Adam Isacson

Still trying to understand Latin America, my own country, and why so few consequences are intended. These views are not necessarily my employer’s.

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Latin America Security-Related News: June 13, 2022

(Even more here)

June 13, 2022

Western Hemisphere Regional

The Summit of the Americas, hosted this year by Joe Biden, offers a measure of how far the U.S. has fallen

China’s powerful banks and state-owned enterprises have long been expanding their influence in the hemisphere

We remain committed to collectively leveraging the benefits of migration while addressing its challenges in countries and communities of origin, transit, destination, and return

President Biden is trying to confront repeated surges of migrants at the U.S. border by casting the issue as a problem for the entire region, not just the United States

Argentina

El Estado Mayor Conjunto de las Fuerzas Armadas argentinas ha iniciado las gestiones para incorporar cuatro helicópteros pesados Boeing CH-47 Chinook

As in the rest of Latin America, Chinese businesses in Argentina lack transparency and have many close relationships with political sectors

Argentina, Venezuela

A Irán le vendría muy bien acceder a la tecnología, que la Argentina domina, que le permitiría obtener plutonio 239 y cerrar el ciclo para el uso militar de la energía nuclear. En lenguaje liso y llano, la bomba

Bolivia

Áñez was convicted by the court of dereliction of duty and acting against the constitution when she proclaimed herself president in what Morales and his party have called a coup

Brazil

The leaders of Brazil’s armed forces have suddenly begun raising similar doubts about the integrity of the elections, despite little evidence of past fraud, ratcheting up already high tensions

Bruno Pereira and Dom Phillips went missing in the western Amazon, but the search has been called inefficient

A main line of police investigation into the disappearance of a British journalist and an Indigenous official in the Amazon points to an international network that pays poor fishermen to fish illegally in Brazil’s second-largest Indigenous territory

Colombia

El ambiente político de los ex combatientes y cómo poco a poco han quedado desolados ante la creciente de las elecciones presidenciales

Luego de que la Corte Constitucional tumbó en enero pasado el Plan de Manejo Ambiental aprobado por la Autoridad Nacional de Licencias Ambientales (Anla), esta entidad estudia uno nuevo en medio de lo que las organizaciones califican como un trámite exprés que no cumple con los requisitos establecidos

Un informe presentado por la Comisión Colombiana de Juristas ante la JEP afirma que la Fiscalía tiene identificados a miembros del Ejército, la Policía y agentes del DAS que habrían participado de crímenes contra defensores de derechos humanos

Vorágine revela la declaración que un exsoldado dio ante un fiscal, en la que da detalles de una alianza entre los paramilitares y una unidad que estaba en cabeza del hoy comandante del Ejército cuando era capitán

Será una prueba de fuego para la democracia colombiana y demandará mucha responsabilidad y prudencia de todos los actores que la integran

De llegar a la presidencia, Gustavo Petro tendrá un reto mayor: establecer una relación armónica y transformadora con las Fuerzas Armadas. No será fácil. Las prevenciones y las distancias son enormes

El cabecilla del frente 36 salió de su refugio en el Norte de Antioquia, al parecer por grave enfermedad, y fue dado de baja en el Valle de Aburrá

The United States is about to lose its best friend in Latin America

El Salvador, Honduras

La viceministra de seguridad, Julissa Villanueva, considera que adoptar la política agresiva de seguridad del presidente de El Salvador, Nayib Bukele, bajo el denominado “Plan Control Territorial”

Haiti, Mexico

Two Haitian migrants in Tijuana were the most recent to die under circumstances that the community attributes to systemic racism in Mexico’s hospitals and U.S. border policy

Honduras

¿Iba a entregarse el día de su muerte? ¿Pertenecía a una pandilla? ¿Por qué hay contradicciones en la versión de la Policía?

Mexico

In its statement, the Mexican migration agency did not specify what kind of documents were issued but most of the migrants showed papers that gave them a period of one month or more to leave the country or begin regularization procedures

Some 6,000 migrants, many of them from Venezuela, set off from southern Mexico last week as leaders from across the Americas met in Los Angeles to discuss issues including migration

En 110 ventanillas de las oficinas de representación del INM se atendió a casi 7 mil personas

33 se ahogaron debido a la fuerza de la corriente, la profundidad y las bajas temperaturas del Río Bravo en los estados de Coahuila y Tamaulipas

Nicaragua

Funcionario de EEUU dice que gobierno de Joe Bide analiza poner en marcha “medidas contundentes” contra Managua por intercambio con tropas rusas

Venezuela

A photo accompanying the opposition statement shows Juan Guaidó being held back as people gather around him and someone rips his shirt off

Latin America-related events in Washington and online this week

All times are U.S. Eastern time zone.

Monday, June 13

  • 1:00-2:00 at georgetown.edu: What to Expect from the Colombian Presidential Elections (RSVP required).

Tuesday, June 14

Wednesday, June 15

Thursday, June 16

Big increase in Venezuelans coming through Panama’s Darién Gap

The Panamanian Migration Service’s latest data show a 145 percent increase, from April to May, in migrants coming through the dangerous, ungoverned Darién Gap jungles. 13,894 people took this several-day walk in May, risking drowning, disease, and assault, theft, and rape from criminal groups that operate with total impunity.

That’s not a record—more migrants passed through the Darién in July-October of last year, a period when Haitians who had been living in South America massively migrated toward the United States.

This year, most migrants are Venezuelan: 71 percent in May, and 51 percent in January-May. Venezuelan migration through the Darién was 43 percent greater in May than in the first four months of the year combined. Migration of Colombian and Ecuadorian citizens in May was also nearly double the January-April total.

Until recently, Venezuelans seeking to migrate toward the United States would mostly arrive by air to Mexico, which did not require visas of visiting Venezuelan tourists. That route got shut down on January 21 when Mexico, at very strong U.S. suggestion, began imposing visa requirements for visiting Venezuelans.

Venezuelans are now taking to the treacherous land route. Once they make it through Panama, most are ending up in the Mexican southern-border zone city of Tapachula, where they are stranded. Venezuelans made up most of the attempted migrant “caravan” that left Tapachula a week ago. That caravan made headlines but is now mostly dispersed, as Mexican migration authorities have been providing visas allowing migrants to leave Tapachula.

The last polls are done in Colombia

It’s illegal in Colombia to publish new poll data less than 7 days before an election. The final round of the country’s presidential election is next Sunday, so this is it.

La Silla Vacía maintains a weighted poll of polls, sort of 538 style. It shows Gustavo Petro and Rodolfo Hernandez within 0.7 points of each other. And we’re not going to see any more polling after this.

With this close of a vote, and this much uncertainty, the looming question for the evening of the 19th and the days immediately afterward is: will the loser and his base of supporters concede? Or will the second half of June be a scary time of anger, fear, and disorder in Colombia?

If Petro wins by a razor-slim margin and Rodolfo Hernández rejects it: Hernández has picked up support from some wealthy and far-right elements who don’t have a history of playing by the rules. Though the political bosses, landowners and others who supported paramilitarism 15-20 years ago probably can’t force non-recognition of a Petro victory, they can spend the succeeding weeks and months making much of the country ungovernable and violent if they don’t accept the outcome. There also appears to be white-hot hatred of Petro in some corners of the military, and while I don’t foresee unconstitutional saber-rattling during the days following the election, I can’t dismiss the possibility either.

If Hernández wins by a razor-slim margin and Gustavo Petro rejects it: Petro’s supporters include core participants in last year’s national strike, which paralyzed the country for two months. They can control the streets again. And don’t expect Colombia’s National Police to obey proper use of force standards when they respond: they have little record of doing that in the past.

The second half of June could be really complicated.

