Adam Isacson

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

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Thursday Evening Book Event

If you’re in Washington, join me on Thursday evening at a very good bookstore, for a discussion of a very good book. I’ll be moderating a discussion with Ieva Jusionyte, whose book Exit Wounds was just released today, at the original Politics and Prose store up on Connecticut Avenue.

Exit Wounds: How America’s Guns Fuel Violence Across the Border is a series of vignettes and character sketches about gun trafficking, organized crime, and migration at the U.S.-Mexico border. Jusionyte makes the point that Mexico is not inherently a violent place, that the United States’ approach to firearms plays a role too.

I’ve given the book a very close read and am completely over-prepared. Looking forward to Thursday.

I liked this part:

I began following American guns south in order to understand what they were doing to Mexican society. From the stories migrants and refugees told me I already knew I would find communities scarred by gun violence and people who were living in fear, some of whom were choosing to leave their homes in search of safety and better lives. I knew that this journey would eventually take me back to the border, right to where I had started, that the plight of migrants and refugees running away from threats would only lead to further militarization and fortification of the barrier separating “us” from “them.” After all, the desire to prevent migrants from crossing is a strong political potion that reliably wins elections in the United States. And yet I was surprised by how few people recognize that it’s a circle. Even the language we use to talk about violence south of the border, using such terms as “narcos” and “cartels,” only reinforces the idea that Mexico is a dangerous country and we need to build a barrier lest those people coming from over there—not only Mexico, but also Honduras and Guatemala, Haiti and Venezuela, and many other places—would bring violence here.

Somehow, we fail to connect the dots: that the violence people are fleeing, the violence we are afraid they would spread in the United States is, in large part, of our own making—that the tools come from the factories in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Tennessee, some smuggled across the borders, others legally exported to foreign military and police forces with records of abuse. Even more: these guns come from the same regions where addiction to opioids has created demand for drugs that continue to enrich smugglers in Mexico; that the money Americans spend on fentanyl, heroin, or meth will be used to buy guns to arm those who supply this contraband. Nor do we realize that the US government’s pursuit of most prominent Mexican traffickers and their extraditions to face trials on this side of the border—the list that includes several leaders of the Gulf Cartel and the Zetas—have deprived communities that have suffered their brutality most directly from recourse to justice, further fraying the social fabric of the Mexican society.

Daily Border Links: April 16, 2024

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Developments

An Indiana National Guardsman in El Paso, part of the Texas state government’s “Operation Lone Star” troop deployment, shot his weapon at a migrant who had allegedly stabbed two people on Sunday afternoon.

The incident occurred along the edge of the Rio Grande. The alleged stabbing took place on the U.S. side of the river, which is very narrow in El Paso; the attacker ran back into Mexico. Two migrants were treated for “superficial wounds.”

There is little other information. The Texas Military Department confirmed that a guardsman “discharged a weapon in a border-related incident.”

This is the second time that guardsmen have fired on a migrant allegedly wielding a knife. In August 2023, a Texas National Guardsman stationed near the El Paso side of the Paso del Norte bridge fired a shot into Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, wounding the leg of a Mexican man on the opposite riverbank. The shooting occurred “after three men on the Mexican side of the border started attacking a group of migrants with a knife as the migrants attempted to cross the river,” the Washington Post reported at the time, citing a CBP official’s account.

In Nogales, Sonora, asylum seekers’ waits for CBP One appointments now often last seven or eight months, reports Christina Ascencio of Human Rights First. The Nogales port of entry, the only CBP One destination between Calexico, California and El Paso, Texas, offers only 100 appointments per day.

Texas’s state government has begun construction of a segment of state-funded border wall near the Rio Grande in Zapata county, on private land whose owner approved of it, Border Report reported. It is the first state border wall to go up in south Texas.

The House of Representatives’ Republican majority is expected to send its impeachment of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to the Democratic-majority Senate today. The measure, which passed the House by a single vote in February on a second attempt, is not expected to get a high-profile reception in the Senate.

“Top Senate Democrat Chuck Schumer is expected to quickly bring an end to the matter, which Democrats say is a politically motivated misuse of the impeachment process,” Reuters reported. Republicans allege that Mayorkas’s management of the border and migration constitute “high crimes and misdemeanors”; the Senate is certain not to convict, and even an actual trial is looking unlikely.

Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the “customs enforcement” arm of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), is launching an effort this week to build a separate identity from ICE, an agency more frequently associated with arresting and deporting migrants from the U.S. interior. “The makeover partly aims to appease senior HSI agents who have sought a breakaway because so many major U.S. cities have adopted policies limiting cooperation with ICE,” reported the Washington Post’s Nick Miroff.

The 2022 Homeland Security Act lashed HSI together with ICE’s Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) branch, which detains and deports migrants. While it would take an act of law to separate HSI from ICE, agents will henceforth carry a separate badge, and “independent branding” will de-emphasize the ICE affiliation.

Six moderate Democratic House members, led by Rep. Gabe Vasquez, who represents a New Mexico border district, introduced a resolution last week “Condemning Republican inaction to address comprehensive immigration reform and border security.”

Analyses and Feature Stories

The UN Refugee Agency published an update about Darién Gap migration, with the results of 109 interviews with migrants. 20 percent of them, it turns out, do not have the United States as their intended destination. 70 percent of respondents were Venezuelan, but only 44 percent of those came directly from Venezuela—the rest had already left their native country and had been living elsewhere in South America.

UNHCR also released a report summarizing its surveys of migrants transiting Guatemala in 2023. It found 42 percent of them were leaving their countries for reasons of “violence or conflict,” with 72 percent of Ecuadorian people giving that response. 65 percent said that they had suffered mistreatment or abuse on their journey, usually robberies, extortions, fraud, or threats.

On the Right

Daily Border Links: April 15, 2024

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Developments

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) released data late Friday about migration and border security metrics at the U.S.-Mexico border in March. CBP’s Border Patrol component reported apprehending 137,480 people at the border last month, down 2.3 percent from February (140,638). Migration usually increases in spring; this is only the second time this century that apprehensions declined from February to March.

  • March was the seventh-lightest month of the Biden administration’s thirty-eight months in office.
  • The top three nationalities of Border Patrol’s apprehensions in March were Mexico (38%), Ecuador (11%), and Guatemala (11%).
  • The top three nationalities of Border Patrol’s apprehensions during the first six months of fiscal 2024 are Mexico (30%), Guatemala (14%), and Venezuela (11%).
  • 33 percent of March Border Patrol apprehensions were of members of family units. 6 percent were unaccompanied children. The remaining 61 percent were single adults.
  • 39 percent of Border Patrol apprehensions during the first 6 months of fiscal 2024 were members of family units. 6 percent were unaccompanied children. The remaining 55 percent were single adults.
  • The top three sectors where Border Patrol apprehended migrants in March were Tucson Arizona (31%), San Diego, California (25%), and El Paso, Texas-New Mexico (22%).
  • The top three sectors where Border Patrol apprehended migrants in the first six months of fiscal 2024 were Tucson Arizona (33%), Del Rio, Texas (19%), and San Diego, California (18%).
  • CBP encountered another 51,892 people at land-border ports of entry in March, about 44,000 (85%) of them with CBP One appointments. That is similar to recent months. The top nationalities at the ports were Mexico (27%), Cuba (24%), and Haiti (18%).
  • The total number of migrant encounters in March was 189,372, combining Border Patrol apprehensions and port of entry arrivals.

Migration continues to decline in April. Border Patrol has averaged 3,800 apprehensions per day over the past three weeks, Rep. Henry Cuéllar (D-Texas), the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee, said at a hearing last week reported in the Washington Examiner. That would set April on pace to be the third-lightest month of the Biden administration’s 39 full months.

As migration declines in Border Patrol’s Tucson, Arizona Sector, which has been the number-one sector since last July, the San Diego, California Sector may be surpassing it. Weekly tweets from Border Patrol sector chiefs showed more migrant apprehensions in San Diego April 3-9 (6,997) than in Tucson April 5-11 (6,700). San Diego has not been the busiest Border Patrol sector in any month during the 21st century.

Much of the decrease in migration at the border so far this year is the result of Mexican security and migration forces’ stepped-up migrant interdiction operations, including a record 120,000 migrant apprehensions in each of January and February. CNN reported on one example: greatly increased Mexican Army and National Guard patrols along the borderline east of San Diego, especially south of Jacumba Springs, California, where many asylum seekers had been turning themselves in to Border Patrol.

