways. Senators now say they are near agreement on what those restrictions will be, and that legislative language could emerge this week.

“Our work is largely done. The conversation has really moved over to Appropriations. So, there’s no reason why we couldn’t begin consideration this week,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut), the Democrats’ chief negotiator and the chairman of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee. “We are at the point of drafting and finalizing text.”

“It’s not going to be ready today, to be able to go out. Everybody’s got to have several days to be able to go through it. It’s gonna depend on final timing – it would be quite a push to be able to get it out this week,” said lead Senate negotiator James Lankford (R-Oklahoma).

The deal may include a Title 42-style authority to expel asylum seekers, regardless of protection needs, when daily migrant encounters exceed a certain number at the U.S.-Mexico border. It may also raise the standard of “credible fear” that asylum seekers must meet when placed in screening interviews with asylum officers, a process known as “expedited removal.” The agreement might also increase detention of asylum seekers pending adjudication of their cases.

It is not clear whether senators have resolved Republican demands for limits on the 70-year-old presidential authority to offer temporary “humanitarian parole” to some migrants. The Biden administration has paroled over 1 million migrants, including 422,000 people who came to ports of entry after securing appointments with the CBP One smartphone app; 340,000 citizens of Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela permitted to apply online; and 176,000 beneficiaries of the “Uniting for Ukraine” policy.

“The emerging Senate deal seeks to reduce parole numbers by tightening immigration enforcement and speeding up processing,” the New York Times reported. “There are some changes that will be made in parole that I think will get at the abuse and misuse of it,” said Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-South Dakota). CBS News reported that a compromise deal might exclude paroled people from applying for asylum, but official sources consulted by the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent denied that.

Another barrier to agreement is appropriations: if Republicans win new limits on asylum and other migration, implementing them will cost money, and legislative language will have to account for that.

If senators do reach a deal this week, “we’d expect the Senate to stay in session for as long as it takes to complete action on the measure,” wrote John Bresnahan at Punchbowl News. “Meaning through the weekend or whatever it takes for a final vote.”

Even if the Senate passes a Ukraine-Israel-border bill, it would then go to the House of Representatives, where the Republican majority, egged on by former president Donald Trump, may demand even stricter limits on migration.

At The Hill, Rafael Bernal highlighted the absence of Congressional Hispanic Caucus members from the Senate negotiations on restricting protection-seeking migration in exchange for Ukraine and other aid.

A statement from Ken Salazar, the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, revealed that the U.S. government repatriated migrants on 79 flights between January 1 and 21. The planes returned people to Guatemala (36 flights), Honduras (23), El Salvador (6), Colombia (3), Venezuela (3), Ecuador (2), Peru (2), Romania / India (1), Dominican Republic (1), Nicaragua (1), and Haiti (1).

Salazar’s statement credited Mexico with dismantling “at least 10 of the most prolific criminal organizations” engaged in migrant smuggling.

“On December 18 we had a pressure on the border of 12,498 migrants (per day) and we managed to reduce it to 6,751,” Mexico’s foreign minister, Alicia Bárcena, said at a presidential press conference on January 22.

Nine Democratic governors sent a letter to the White House and Congress calling for federal aid to help manage arrivals of migrants seeking refuge in their states.

Daily Border Links: January 22, 2024

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Several cabinet-level officials from the United States and Mexico met in Washington on January 19 “to follow up on migration commitments made on December 27.” Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Foreign Relations Secretary Alicia Bárcena, and other top officials “discussed the positive impact of efforts to increase migration controls on bus and train routes, crack down on criminal smuggling networks, and scale up repatriations for those who do not have a legal basis to remain in our countries,” according to a State Department readout. U.S. officials are giving Mexico’s actions much credit for January’s reduction in migrant encounters at the border.

Mexico’s Foreign Ministry announced that U.S. and Mexican representatives will soon pay a visit to Panama’s Darién Gap migration corridor. They will also meet soon to discuss migration with the newly inaugurated government in Guatemala.

Texas authorities recovered a body from the Rio Grande in Eagle Pass’s Shelby Park, the area where Texas’s state government has barred entry of Border Patrol agents. A woman and two children drowned in the area on January 12. “Caught in the middle” of the state-federal dispute in Eagle Pass “are residents of this mostly Mexican American town of 28,000 residents, some who say they feel helpless after the state seized their park,” reads an overview by Uriel García at the Texas Tribune.

Guatemalan police dispersed an attempted caravan of about 500 mostly Venezuelan and Honduran migrants who had crossed into Guatemalan territory on January 20. (As often happens, most of the migrants will instead re-enter through irregular border crossings and seek to avoid detection, often hiring smugglers or bribing officials to do so.)

In Mexico, a “caravan” that left the Mexico-Guatemala border zone at Christmas remains in the southern state of Oaxaca. About 1,400 participants are aiming to get to Mexico City on foot, as Mexico has prohibited vehicles from transporting them.

Migration has declined sharply in south Texas’s Rio Grande Valley, which from 2013 to 2021 was first in migrant encounters among Border Patrol’s nine U.S.-Mexico border sectors, the Washington Examiner reported. An increase in organized crime violence on the Mexican side of the border, in the conflictive state of Tamaulipas, may be a key reason for the reduction.

Currently, the busiest of the nine Border Patrol sectors is Tucson, Arizona. There, Sector Chief John Modlin tweeted that agents apprehended 11,900 migrants between January 12-18. That is a significant drop from 18,000-19,000 per week during the first 3 weeks of December 2023, but an increase over 9,200 apprehensions the week of January 5-11.

Apprehensions remain low in the El Paso Sector (far west Texas and New Mexico): 470 per day during the week of January 12-18, down from over 1,000 per day in December.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) and the ranking Democrat on the chamber’s Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) are part of a four-person delegation to the U.S.-Mexico border and to Mexico City. Rep. McCaul voiced “worry about the mental health of our Border Patrol. The suicide rate is going up. They don’t have the proper resources.”