Latin America Security-Related News: June 10, 2022

(Even more here)

June 10, 2022

Western Hemisphere Regional

In preparation for the Summit, the United States and other countries in the region developed a suite of bold new migration-related deliverables

Biden’s summit plan echoes his Indo-Pacific strategy: rewarding and bolstering nominally democratic allies while marginalizing Chinese-aligned autocratic states

Under an accord President Biden will unveil at the Summit of the Americas, several countries commit to taking in more asylum-seekers, among other steps

President Joe Biden and other Western Hemisphere leaders on Friday announced what is being billed as a roadmap for countries to host large numbers of migrants and refugees

First regional gathering in US in quarter century marred by squabbling over who could attend

Brazil

Jair Bolsonaro’s dog-whistle politics is risking the lives of Indigenous people and the reporters who tell their stories

Indigenous activists have been searching for the missing pair since just hours after they vanished, with support from armed members of the military police

The largest refuge for Indigenous tribes living in isolation is also a hotspot for poachers and illegal loggers and a major smuggling route for cocaine traffickers

It’s clear Bolsonaro would rather be meeting a different U.S. president, but finally meeting Biden (they hadn’t previously spoken) will likely help him counter the narrative that he’s isolated internationally

A staunch ally of former President Donald Trump, Bolsonaro has never disguised his displeasure at the Democrat’s victory and has sometimes publicly repeated the baseless accusation of fraud in the 2020 U.S. elections

Colombia

In an operation, an “UAS Spray Team (UST)” at a base in Colombia would receive a geo-fenced polygon of the intended spray area based on high-resolution imagery or other means

In the specific context of Colombia, this ‘head in the sand’ approach is demonstrably untenable, given the risks faced by human rights defenders who highlight human rights violations caused or exacerbated by business activities

Fuentes del caso señalan que esto podría ocurrir por acciones dilatorias de los abogados de Pérez y el cambio de juez en el proceso

En un nuevo informe de Viso Mutop, Ricardo Vargas investigador asociado, explora el origen y desarrollo de los modelos de Erradicacio?n Manual Forzosa EMF

As presidential elections take way in Colombia, the Washington Office on Latin America’s (WOLA) Colombia program has continued to receive alarming information about the ongoing persecution and stigmatization against social leaders, human rights defenders, and civil society organizations in the country

Ecuador

Analistas ven positiva esta propuesta, pero creen que Ecuador deberá tener claro qué requiere y qué está haciendo para combatir el narcotráfico

El Salvador

Journalists in El Salvador who write about gangs can now be sent to prison. Two brothers defy the law with a story tying President Nayib Bukele to violent street gangs

Another request to set up a call with Blinken, made through the U.S. Embassy in San Salvador, was similarly rebuffed

Guatemala

Mientras el Congreso ratificaba el estado de Sitio en Tajumulco e Ixchiguán, las fuerzas de seguridad retomaron la seguridad y descubrieron varios búnker desde donde se coordinaban ataques armados

Haiti

The uptick has rekindled criticism that the Biden administration treats Black migrants differently than others, an allegation it denies

Mexico

>

A group of about 2,000 mainly younger male migrants set out walking Thursday from the southern town of Huixtla

El pasado 6 de junio, un grupo de aproximadamente 50 personas protestaron en el patio y frente de la Estación Migratoria Siglo XXI, ante la falta de información sobre sus procedimientos migratorios, la escasez de alimentos y las restricciones de visitas y contacto con el exterio

>

El secuestro y desaparición de personas se ha vuelto constante en esa región; sin embargo, en la mayoría de las ocasiones los familiares no han hecho denuncias

Nicaragua

Daniel Ortega es un aliado incondicional de Rusia desde su primer gobierno en la década de 1980

Panama

Relations with China have cooled during the Laurentino Cortizo administration due to strong criticism of infrastructure projects

U.S.-Mexico Border

The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday made it nearly impossible for Americans to sue federal law enforcement officers who violate their constitutional rights, further narrowing the already limited path to hold U.S. officials accountable for even egregious misuse of their authority

  • Rafia Zakaria, Let Us Prey (The Baffler, June 10, 2022).

As Texas authorities insist on hunting down humans they call “illegal,” a predatory culture claims more victims

Three Points Station and Casa Grande Station personnel will be supporting the deployment of new Heat Stress Kits/Go-Bags that will be distributed to 500 agents

Venezuela

Venezuelan President Nicolas announced on Friday that a 20-year cooperation plan with Iran will be signed, as he arrived in Tehran

Weekly U.S.-Mexico Border Update: June 10, 2022

With this series of weekly updates, WOLA seeks to cover the most important developments at the U.S.-Mexico border. See past weekly updates here.

This week:

  • Western Hemisphere leaders at the ninth Summit of the Americas are poised to publish a “Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection.” Provisions will endorse assistance to states managing large arrivals of migrants, legal pathways for migration, “humane” border management, and coordinated emergency response.
  • A large “caravan” of migrants departed the southern Mexico border city of Tapachula on June 6, but is now much reduced. Many migrants are apparently being offered humanitarian visas.
  • Newly revealed emails show that, in 2018, senior DHS officials sought to maximize the number of families being separated by the Trump administration’s “Zero Tolerance” policy. They complained when criminal prosecutions happened quickly enough to allow parents and children to be reunited.
  • A Supreme Court decision has gutted the ability to sue Border Patrol agents and other federal law enforcement agents who violate constitutional rights.

Migration at the Summit of the Americas

Western Hemisphere leaders gathered for the ninth Summit of the Americas are finalizing the text of the “Los Angeles Declaration on Migration and Protection,” which is to go public on June 10. Previewing the document on June 9, a senior Biden administration official billed it as “a regional partnership to address historic migration flows affecting every country in the region.”

In a framework of “responsibility sharing” at a moment of historically high region-wide migration, the Los Angeles Declaration is to have four “pillars”:

  • Stability and assistance for communities: including assistance to address “root causes” of migration, support for countries hosting large migrant populations, the reintegration of migrants in their communities of origin, and a new package of aid to Haiti.
  • Legal pathways: including commitments to expand temporary-worker efforts like the United States’ H-2A and H-2B visa programs, to expand refugee resettlement, and to improve asylum systems.
  • “Humane border management,” a pillar which includes the role of the region’s border, migration, and law enforcement forces and collaboration on prosecuting human smuggling and trafficking networks. An administration official mentioned “cross-screening people that enter one border, repatriating people that don’t qualify.”
  • “Coordinated emergency response,” a pillar which presumably includes cooperation to manage sudden increases in migration.

“Unlawful migration is not acceptable,” President Joe Biden said in remarks opening the Summit on June 8. “We will enforce our borders through innovative, coordinated action with our regional partners.” The Associated Press noted that this cooperative approach contrasts with that of the Trump administration, “whose unilateral demands for cooperation included a threat to Mexico to close the border and raise tariffs.”

Implementing this declaration may be complicated by the challenges of translating lofty statements and commitments to concrete actions on the ground, and by the absence from the Summit of the presidents of seven of the nine Latin American countries whose citizens were encountered most often at the U.S.-Mexico border in April. The Biden administration did not invite the leaders of Cuba, Nicaragua, or Venezuela to the summit. The presidents of El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico declined to attend, though they sent foreign ministers or high officials and have likely been engaged with the Biden administration in negotiating the text. 

Vice President Kamala Harris, who is charged with developing the Biden administration’s “root causes” strategy for Central America’s “northern triangle” (El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras), announced new assistance for those countries. Little if any of it would go to these three countries’ governments, whose presidents all skipped the Summit. The Vice President announced more than $1.9 billion in new commitments from corporations willing to invest there, part of a private-sector “call to action” that, according to the White House, now adds up to over $3.2 billion in new investments. Further efforts include “In Her Hands,” a program that aims to “empower, protect, and train women in Northern Central America,” the creation of a Central American Service Corps for the region’s youth, a food security initiative, a Caribbean climate partnership, and a program to train health workers.

“We’re dealing with a challenge that, for a whole variety of reasons, is beyond anything that anyone has seen before,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken told CNN. “Countries are already having to do this,” Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Brian Nichols said to the Associated Press, “so rather than each country trying to sort this out and figure it out for themselves, what we’re doing is saying, ‘Let’s come together in a coherent way and construct a framework so we can all work together to make this situation more humane and more manageable.’”

A June 6 letter from 108 U.S. non-governmental groups, including WOLA,  urged the Biden administration and regional governments to carry out their border and migration policies in coordination with civil society and migrant-led organizations. It offered a series of recommendations for protecting migrant rights, ensuring access to asylum (including ending the Title 42 and “Remain in Mexico” efforts that block asylum access), protecting immigrants in the United States, and expanding legal pathways to migration.

“What we hope to see in the Declaration are commitments more focused on access to protection and other legal avenues for migrants in need of leaving their countries of origin,” WOLA’s vice president for programs, Maureen Meyer, told Venezuela’s Efecto Cocuyo. “It is of concern that so far the main focus of the United States and several countries is migration control at the expense of the rights of migrants and access to protection.”