A migrant encampment near railroad tracks in Chihuahua, the capital of the Mexican border state of the same name, has grown to about 600 people, La Jornada reported. Chihuahua is more than 200 miles south of the state’s largest border city, Ciudad Juárez. The buildup at the encampment is a result of Mexican forces’ operations to prevent migrants from boarding railroad freight cars. NGOs cited by La Jornada “pointed out that the INM [Mexican government National Migration Institute] operations began last April 1, in Ciudad Juárez, and extended to the south of the state, registering dozens of aggressions against people in conditions of mobility.”

The Biden administration has not yet taken legally dubious executive action to restrict the right to asylum at the border because it “has been trying to find the right language to impose a crackdown without getting instantly shut down by courts—or facing an open revolt by his progressive base,” reads an Axios report, following up on an April 10 “scoop.” An executive order is “now expected within weeks,” Axios added.

The Washington Examiner reported that 464,922 unaccompanied children entered U.S. custody at the border during the Biden administration as of January 31 (the number through March 31 is 481,534). Conservatives interviewed blamed the large number on U.S. laws written to protect children who arrive at the border without parents, which mandate that they get due process for protection needs instead of being quickly deported.

The government of Colombia (population 52 million) estimated that 2,857,528 migrants from Venezuela were living in the country as of January 31. 47 percent of them are living in five cities (Bogotá, Medellín, Cúcuta, Barranquilla, and Cali). More than 2 million now have Temporary Protection Permits (PPT), notes a report from Bogotá‘s Universidad del Rosario.

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas will testify twice this week about the Department’s 2025 budget request. On Tuesday, the Secretary will appear before the Homeland Security Committee in the Republican-majority House of Representatives—the committee that launched impeachment proceedings against him. On Thursday, Mayorkas will testify in the Senate Homeland Security Committee. Last week, he testified in both houses’ appropriations committees.

Analyses and Feature Stories

A Washington Post feature reported on the sharp rise in migrant deaths, especially by drowning in the Rio Grande, in Maverick County, Texas, which includes Eagle Pass. Local authorities cannot keep up with the need for body bags, burial plots, and DNA collection capabilities. Bodies often get buried without being identified.

The migrant population in Mexico City is swelling, as Mexico’s 2024 crackdown is forcing more people to wait in the capital and arrange their documentation and CBP One appointments, reported David Agren at OSV News. At least 2,500 migrants are waiting in the capital, most of them in six tent encampments.

Initium Media, a Chinese-language publication, told the story of eight Chinese migrants’ late March death by drowning while trying to migrate along the coast of Oaxaca, Mexico. The group had chosen the maritime route in an effort to elide the many checkpoints that authorities place along the highway through Chiapas, Mexico’s southernmost state.

Allan Bu of the Honduras-based outlet ContraCorriente traveled to the Arizona-Sonora border and reported on migrants arriving and non-governmental humanitarian workers operating under conditions of difficult terrain and xenophobic backlash.

Latin America-Related Events in Washington and Online This Week

(Events that I know of, anyway. All times are U.S. Eastern.)

Monday, April 15

Tuesday, April 16

Wednesday, April 17

Thursday, April 18

Friday, April 19

Ecuador Didn’t Suddenly Become a Cocaine Transshipment Corridor

This narrative to explain Ecuador’s sharp escalation of organized-crime violence—repeated by a BBC report this week is… kind of correct, sort of?

Between 2020 and 2021 alone, cocaine production shot up by nearly a third and international drug cartels began looking for new routes through which to smuggle the cocaine produced in Colombia and Peru.

Ecuador, which is sandwiched between Peru and Colombia and whose authorities lacked experience in fighting trafficking, was seen as the perfect option.

I don’t mean to single out the BBC: you see this “cocaine surged, then homicide rates multiplied” idea repeated a lot. There’s something to it. But it misses a lot.

Cocaine seizures (from the UNODC World Drug Report) point to trends. That data, for Ecuador, does show a big jump in the amount of cocaine transiting the country from 2020 to 2021.

Tons of Cocaine Seized by Ecuadorian Forces

1990	1.25
1991	1.16
1992	3.89
1993	1.2
1994	1.79
1995	4.28
1996	9.53
1997	3.7
1998	3.85
1999	10.16
2000	3.31
2001	12.24
2002	11.21
2003	6.85
2004	4.78
2005	43.36
2006	34.25
2007	32.97
2008	29.07
2009	66.18
2010	15.47
2011	21.34
2012	31.98
2013	48.91
2014	53.49
2015	65.58
2016	97.78
2017	83.57
2018	79.4
2019	33.78
2020	92.16
2021	176.66
2022 (through October 31)	154
2023 (through October 6)	155

However, the numbers also show that there was already a lot of cocaine flowing through Ecuador during the 2010s, when the country was regarded to be among the least violent in the Americas.