President Biden told reporters on January 19 that the border is not secure: “I haven’t believed that for the last 10 years, and I’ve said it for the last 10 years. Give me the money.” In prepared remarks, he added, “I’m ready to solve the problem. I really am. Massive changes. And I mean it sincerely.”

A release from the Texas governor’s office broke down a total of 101,800 migrants placed on buses since April 2022, at state expense, to Washington, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Denver, and Los Angeles.

Analyses and Feature Stories

A potential deal in the Senate for tighter asylum restrictions for Ukraine aid “is already wobbling, as House Speaker Mike Johnson faces intense pressure from Trump and his House allies to demand more sweeping concessions from Democrats and the White House,” read an Associated Press analysis. “This febrile atmosphere makes the chances of border reform—tricky even under a more productive Congress—look slim,” the Economist observed. “Plenty of Republicans will conclude that this is no bad thing.” A New York Times analysis noted, “Election-year politics is playing a big role.”

60 House of Representatives members in the New Democrat Coalition signed a letter to Speaker Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana) calling on him to negotiate a migration-restrictions-for-Ukraine-aid deal in good faith.

A backgrounder from the International Refugee Assistance Project explained the Biden administration’s “Safe Mobility Offices” in Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Guatemala. These are a so-far limited effort to make legal immigration pathways available to some migrants in those countries, so that they may avoid traveling to the U.S.-Mexico border to seek asylum. The document includes a flowchart laying out the Offices’ complex approval process.

Two conservative media outlets, Fox News and NewsMax, published stories over the weekend reporting on organized crime violence in Mexican border cities. “No one wants to work on anything else right now. Everyone wants to work with the migrants because you can make a lot of money from it these days and it is easy work,” according to a quote from a cartel member in Ciudad Juárez that appeared in both articles.

“President Joe Biden’s third year in office was another letdown” at the border for both immigration restrictionists and immigrant rights advocates, wrote the Washington Examiner’s Anna Giaritelli.

On the Right

Weekly U.S.-Mexico Border Update: January 19, 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.


In the most recent escalation of its hardline border policies, the state government of Texas barred Border Patrol agents from a riverfront park in the border city of Eagle Pass. Two days later, a woman and two children drowned in the Rio Grande. Texas National Guardsmen prohibited Border Patrol from entering the park even in emergencies. The Biden administration sent Texas a cease-and-desist letter, and the state-federal jurisdictional clash will likely go to federal court.

Following a meeting between President Biden and congressional leadership, top senators said a deal could emerge next week that might allow the President’s request for Ukraine aid and other priorities to move forward. The price would be meeting some Republican demands for restrictions on asylum and perhaps other migration pathways, which a small group of senators continues to negotiate. Even if senators reach a deal, it could fail in the Republican-majority House, where demands for migration curbs are more extreme.

After setting records in December, migration encounters at the U.S.-Mexico border have dropped by more than half since the holidays. Biden administration officials claim that Mexico’s government has contributed to the drop with more aggressive migration control efforts. Numbers are also down significantly in the treacherous Darién Gap region between Colombia and Panama.


Read More

Daily Border Links: January 19, 2024

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A high-level delegation of officials from Mexico is in Washington today to discuss measures to control U.S.-bound migration. “U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, and White House homeland security adviser Liz Sherwood-Randall are representing the United States, with Mexican Foreign Affairs Secretary Alicia Barcena leading the visiting delegation,” Voice of America reported.

In a briefing, U.S. officials said they do not anticipate announcing any major agreement following today’s meetings. They credited Mexican efforts to block migrants, along with seasonal declines, for January’s decrease in migrant encounters at the U.S.-Mexico border. “We were seeing 10- to 12,000 people a day back in December. Now it’s 2,800, 3,100 people a day,” Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), who represents a border district, told the Washington Post.

In preparation for today’s high-level meetings, Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Troy Miller and U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Ken Salazar met yesterday with the commissioner of Mexico’s National Migration Institute (INM), Francisco Garduño. Garduño is facing criminal charges in Mexico for alleged mismanagement and corruption of INM officials that led to 40 migrants dying in a March 2023 fire in a Ciudad Juárez detention facility.

Human Rights Watch issued a statement urging the Mexican government to reject any agreement with the Biden administration that would send asylum seekers back to Mexico.

The Title 42-style expulsion of asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border appears to be a consensus element of negotiations between a small group of senators seeking a formula that might grant the Biden administration’s request for Ukraine aid and other priorities, while meeting Republican demands for restrictions on asylum and other migration. Reporting points to Senate negotiators agreeing on expelling asylum seekers, regardless of protection needs, if daily migrant encounters at the border exceed a certain number. Such a measure would require Mexico to accept expelled migrants, as it did for citizens of seven countries during the COVID pandemic.

The senators might reveal consensus legislative language as early as next week. Still, the agreement’s prospects for passing the Republican-majority House of Representatives have grown dimmer. While he claims to support Ukraine aid, Speaker Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana) has called for tougher limits on asylum and other migration pathways in the funding bill than what are likely to appear in the Democratic-majority Senate’s version. And former president Donald Trump is now vocally opposing the Senate deal, even before its contents are known.

The House and Senate passed legislation keeping the government open at 2023 funding levels through early March. Conservative House Republicans briefly sought to include hard-line border and migration language in this “continuing resolution,” but in the end, the chamber passed a “clean” funding bill.

Panama’s security minister will meet today with Colombian counterparts to discuss efforts to curb organized crime and migrant smuggling in the Darién Gap.

The treacherous jungle region has seen four months of declines in migration, from a record 81,946 people in August to a 12-month low of 24,626 in December. Still, a remarkable 520,085 people migrated through the Darién in 2023, more than double the previous record set in 2022.