“Caravan” departs Tapachula

Thousands of migrants departed Mexico’s southern border-zone city of Tapachula, Chiapas, on June 6. This latest attempt to form a “caravan” is already dwindling as Mexico’s government engages in negotiations and prohibits participants from boarding vehicles.

Estimates of this caravan’s size have varied widely. Its principal organizer, Luis García Villagrán of the Mexican NGO Center for Human Dignity, who said it was deliberately timed to coincide with the Summit of the Americas, foresaw 15,000 participants, a number that appeared in widely shared initial reporting. As the group departed Tapachula, Reuters estimated “at least 6,000 people.” By June 7, Villagrán told reporters that numbers had dropped to between 5,000 and 8,000.

According to the Guardian, Villagrán said that 70 percent of caravan participants are women and children. While it’s not clear that this was accurate, a significant portion do appear to be neither male nor adult.

It is widely reported, though, that a majority of participants are from Venezuela—80 percent, estimates veteran Chiapas-based reporter Isaín Mandujano—with Central Americans, Haitians, Cubans, and citizens of African countries making up most of the rest. As they walked up Chiapas’s Pacific coastal highway leading out of Tapachula, some carried Venezuelan flags, sang Venezuela’s national anthem, or chanted insults aimed at the country’s authoritarian leader, Nicolás Maduro.

A large presence of Venezuelans in Tapachula is new. Until recently, Mexico did not require visas of visiting citizens of Venezuela, so most who intended to migrate to the U.S. border flew to Mexico City or Cancún, then traveled by bus with valid visas in their passports. That ended on January 21, when Mexico began requiring visas of visiting Venezuelans, at the strong suggestion of the U.S. government after encounters with Venezuelan citizens at the U.S.-Mexico border increased to over 20,000 per month.

Arrivals of Venezuelan citizens at the U.S. border soon plummeted—U.S. authorities encountered 4,103 in April—but Venezuelans determined to migrate northward have begun traveling by land in greater numbers. In the first five months of 2022, more than half of migrants walking through Panama’s treacherous Darién Gap jungles (16,720 out of 32,797 people) have been Venezuelan. In all of 2021, 2,821 Venezuelans took this route, and just 50 in 2020.

When Venezuelans without visas arrive by land in southern Mexico, they face the same choices as other undocumented migrants, most of whom end up in Tapachula: risk capture, detention, or deportation, or seek asylum in Mexico’s overburdened system. Almost 33,000 people applied for asylum in Tapachula during the first 5 months of 2022, and 89,604 applied in 2021. (Tapachula’s population is about 350,000.)

(While many can claim government persecution, even Venezuelan citizens who do not qualify for asylum are difficult to deport or remove. The U.S. government, which has sought to use Title 42 robustly to expel as many migrants as possible regardless of asylum needs, has expelled 1 percent of the Venezuelan migrants it has encountered, and most of those probably had some legal status that made possible their expulsion to Mexico.)

According to EFE, García Villagrán estimated that 45,000 migrants are currently stuck in Tapachula awaiting resolution of their asylum applications. Normally, Mexico requires asylum applicants to remain in the state where they first applied, though cases can occasionally be transferred to other states.

This is a hardship in Tapachula, an economically struggling city in Chiapas, Mexico’s poorest state. With COMAR barely able to keep up, the agency’s Tapachula office is now scheduling initial asylum application appointments for August, and deciding cases many months after that. This leaves most migrants with no viable way to support themselves while they await decisions. (In early June, both WOLA and Human Rights Watch published detailed, vividly documented field research reports about the plight of migrants stuck in Tapachula.)

To some extent, the “caravan”—and several that have come before it—is a reaction to that. Though they continue to get a lot of attention in U.S. media, no caravan has arrived intact at the U.S.-Mexico border since late 2018. Mexico and Guatemala have dispersed them shortly after they’ve formed, either by blocking them through at times violent operations, by prohibiting participants from boarding vehicles, or by agreeing to allow marchers to transfer their asylum applications to other Mexican states—usually states with greater employment opportunities but still distant from the U.S. border. A few hundred participants in a late 2021 caravan walked all the way from Tapachula to Mexico City, roughly one third of the distance to the U.S. border, but dispersed after that.

The current caravan seems to be dividing. By June 8 its participants had traveled about 25 miles from Tapachula to the town of Huixtla, Chiapas, where Mexico’s National Migration Institute (INM) apparently offered to provide documents to those who desist. Mandujano reported that the document on offer is the Humanitarian Visitors Card (Tarjeta de Visitante por Razones Humanitarias, TVRH), which allows migrants to stay in the country for a year and work. Although humanitarian visas should be provided to asylum seekers while their cases are processed,  victims or witnesses of crime in Mexico, children, and for other humanitarian or public interest reasons, the U.S. government has often objected to Mexico’s use of this  visa because many who receive it go directly to the U.S. border.

It is not clear how many TVRHs the Mexican government is issuing to caravan participants. García Villagrán told EFE that “INM Commissioner Francisco Garduño called him and pledged to assist all of the members of the caravan with their immigration proceedings.” Over 2,100 had been issued by June 8.

The offer has apparently split or reduced the caravan. On June 9, about 2,000 migrants, mainly younger males, walked north from Huixtla, according to the Associated Press, “but throngs of families with children decided to wait in Huixtla to see if they could get some sort of temporary exit visa.”

In the United States, some are watching closely. Assistant Secretary of State Brian Nichols, according to EFE, warned caravan participants that “the U.S. border is not open… what I say to these people is not to risk their lives on a long journey that will not result in entry into the United States.” The caravan has been featured on the social media accounts of immigration and border hardliners like Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tennessee), and the FOX News cable network.

Emails reveal that family separation was the point of “Zero Tolerance”

2018 email correspondence between Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials, made available via ongoing litigation, reveals that they sought to maximize the number of migrant parents and children being separated by the Trump administration’s “Zero Tolerance” policy. Officials, some of whom remain in senior positions today, were upset that some parents were being released from the U.S. criminal justice system quickly enough to be reunited with their children.

Starting in late 2017 and intensifying during the spring of 2018, the Trump administration, led by then-attorney general Jeff Sessions, sought the highest possible number of criminal prosecutions of migrants who crossed the border between ports of entry, which is a misdemeanor. Under the “zero tolerance” policy, adult improper border crossers were jailed and made to appear in federal courts, regardless of whether they were seeking asylum. Meanwhile, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) carried out a policy called “metering,” sharply limiting the number of asylum seekers who could approach ports of entry “properly” to ask asylum, making improper crossings the only viable way to seek protection without a very long wait.

If the criminally prosecuted migrants arrived with children, CBP took the children away from parents, on the pretext that children cannot be held in prison, then classified the children as “unaccompanied” and sent them to the Health and Human Services Department’s Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). These separations happened more than 4,000 times until a San Diego federal judge ordered a halt to the “zero tolerance” policy in June 2018. For reasons that remain unexplained, CBP and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) made very little effort to note the connection between jailed parent and separated child. As a result, hundreds of parents were deported without their children, and many remain separated today.

Trump administration officials sought to portray the family separations as an unfortunate byproduct of its “zero tolerance” effort to enforce existing U.S. laws. (“On multiple occasions, high-ranking members of the Trump administration denied developing a family separation policy,” CBS News put it this week.) The trove of emails, first revealed by the Washington Post’s Maria Sacchetti, explodes that claim. They show that the family separations were, in fact, the point: an effort to deter future migration by inflicting suffering on migrants, including asylum seekers.

On May 10, 2018, senior ICE official Matthew Albence sent a memo to top colleagues voicing his concern that, because judges were often sentencing parents to time served and releasing them, parents were returning to DHS custody too quickly, before their children could be classified as “unaccompanied” and taken away from them. According to the Washington Post, “Albence said CBP should work with ICE ‘to prevent this from happening,’ such as by taking the children themselves to ORR ‘at an accelerated pace’ or bringing the adults directly to ICE from criminal court, instead of returning them to their children.” Albence now works in the private sector.

Tae Johnson, a senior ICE official at the time, complained on May 25, 2018 that CBP was “reuniting adults with kids” after prosecution in McAllen. “What a fiasco,” he added. Tae Johnson is now the acting director of ICE, a position he has held since the final days of the Trump administration.