The correlation between narcotrafficking and violence exists, but its strength often gets overestimated. A larger part of the story seems to have to do with the structure of organized crime in Ecuador.

Peaceful arrangements among criminal groups, which involved corrupt people high up in government (as prosecutors are uncovering), fell apart sometime around the turn of this decade. The river of cocaine that was already flowing through Ecuador fell into bitter dispute as past equilibria shattered.

The demobilization of Colombia’s FARC probably contributed to that. An early indicator of trouble was an extreme wave of prison violence between fast-growing gangs in the late 2010s and early 2020s, signaling a big shake-out among the country’s organized crime groups. There may have been a perfect storm of factors within the criminal underworlds of Colombia, Mexico, Ecuador, and perhaps elsewhere.

No matter what, the explanation rests on more than just a jump in the flow of cocaine. That flow was already quite robust, and quite tolerated by corrupt people in Ecuador’s security forces, judiciary, and government institutions.

Weekly U.S.-Mexico Border Update: April 12, 2024

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

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

THIS WEEK IN BRIEF:

Migration continues to experience an unusual springtime lull across the U.S.-Mexico border, with numbers appearing to decline below January-March levels. San Diego, California, where migration is level, might soon become the border’s busiest sector, a change that has exceeded federal and local capacities there. Some of the drop in migration is a result of a Mexican government crackdown that began with the new year. Numbers of migrants are higher in Panama and Honduras than they were last year, but are not increasing.

President Biden told a Univisión interviewer that he is still considering taking executive action to “shut down” access to asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border when daily migrant encounters cross a certain threshold. A possible legal justification for doing so, which courts have not upheld, is a broad presidential authority to block migrants whose entry is considered “detrimental to the interests of the United States.”

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas appeared separately before House and Senate Appropriations subcommittees on April 10. He called for 2025 budget increases for the Department, including a flexible $4.7 billion border contingency fund that Republicans have opposed. The Senate still awaits the Republican-majority House of Representatives’ transmittal of impeachment articles against Mayorkas, alleging mismanagement of the border. Those articles narrowly passed the House in February; an actual Senate trial is unlikely.

THE FULL UPDATE:

Read More

Daily Border Links: April 12, 2024

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Developments

Migration appears to be declining fast in the Darién Gap, the treacherous jungle region straddling Colombia and Panama. A brief statement from Panama’s National Migration Service (SNM) reported that the agency registered 8,065 people in the first 11 days of April (probably the first 10 days, as the 11th wasn’t over when the SNM published its statement).

That would be a daily average of about 800—and on Wednesday, the SNM reported just 485 people. During the first three months of 2024, migration through the Darién Gap averaged 1,200 people per day, which itself was a stark drop from the record 2,643 people who passed through the Darién each day last August.

Reasons for the decline are not yet clear; we have heard no reports of policy changes being implemented or organized crime trends shifting in the past several weeks.

A decline in migration is also evident in Tijuana, where migrant shelters are down to 50 to 60 percent capacity, according to municipal migration office director Enrique Lucero, who added that the city is seeing far fewer non-Mexican migrants. However, the number of migrant apprehensions throughout Border Patrol’s San Diego Sector, which borders Tijuana and much of Mexico’s Baja California state, is steady.

This may indicate that fewer migrants are choosing to endure the months-long wait in the city for CBP One appointments at the San Ysidro port of entry: they may be opting to cross and turn themselves in to Border Patrol instead.

Police in Ciudad Juárez found a Venezuelan man severely beaten and left for dead not far from “Gate 36,” a site along the Rio Grande in El Paso where many asylum seekers try to turn themselves in to Border Patrol. “Some Juarez news portals reported the migrant was beaten by smugglers and left near the river, given up for dead,” according to Border Report.

A man whose body was recovered from an irrigation canal in Socorro, Texas, is likely the 35th migrant whose remains have been found in Border Patrol’s El Paso Sector since the October 1 beginning of fiscal year 2024.

