Adam Isacson

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


Notes and Comments

At WOLA: U.S. Congress Must Not Gut the Right to Asylum at a Time of Historic Need

Republican legislators have dug in and have given the Biden administration a list of demands. Aid for Ukraine and other items in the White House’s supplemental budget request will not get their approval, they say, unless the law is changed in ways that all but eliminate the right to seek asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Here, at WOLA’s site, is an analysis of this proposal and the unspeakable harm that it would do. We urge the administration and congressional Democrats to stand strong and reject it.

From the conclusion:

If the Senate Republicans’ November 6 proposal were to become law, it would deny asylum to almost all protection-seeking migrants, unless:

  • That migrant sought asylum and received rejections in every country through which they passed en route to the United States.
  • That migrant presented at a land-border port of entry (official border crossing), even though CBP strictly limits asylum seekers’ access to these facilities.
  • The U.S. government could not send that migrant to a third country to seek asylum there.
  • In an initial “credible fear” interview within days of apprehension, that migrant met a higher screening standard.

If an asylum seeker clears those hurdles, the Republican proposal would require them to await their court hearings in ICE detention—even if they are a parent with children—or while “remaining in Mexico.”

This proposal is extraordinarily radical. Congressional Republicans’ demands to attach it to 2024 spending put the Biden administration in a tough position. It is a terrible choice to have to secure funding for Ukraine and other priorities by ending the United States’ historic role as a country of refuge, breaking international commitments dating back to the years after World War II.

Read the whole thing here.

Migration at the U.S.-Mexico Border Dropped 11 Percent from September to October

All CBP (Border Patrol Plus Port of Entry) Migrant Encounters
by Country at the U.S.-Mexico Border

October 2023: Mexico 26%, Venezuela 17%, Guatemala 10%, Honduras 9%, Colombia 6%, Cuba 5.2%, Ecuador 5.0%, El Salvador 3%, All Others <2%

Since October 2020: Mexico 33%, Honduras 11.2%, Guatemala 11.1%, Venezuela 8%, Cuba 6%, Nicaragua 5%, Colombia 4.5%, All Others <4%

	Mexico	Honduras	Guatemala	Venezuela	Cuba	Nicaragua	Colombia	El Salvador	Ecuador	Other Countries
20-Oct	46786	7370	9292	143	1679	256	26	3014	2220	1143
20-Nov	44164	8199	10323	184	1590	387	69	3650	2765	782
20-Dec	39370	10358	12454	206	2067	640	73	3921	3676	1229
21-Jan	40793	11232	13137	295	1899	534	69	3580	3598	3277
21-Feb	44257	20180	19154	913	3848	706	76	5599	3440	2926
21-Mar	62504	42116	34060	2566	5700	1930	179	9475	5579	9168
21-Apr	65597	38205	30053	6048	3288	3074	260	11043	8079	13148
21-May	70874	32131	26452	7499	2664	4414	408	10462	11691	14002
21-Jun	64908	35033	30246	7583	3072	7435	481	11582	12803	15891
21-Jul	59959	45297	36468	6126	3559	13456	751	12719	17335	17923
21-Aug	56397	42125	37108	6301	4496	9979	1562	12692	17611	21569
21-Sep	59985	27078	24288	10814	4812	7298	2248	10953	7353	37172
21-Oct	66049	21861	19374	13416	5896	9255	3015	9801	748	15422
21-Nov	63846	20105	20469	20388	6605	13627	3368	9664	556	16217
21-Dec	51475	18141	21009	24801	7986	15297	4094	8874	673	26903
22-Jan	60341	12011	13856	22779	9721	11564	3911	5810	602	14279
22-Feb	71850	14075	18215	3073	16557	13296	9608	7146	683	11507
22-Mar	88132	16213	21392	4053	32153	16017	15373	8403	877	19961
22-Apr	82568	15734	19910	4107	34839	12565	13128	8355	1636	42943
22-May	77453	19730	21468	5088	25643	19034	19320	8980	3046	41374
22-Jun	66730	24177	24648	13199	16172	11200	12597	9123	3231	26757
22-Jul	55692	20340	20212	17647	20098	12073	13454	7952	2948	29746
22-Aug	60772	16219	15681	25361	19060	11749	13497	6675	3681	31392
22-Sep	63431	14417	15331	33804	26178	18199	13807	6247	5379	30754
22-Oct	66277	14100	14843	22060	28851	20923	17362	6069	7030	34014
22-Nov	59348	13143	14510	8013	34710	34249	15846	5532	11999	37823
22-Dec	48390	13276	14885	8187	42654	35381	17731	4860	16206	50745
23-Jan	62265	11030	11970	9102	6462	3382	9471	3779	9416	30481
23-Feb	65271	10935	14220	5565	753	636	12851	4719	7372	34308
23-Mar	81307	13355	15293	8320	1316	482	17055	5765	7143	43213
23-Apr	67091	13218	14584	34633	1608	506	17843	4677	6396	51436
23-May	55405	21035	14817	32733	2804	718	18130	5349	6474	49225
23-Jun	49262	15093	10362	20453	2681	417	4705	3182	5105	33296
23-Jul	53928	26023	22127	18958	3668	445	5951	3953	9912	38514
23-Aug	55493	35168	37937	31463	6179	736	8948	6080	13631	37328
23-Sep	53296	27310	34537	66584	10666	1621	13643	7550	15545	38983
23-Oct	63003	21819	23845	40863	12495	3306	13773	7250	12154	42480