“We can’t have this,” Albence responded to Johnson’s e-mail. “ORR needs arm twisted,” wrote ICE official David Jennings. Albence added on May 26,“This obviously undermines the entire effort and the Dept is going to look completely ridiculous if we go through the effort of prosecuting only to send them to a [Family Residential Center] and out the door.” CBP official Sandi Goldhamer responded by suggesting “that Border Patrol ‘cease the reunification process’ if officials are ‘concerned about appearances.’”

Lawyers representing victims of family separation obtained these emails as part of a lawsuit filed against the U.S. government after settlement negotiations broke down in late 2021. The officials’ words, they say, strengthens the plaintiffs’ case: “in practice, the government implemented a sweeping administrative family separation policy—the exact DHS proposal discussed throughout 2017—under the guise of a prosecution policy, which was merely a pretext for the ultimate goal: separating families to deter immigration.”

Supreme Court decision shields border agents

In a 6-3 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on June 8 that a U.S. citizen could not sue a Border Patrol agent who assaulted him. The Egbert v. Boule decision will complicate future efforts to hold accountable federal law enforcement agents who violate constitutional rights.

The case stems from a 2014 incident in Washington state, along the U.S.-Canada border, in which Border Patrol agent Erik Egbert shoved and pushed to the ground innkeeper Robert Boule, who accused Egbert of illegally entering his property. The Supreme Court’s majority, in an opinion authored by Justice Clarence Thomas, decided that Boule did not have the right to sue a federal agent without explicit authorization from Congress.

This further weakens a 1971 Supreme Court ruling (Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Federal Bureau of Narcotics) that had allowed federal law enforcement officers to be sued for violating constitutional rights in some instances. The U.S. Constitution includes protections against excessive force or illegal search and seizure, but “it is silent about what the proper remedy is against an officer who violates these limits,” Ian Millhiser explained at Vox. The possibility of lawsuits as a recourse was already weakened by a 5-4 Supreme Court decision in 2020 (Hernandez v. Mesa), which prohibited relatives of a 15-year-old Mexican boy from suing the Border Patrol agent who, while standing on U.S. soil, shot and killed him from across the border.

In a dissenting opinion cited in the Washington Post, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote that “the court had ‘absolutely immunized from liability’ thousands of Border Patrol agents ‘no matter how egregious the misconduct or resultant injury.’”

Cecillia Wang, the ACLU’s deputy legal director, told the Los Angeles Times that the Ebert v. Boule decision “leaves victims of police violence by Border Patrol agents without an effective remedy and endangers us all. U.S. Customs and Border Protection is by far the largest federal police agency, and it has an appalling record of injuring and killing people.” Added the Southern Border Communities Coalition, “The decision in the Washington state case is a setback for victims and survivors of Border Patrol agents’ violence. The court found that BP agents cannot be held individually liable for abuse and excessive force used during their work day.”

Links

  • On June 7, WOLA co-hosted with partner organizations the Summit side event “From Deterrence To Integration: Civil Society Voices On Migration Policy Challenges and Good Practices in The Americas.” Video of the event is here.
  • NBC News revealed that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is developing a plan to alleviate overcrowding at the border by transporting asylum-seeking migrants to cities in the U.S. interior after initial processing. A DHS spokesperson said that “no decision has been made” on the proposal. The plan has been in the works for months, a CBP source told Univisión. DHS officials are jokingly referring to it as the “Abbott plan,” citing Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) scheme to send released migrants on buses to Washington, DC.
  • A letter from 104 organizations (including WOLA) urges President Biden to use all available authority, “to the greatest extent permissible under existing court orders—in order to ameliorate the harms caused by Title 42 and ensure access to asylum… This should begin first and foremost with an immediate rulemaking to rescind the CDC’s Title 42 order.”
  • A copy of a Border Patrol Critical Incident Team (CIT) incident report has been shared with the public for the first time. It was obtained by the ACLU, which is litigating the case of Eric Molix, a U.S. citizen who died in an August 2021 high-speed Border Patrol vehicle pursuit in New Mexico. As first revealed by the Southern Border Communities Coalition (SBCC) last October, CITs are Border Patrol units that often arrive at the scene when agents may have committed wrongdoing, and are accused of altering crime scenes or otherwise seeking to build cases that might exonerate agents. CBP announced in early May that it would phase out CITs by the end of September 2022.
  • Witness at the Border’s latest monthly tracking of ICE flights found that May 2022 saw the second-largest monthly total of migrant removal flights (139) since the organization began tracking in January 2020. The countries now accepting Title 42 expulsion flights, it reports, “made up 95% of all removal flights in May.” Those countries are “Haiti (36), Guatemala (32), Honduras (30), Colombia (21), El Salvador (12), and Brazil (1).”
  • The Biden administration may soon be able to enforce vaccine requirements for federal workers, which could mean disciplinary action, even firing, for possibly thousands of Border Patrol agents who have refused the COVID-19 vaccine, the Washington Examiner reports.
  • A report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the U.S. Congress’s investigative arm, looked into oversight and data collection regarding Border Patrol’s 110 interior road checkpoints. It found that Border Patrol’s data on checkpoint drug seizures is reliable, but that the agency keeps poor records on “other checkpoint activity data, including on apprehensions of smuggled people and canine assists with drug seizures.”
  • A heavy presence of border law enforcement and military personnel “ultimately didn’t stop a homegrown shooter from inflicting terror” in Uvalde, Texas on May 24, the Dallas Morning News observed. At Palabra, Michelle García blames the border security apparatus and a “constructed war zone” for encouraging “violence and inhumanity.”
  • 500 Texas National Guardsmen assigned to Gov. Greg Abbott’s “Operation Lone Star” have been sent home during the past two months. This is a slight downsizing: about 6,000 were still stationed along the Texas-Mexico border as of May 27, and 3,700 are assigned elsewhere in Texas, according to Stars and Stripes.
  • In Mexico’s border state of Chihuahua, which includes Ciudad Juárez, kidnappings and disappearances of migrants happen most often in zones controlled by the Juárez Cartel, a regional organized crime structure now allied with the larger Jalisco New Generation Cartel, according to an investigation by the Mexican magazine Proceso.
  • Arizona’s Republican governor and Republican-majority legislature are near a budget deal that would devote $544 million in state funds to border security. “$355 million would be used for fencing,” Axios reports.
  • Mexican media reported on factories seeking to hire Haitian migrants currently stranded in the border cities of Nuevo Laredo and Reynosa, Tamaulipas.
  • The Texas Tribune profiles a Salvadoran family whose unification could be derailed by one of the Texas attorney general’s many lawsuits in the state’s federal courts. This suit would end the Central American Minors Program, which allowed threatened Central American children with family members in the United States to apply for protection at U.S. embassies. The Obama administration began the program in 2014, the Trump administration halted it in 2017, and the Biden administration revived it in 2021.
  • “Across the U.S., a surveillance system tracking the movements of tens of thousands of people seeking refuge or permanent residency in the U.S. is quietly but quickly expanding,” observes an investigation of alternatives-to-detention programs by Erica Hellerstein at Coda. Most are required to use a facial recognition app known as SmartLINK.
  • A New York Times photo essay depicts asylum seekers’ cross-border journeys from shelters on the Mexican side to custody on the U.S. side.