A Meganálisis poll of Venezuelans living in Venezuela showed that 40 percent would consider migrating if Nicolás Maduro wins another term in what is expected to be an un-free, un-fair election on July 28. Only 16 percent said they were certain that they would not consider leaving their country.

House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee Chairman Rep. Mark Green (R-Tennessee) is to introduce legislation that would make it impossible for asylum seekers released into the United States to board commercial aircraft for domestic flights, unless they have the same identity documents that the general traveling public must present. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) is sponsoring similar Senate legislation, the Washington Examiner reported.

The measure, which is certain not to become law this year, would increase the number of released asylum seekers present in U.S. border cities, as it would complicate their departures to destination cities in the U.S. interior.

NBC News reported that Border Patrol in March 2023 apprehended, then released, a 48-year-old Afghan asylum seeker who turned out to be on the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) watchlist of people suspected of terrorist group affiliations.

Analyses and Feature Stories

A Migration Policy Institute article examined South American countries’ citizens’ migration to the United States, which has risen sharply since the pandemic. It noted that South American immigrants are generally more educated and participate more in the U.S. labor force than other nationalities.

“If we truly hope to ‘secure our border’ and rebuild a safe, orderly and humane immigration system, we need to realize that deterrence isn’t a solution,” wrote Houston Chronicle editorial board member in the third of a three-part series of columns about immigration. “To find solutions, first we need to take control of the narrative.” Lankenau notes the harmful effect of a hefty “Asylum Program Fee” being attached to employers’ applications for foreign-born prospective workers’ visas.

The Central American online outlet Expediente Público looked at a non-governmental study examining why citizens of El Salvador continue to migrate in large numbers despite reduced insecurity and a popular, if authoritarian-trending, president. The reasons remain the same as before Nayib Bukele’s presidency: violence in society and economic need. El Salvador has been the number-four nationality of migrants seeking asylum in Mexico’s system in 2023 and so far in 2024.

On the Right

Daily Border Links: April 11, 2024

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Developments

An Axios “scoop” adds detail to the Biden administration’s consideration of a possible executive order to limit migrants’ access to asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border. The legal justification for blocking asylum—presumably when daily migrant encounters exceed a certain number—could be Section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, a vaguely worded authority that allows the President to block certain classes of migrants whose entry is considered “detrimental to the interests of the United States.”

Donald Trump employed 212(f) during his presidency, but courts determined that the authority does not allow refusing asylum to people who are already on U.S. soil and asking for protection in the United States.

At a congressional hearing yesterday, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas remarked that while the administration is constantly evaluating it, “executive action, which is inevitably challenged in the courts, is no substitute for the enduring solution of legislation.”

Mayorkas testified separately yesterday before appropriations subcommittees of the Republican-majority House of Representatives and the Democratic-majority Senate. He called for budget increases for DHS, including a Biden administration proposal for a $4.7 billion “Southwest Border Contingency Fund,” which would allow the Department to spend money as it sees fit to respond to surges. Republicans—who in the House will soon send Mayorkas’s impeachment to the Senate—refuse to give the Secretary that kind of flexibility.

Republicans in both houses criticized Mayorkas’s handling of the border and migration. In answer to questioning in the House, the Secretary acknowledged that he would use the word “crisis” to describe the border situation. That has been part of Mayorkas’s border commentary since February, but it was the first time he used the term under oath.

The Secretary repeated calls to pass legislation like the Senate “border deal” that failed in February, which would have increased DHS resources while adding a new authority to refuse asylum when daily migrant encounters exceed a threshold of 4,000 or 5,000 migrants.

Border-wide, migration continues to drop, sinking below the levels of January-March, which were among the lowest of the Biden administration. Camilo Montoya-Gálvez of CBS News tweeted that Border Patrol apprehended about 4,000 migrants on April 8; the daily average for the first quarter of the 2024 calendar year was just over 4,400.

The chief of Border Patrol’s San Diego, California Sector reported apprehending 6,997 migrants during the week of April 3-9. That is similar to the sector’s weekly apprehensions in March—but it is greater than the number of apprehensions reported by the chief of the Tucson, Arizona Sector during March 29-April 4 (6,600). Tucson has been the number-one sector for migrant arrivals since July 2023, but numbers have been dropping. While one week’s data is not enough to go by, it is possible that San Diego may be supplanting Tucson as the number-one sector.

iNewSource reported that the San Diego Sector is receiving a much greater number of unaccompanied minors than before.