Data table

New CBP data for the U.S.-Mexico border is out through October. Combining migrants who came to ports of entry with migrants whom Border Patrol apprehended between the ports of entry, migration fell from 269,735 people in September to 240,988 in October (-11 percent).

Nearly all of the net reduction is citizens of Venezuela, whose numbers fell -39 percent (66,584 in September to 40,863 in October). The Biden administration’s October 5 announcement of resumed deportation flights to Venezuela probably explains the reduction. News of the resumption may have led some would-be migrants to pause their plans.

This drop will probably be short-lived, unless the Biden administration pursues a massive, costly, cruel, and politically absurd blitz of frequent aerial deportation flights to Caracas. (We see no signs of that happening yet.) As I wrote a couple of days ago, it is reasonable to expect Venezuelan migration to recover, as conditions in the country remain dire and as Venezuelans considering migration realize that the probability of aerial deportation is slim.

Annual Border Patrol Migrant Encounters by Country at the U.S.-Mexico Border

I made this chart, and underlying data table, by combining CBP’s migrant encounter data from 2020-2023 with data scraped from this big ugly CBP PDF covering 2007-2020.

Annual Border Patrol Migrant Encounters by Country at the U.S.-Mexico Border

2023: Mexico 31%, Guatemala 11.2%, Venezuela 10.6%, Mexico 20%, Honduras 10%, Colombia 8%, Cuba 6.1%, Ecuador 6.0%, All Others <6%

Since 2007: Mexico 51%, Guatemala 13%, Honduras 11%, El Salvador 6%, Venezuela 4%, Cuba 3.2%, All Others <3%

	Mexico	Guatemala	Honduras	El Salvador	Venezuela	Cuba	Nicaragua	Colombia	Ecuador	Other Countries
2007	800634	16307	21703	13602	60	131	1484	302	769	3647
2008	653035	15143	18110	12133	48	132	1327	215	1384	3478
2009	495582	14125	13344	11181	32	105	841	233	1169	4253
2010	396819	16831	12231	13123	35	84	760	307	1571	5970
2011	280580	17582	11270	10368	28	66	520	217	1064	5882
2012	262341	34453	30349	21903	28	40	876	185	2226	4472
2013	265409	54143	46448	36957	34	73	1389	365	3958	5621
2014	226771	80473	90968	66419	15	98	1809	233	4748	7837
2015	186017	56691	33445	43392	23	106	1015	282	2556	7806
2016	190760	74601	52952	71848	40	78	1298	302	2713	14278
2017	127938	65871	47260	49760	73	147	1057	196	1429	10185
2018	152257	115722	76513	31369	62	74	3282	192	1495	15613
2019	166458	264168	253795	89811	2202	11645	13309	401	13131	36588
2020	253118	47243	40091	16484	1227	9822	2123	295	11861	18387
2021	608037	279033	308931	95930	47752	38139	49841	5838	95692	114247
2022	738780	228220	199186	93196	187286	220321	163552	124540	23944	177672
2023	579146	213266	180659	53348	200668	116498	97757	154077	113813	188135