Latin America Security-Related News: June 9, 2022

(Even more here)

June 9, 2022

Western Hemisphere Regional

The “Los Angeles Declaration,” to be announced while Biden meets with his counterparts from North, Central and South America, is a brief call to action that supporters hope will guide countries on one of the most pressing issues surrounding migration — hosting people fleeing violence and persecution

Defesnores de derechos humanos advierten que el enfoque migratorio de los países que integran la Cumbre de las Américas no privilegia los DDHH

Brazil

Crime there is rife and government oversight scant, adding to fears about the duo’s whereabouts and condition

Since President Bolsonaro took office, however, we have seen Brazil led down a path more reminiscent of its authoritarian past than the proud, vibrant democracy the Brazilian people built from the ashes of its military dictatorship

Joe Biden is preparing for an awkward first meeting with Brazil’s far-right leader, who has raised doubts not only about his own country’s voting but about the legitimacy of the US president’s election

Brazil, Colombia, Paraguay, Venezuela

Segun la policia colombiana, el PCC de Brasil, uno de los grupos mafiosos mas poderosos de Sudameica, coordino el homicidio de Marcelo Pecci

Colombia

Durante los últimos meses había estado al frente del espacio humanitario en esa zona para proteger a los pobladores del recrudecimiento de la guerra en la región

Ecuador

La norma, de 74 artículos, regulará a las servidoras y servidores de la Policía Nacional, Fuerzas Armadas y del Cuerpo de Seguridad y Vigilancia Penitenciaria

El Salvador

Sus familiares señalan que sus capturas son ilegales. Por eso presentaron un recurso de habeas corpus ante la Sala de lo Constitucional. Hasta ahora se registran 51 denuncias de capturas arbitrarias en la zona

At least 38,000 people have been arrested under Nayib Bukele’s draconic state of exemption

Guatemala

>

Mexico

The Mexican government will attempt to quell a massive caravan of migrants traveling through the country to the United States’s southern border with the issuance of 1,000 humanitarian visas

The INM, which has been criticized for its sometimes brutal treatment of migrants, announced that it was ready to provide the participants in the caravan with transit permits

Homicide rate increases in Mexico are widely attributed to heightened DTO-related violence, often tied to territorial control over drug routes and criminal influence

Madres y padres de los normalistas desaparecidos y alumnos bloquearon la Autopista del Sol. Reclamaron al gobierno federal por la falta de avances en el caso y exigieron que se indague al Ejército y a la Marina

Mexico, Venezuela

Venezuelans make up a large proportion of this caravan, the biggest of the year, in contrast to previous ones. A factor appears to be a policy change implemented by Mexico in January requiring Venezuelans to acquire a visa to enter the country

U.S.-Mexico Border

Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote that the court had “absolutely immunized from liability” thousands of Border Patrol agents “no matter how egregious the misconduct or resultant injury”

Egbert v. Boule is a severe blow to the proposition that law enforcement must obey the Constitution

DHS officials have jokingly referred to the model as the “Abbott plan,” an official said, referring to Texas Gov. Abbott’s decision to bus migrants from Texas to D.C.

The undersigned civil society organizations write to urge immediate action to preserve asylum and refugee law at the United States’ borders to the fullest extent, consistent with current court decisions concerning the use of Title 42

Venezuela

In what may be an attempt at damage control, Biden on Wednesday spoke with Guaidó. It was the first time the two leaders have spoken

If you can’t get an invitation to the biggest party in town, act like you’re too busy to care

Latin America Security-Related News: June 8, 2022

(Even more here)

June 8, 2022

Western Hemisphere Regional

  • El Negocio de la Represion (Animal Político, cerosetenta, El Deber, Efecto Cocuyo, El País América, El Universo, Interferencia, No Ficción, Revista Anfibia, UOL, Noticias Telemundo, Centro Latinoamericano de Investigación Periodística, June 8, 2022).

En los últimos cinco años en América Latina ha habido por lo menos veinte protestas ciudadanas de gran envergadura. Esperanzadoras y creativas, pero también fuertes y rabiosas

Ni en América Latina ni en Estados Unidos la casa parece estar en orden

Brazil

Indigenous expert last seen travelling with British journalist Dom Phillips was ousted from official role after Bolsonaro took office

Bolsonaro has not held many bilateral meetings in his three years as president

Colombia

Five years after the signing of the Final Agreement, the status of overall implementation shows 30% of provisions complete, 19% in intermediate status, 37% in minimal implementation status and 15 percent uninitiated

En este resguardo indígena de Buenos Aires (Cauca) hay 312 hectáreas de coca sembradas. Autoridades indígenas intentan prevenir que más jóvenes se vayan a trabajar a los cultivos ilícitos

Al menos 150 indígenas embera katío buscan refugio en Medellín, tras la ola de violencia e intimidación que azota a Chocó desde que los paramilitares se adueñaron de la región

En cuanto a los presuntos actores agresores, la Polici?a es el mayor presunto responsable con par- ticipacio?n exclusiva en 62,7% de los casos

Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela

Activists, dissidents and artists from countries not invited to the Summit of the Americas have made their way to Los Angeles for the event this week

Ecuador

Las estadísticas de la Fiscalía reflejan el nivel de impunidad detrás de la violencia de octubre de 2019. Esta institución recibió 743 denuncias relacionadas con esas protestas, la mayor parte por daño de bienes, pero solo en 66 casos ha habido personas procesadas

Guatemala

El decreto publicado por la Presidencia de la República establece que el estado de Sitio en estos dos municipios de San Macos será por 30 días

Mexico

The large group of migrants of a score of nationalities – most of them Venezuelan – resumed their journey on Tuesday morning from Alvaro Obregon, a community located 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) from the caravan start point in Tapachula

La caravana se dividió en dos partes, unos 4 mil se adelantaron y comenzaron a caminar a las 3 de la madrugada, otro contingentes de unos 6 mil más esperaron a las 5 de la mañana y comenzaron la marcha

Las detenciones y repatriaciones aumentaron 20 por ciento entre el primer trimestre de 2021 a comparación del mismo periodo de 2022

Despite the rollout of new measures to protect human rights in Mexico, the country has reached grim new violence milestones in recent years

As criminal organizations control more territory in less-populated regions, health care workers, caught in the crossfire, grow reluctant to work in such places

Peru

El Ministerio de Defensa rechazó las insinuaciones que señalan que las FF. AA habrían tomado partido por un sector político y recordó que no son deliberantes de acuerdo al artículo 169 de la Constitución

U.S.-Mexico Border

Internal data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection shared with the Washington Examiner show that nearly 4,000 of 21,000 total agents admitted to being unvaccinated as of late November 2021

In a vehicle pursuit that killed our client’s son, a newly-uncovered report shows Border Patrol’s unauthorized, conflict-ridden Critical Incident Team are the lead investigators

The children were being reunited too quickly with their parents, an official wrote on a Friday night in late May 2018

Don’t let the “caravan” in southern Mexico distract you

Media are reporting on a large number of migrants leaving Tapachula, the city near Mexico’s border with Guatemala where tens of thousands are stranded, because Mexico requires them to remain in the state where they first apply for asylum. (See an early June report on Tapachula from some of my colleagues at WOLA.)

Hungry and miserable while waiting for Mexico’s backlogged asylum system to move, many are packing up and leaving. This time, a large number are Venezuelan.

Reuters estimated on June 6 that “at least 6,000” people left Tapachula en masse. Fox News immediately took notice and started piping footage into their viewers’ eyeballs.

Three points about this:

  1. No “migrant caravan” has succeeded in reaching the U.S.-Mexico border since late 2018. Mexican forces routinely break them up. A large one last fall dwindled, with just a few hundred walking all the way to Mexico City (very, very far from the U.S. border), as Mexican forces prohibited caravan participants from boarding vehicles. Caravans have become more of a negotiating tactic for migrants to press for permission to live in parts of Mexico where jobs are while awaiting asylum outcomes. (Tapachula is in Chiapas, Mexico’s poorest state.)
  2. Even if the caravan did manage to arrive at the U.S. border, we’d hardly notice right now. In late May, Axios reported that “the administration’s internal data now counts about 8,000 people attempting to cross the southwest border each day.” So “at least 6,000” people is less than a day’s worth of migration at the border right now.
  3. Caravans are what migrants attempt when they can’t afford to pay thousands of dollars each to a smuggler to get them across Mexico. They attempt to band together as a form of “safety in numbers.” But as noted, caravans really don’t succeed anymore. Instead, most of those 8,000 people a day arriving at the U.S. border right now are paying smuggling networks. And most of them cross Mexico in a week or two, usually less, in vehicles. U.S. media outlets’ and anti-migrant politicians’ obsession over “caravans” benefits those smuggling networks by making them migrants’ only option.

And it totally lets off the hook the corrupt Mexican migration and security officials who enrich themselves by looking the other way, waving smugglers’ vehicles through their many road checkpoints. The need to pay those officials (and, in northern Mexico, organized crime) is why smugglers’ fees are so high in the first place. But corruption gets like one hundredth the attention that “caravan” footage gets. Stop being distracted by the caravans.

Some Brazil articles by Dom Phillips

Longtime Brazil-based reporter Dom Phillips is missing since Sunday in the western Amazon, near Brazil’s triple border with Colombia and Peru. The Indigenous leader he was traveling with had been receiving threats, and now both are unaccounted for while the Brazilian security forces slowly creep into action. It’s not looking good right now.