Numbers continue to drop: the deputy director of Panama’s National Migration Service said that more than 6,000 people passed through the Darién during the first 12 days of January, a rate that—if sustained—would mean less than 16,000 migrants for the month, the fewest since June 2022.

ICE removed a reported 61 people aboard a plane to Haiti yesterday. “The timing of this removal flight breaks the full-year 2023 pattern of 1 flight each month at the END of the month so I’ll be watching to see if the pattern moves to 2 per month,” tweeted Tom Cartwright of Witness at the Border, who closely monitors removal flights.

Analyses and Feature Stories

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is inciting a conflict between Border Patrol and the state’s National Guard that is inching closer and closer toward a violent clash between armed agents of state and federal law enforcement,” warned Mark Joseph Stern at Slate.

Chelsie Kramer and Emma Winger warned at the American Immigration Council’s Immigration Impact blog, “The stakes are high. If allowed to stand, other states might set up their own immigration enforcement schemes, splintering the already complex immigration system and leading to widespread arrests and deportations without key federal protections.”

“During the Civil Rights Movement, there were three major crises in which Southern governors, refusing orders to desegregate schools, attempted to defy the federal government,” recalled a San Antonio Express-News editorial.

“The Biden administration seems out of ideas. And standing behind a standard-bearer deploying xenophobia as a selling point in a hotly contested bid for reelection, Republican calls to “secure the border” amount to little more than a political bludgeon,” wrote Eduardo Porter at the Washington Post.

“In the past, the majority [of Mexican citizens crossing the border] were migrants of opportunity, largely single men, and some women, looking for work opportunities,” Princeton University migration expert Douglas Massey told James North at the New Republic. “But in recent years, we now see from Mexico migrants of despair—entire families, including children. …What we have on the border now is a humanitarian crisis, and not really an immigration crisis.”

Cuba’s El Toque recalled that Cuban migrants who receive humanitarian parole—those who use the Biden administration’s sponsorship program, and those who seek asylum via CBP One appointments at the border—are not eligible for the Cuban Adjustment Act, which normally allows Cuban citizens to apply for U.S. residency after a year in the United States.

An Associated Press article explained the humanitarian parole authority, a big sticking point in Senate negotiations over adding migration restrictions to the Biden administration’s Ukraine funding request.

The Border Chronicle featured a photo narrative about U.S. surveillance technology along the border, created by Arizona-based geographer Dugan Meyer and photographer Colter Thomas.

On the Right

Daily Border Links: January 18, 2024

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President Biden hosted top congressional leaders at the White House on Wednesday, where senior administration officials urged them to approve a $110.5 billion request for funding for Ukraine, Israel, border efforts, and other priorities. Congressional Republicans are holding up the request with demands for changes to U.S. law that would reduce migrants’ access to asylum and other legal pathways.

Senate leaders said that they are close to a deal that might allow the legislation to move ahead as early as next week. That deal might include a Title 42-like authority to expel asylum seekers, regardless of protection needs, when migrant encounters exceed a daily threshold. It might also require asylum seekers subjected to “credible fear” screening interviews to prove a higher standard of threat.

Democrats continue to resist Republican demands that the deal restrict the 70-year-old presidential authority to grant temporary humanitarian parole to some migrants. Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-South Dakota) said that parole is the chief Republican demand that remains unresolved.

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana) indicated that his chamber’s Republican majority will demand even stricter measures than what is likely to emerge from Senate negotiations, like a reinstatement of the Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” policy. Republican senators are pushing back, insisting that stricter measures cannot pass the Democratic-majority Senate.

On Wednesday night, Fox News host Laura Ingraham told Speaker Johnson that ex-president Donald Trump told her he opposes the likely Senate deal and wants Johnson to oppose it too. As most House Republicans are tightly loyal to Trump, this is a severe blow to the funding package’s prospects.

A delegation of Mexican government officials, led by the secretaries of foreign relations, defense, and navy, will be in Washington on Friday to discuss migration with the U.S. secretaries of state and homeland security.

The House of Representatives passed a brief resolution “denouncing the Biden administration’s open-borders policies.” Fourteen Democrats voted for it, including two representing south Texas border districts.

On Thursday the House Homeland Security Committee will hold its second hearing seeking to establish House Republicans’ case for impeaching Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on grounds of failing to secure the border and halt migration. House Republicans are working on a fast timetable, though it is not clear whether they have enough votes to impeach within their own caucus. A letter from 26 former senior DHS officials, from both Republican and Democratic administrations, opposed the impeachment proceedings.

Late Wednesday, Texas authorities announced their first arrests of migrants, on state trespassing charges, in a large park along the Rio Grande in Eagle Pass where police and national guardsmen have barred Border Patrol from operating for the past seven days.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had given Texas until the end of the day Wednesday to rescind its order and allow Border Patrol to operate in Shelby Park, at which time it would refer the matter to the Department of Justice. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton published a letter on Wednesday rejecting DHS’s demand.

A woman and two children from Mexico drowned in the river near the park last Friday night; Texas’s ban left Border Patrol agents unable to be present to detect or rescue them.

In an unusual move, the federal 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed to reconsider its December ruling ordering Texas to remove a 1,000-foot string of buoys placed down the middle of the Rio Grande in Eagle Pass. Texas had asked the court for an “en banc” hearing of all 17 of its active judges, a request that gets granted only about 1 percent of the time. That hearing will happen in May; in the meantime, the buoys may remain in the river. Most of the Circuit’s 17 active judges are Republican appointees, though the 3-judge panel that ordered the buoys removed included 2 Democratic appointees.

Very low temperatures are threatening asylum seekers gathered outdoors along the border, especially in southern Arizona and in Matamoros, Mexico across from Brownsville, Texas. As many as 1,000 people await processing in the Tohono O’odham Nation lands along the border in remote desert southwest of Tucson, and others continue to arrive near Sásabe, just west of Nogales.