Data table

Looking at this, three things jump out at you:

  1. Until about 10 years ago, the migrant population at the U.S.-Mexico border was almost completely Mexican citizens (blue). More than 90 percent Mexican until 2009. More than 80 percent Mexican until 2012. Just 31 percent Mexican in 2023.
  2. Until the pandemic hit, the migrant population was almost completely Mexican, Salvadoran, Guatemalan, or Honduran (blue, darker green, brown, yellow). More than 90 percent came from those four countries until 2019; their share dropped to 89 percent in 2020. But just 54 percent came from those four countries in 2023.
  3. Since the pandemic, the diversity of nationalities apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border has multiplied. The arrival of more migrants from Cuba, Haiti, and South America reflects increasing insecurity and economic desperation, but also the emergence of new routes further south, like the “opening” of the Darién Gap and aerial arrivals in Nicaragua.

Haiti Led Nationalities of In-Transit Migration Through Honduras in October

Honduras’s “Irregular” Migrant Encounters (Since August 2022)

October 2023: Haiti 35%, Venezuela 34%, Cuba 17%, Ecuador 4%, Guinea 2.3%, Colombia 2.0%, All Others <2%

Since August 2022: Venezuela 41%, Cuba 17%, Haiti 15%, Ecuador 11%, Colombia 2.1%, All Others <2% 

	Venezuela	Cuba	Haiti	Ecuador	Colombia	China	Senegal	Guinea	Mauritania	Other Countries
22-Aug	10769	6899	836	1583	314	42	118	19	18	2278
22-Sep	11325	5144	863	1685	379	45	135	23	14	2220
22-Oct	14027	5290	1856	5793	723	99	185	30	18	3037
22-Nov	3756	9219	2858	5130	400	186	158	34	38	3857
22-Dec	1923	7225	2518	6557	231	405	87	22	63	4034
23-Jan	1866	2079	5365	4562	296	415	202	72	31	4054
23-Feb	4462	629	4092	5010	449	688	159	97	71	4449
23-Mar	9112	776	2991	2493	624	719	191	90	88	4576
23-Apr	10883	1301	2392	1692	682	985	472	87	87	4350
23-May	11809	2397	1629	2147	654	801	831	277	427	4398
23-Jun	12698	3254	1305	2817	488	1045	390	118	1801	2870
23-Jul	25050	6721	1558	6116	954	980	1398	389	2036	3769
23-Aug	35669	11343	4051	5789	1330	654	1629	1005	1036	3020
23-Sep	42550	19288	14898	4830	2174	570	1066	1762	48	3453
23-Oct	34547	17513	35529	3581	2021	1006	1235	2304	75	4198

Data table

We’ve grown accustomed to Venezuela (blue in this chart) being the number-one nationality of migrants transiting Central America and Mexico to come to the United States. Venezuela has been the number-one country of citizenship of people transiting Honduras during every month since March, and U.S. authorities encountered more migrants from Venezuela than from any other country—including Mexico—at the U.S.-Mexico border in September.

Data from Honduras in October, however, show at least a temporary pause in that trend. Last month, Honduras registered more migrants from Haiti transiting its territory (brown in this chart) than from Venezuela. (A new “Mixed Movements Protection Monitoring” report from UNCHR also notes this trend.)