I don’t think I’ve ever met Phillips—I’ve only been to Brazil once in my life, so I wouldn’t have been a useful source for him. But he’s been a crucial window for me into what’s happening in Brazil. My news database has links to 102 articles from him over the years. Here are 16 of them. This is devastating.

July 22, 2020

Brazilians like Silva are dying in remote towns whose health systems can’t handle the caseload. And doctors and health specialists say Bolsonaro’s dismissal of the pandemic has confused Brazilians, eroded lockdowns, and helped propagate Covid-19

June 9, 2020

Covid-19 first hit Brazil’s white upper classes, who brought it back from abroad. Now the virus is scything through the country’s poorer suburbs, favelas and low-income towns

May 6, 2020

We need to step back into the Amazon’s chaotic and rapacious history of colonisation

March 4, 2020

On 19 April 2017, nine men were brutally murdered in what became known as the “Colniza massacre”. The men had been squatting on remote forest land in the state of Mato Grosso

January 13, 2020

Gold prospectors are ravaging the Yanomami indigenous reserve. So why does President Bolsonaro want to make them legal?

January 2, 2020

Six prominent voices from the arts, media, diplomacy and the Amazon give their views on the far-right president’s opening 12 months

February 25, 2019

Brazil, Venezuela

It was the remote frontier with Brazil that saw the worst violence and the boldest – though unfounded – claims of success in getting aid into Venezuela

December 18, 2018

Bolsonaro has said the Yanomami reserve, which at 9.6m hectares (24m acres) is twice the size of Switzerland, was too big for its indigenous population

August 24, 2018

Mining reserves – and plentiful fish – mean Brazil’s Javari Valley is increasingly at risk from armed poachers seeking to plunder its resources. So, too, are the tribes who call it home

August 22, 2018

The case has exposed the vulnerability of isolated groups in the Javari Valley, the prejudice indigenous people face in communities around them, and the difficulties of such investigations

August 21, 2018

Dom Phillips and Gary Calton joined an expedition to track the whereabouts of an uncontacted tribe, who threaten the safety of Brazil’s Marubo people

July 12, 2018

Known as “militias”, paramilitary groups – which often include former and serving police officers and firefighters – have quietly taken control of swathes of Rio’s western suburbs

August 10, 2017

Venezuela, Western Hemisphere Regional

The steady erosion of human rights has left Latin American leftists – once broadly united behind its charismatic late leader Hugo Chávez – in disarray

July 17, 2017

As Venezuela falls further into turmoil, more of its citizens are leaving a country that once served as a haven

February 9, 2017

A multimillionaire reality TV star and an evangelical bishop might seem worlds apart. But the surprise new populist mayors of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo both signal a rejection of traditional leaders by cities mired in economic crisis

November 9, 2015

It was Brazil’s biggest-ever operation of its kind and was hailed by activists internationally. But now, signs of the settlers’ return are rife

Military-to-Military Relations with Mexico on Twitter

Even as Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador boycotts the Summit of the Americas, knocking the bilateral diplomatic relationship further sideways, the U.S.-Mexico military-to-military relationship seems to be all hugs and smiles—judging.

That’s the impression you get, at least, looking at these tweets posted over the past 3 weeks.

Latin America Security-Related News: June 7, 2022

(Even more here)

June 7, 2022

Western Hemisphere Regional

The real test will be whether the commitments and declarations emerging from the Summit include clear plans of action with specific timelines, and ways for civil society actors to actively participate in the follow-up process

The first Summit of the Americas, in Miami in 1994, opened up an era of promise. Since then, democratic backsliding and a return to autocratic leaders has threatened to overshadow the event

Brazil

Dom Phillips and Bruno Araújo Pereira were last seen Sunday morning traveling in a boat in the northern Brazilian state of Amazonas

Colombia

Rodolfo Hernández admits he doesn’t know the country well, but doesn’t think it matters. Neither, it seems, do his supporters

El enfrentamiento entre la guerrilla y grupos de narcotraficantes hacen de ella una de las ciudades con mayor tasa de homicidios del planeta

Cinco años después de que estos programas se pusieran en marcha, la FIP cree que es posible trabajar sobre lo que ya está hecho y, sobre todo, darle un nuevo impulso a la participación

Washington nos obsequió una distinción simbólica, con algunos beneficios militares y económicos. ¿Qué implica esta decisión para las relaciones entre los dos países?

Cuba, Mexico

La decisión del Presidente Andrés Manuel López Obrador de no acudir a la Cumbre de las Américas en Los Ángeles esta semana es un apoyo preocupante a “dictadores” del hemisferio, aseguró este lunes Bob Menéndez, presidente del Comité de Relaciones Exteriores del Senado de Estados Unidos

El Salvador

Un joven fue capturado el 2 de abril en Atiquizaya bajo el régimen de excepción. Murió el 3 de junio y ayer lo sepultaron. Imágenes del cadáver muestran claras evidencias de tortura, afirman familiares

El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras

Like previous administrations, finding a reliable partner in the region has proved difficult

Guatemala

Several former Guatemalan judicial leaders in exile and faith-based and nonprofit groups are asking the United States to impose sanctions against Guatemala to stop what they call a “corrupt” regime controlling the Central American country

Mexico

Several thousand migrants set out walking in the rain early Monday in southern Mexico, tired of waiting to normalize their status

Unos cinco mil migrantes, el 80 por ciento de ellos venezolanos, salieron este lunes en uan marcha caravana desde Tapachula para adentrarse en territorio mexicano y avanzar hacia la frontera con Estados Unidos

Mexico, Western Hemisphere Regional

To the surprise of many, the U.S. in early 2019 offered to host the summit. At the time, the Trump administration was enjoying something of a leadership renaissance in Latin America, albeit among mostly similar-minded conservative governments

U.S.-Mexico Border

Flights to countries now accepting T42 flights, Haiti (36), Guatemala (32), Honduras (30), Colombia (21), El Salvador (12), and Brazil (1), made up 95% of all removal flights in May

Uruguay

The focus of this particular JCET training was defensive operations, medical response and civilian protection, which included cargo and military airdrops, deployment of specialized personnel, and humanitarian relief in crisis or disaster situations, whether natural or man-made

Venezuela

La Organización No Gubernamental (ONG) Fundaredes, informó este lunes que durante el mes de mayo se registraron 35 homicidios, 17 desapariciones y ocho enfrentamientos armados en seis de los ocho estados fronterizos

The ugly logic of sanctions is to make conditions so intolerable that people rise up against Maduro or the military removes him. That hasn’t happened and there’s no reason to think it will

Latin America Security-Related News: June 6, 2022

(Even more here)

June 6, 2022

Western Hemisphere Regional

Even some progressive Democrats have criticized the administration for bowing to pressure from exiles in the swing state of Florida and barring communist Cuba, which attended the last two summits

Argentina

La defensa en el Cono Sur se debe articular con fines pacíficos, democráticos y soberanos

Chile

Gabriel Boric promises sweeping social change. In a nation of duelling political extremes, he’ll need to sell his vision not just to his opponents but also to his allies

Colombia

Con dos candidatos que no tienen la serenidad como virtud, las implicaciones de recurrir a esta figura son altamente riesgosas porque el presidente gozaría de poderes extraordinarios sin ningún control inmediato

La llegada de Petro o de Hernández a la casa de Nariño podría deteriorar las relaciones entre Colombia y Estados Unidos. Son muchos los motivos

Vorágine reconstruye, a partir del expediente, los hechos del 3 de mayo de 2021 en los que fueron asesinados Kevin Agudelo Jiménez, José Emilson Ambuila y Harold Rodríguez Mellizo

Los grupos armados en el norte del Cauca persiguen a los muchachos de este municipio para reclutarlos y cargarlos con armas o coca

The authors find that although hard-power techniques can be effective in reducing coca cultivation and trafficking, broader issues — particularly in rural areas — need to be addressed, such as building licit economies, extending institutions and infrastructure, and promoting societal well-being

Colombia, Venezuela

Del fracaso del “cerco diplomático” a la compleja reinstitucionalización de la relación bilateral con Venezuela, el próximo gobierno de Colombia necesita una nueva estrategia para tratar con Caracas

Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela

The Biden administration has made a final decision against inviting the governments of Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua to a regional summit this week, bucking calls from Mexico’s president

Guatemala

Es una total inepcia censurar los datos oficiales de violencia: primero, porque ello no elimina el problema, ni siquiera lo disimula y, por el contrario, denota la aversión oficialista a reconocer su realidad

Honduras

Juan Orlando Hernandez is being represented by a curious combination of lawyers, rabbis and a colorful private detective

Mexico

Las autoridades mexicanas cerraron durante la madrugada la circulación de avenidas para buscar a más migrantes en los hoteles y las calles

La lucha por el respeto a los derechos de las personas en movilidad toma nuevas formas

Migrants and asylum seekers who enter Mexico through its southern border face abuses and struggle to obtain protection or legal status as a result of policies aimed at preventing them from reaching the US

La investigación de las desapariciones en la franja fronteriza de Chihuahua con Estados Unidos arroja un patrón inquietante: muchos migrantes desaparecen en las zonas controladas por el Cártel de Juárez

Hombres armados robaron tres urnas en Reynosa y Matamoros, además de que la amenaza de un tiroteo suspendió el recuento en una casilla de Miguel Alemán

U.S.-Mexico Border

Texas spends millions to stop illegal immigration, but local officials say priorities need to be balanced

The southern border is seeing a historic spike in migrant crossings. A New York Times photographer documented three ways that people cross the border into the United States

Latin America-related events online and in Washington this week

All times are U.S. Eastern time zone.