After a night in crowded shelters in Matamoros, most migrants waiting in an outdoor camp have returned to a precarious tent encampment despite the freezing temperatures. The Sidewalk School, a charity that operates in Matamoros and Reynosa, is appealing for donations to help provide for them.

On the Right

Daily Border Links: January 17, 2024

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After House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana) appeared poised to reject a possible bipartisan Senate deal to restrict access to asylum at the border—arguing that it doesn’t go far enough—Republican senators urged Johnson to reconsider. Senate negotiators have been discussing restrictions on asylum—including a possible Title 42-style expulsion authority—in exchange for Republican support of a White House request for funding for Ukraine, Israel, border operations, and other priorities.

In the Senate, where 60 votes are needed to move legislation forward, Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas), John Thune (R-South Dakota), and others argued that it will be impossible to get enough moderate Democrats to go along with migration restrictions in the future, if a Republican president is elected. “This is a unique moment in time. It’s an opportunity to get some conservative border policy,” Thune said. Senate Republicans’ lead negotiator, Sen. James Lankford (R-Oklahoma), had a phone call with Speaker Johnson, who reiterated his support for the hard-line bill (H.R. 2) that passed his chamber on a party-line vote last May.

President Biden will meet with congressional leadership at the White House today to push for passage of his funding request.

“Maybe they [Border Patrol] could have prevented this because they would have seen what was happening” using their “scope trucks,” said Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), who was among the first to denounce the death of three migrants in the Rio Grande while Texas national guardsmen barred Border Patrol from accessing a riverfront park in Eagle Pass. Since Cuellar’s January 13 statement, a Border Patrol official clarified that the mother and two children had already drowned when Texas blocked agents from Shelby Park. Still, as a Department of Justice Supreme Court filing noted, it is “impossible to say what might have happened if Border Patrol had had its former access to the area.”

Texas officials granted NewsNation correspondent Jorge Ventura to the park yesterday, where he posted video of Texas guardsmen using riot shields to block a migrant from entering the park to turn himself in.

Texas Democrats held a press call at which some, like Rep. Joaquín Castro of San Antonio, demanded that President Biden federalize Texas’s National Guard. “I want to be very clear what is happening in Texas right now is incredibly dangerous,” said Rep. Veronica Escobar of El Paso.

One state legislator, Eddie Morales of Eagle Pass, called on Biden to suspend access to asylum temporarily. “I spoke with multiple Reps who clarified that he [Morales] is alone in this position,” tweeted Pablo de la Rosa of Texas Public Radio.

Several Democratic senators, including some facing tough re-election races this year, introduced the “Stop Fentanyl at the Border Act,” which would increase funding for CBP officers, Border Patrol agents, scanners for ports of entry, and similar items.

Mexican authorities arrested in Cancún, and deported to Bogotá, Nelson Enrique Bautista Reatiga alias “Poporro,” who Colombia’s police chief called a “main coordinator” of smuggling Colombian migrants to the United States. He allegedly helped Colombian, Peruvian, and other South American citizens arrive at the U.S. border after flying to Mexico, which citizens of Colombia and Peru can mostly do visa-free.

Analyses and Feature Stories

“Moderate Democratic legislators can tell themselves and their constituents that reaching this type of deal is a way to stop abuse of the asylum system and won’t turn away ‘worthy’ claimants, but that’s simply a lie,” wrote Felipe de la Hoz at the New Republic.

At the Border Chronicle, Melissa del Bosque reports of encountering NewsMax reporter Jaeson Jones reporting from an Arizona site where asylum seekers had arrived, while accompanied by several masked, armed men “wearing hats marked with the logo of the Texas Department of Public Safety Intelligence and Counterterrorism division.” The men confronted humanitarian volunteers in the area and identified themselves as providers of “intelligence for House committees, including the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability.”

A UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll finds that 30 percent of California Democratic voters believe that the U.S.-Mexico border is not secure.

On the Right

Daily Border Links: January 16, 2024

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On Friday January 12, two days after Texas’s state government started blocking Border Patrol from a 2.5-mile stretch of the Rio Grande in Eagle Pass, three migrants—a woman and two children—drowned to death. The Department of Homeland Security stated that Border Patrol agents were aware that the migrants were in distress in the river, but were prevented from acting because Texas national guardsmen “physically barred” them from entering the area.

Texas is denying DHS’s account, claiming that the drownings had already occurred when Border Patrol sought to access the area. A Justice Department filing before the Supreme Court stated that the drownings had already happened when Border Patrol was blocked, but that it is “impossible to say what might have happened if Border Patrol had had its former access to the area.”

DHS sent a January 14 letter to Texas’s state attorney-general giving the state until Wednesday to reinstate Border Patrol’s access to Shelby Park in Eagle Pass. If Texas refuses, the letter promises “appropriate action,” including referring the matter to the Department of Justice. DOJ is already litigating Texas’s placement of buoys in the river in Eagle Pass; Texas’s ban on Border Patrol agents cutting concertina wire along the river; and Texas’s controversial anti-migrant law known as S.B.4.

“I think it’s not an exaggeration that this is as direct a confrontation between a state and the federal government as we’ve seen since desegregation,” Steve Vladeck, a constitutional law expert at the University of Texas School of Law, told the Washington Post.

“I’m glad for what Gov. Abbott is doing,” the president of the Border Patrol agents’ union, Brandon Judd, told Fox Business, calling DHS’s statements “propaganda.”

Migrant encounters at the U.S.-Mexico border continue to be well below December’s record-setting levels, hovering above 3,000 per day after exceeding 10,000 per day in December.

In Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector, which is currently the busiest of the agency’s nine U.S.-Mexico border sectors, Chief John Modlin reported 9,200 migrant apprehensions in the week ending January 11, down from 18,400-19,400 during each of the first three weeks of December.

In Jacumba Springs, California, Mexican authorities claim that daily arrivals have dropped to about 380 per day, from up to 1,200 last month.

“After a significant decrease in migrant encounters earlier this month, migrant apprehensions in the Del Rio Border Patrol Sector have increased since last week,” CNN reported. “About 1,000 migrant apprehensions took place Sunday in the Del Rio Sector, compared to between 500 and 600 earlier in the week.”

Temperatures are below freezing along the south Texas-Mexico border. On the Mexican side, Texas Public Radio reported, “Some migrants, more than 300 in Matamoros, still remain outdoors after authorities displaced more than a thousand individuals from encampments last month on the day after Christmas.”

A small group of senators continues to negotiate limits on asylum and other legal migration pathways, as a way to win Republican support for a budget package including aid to Ukraine and Israel and resources for border operations. It is possible, though far from certain, that legislative language could emerge this week. Negotiators appear to have agreed on a higher standard in asylum seekers’ “credible fear” interviews and Title 42-style expulsions of asylum seekers when migrant arrivals rise above a certain threshold. Republicans continue to insist on curbing the presidential authority to issue humanitarian parole, in particular to asylum seekers released at the border following “CBP One” appointments at ports of entry.

House Republican leaders are signaling that a deal coming out of the Senate could be “dead on arrival” (a phrase from Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-Louisiana)) if it doesn’t include items that Democrats are very unlikely to agree to, like hundreds of miles more border wall and a revived “Remain in Mexico” program. At Semafor, Joseph Zeballos-Roig pointed out that any harsh new measures involving more deportations would require Mexico to be willing to accept many of them.

Speaker Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana) posted a screenshot of what Fox News claimed were elements of a border deal with the words, “Absolutely not.” These included an increase in green card approvals and a threshold of 5,000 migrant arrivals per day that might trigger expulsions. Sen. James Lankford (R-Oklahoma), the Republicans’ lead negotiator, replied that the screenshot was false.

Lankford told Politico’s Burgess Everett that “If he can get 25 or more of the 49 GOP senators to sign onto something, he’s betting that it might be enough to get Speaker Mike Johnson to take up a big emergency spending bill with Ukraine aid—without losing the gavel to a conservative rebellion.”

Panama has acquired eight helicopters, among other measures to step up its patrolling of the treacherous Darién Gap migration corridor. The Panamanian government is calling the effort “Operation Chocó II,” and it is to last for at least six months.

Mexico’s foreign minister “ordered the 53 consulates in the United States and five in Canada to reinforce their media activity to defend the name of Mexico in the face of hate and fear speeches” during the upcoming 2024 U.S. electoral campaign, Milenio reported.

In 2022 and 2023, Mexico issued ‘oficios de salida’ to 33,695 citizens of Cuba. These “formally oblige them to leave the national territory, but in practice allow them to continue on their way to the northern border. …Meanwhile, 49,978 were granted visitor’s cards for humanitarian reasons, which allow them to remain in the country, travel freely and obtain employment for up to one year,” Reforma reported.

The state commission on missing persons in Baja California, Mexico reported that 30 migrants went missing in the Tijuana-San Diego area in 2023, but immigration officials and advocates assert that the true number of disappeared is much higher.

Homicides in Tijuana (pop. 1.7 million) dropped by 8 percent from 2022 to 2023, to a still very-high 1,884.

Analyses and Feature Stories

Policy changes that might come from a deal in the Senate, like enabling asylum seeker expulsions and weakening humanitarian parole, “are likely to drive more unauthorized migration to the border and make President Biden’s immigration challenges even worse,” wrote Andrea Flores of, a former Biden White House official, at the New York Times.

“David J. Peters, a sociologist at Iowa State University who studies opioid addiction in rural areas, argued that the campaigns focusing on Mexico and border security are an easier sell than focusing on the underlying reason people take drugs, whether it’s unequal economic opportunities, family instability or mental health woes,” reported the Washington Post.

San Diego’s inewsource reported back after “reporters spent 48 straight hours, starting noon Jan. 2, in and around the encampments” where migrants are awaiting Border Patrol processing near Jacumba Springs, California.

Daily Border Links: January 12, 2024


Texas’s state government has “indefinitely” taken over and sealed off the expansive riverfront park in the city of Eagle Pass and is prohibiting federal Border Patrol agents from accessing it to process asylum-seeking migrants. Texas state authorities have instead sought to arrest migrants and jail them for trespassing.

The mayor of Eagle Pass pointed out that migrant arrivals there have dropped to about 400 per day, from a peak of 4,000 per day at times in December.

Advocates had planned to hold a ceremony in Shelby Park on Saturday to commemorate the many migrants who died trying to cross the border in 2023—many of them drowned in the river near Eagle Pass.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) generated an outcry with comments in a Jan. 5 interview with right-wing radio host Dana Loesch: “The only thing that we are not doing is we’re not shooting people who come across the border because, of course, the Biden administration would charge us with murder.”

Congress is out of session until Tuesday, as negotiations drag on regarding a deal that might allow legislative approval of the Biden administration’s request for $110.5 billion in aid to Ukraine and Israel, border items, and other priorities. Republican legislators are demanding curbs on asylum, humanitarian parole, and other pathways to migrant protections as a condition for their support of the spending package.

In remarks, lead Democratic negotiator Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut) took a hard line against Republican demands that any compromise limit the 70-year-old presidential power to grant migrants temporary humanitarian parole. Republican negotiators James Lankford (R-Oklahoma) and Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina) criticized the Biden administration’s use of parole for asylum seekers released following appointments at ports of entry arranged via the CBP One app.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) urged Republican senators to “take this opportunity” and support what emerges from negotiations between a small group of senators. Negotiator Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Arizona) said that the small group is down to final items and close to presenting a compromise legislative framework or text. Sen. Lankford sounded optimistic about this compromise gaining as many as 70 votes in the Senate.