It was a record month for Honduras’s registries of in-transit migrants from around the world: 102,009 people with “irregular” migratory status registered with the government, a necessary step for a short-term legal status making it possible to board buses to get across the country. Of that number, 35,529 were Haitian and 34,547 were Venezuelan. (271 were recorded as Brazilian and 489 as Chilean; many—probably most—of them were children born to Haitian citizen parents who had been living in those countries.)

Transit of Venezuelan migrants through Honduras fell 19 percent from September to October, from 42,550 to 34,547 people.

A possible reason could be a reaction to the Biden administration’s early October agreement with Venezuela to resume deportation flights to Caracas, news of which may have led some would-be migrants to pause their plans. Aerial deportations are expensive, however, and a charter flight to Venezuela only holds about 100-150 people. It is reasonable to expect Venezuelan migration to recover, as conditions in the country remain dire and as Venezuelans considering migration realize that the probability of aerial deportation is slim.

The sharp increase in Haitian migration appears to owe to a new air route from Haiti to Nicaragua, which does not require that visiting citizens of Haiti obtain a visa in advance (though it charges them a steep fee upon arrival). For more on that, see this good November 6 analysis from the Honduras-based journalism website ContraCorriente.

One Out of Four Is a Lot

This can’t be the point Sen. Graham wanted to make, but:

Immigration judges, after rigorous procedures, are finding that 1 out of 4 people coming to the U.S.-Mexico border would be likely to die or be imprisoned if deported.

That’s a high likelihood of sending people back to severe harm if we deny them due process. It’s a strong argument for giving asylum seekers in the United States a fair hearing and to invest heavily in our asylum system.

Hearing of the Senate Appropriations Committee, November 8, 2023

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina): You're the head of DHS and you can't tell me how many asylum claims are approved versus denied.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas: Generally, generally speaking across the board on a macro basis, it's approximately 75% [denied asylum].

Graham: Okay.

On the Table Now: a Fatal Blow to the Right to Seek Protection in the United States

A Senate Republican “working group” has outlined a border and migration proposal as a likely condition of keeping the U.S. government open past the next “shutdown” date (November 17).

I’m still struggling to express graphically how severe this proposal’s consequences would be for tens of thousands of people facing real danger. Here is another attempt.

Infographic: Imagine that Senate Republicans' November 2023 border and migration proposal became law. Now imagine that you have fled to the U.S. border to seek asylum.

A series of arrows pointing downward, getting ever narrower as they reach the bottom.

Did you seek asylum, and get turned down, in every single country you passed through, no matter how impoverished, dangerous, and unable to protect you those countries are?

Did CBP officers doing “metering” at the borderline permit you to approach an official land border crossing (port of entry) to ask for asylum?

Was DHS somehow unable to ship you off to a (likely impoverished or dangerous) third country to go seek asylum there?

In your rapid screening interview, did you meet a new, very high “credible fear” standard?

Was DHS somehow unable to make you “Remain in Mexico”while you await your immigration court hearings?

Was ICE somehow unable to hold you (and your kids) in detention?

Did you make it this far? Almost certainly not. But if you did, then the United States might consider protecting you from likely harm, without jailing you in a detention center. This is a remarkably cruel proposal, undoing generations of basic protections. It must not become law.

View the actual proposal at

This Border Proposal Could Send Us Back to the 1930s—and Some of it Might Pass

As the U.S. government scrambles to agree on a 2024 budget to avoid another “shutdown” on November 17, Republican leaders of the U.S. Senate have laid down a set of border and migration demands as their top condition for agreeing to any new spending deal. If the Biden administration wants aid to Ukraine, for example, these are the GOP demands. Republicans in the House have similar—or perhaps harsher—demands.

Using the one-pager that Senate Republicans shared yesterday, here’s a graphic that shows how thoroughly their proposal would obliterate threatened people’s right to seek asylum in the United States.

This is a right that most of the world adopted after World War II. The congressional Republican proposal would send us back to the 1930s. And the Biden administration is already indicating to Democratic allies that they might have to adopt some of it.