Guatemala’s migration agency reported that the United States has returned 21,294 of its citizens on 179 deportation flights so far this year. Aerial deportations to Guatemala are on pace this year to match or exceed levels reported before the pandemic-era Title 42 policy. Title 42 reduced aerial deportations because it allowed U.S. authorities to expel most Guatemalans directly into Mexico.

Mexican national guardsmen and immigration agents detained 700 migrants who arrived aboard a freight train in Torreón, Coahuila on April 8. “At least 55, including women and children, reported that the agents detained them for several hours, beat them, and stole money, cell phones, and documents before releasing them,” reported La Jornada.

42 percent of Latino adults surveyed support building a wall or fence along the entire U.S.-Mexico border, according to a new Axios-Ipsos Latino Poll. That is up 12 points from a December 2021 poll. 38 percent said they support deporting all undocumented immigrants. Support for wall-building was 15-20 points higher among people of Cuban descent than among people of Mexican or Central American descent.

Iowa passed a law that, echoing Texas’s S.B. 4 law currently facing federal court challenges, would make it a misdemeanor for an undocumented person to enter the state if they had been deported or denied entry to the United States.

Officials from Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) announced the launch of a new fentanyl interdiction operation, which they are calling “Operation Plaza Spike.” Data from the first five months of fiscal year 2024 show CBP’s fentanyl seizures down 27 percent compared to the first five months of fiscal year 2023.

The operation is beginning in Nogales; CBP’s Tucson field office, which includes the Nogales port of entry, currently seizes the most fentanyl of all 13 U.S.-Mexico border CBP field offices and Border Patrol sectors. One new tactic would be “releasing the name of the plazas’ senior ranking cartel officials, the ‘plaza bosses,’ to increase public and law enforcement pressure on them.”

Analyses and Feature Stories

Spain’s El País reported about Haitian migrants who are starting new lives in Mexico City after applying for asylum in Mexico’s system. More than 70,000 Haitians (including children born in Brazil or Chile) have applied for Mexican asylum since 2022.

A visual report from the Financial Times illustrated the Darién Gap’s transformation from an impenetrable jungle barrier straddling Colombia and Panama, to an organized crime-dominated route used by over 520,000 migrants in 2023.

The New York Times published a report from an outdoor encampment along the border near Campo, California, where asylum seekers wait for hours or days to turn themselves in to Border Patrol. The camp, in a very remote area of the border, formed this year after Mexico placed National Guard personnel at more accessible breaks in the border wall near Jacumba Springs, California. The article features 22-year-old volunteer Peter Fink, who is coordinating humanitarian relief efforts there.

On the Right

Daily Border Links: April 10, 2024

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Developments

President Joe Biden told a Univision interviewer that he is still exploring executive actions to limit access to asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border.

A measure to “shut down” asylum when daily migrant encounters cross a certain threshold was part of a “border deal” that failed in the Senate in early February.

Without such a measure in the law, it is not clear what legal backing Biden could have for using executive authority to deny the right to seek asylum, which the Refugee Act of 1980 guarantees. “There’s no guarantee that I have that power all by myself without legislation,” Biden said. “And some have suggested I should just go ahead and try it. And if I get shut down by the court, I get shut down by the court.”

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas is to testify about his department’s budget today in hearings before the House and Senate appropriations committees. Mayorkas is likely to endure criticism—and perhaps insults—about the Department’s border and migration policies from Republican legislators, especially in the Republican-majority House, which narrowly voted to impeach him in February. Next week (April 16), Mayorkas will appear before the House Homeland Security Committee, where the Republican leadership spearheaded its effort to impeach him.

The Democratic-majority Senate planned to spend a few hours on Thursday debating the Mayorkas impeachment while using procedural measures to “dispose” of it without going to a formal trial (which would have zero possibility of convicting Mayorkas). House Republicans, however, decided yesterday to delay their presentation of impeachment charges to the Senate for another week.

Recent years’ sharp rises in migrant deaths continue in Border Patrol’s El Paso Sector, which includes the border in far west Texas and all of New Mexico. After a record 149 remains recovered there in the 2023 fiscal year, the death toll stands at 34 halfway through the 2024 fiscal year, and the hot summer months are yet to come. Dehydration, heat exhaustion, and drowning are the principal causes of death.