Several Democrats said that they would reject a funding bill if it included border wall spending and a renewed “Remain in Mexico” program, which House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana) called for in a Wednesday radio interview.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas offered to testify before the House Homeland Security Committee, where the chamber’s Republican majority has launched proceedings to impeach him. Mayorkas turned down the Committee’s invitation to appear at its next hearing on Thursday the 18th, because he has to meet with a visiting delegation of Mexican officials. Committee Chairman Mark Green (R-Tennessee) accused Mayorkas of “putting the interests of Mexico ahead of the American people.”

Anabela Meza Cevallos, president of the Association of Ecuadorian Residents in Mexico (Ecuarmex), said she expected migration from Ecuador to rise further following a dramatic January 9 display of organized crime violence throughout the country. U.S. authorities encountered 122,841 Ecuadorian migrants at the Mexico border between December 2022 and November 2023, 6th among all countries during that period.

Before being kidnapped near the border in Tamaulipas, Mexico between December 30 and January 3, 26 Venezuelan and 6 Honduran migrants aboard a bus from Monterrey passed through 2 Mexican security checkpoints, at which they “were extorted by officials for 500 pesos, or $30, per person each time,” Reuters reported.

More than 100 animals died in an August wildfire in a south Texas wildlife refuge because they were trapped by a concrete levee-style border wall, the Guardian reported.

Analyses and Feature Stories

Restrictions on protection-seeking migration, like those urged by Republican legislators in ongoing negotiations, will “strengthen incentives for migrants to attempt border crossings between legal ports” and “drive up demand for the services of human smugglers,” wrote Will Freeman of the Council on Foreign Relations at Time.

Amid declining birthrates in the United States, the foreign-born population may have reached an estimated 15 percent last year. The last time that happened, in 1910, “a nativist frenzy and sharp restrictions on immigration” ensued, Lauren Villagrán wrote in USA Today.

On the Right

Daily Border Links: January 11, 2024


A small group of senators continues to negotiate a deal that might allow the Biden administration’s request for a big package of aid to Ukraine and Israel, border funding, and other priorities to move forward in the chamber. In exchange for supporting the bill, Republicans continue to demand restrictions on the right to seek asylum, as well as on other legal migration pathways. They appear to be near agreement on raising standards that asylum seekers must meet in “credible fear” interviews, and on expelling asylum seekers into Mexico, Title 42-style, when daily migrant numbers reach a certain threshold or when migrants do not specifically request asylum.

Democratic negotiators continue to resist Republicans’ insistence that any agreement include a numerical cap or other tight limits on the presidential authority—which dates back to the 1950s—to offer temporary parole to migrants on humanitarian grounds. It is not fully clear whether Republicans are targeting the Biden program to parole citizens of Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Ukraine, or more specifically the use of parole to release asylum seekers from the border into the U.S. interior, following “CBP One” appointments at ports of entry, while their cases await adjudication.

CBS News reported that the Senate negotiations’ scope has expanded beyond asylum and parole to include “conversations about Afghan evacuees, the children of high-skilled visa-holders, and work permits for asylum-seekers,” items that could sweeten the deal for Democratic legislators.

Republican senators are sounding skeptical about whether a deal that might satisfy them can be reached, and cast strong doubt on whether any legislative language might emerge this week.

They pointed out, too, that whatever gets agreed must then go to the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, where demands for limits on asylum and legal migration may be even stiffer. “We cannot be involved in securing the border of Ukraine or other nations until we secure our own,” House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana) told a conservative radio host. “And so that border fight is coming, and we’re going to die on that hill.” Johnson called for more border wall and a revival of the Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” program, which does not appear to have been a significant demand in Senate negotiations. Johnson and President Biden discussed border policy in a January 10 phone call.

House Republicans began their effort to impeach Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas with a lengthy hearing in the Homeland Security Committee, at which they argued that Mayorkas has failed to do his duty to secure the border. A letter from a group of law scholars argued that the Constitution does not allow impeachment for alleged “maladministration,” only “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”

The first days of January have seen a sharp drop in migration through the Darién Gap region straddling Colombia and Panama. The Panamanian government’s migration director said the drop could be caused by a bridge collapse near Necoclí, Colombia and by increasing use of aerial routes to Nicaragua, which avoid the Darién entirely.

Just over 1,000 migrants continue to participate in a “caravan” in southern Mexico, a regrouped remnant of a much larger migration and protest that began at Christmas. They are now in Oaxaca, having walked through Mexico’s southernmost state of Chiapas; Mexican authorities are allowing participants to walk but prohibiting anyone from transporting them in vehicles.

Analyses and Feature Stories

A report from the Migration Policy Institute called for significant investments in migrant processing and ports of entry at the border, federal mechanisms to help direct migrants to communities that wish to accommodate them, more diplomatic coordination with countries along the route, and vastly more investment in asylum adjudication, among other recommendations.

Reuters accompanied the difficult journey of migrants aboard a Texas state government-funded bus from Brownsville, Texas to Chicago.

“Today, liberals describe border-security measures that the Democratic Party once would have favored as severe, cruel or ‘Trump-era,’” wrote New York Times columnist David Leonhardt.

Former Mexican foreign minister Jorge Castañeda asked why President Andrés Manuel López Obrador doesn’t demand more from the United States as a precondition for Mexico performing “containment” of U.S.-bound migrants.

Stuart Anderson of the National Foundation for American Policy doubted, in a Forbes column, that Mexico might agree to some of the cross-border expulsions, deportations, and “Remain in Mexico” referrals that would result from Republican demands for stricter limits on asylum.