If this ever became law, someone fleeing likely death or imprisonment would only be able to access the U.S. asylum system if:

  • They tried, and failed, to seek asylum in every country through which they passed on the way—no matter how impoverished, dangerous, or ill-governed the country.
  • They came to a port of entry (official border crossing), even though Customs and Border Protection, through a practice called “metering,” allows only a bare trickle of asylum seekers to access these facilities.
  • They could not be shipped off to a third country to seek asylum there (the Trump administration made agreements with Guatemala and Honduras to be “third countries” for asylum seekers).
  • They were able to meet a higher standard of “credible fear of persecution” in screening interviews performed shortly after arrival at the U.S. border.
  • They awaited their U.S. immigration court hearing dates while “remaining” in northern Mexico, or while sitting in ICE detention centers—even if they are families with children.

More Photos from Colombia

I just got back to Washington at mid-day today, after two weeks in Colombia. Before I left, I replaced my four-and-a-half year-old phone with a current model, because the old one’s port wasn’t always connecting to the cable and I didn’t want to find myself there with an unpowered phone.

The new phone isn’t much different than the old one, with one huge exception: the camera, which makes me seem like a much better photographer than I actually am.

Here are some images that are less work-related but just pretty cool. Presented in no particular order. Click on any to expand in a new window. (I’ve shared other photos from the trip in two earlier posts.)

Bogotá at night.

Mural in El Placer, Putumayo, Colombia.

A few hundred people from Embera-Katío Indigenous communities, displaced by violence in northwestern Colombia, have been camped since October in Bogotá’s Parque Nacional, in the middle of the city near the Javeriana University.

A griffin atop Colombia’s Congress building.

The people of Ipiales, Nariño celebrated Halloween with aplomb.

Not usually a fan of dressing kids up as cops, but the kid in the lower left in Ipiales is super cute.

The spot where we had a hearty breakfast in La Bonita, Ecuador, along the border with Nariño, Colombia.

Outside Lago Agrio, Ecuador, a few minutes’ drive south of Colombia.

Paramilitary display in the “Museum of Memory” in El Placer, Putumayo. The building used to be a school (hence the beat-up chalkboard), where paramilitaries committed numerous abuses. One of the photos on the chalk ledge was taken by me in 2004.

Darién Gap-bound migrants bathing in the Gulf of Urabá in Necoclí, Antioquia.

Boats in Necoclí, ready to take migrants across the Gulf of Urabá to the Darién Gap.

Orito, Putumayo on Saturday night.

Central Bogotá’s Plaza de Bolívar, recently grafitti’ed by student protesters.

Roadside arepas in La Hormiga, Putumayo.

Looking into San Miguel, Putumayo, Colombia from the Ecuador side of the border bridge.

Provisions for migrants’ walk through the Darién Gap, on sale near the dock in Turbo, Antioquia.

The army and police welcome you to Urabá, northwestern Colombia (at the Apartadó, Antioquia airport).

At the Rumichaca bridge between Ipiales, Nariño, Colombia and (in the background) Tulcán, Carchi, Ecuador.

Six days in Putumayo and Along the Colombia-Ecuador Border

Greetings from Bogotá. I’m here until tomorrow night, with 10 meetings on the schedule today and tomorrow.

This was day 13 of a 14-day research trip. I’ve slept in 10 different hotels in 9 places:

  • Bogotá
  • Apartadó, Antioquia
  • Necoclí, Antioquia
  • Bogotá
  • Puerto Asís, Putumayo
  • Orito, Putumayo
  • La Hormiga, Putumayo
  • Lago Agrio, Sucumbíos, Ecuador
  • Ipiales, Nariño
  • Pasto, Nariño
  • Bogotá

The purpose of this insane itinerary was to learn about the latest developments in migration through, and to, Colombia. I was able to visit the Colombia-Panama and Colombia-Ecuador border regions.

With two WOLA colleagues I was on the outskirts of the Darién Gap region straddling Colombia and Panama, through which nearly 500,000 migrants have passed so far this year. With longtime Colombian colleagues I also visited the border between Carchi, Ecuador and Nariño, Colombia, through which hundreds of Darién-bound migrants from dozens of countries pass each day.