The Border Chronicle published an interview with Bryce, a volunteer with No More Deaths who led the project that produced a report and database, published in March, documenting migrant deaths in the El Paso sector. In June 2023, he said, “something like 40 percent more people died in Doña Ana County in New Mexico than the entire state of Arizona. Most of these deaths were close to the highway or close to a town.”

Guatemala’s La Hora reported on the Trump-era border wall “improvements” that contributed to the fatality of migrant Heidy Poma Pérez’s March 21 fall from the border wall near San Diego. Friends and relatives have set up a GoFundMe to pay for the repatriation of her remains.

The House of Representatives’ Rules Committee cleared the way for prompt consideration of a resolution, introduced by Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-Texas), “Denouncing the Biden administration’s immigration policies.”

The resolution from Gonzales, who represents the largest congressional district along the border and is facing a primary runoff challenger on his right wing, states that “the Biden administration has allowed at least 6,400,000 illegal aliens from the southwest border to travel to American communities.” In fact, the latest (April 5) report from the DHS Office of Homeland Security Statistics, current through December, shows a total of 3,356,380 CBP releases since January 2021.

Analyses and Feature Stories

The American Immigration Council’s Adriel Orozco shared an overview of what is in the U.S. government’s 2024 Homeland Security appropriation, which became law on March 23. It recalls that the budget package includes substantial increases for CBP and ICE. It cuts funding for the Case Management Pilot Program, which helps keep released migrants in the immigration system without GPS surveillance, and the Shelter and Services Program (SSP), which supports nonprofits that receive migrants released from custody.

The cuts to the SSP will deal a blow to cities receiving migrants, both at the border and in the U.S. interior, reported a second American Immigration Council post, from Juan Avilez.

The Texas state government’s military “Forward Operating Base” under construction near Eagle Pass could cost up to $400 million to maintain by 2026, recalled Bob Libal at Human Rights Watch.

The conservative talking point about young migrant men being “military age males,” and thus threatening, can be traced back to Obama-era use of the term to describe civilian men killed by drone strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

On the Right

WOLA Podcast: A Groundbreaking Win at the United Nations Commission on Narcotic Drugs

I share an office with John Walsh, who runs WOLA’s Drug Policy Program. In late March, he came back from a trip to Vienna very amped up about what had happened at a big UN meeting there. I needed some context to understand why it was a big deal that a UN body passed a resolution with the words “harm reduction” in it, but once he told me the story, yes, it was a big deal.

Here’s a podcast conversation about what happened last month, with John, Ann Fordham of the International Drug Policy Consortium, and Lisa Sánchez of México Unido Contra la Delincuencia. Even if, like me, you’re not a close follower of drug policy diplomacy, you’re going to find this episode interesting because three experts with decades of experience at this are telling what turns out to be an inspiring story.

Here’s the text from WOLA’s podcast landing page:

On March 14-22, 2024, the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) held its 67th annual session in Vienna, Austria. The session saw a landmark vote that may have important repercussions for drug policy, in Latin America and elsewhere.

The Commission approved a U.S.-led resolution encouraging countries to implement “harm reduction” measures to respond to drug overdoses and to protect public health.

The vote marks a major breakthrough in civil society’s decades-long advocacy to center harm reduction, especially since the U.S. government has a history of blocking all such resolutions, and since the Commission has a longstanding tradition of enactment by a “Vienna Consensus” without votes.

This episode features three guests who helped lead civil society’s robust participation at the CND:

The three experts underscore that while the vote on this resolution was a major win in the civil society-led harm reduction fight, it is just one milestone along a longer journey. The fight must continue to ensure this sets the foundation for an international drug policy that truly prioritizes protecting people, views drug addiction as a public health and not a national security issue, and moves away from the normative framework of achieving a “drug free society” through punitive measures and prohibition.

“The prohibition regime has tried to make itself inevitable and ‘forever,’ and that’s not the case… There’s no reason to think that it needs to last forever. In fact, as we said, it was a misfit from the very beginning,” says John Walsh. “Drug use has always existed, it always will. To suggest that we’re going to create a ‘drug-free world’ is not only futile, but it’s downright dangerous because of its consequences… I think this is an opening to think more broadly about not just the UN drug policy space, but what governments need to do for the health, safety, and well-being of their populations.”

Download the podcast .mp3 file here. Listen to WOLA’s Latin America Today podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, iHeartRadio, or wherever you subscribe to podcasts. The main feed is here.