On the Right

Daily Border Links: January 3, 2024

Staff are taking a few days off. Daily links will resume on January 11.


After breaking records before the holidays, arrivals of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border have dropped sharply, at least for the moment. Border Patrol apprehended 2,500 migrants on January 1, down from over 10,000 during several days in mid-December. On a call with reporters, unnamed U.S. officials praised Mexico for taking “enhanced enforcement actions” including deportation flights to Venezuela, which the officials said that they also expect to “ramp up.” With less need to divert personnel into migrant processing, by January 4 CBP will reopen its Lukeville, Arizona port of entry, as well as a temporarily shuttered PedWest pedestrian crossing south of San Diego, California, a pedestrian crossing in Nogales, Arizona, and one of two border bridges between Piedras Negras, Coahuila and Eagle Pass, Texas.

Congress begins its 2024 session on Monday, but a small group of Senate negotiators is already back in Washington, as they continue seeking a deal that would allow the body to move forward with the Biden administration’s emergency request for $110.5 billion in aid to Ukraine and Israel, more border measures, and other priorities. Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut), James Lankford (R-Oklahoma), and Kyrsten Sinema (I-Arizona) met for 90 minutes yesterday, along with DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Republican legislators are insisting on changes to U.S. law that would put asylum and other legal pathways out of reach for many more migrants. “We gotta do something. They ought to give me the money I need to protect the border,” President Biden told reporters yesterday.

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana) will lead a delegation of more than 60 House Republicans today to the border at Eagle Pass, Texas. If senators manage to reach and approve a deal on a spending bill, House Republicans are likely to demand even stricter limits on asylum and other legal migration pathways once their chamber takes up the legislation. Speaker Johnson’s visit is under attack from the Republican far right. Leading border hawk Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) said he will not be in Eagle Pass because “our people are tired of meetings,” while onetime Trump chief of staff Steve Bannon dismissed the trip as a “photo op.”

Mexican authorities are still searching for a group of 31 migrants, from a few countries, kidnapped from a bus in northern Mexico near the border on December 30. The mass abduction happened in Mexico’s easternmost border state, Tamaulipas, which is notoriously dangerous. Authorities freed a group of five Venezuelans, including two minors, who according to Reuters were not part of the bus group. Kidnappers in Tamaulipas “take 10 to 15 migrants a day who come to Reynosa or Matamoros for their CBP appointments,” Father Francisco Gallardo of the Diocese of Matamoros, a longtime shelter director, told Milenio.

The Biden administration Justice Department is asking the Supreme Court for an emergency ruling to decide whether Border Patrol agents have the right to cut through the hundreds of miles of razor-sharp concertina wire that Texas state authorities have laid along the Rio Grande. Texas had sued in federal court in late October to prevent agents from cutting the wire to access asylum seekers on the riverbank, except in emergency situations. (Once on U.S. soil, people have a right to ask U.S. authorities for asylum.) A district court judge denied Texas’s request, but the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Texas on December 19.

A “migrant caravan” that made U.S. headlines over Christmas has ended in the municipality of Mapastepec, about 75 miles from Mexico’s border with Guatemala, where remaining caravan participants have turned themselves in to Mexican migration authorities. According to La Jornada, activist and organizer Luis García Villagrán said “an agreement could be reached for the delivery of documents” allowing more than 3,000 migrants to stay legally and possibly to travel through Mexico.

Analyses and Feature Stories

“On a warming planet, migration is not the security risk. The security risk is the backlash to it,” Tom Ellison of the Center for Climate and Security wrote at Just Security.

Daily Border Links: January 2, 2024

We’ll be posting updates on January 2 and 3, then staff are taking a few days off. Updates will resume a daily tempo on January 11.


Sources within CBP told Fox news that the agency encountered 302,000 migrants in December, a new single-month record. The number includes both Border Patrol apprehensions and arrivals of migrants at ports of entry. (The latter have averaged just over 50,000 in recent months). The largest monthly Border-Patrol-plus-ports-of-entry amount CBP had previously reported was 269,735 in September 2023.

2023 ended with a total of 520,085 people crossing the treacherous Darién Gap between Colombia and Panama, according to Panama’s Public Security Ministry. That is more than double the 2022 total, and 120,000 of them were under age 18. “Venezuelans 328,667, Ecuadorians 57,222, Haitians 46,558 and from China 25,344 were the most recurrent nationalities crossing,” the Ministry tweeted. Monthly passage of migrants declined from October (49,256) to November (37,231) to December (24,626), repeating what may be a seasonal pattern.

Thirty-one migrants are missing, presumed kidnapped, in Mexico’s organized crime-dominated border state of Tamaulipas, where armed men in five pickup trucks stopped a bus on a highway between Monterrey and the border city of Reynosa on December 30.

In Ciudad Juárez, following a large-scale mid-December arrival of migrants aiming to cross the border into El Paso, migrant shelters are down to about 60 percent capacity as new arrivals are declining. “We expect it to increase in 15 days or within a week,” said a Ciudad Juárez shelter network spokesperson.

Their numbers reduced, participants in a “migrant caravan” that got media attention in the days after Christmas have walked about 60 miles of Chiapas, Mexico’s southernmost state, since December 24.

Analyses and Feature Stories

“When a migrant does not have the resources” to pay Colombia’s Gulf Clan organized crime group for permission to cross the Darién Gap, the chief of staff of Colombia’s Navy told Caracol Radio, “we’ve had indications that women are forced to provide sexual services or they are also told that they must transport between 10 and 20 kilos of cocaine to have the right to pass through that region.”

UNHCR’s representative in Mexico says that 35,000 migrants—mainly asylum seekers—have contributed US$10 million per year in taxes to Mexico after settling in recent years in the country’s north, where employers report labor scarcity.