While at the Colombia-Ecuador border I was also able to spend a few days in the department of Putumayo, which is where U.S.-backed military and police anti-drug operations began after the 2000 passage of the Clinton administration’s mammoth initial “Plan Colombia” aid package. Twenty-three years later, Putumayo remains a principal zone of coca and cocaine production, under the heavy influence of two feuding armed groups.

I need to go through my tens of thousands of words of notes just to come up with the number of meetings and conversations I’ve had since October 22. It’s more than 50. I’ve talked to people migrating, aid workers, international organizations, migrants associations, Indigenous groups, campesino groups, coca cultivators, mayors and other local officials, national government officials, U.S. diplomats, journalists, human rights defenders, police, scholars, and I’m sure I’m forgetting some sectors.

I’ve barely had time yet to process my notes, much less wrap my head around what I’ve seen and heard. But here are some photos from Putumayo, northern Ecuador, and Nariño. (I posted Darién-area photos about a week ago.)

The Putumayo River, which eventually flows in to the Amazon, just north of Puerto Asís, Putumayo.

At a supermarket in Orito, Putumayo, a sign advertises money transfers to Venezuela. People who have fled Venezuela live all over Colombia, even in places like Orito that are very distant from Venezuela and have a strong presence of coca cultivation and armed groups.

Colombia held local elections on Sunday October 29. On the evening of the 28th in Orito, mayoral candidates held rallies outside their party headquarters.

El Placer, Putumayo, was the site of a 1999 paramilitary massacre; the town became notorious nationwide for the paramilitaries’ systematic rapes of the town’s women and girls. At the time, the United States was pumping military aid into Putumayo under “Plan Colombia” even though the local armed forces collaborated with the paramilitaries. The town’s school, where paramilitaries committed many of the violations, is now a “museum of memory.” I took one of the photos on the wall here (see page 323 of this report) during a 2004 visit when I worked for the Center for International Policy.

The bridge between San Miguel, Putumayo, Colombia and General Farfán, Sucumbíos, Ecuador.

The mountains of Nariño, Colombia viewed from La Bonita, Sucumbíos, Ecuador.

Families—almost certainly Darién-bound, as they’re traveling with sleeping gear and minimal backpacks—at the bus station in the border city of Tulcán, Ecuador.

The two kids on the left, one with a Venezuelan flag-themed backpack, are southbound: they said they just left Venezuela and are headed to Peru, where they have relatives. This is the bus terminal in Tulcán, Ecuador.

We encountered several groups of people fleeing China. This is the Tulcán bus terminal, but people holding Chinese passports were also at the official border crossing and on my flight today from Pasto, Nariño to Bogotá.

The Rumichaca border crossing between Tulcán, Carchi, Ecuador and Ipiales, Nariño, Colombia.

The bus terminal in the border city of Ipiales, Nariño.

Migrant shelter run by Pastoral Social (Caritas) in Ipiales.

Back From Urabá, Colombia

I spent the past few days in and around Necoclí, Colombia, an area through which tens of thousands of migrants, from dozens of countries, pass. Here, they take boats across the Gulf of Urabá to the Darién region straddling Colombia and Panama, where they undergo a treacherous several-day journey through dense jungle.

Here are a few photos. I’m in another zone of Colombia now, as research continues, so there’s no time to write much yet. We had our photographer Sergio with us, who took much better photos than the ones here.

The Darién region, viewed from across the Gulf of Urabá.

Carrying provisions, people prepare to board boats. Most people we spoke with were from Venezuela, but we also spoke with people from Ecuador, Haiti, and Cuba, and saw some migrants from China.

Migrants who can’t pay the boat fare, and fees charged by organized crime, sleep on the beach until they can get enough money together. There are no migrant shelters in Necoclí.

A smaller number of migrants lacking boat fare waits in tents near the dock in Turbo, south of Necoclí.

Water purification tablets and mosquito spray for the jungle journey.

Armed-group tag in Turbo.