Tuesday, June 7

  • 4:30-7:00 at migrationpolicy.org and in Los Angeles: A Path to Self-Sufficiency: Advancing Venezuelan Refugee Integration in the Americas (RSVP required).
  • 8:00-9:30 on Zoom and in Los Angeles: From Deterrence To Integration: Civil Society Voices On Migration Policy Challenges and Good Practices In The Americas (RSVP required).
  • 8:00 on Facebook and YouTube and in Los Angeles: Peaceful Demonstrations in Latin America: Reflections on Cuba one year after #11J (RSVP required).

Wednesday, June 8

Friday, June 10

  • 1:00-3:30 at Zoom and in Los Angeles: The State of Democracy in Latin America and the World (RSVP required).
  • 10:00PM in Los Angeles and at atlanticcouncil.org: The joint future of the Caribbean working with Latin America (RSVP required).

Weekly U.S.-Mexico Border Update: June 3, 2022

With this series of weekly updates, WOLA seeks to cover the most important developments at the U.S.-Mexico border. See past weekly updates here.

This week:

  • Three more Nicaraguan migrants drowned to death in the Rio Grande. The chief of Border Patrol’s Del Rio, Texas sector reported 10 deaths there in a weekend. 2022 appears likely to be a record year for deaths of migrants on U.S. soil. This is in part because Title 42 has closed ports of entry to asylum seekers, routing many to the treacherous areas in between.
  • Mexico’s asylum system  is on track to experience its second-largest annual number of applicants in 2022. April was Mexico’s fifth-heaviest month ever for apprehensions of migrants. Half of those apprehended were not from El Salvador, Guatemala, or Honduras, which is unprecedented. Many are from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and South America.
  • “Shared responsibility” is a main theme of a regional declaration on migration that the Biden administration hopes to sign with other Latin American and Caribbean heads of state at the June 8-10 Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles.
  • The Uvalde, Texas mass school shooting response has increased attention to BORTAC, Border Patrol’s little-known elite tactical unit, which has performed non-traditional, non-border-specific missions from Portland to Miami to foreign countries.

Still more migrant deaths

Last week’s Update noted that seven citizens of Nicaragua had died crossing the Rio Grande, in five separate incidents over about six days. This week, the grim toll continued to rise.

Three more Nicaraguan citizens perished in the river over the Memorial Day weekend, according to Nicaraguan Texas Community, a non-profit organization. Kelvin Antonio Tórrez Medina’s body was identified in Laredo, Texas, on May 27. The bodies of Alexander Zelaya Espinoza and Iván Ramiro Rivera Velásquez were recovered in Piedras Negras, Mexico, across from Eagle Pass, Texas, on May 28 and 29, respectively.

Between March 4 and May 19, 2022, more than 20 Nicaraguans have perished,” reports Confidencial, an independent Nicaraguan media outlet that persists despite repression from the regime of President Daniel Ortega. “Of these, nine died trying to cross the waters of the Río Bravo [Rio Grande], mainly in the Piedras Negras area.”

Another migrant of unknown nationality drowned on May 31 at California’s Border Field State Park, trying to swim around the border fence that continues for about 100 yards into the Pacific Ocean. CBP meanwhile posted a release about the death of a man who fell from the border wall in Tornillo, Texas on March 27. As documented in recent reports from the Journal of the American Medical Association and the Washington Post, the number of people dead or gravely injured from attempts to climb the border wall has multiplied since the Trump administration installed hundreds of miles of 30-foot fencing.

In mid-Texas’s Del Rio Sector alone, Border Patrol’s sector chief reported 10 deaths in a May 31 “Weekend Rewind” tweet.

In Tijuana, scores of people attended a June 2 funeral for two Haitian migrants: EFE identified them as “Joselyn Anselme, 34, who was killed in an attempted assault, and Caroly Archangel, 30, who died of a heart attack due to alleged medical malpractice.”

Border Patrol found the remains of more than 8,600 migrants on U.S. soil between 1998 and 2021. Humanitarian groups that recover bodies in specific regions routinely find far more than Border Patrol reports.

In a year that may break records for overall migration, it is not surprising that the number of migrants dying may be approaching record numbers. But the problem is exacerbated by the Title 42 pandemic policy’s closure of ports of entry to asylum-seeking migrants. Media reports point to many children and parents among the dead as they attempt to cross between the ports of entry, which used to be rare. Two small children are among the ten Nicaraguans recovered from the river this month.

Border Patrol is slow to report migrant deaths along the entire border: it has still not shared an official figure for 2021. When it does so for 2022, it’s probable that, even amid a rise in migration, the ratio of deaths to overall migrant encounters may be greater than normal.

48,981 people have applied for asylum in Mexico since January

The Mexican government’s Refugee Assistance Commission (COMAR) has published data documenting migrants’ applications for protection in Mexico’s asylum system through May 31. In the first five months of 2022, 48,981 citizens of other countries have filed asylum requests with COMAR.

That is already the third-largest annual total for Mexico, which as recently as 2013 got only 1,296 asylum requests all year. COMAR is on pace to finish 2022 with its second-largest number of asylum requests, after 2021 when a large number of Haitian migrants helped lift the total over 130,000. (However, new asylum applications have declined for the past two months, from 13,238 in March to 9,113 in May.)

This year, Haiti is not the number-one country of origin of Mexico’s asylum applicants. It is third behind Honduras (usually the number-one country) and Cuba, and followed by Venezuela, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, Brazil (including many children of Haitian parents), Senegal, and Colombia.

The Mexican Interior Department’s Migratory Statistics Unit has updated data through April. That month saw Mexico’s migration authorities apprehend their fifth-largest monthly number of migrants ever: 30,980 people, which is in fact fewer apprehensions than Mexico measured in August, September, and October of 2021.

Half of migrants apprehended in Mexico in April were not from El Salvador, Guatemala, or Honduras. Instead, many are from (in declining order) Cuba, Nicaragua, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Haiti, Chile (mostly children of Haitian parents), and Peru. This is a sharp break with past years, when a quarter or fewer of Mexico’s migrant apprehensions were citizens of these “other” countries.

Mexico’s data also show an increase in the U.S. government’s deportations of Mexicans into Mexico. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) deported 25,966 Mexican citizens in April, the second-highest monthly total (after March) since 2019. (This figure does not include Title 42 expulsions into Mexico, which often happen at the borderline without any Mexican authorities on hand to count them.)

April deportations to the Mexican border state of Tamaulipas (3,804), where organized crime activity and kidnapping are so severe that the State Department has issued a level-four “Do Not Travel” warning, hit their highest level since November 2020.

Migration on the agenda at next week’s Summit of the Americas

Presidents and heads of government from many Latin American and Caribbean countries will be in Los Angeles on June 8, 9, and 10 for the ninth Summit of the Americas, the latest in a series of high-level region-wide meetings that began in 1994. Five issues lead the agenda, White House and State Department officials explained to reporters on June 1: “democratic governance, health and resilience, the clean energy transition, our green future, and digital transformation.”

“On the margins of the summit,” National Security Council Western Hemisphere Director Juan González explained, will be an additional item: “addressing the historic migration crisis.” President Joe Biden is to “join other heads of state to sign a migration declaration, sending a strong signal of unity and resolve to bring the regional migration crisis under control.”