On the Right

Daily Border Links: December 28, 2023

This will be the last Daily Border Links post until January 2, unless events demand otherwise. Best wishes for a happy holiday.


Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas led a U.S. government delegation that met with President Andrés Manuel López Obrador yesterday for two and a half hours in Mexico City. The main topic was the large number of migrants currently crossing Mexico and arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border. Mayorkas called the meeting “productive.” Neither country’s officials announced resulting policy changes, though López Obrador made a vague reference to “important agreements.” An unnamed senior administration official told CNN that there was agreement on “the need to really crack down on the smugglers that are putting migrants on buses, putting migrants on trains. We’ve seen that really contribute to the increase that we’ve seen at the border and just in recent weeks.” The Wall Street Journal observed that “The U.S. has spent months trying to persuade Mexico to allow the State Department to process refugees in Mexico” and that Mexico may be willing to accept expelled migrants “if it ultimately lowers the number of migrants attempting the journey.”

“We were really impressed by some of the new actions that Mexico is taking, and we have seen in recent days a pretty significant reduction in border crossings,” the official said, according to Agénce France Presse. U.S. authorities apprehended about 6,000 migrants along the U.S.-Mexico border on December 26, down from an average of 9,600 per day earlier this month. Despite the recent drop, it appears likely that December will break Border Patrol’s record for most migrant apprehensions in a month.

With very little advance warning, officials in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, across from Brownsville, Texas, forcibly dismantled a year-old tent encampment that was still housing about 200 migrants, many of them awaiting CBP One appointments. The city’s shelters are already saturated. “About 70 migrants flung themselves into the river Tuesday night and crossed into the U.S.,” the Associated Press reported. “They remained trapped for hours along the riverbank beneath the layers of concertina wire set up by orders of the Texas governor.”

A “migrant caravan” that began near the Mexico-Guatemala border on Christmas Eve has covered about 50 miles of Mexico’s southernmost state of Chiapas. The “caravan’s” numbers are dwindling as exhaustion sets in: from at least 7,500 from about 24 nationalities, to about 3,000 now. Rather than attempt to walk all the way to the U.S.-Mexico border, participants are mainly petitioning Mexican migratory authorities to give them “a document with which we can remain in the country,” one of the caravan’s principal organizers said.

Though Congress is out of session until January 8, the small group of senators negotiating a possible Ukraine aid-for-asylum-restrictions deal has resumed meeting, virtually, as of December 27.

Guatemala’s migration agency reported having expelled 23,711 northbound irregular migrants back into Honduras between January 1 and December 25, including at least 16,931 Venezuelans, 1,644 Ecuadorians, 1,558 Haitians, 907 Colombians, and 907 Hondurans.

New York Mayor Eric Adams issued an executive order that would issue criminal misdemeanor charges against bus companies—especially those contracted by Texas’s state government—that deliver migrants at non-approved hours and without giving city authorities at least 32 hours of advance notice. The measure “comes after 14 busloads of migrants arrived from Texas in a single night last week, the highest total recorded since the spring of 2022,” the New York Times reported.

Analyses and Feature Stories

According to Colombia’s attorney-general’s office, the BBC reported, migrants are avoiding the Darién Gap by paying “between $1,500 and $5,000 for ‘tourist packages’ that include permission to enter the island and transportation in clandestine boats from San Andres to the port of Bluefields in Nicaragua.” The trip is at least as deadly as the Darién.

The Associated Press pointed out that the Texas state government’s campaign of arresting thousands of migrants, among other border security measures, has not deterred people from crossing the border irregularly into the state.

Lengthy analyses in two principal U.K. papers, the Financial Times and the Guardian, looked at the border and migration situation’s political impact as the 2024 election campaign year begins.

On the Right

Daily Border Links: December 22, 2023

This will be the last Daily Border Links post until January 2, unless events demand otherwise. Best wishes for a happy holiday.


“Border Patrol made about 10,500 apprehensions along the southwest border on Tuesday, according to two sources familiar with the data,” ABC News reported. “Agents made roughly 10,600 migrant apprehensions along the southwest border on Wednesday. That was only a slight decline from Monday, and still high.” NBC News reported, “approximately 27,000 migrants were in CBP custody as of Wednesday night, another record.”

President Biden called Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador yesterday to discuss measures to manage very heavy current arrivals of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border. They agreed that “additional enforcement actions are urgently needed,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said. It is not clear what those actions might be. Biden is sending a delegation to Mexico, probably on December 27, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, and White House Homeland Security Adviser Liz Sherwood-Randall.

Large numbers of people continue to cross from Piedras Negras, Coahuila into Eagle Pass, Texas. “They were telling me that there are about six thousand just today (yesterday) and last week about five thousand every day, thousands of people are crossing the river with their families and children,” the sheriff of Maverick County (which includes Eagle Pass), Tom Schmerber, told Mexico’s Milenio.

Visiting El Paso, Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-Texas) tweeted that Border Patrol has about 4,500 migrants in custody in that sector, and claimed “a rise in Venezuelan gang activity in these U.S. processing centers. Venezuela’s largest criminal organization – Tren de Aragua has assaulted Border Patrol agents and harasses other illegal aliens.”

The head of Mexico’s migration authority reported that its migrant encounters have “increased considerably in the final stretch of the year.”

International aid agencies are warning that thousands of migrants could become stranded in Honduras if the country’s congress fails to prolong a suspension of a $261 fine charged to every irregular in-transit migrant. Honduras suspended the fine in May 2022 and has to renew the “amnesty” periodically; the next time is in January.

Analyses and Feature Stories

In Arizona’s borderlands, “the percentage of human-smuggling and drug-trafficking crimes committed by undocumented immigrants has gone down, whereas the number committed by U.S. citizens or others with lawful status has gone up,” Geraldo Cadava reported at the New Yorker.

On the Right

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