Venezuela Was the Number-One Nationality of Migrants at the U.S.-Mexico Border in September

For the first month since August 2019, Mexico is not the number-one nationality of migrants encountered at the U.S.-Mexico border. Venezuela, for the first time, was number one.

Chart: All CBP (Border Patrol Plus Port of Entry) Migrant Encounters
by Country at the U.S.-Mexico Border

September 2023: Venezuela 25%, Mexico 20%, Guatemala 13%, Honduras 10%, Ecuador 6%, Colombia 5%, Cuba 4%, El Salvador 3%, All Others <3%
Since October 2020: Mexico 33%, Honduras 11.3%, Guatemala 11.1%, Venezuela 8%, Cuba 6%, Nicaragua 5%, Colombia 4.4%, All Others <4%

Data table

Just-released data show that Border Patrol apprehended 54,833 citizens of Venezuela in the areas between the U.S.-Mexico border’s ports of entry in September, a record for countries other than Mexico, and far more than its apprehensions of 39,773 Mexican citizens in September.

Chart: Border Patrol Apprehensions by Country at the U.S.-Mexico Border

September 2023: Venezuela 25%, Mexico 18%, Guatemala 15%, Honduras 11%, Ecuador 7%, Colombia 6%, El Salvador 3%, All Others <2% 
Since October 2020: Mexico 33%, Guatemala 12.2%, Honduras 11.7%, Venezuela 7%, Cuba 6%, Nicaragua 5.3%, Colombia 4.8%, El Salvador 4.1%, All Others <4%

Data table

At the ports of entry (official border crossings), Customs and Border Protection (CBP) encountered 11,751 more Venezuelan citizens, most of them asylum seekers who had made appointments using the CBP One smartphone app. (In September, of 50,972 people who made it onto U.S. soil at ports of entry, CBP reports that about 43,000—84 percent—had CBP One appointments.) Mexico, with 13,523 citizens encountered, was still the number-one nationality at the ports of entry.

Chart: CBP Port of Entry Migrant Encounters by Country at the U.S.-Mexico Border

September 2023: Mexico 27%, Venezuela 23%, Cuba 19%, Haiti 9%, Honduras 7%, Russia 3%, Colombia 2%, All Others <2% 
Since October 2020: Mexico 38%, Haiti 15%, Venezuela 10%, Honduras 8.4%, Russia 8.3%, Cuba 4%, All Others <4%

Data Table

Add together the ports of entry and the areas between them, and Venezuela was the number-one nationality in September with 66,584 migrant encounters. Mexico was the number-two nationality, with 53,296. No other nationality came close; Guatemala was in third place with 34,537.

September marked the end of the U.S. government’s 2023 fiscal year. For decades, CBP has reported its migrant encounters by fiscal year, so we now have a “year-end” comparison, at least for Border Patrol apprehensions between the ports of entry. Using this metric—which may include some double-counting, with the same migrant being apprehended two or more times—we find that 2023 was the number-two year ever for Border Patrol migrant encounters at the U.S.-Mexico border. Only 2022 was higher.

Data table

Only 28 percent of migrants apprehended at the Mexico border in fiscal 2023 were citizens of Mexico. Since 2000, 67 percent of migrants apprehended at the border have been Mexican citizens.

(Note: at GitHub, I’ve updated the tool I use to make these and many other migration charts, with data going back to October 2019. I use it all the time, feel free to run a version of your own. It does require you to know how to run a free web server on your computer; I don’t make it public because generating a table with 48 months and 20 countries makes a web server work very hard.)

A Political Stunt Falls Flat at the Border

In July, the Republican governor of Virginia, a swing state far from the U.S.-Mexico border, sent a contingent of 100 state National Guard troops to Texas to support Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) border-security clampdown known as “Operation Lone Star.” The troops went, Youngkin said, to combat the “fentanyl crisis.”

Anybody who looks at data could have told Youngkin that 89 percent of fentanyl along the border gets seized at the official border crossings, not in the wide-open areas between the crossings, where his guardsmen were on duty. We also could have told Youngkin that the overwhelming majority of fentanyl is crossing in California and Arizona, not Texas.