Though the U.S. political debate tends to focus on what happens at the U.S.-Mexico border, much of the hemisphere is also experiencing mass emigration, receiving large-scale immigration, or in some cases both. Over 6 million Venezuelan migrants have relocated to Colombia and elsewhere in South America. Nicaraguans fleeing the Ortega regime have arrived massively in Costa Rica. Mexico’s asylum system, as noted above, is facing unprecedented demand, much of it from Central America, Haiti, and Cuba. Haitians are crossing into the Dominican Republic or attempting dangerous sea voyages. (For more on the hemisphere-wide migration phenomenon, see WOLA’s May 26 commentary “Beyond the U.S.-Mexico Border.”)

Though the content of the Summit’s migration declaration isn’t yet known, U.S. officials are signaling a desire for greater shared responsibility at a time of very high migration throughout the region.

“For the last couple of months the President has and the Secretary of State and Secretary of Homeland Security, the Vice President, and others have been all-hands-on-deck to mobilize leaders around a bold new plan centered on responsibility sharing and economic support for countries that have been most impacted by refugee and migration flows,” González told reporters. “What we are hoping to do is…to look at the regional challenge from the context of responsibility sharing and the need to provide economic support to countries to have been impacted by refugee and migration flows, but also the importance of…in-country processing avenues, expanding refugee protections, and also addressing, I think, some of the core drivers of migration, which are lack of economic opportunities and insecurity.”

Brian Nichols, the assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere affairs, added that the summit’s migration declaration is likely to cover helping and “stabilizing” communities that are hosting migrants; ensuring access to legal documentation and public services; “promoting pathways for legal, orderly migration when appropriate”; ensuring ethical employment practices; “promoting humane migration management; and a shared approach to mitigating and managing irregular migration.”

It’s not clear how officials are squaring these goals and values with the court-ordered persistence of the Title 42 pandemic expulsions policy, which has returned nearly 2 million migrants into Mexico, Haiti, or elsewhere, usually with minimal coordination with local authorities and without giving threatened migrants a chance to ask for protection in the United States.

Sixteen members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus sent a letter to President Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken urging them to include a list of commitments in the Summit’s migration declaration. These include, among others, protecting the rights of migrant children and other vulnerable populations; guaranteeing migrants’ access to medical care and legal counsel; ending detention for children and families; upholding the principle of non-refoulement (not sending endangered people back to places where they are threatened); and expanding safe and legal, pathways to migration.

In an essay at Foreign Affairs, Dan Restrepo of the Center for American Progress—who held González’s National Security Council post during Barack Obama’s first term—calls on U.S. policymakers to recognize that high levels of region-wide migration are “not going to stop.” Adjusting to that reality, he argues, will require “a new, hemisphere-wide approach to migration, combined with steps to modernize U.S. laws, policies, and border infrastructure.”

A sustainable migration framework for the Western Hemisphere must help integrate and establish legal status for already dislocated populations, with additional protection measures for the most vulnerable among them. It must provide options for would-be migrants apart from overburdened asylum systems. And it must establish infrastructure to respond to sudden increases in irregular migration. Large numbers of people will be moving throughout the Americas for years to come. It is time the United States coordinated more closely with other countries in the region to make this a manageable trend, rather than a disruptive one.

School-shooting role draws attention to Border Patrol’s elite unit

Investigations at the New York Times and Vice profile BORTAC, Border Patrol’s elite 250-member SWAT-team-like tactical unit, whose personnel killed the gunman in Uvalde Texas’s Robb Elementary School on May 24.

Border Patrol may operate within 100 miles of a land or coastal border, or elsewhere in a declared emergency. As one of the few non-military federal law enforcement bodies with “special operations” capabilities, BORTAC has played numerous non-traditional, non-border-specific roles.

  • On Trump administration orders, its members fought protesters on the streets of Portland, Oregon, in the summer of 2020 following the police killing of George Floyd, a Black man, in Minneapolis. BORTAC personnel, with no insignia on their uniforms, were filmed grabbing protesters off the street and hustling them into unmarked, rented vans.
  • 66 BORTAC personnel were posted outside George Floyd’s funeral in Texas.
  • Also in 2020, BORTAC raided the desert camp of No More Deaths, an Arizona humanitarian group, on two occasions.
  • Its members carry out numerous overseas training missions, and likely were among personnel revealed to have confronted a January 2020 migration event in Guatemala by forcing Honduran migrants into unmarked rented vans and driving them back to Honduras.
  • In 2000 it was BORTAC personnel who took Cuban child Elián González from distant Miami relatives to return him to his father in Cuba.

Links

  • WOLA released a new report on June 2 based on fieldwork performed in Mexico’s southern-border city of Tapachula. “ Struggling to Survive: the Situation of Asylum Seekers in Tapachula, Mexico” follows the difficult challenges faced by asylum seekers stuck near Mexico’s border with Guatemala. Most are the result of U.S. and Mexican policies that stand in the way of accessing protection. Mexico, for instance, restricts most asylum seekers to the state where they first applied for asylum during the many months that their applications are under review.
  • WOLA will be hosting a side event, in conjunction with partner organizations, at the Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles. Sign up to attend “From Deterrence To Integration: Civil Society Voices On Migration Policy Challenges and Good Practices In The Americas,” virtually on Zoom, Tuesday, June  7 from 5:00-6:30 PM U.S. Pacific Time (8:00-9:30 PM in the eastern United States).
  • Thousands of migrants stuck in Tapachula have been marching in protest, demanding quicker asylum processing or documents allowing them to transit Mexico. In response, the Mexican government is reportedly issuing permits for as many as 11,000 migrants to relocate to other, non-border states like Puebla, Morelos, Oaxaca, Jalisco, Michoacán, and Mexico state.
  • An analysis by Rebecca Beitsch at The Hill explores the Biden administration’s legal options now that a Louisiana federal court is preventing it from lifting the Title 42 pandemic policy, which enables the quick expulsion of asylum seekers at the border. While it challenges the court order, migrants’ rights advocates are encouraging the administration to quickly go through the rule-making and comment process that Judge Robert Summerhays expects it to undergo in order to end the public health policy.
  • Even with Title 42 still in place by court order, “US government protocols include exceptions for asylum seekers at a greater risk, and President Joe Biden has promised US agents will apply them. But border agents have broad discretion to grant or deny exceptions, and there are no clear consequences for agents who fail to do so or checks to ensure that exceptions are being handled properly.” The observation comes from a new Human Rights Watch report on LGBT asylum seekers stranded on the Mexico side of the border.
  • “Among the approximately 25 people with whom we spoke, over half had been waiting in Piedras Negras for a year or more and had close relatives in the United States,” reads a field research report from Refugees International. “Their most common questions were: When is Title 42 going to end? Why are some people able to cross at ports of entry (through exceptions), but not others? And why are some who try to cross the river not expelled but others are, especially Hondurans?”
  • The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) authorized a series of border barrier construction projects in five border sectors, using funds appropriated in 2017, 2018, and 2021, to “address operational impacts, as well as immediate life and safety risks.” Among others, the projects include gates and replacement of the border fence that enters the Pacific Ocean south of San Diego.
  • “Aid workers in Tucson are preparing for the likelihood of handling upwards of a thousand people a day very soon,” notes an NPR report from Arizona. “A good deal of the funding to support the growing humanitarian need in cities near the border like Tucson is coming from the federal government. Much of it is set to run out by the end of the month.”
  • At Reveal News, Aura Bogado discusses the post-government career path of Carla Provost, the Border Patrol’s chief during much of the Trump administration. Provost is a contractor for Endeavors, a non-profit that runs facilities, including emergency shelters, for the Health and Human Services Department’s Office of Refugee Resettlement. Bogado notes that Provost managed the 2,000-bed Pecos Children’s Center in 2021 even though she oversaw Border Patrol during an era of family separations and an elevated number of in-custody deaths of children.
  • In its inaugural meeting on May 31, the Congressional Border Security Technology Caucus heard a presentation from Orbital Insight, a Silicon Valley geospatial analytics company that, according to Border Report, “analyzes satellite, drone, balloon and other unmanned-aerial-vehicle images, including cellphone geolocation data, to study a range of human activity, and provides business and strategic insights from the data.”
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