But the Governor sent the troops, and off they went to Eagle Pass, at a cost of $2 million over 3 weeks.

And unsurprisingly, over the course of their deployment, they encountered exactly zero shipments of fentanyl.

That’s a finding of the news team at the local Washington, DC NBC TV affiliate. Reporters filed an open-records request with the state of Virginia and obtained daily “situation reports” and other documents from the deployment.

The guardsmen did see 6,717 people they described as “illegal immigrants” and referred 1,834 to the federal Border Patrol. This isn’t surprising, as several hundred migrants per day have been crossing in Eagle Pass, seeking to turn themselves in to apply for asylum. You can stand by the riverbank there and see migrants, too.

After several days, a “commander’s assessment” document noted “a weakening of the deterrent effect of our Soldiers and Airmen.” Migrants, seeking to turn themselves in anyway, were ignoring commands to turn back.

Troublingly, NBC reported that the internal reports showed “conflict over Virginia’s policy to withhold water to migrants.” Texas has ordered Operation Lone Star guardsmen not only to block and turn back asylum seekers already on U.S. soil, which violates federal law and the Refugee Convention. It also has ordered them to refuse water and other assistance to migrants on the riverbank, held back by Texas’s concertina wire and troops, even in 100-degree heat, even when those migrants are families with children. The reports reveal some “conflict” over Virginia’s enforcement of this inhumane policy.

The tactical impact of Virginia’s National Guard deployment was zero. The impact on morale and readiness was likely negative. But Governor Youngkin got to travel to downtown Eagle Pass for a photo op (his office provides a page of media-ready high-res photos), so there’s that.

We Should Reflect and Discuss Events in a Way That Will Not Increase the Despair and the Anger in People.

The row began one day after Hamas’s unprecedented 7 October attacks when Petro used his official X account to denounce what he called “neo-Nazi” efforts to destroy the Palestinian people, freedom and culture.

The World Jewish Congress accused Colombia’s leftwing president of completely ignoring the hundreds of Israeli civilian victims and called Petro’s statement “an insult to the six million victims of the Holocaust and to the Jewish people”.

The next day Petro returned to social media to comment on claims by Israel’s defense minister, Yoav Galant, that his troops were fighting “human animals” in Gaza. “This is what the Nazis said about the Jews,” tweeted Petro. “All this hate speech will do, if it continues, is lead to a Holocaust.”

Over the coming days, Petro – who has declined to strongly condemn the atrocities committed by Hamas – repeatedly used social media to criticize Israel’s military response.

“I’ve been to the Auschwitz concentration camp and now I see it being copied in Gaza,” Petro said in one post, drawing a polite rebuke from Israel’s ambassador in Bogotá, Gali Dagan, who offered to take him to the kibbutzim in southern Israel that Hamas attacked “and where many Latinos live”.
From the Guardian.

I’m deeply saddened by Colombian President Gustavo Petro’s decision to respond to a man-made calamity, on the brink of a calamitous reprisal, by taking to Twitter and using inflammatory language that does nothing to bring peace closer.

The world needs to hear wisdom right now, especially from the leader of a country that’s struggling to heal the wounds of its own generations of man-made calamity. The Colombian people need to hear wisdom.

That’s all. Except for this Thich Nhat Hanh quote.

If one terrorist group is violently destroyed, another will emerge; it’s endless. So I told the editors, “When you report on terrorist acts, use your compassion and deep understanding. Explain the story in such a way that the reader doesn’t become enraged and perhaps become another terrorist.”

We can tell the truth, but we must help people understand. When people understand, their anger will lessen. They don’t lose hope, they know what to do and what not to do, what to consume and what not to consume in order not to continue this kind of suffering. So my message that morning was that we should reflect and discuss events in a way that will not increase the despair and the anger in people. Instead, we can help them to understand why things happen, so their insight and compassion increase. We can make a big difference with the practice of looking deeply. The solution isn’t to hide the truth.

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