Daily Border Links: April 9, 2024

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Developments

Mexico’s Foreign Relations Department announced that as of April 20, the Mexican government will begin requiring visas of citizens of Peru arriving in the country, by air or otherwise.

Mexico has taken this step before to stop the flow of South American migrants flying to the country and traveling to the U.S. border to turn themselves in to U.S. authorities. It changed visa procedures for Ecuadorian citizens in August 2021; Venezuelan citizens in January 2022; and Brazilian citizens in August 2022.

Each time, the Mexican visa restriction caused a short-term drop in that nationality’s migration to the United States. In the case of Ecuador and Venezuela migration recovered to previous levels, however, as sharply increased numbers of those countries’ citizens opted to take the dangerous route through the Darién Gap straddling Colombia and Panama. We can expect to see an increase in the number of Peruvian citizens migrating through the Darién Gap.

The restriction on visas for Peru is unusual because Peru, like Colombia, is part of a four-country arrangement (the “Pacific Alliance” uniting Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru) that allowed visa-free travel.

Mexico’s decision may owe to a U.S. suggestion, but also to souring relations between Mexico and Peru. Relations between Mexico and Colombia remain cordial, and Colombian citizens may still fly to Mexico visa-free (though they must demonstrate that they have activities planned during their stay in Mexico).

  • Visas (Secretaria de Relaciones Exteriores (Mexico), Friday, April 5, 2024).

Panamanian security and migration authorities held a press conference yesterday to dispute the findings of an April 3 Human Rights Watch (HRW) report that found the Colombian and Panamanian governments failing to protect the hundreds of thousands of migrants passing through the Darién Gap.

  • According to a release, National Migration Service director Samira Gozaine “assured that this report does not reflect reality and has a hidden purpose that only they know.”
  • The director of Panama’s border police (SENAFRONT) said that since 2021, his forces have dismantled 170 jungle encampments and arrested 321 people for crimes against migrants.
  • Public Security Minister Juan Manuel Pino said that Panama’s government has chartered five flights next week to deport people whom biometric exams revealed to have criminal records.
  • The officials said that over 114,000 migrants have passed through the Darién Gap since January 1, up from 109,069 as of March 31 (it is not clear what the cutoff date is for the 114,000 figure).

Thanks in large part to the establishment of U.S.-backed “Safe Mobility Offices” in Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Guatemala, the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program has already—six months into fiscal 2024—broken its full-year record for the number of refugees admitted from Latin America and the Caribbean.

California’s attorney general visited the San Diego border to discuss fentanyl smuggling. CBP’s San Diego Field Office was the number-one location for fentanyl seizures until mid-2022, when the agency’s Tucson, Arizona field office began to exceed San Diego most months.

During the first five months of fiscal 2024, fentanyl seizures at the border are 27 percent behind where they were during the first five months of fiscal 2023. Nationwide, including ports, airports, and the Canada border, fentanyl seizures are down 24 percent. This is the first notable decline in fentanyl seizures since the drug first appeared.

At the U.S.-Mexico border so far in 2024, as usual, about 86 percent of fentanyl seizures have occurred at ports of entry. Border Patrol seized an additional 6 percent at interior vehicle checkpoints.

The Heritage Foundation, a longtime conservative think-tank now closely associated with former president Donald Trump, has notified Republican senators that it will keep score of any votes against holding an impeachment trial for Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

Analyses and Feature Stories

A story at Border Report expanded on the finding of a report about migrant deaths in El Paso, published last month by No More Deaths: that CBP routinely undercounts the actual number of migrants who die on U.S. soil.

A Sacramento Bee analysis noted that many Latino immigrants in the United States, some of whom have lived for years undocumented, voice “frustration” with asylum seekers being released at the border and given a temporary documented status by “an immigration system pitting immigrant Latinos against each other.” A January 2024 UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll found 63 percent of Latino respondents in California considered undocumented immigrants to be a major or minor “burden.”

The Miami Herald reported on the Tren de Aragua, an organized crime group that emerged in recent years from Venezuela’s prisons. A Venezuelan opposition-aligned intelligence analyst told the Herald that members of the group “have been quietly entering different areas of the U.S., including Florida, Chicago and New York.”

Voice of America profiled Chinese asylum seekers who, after taking long and expensive journeys to the United States via the U.S.-Mexico border, are opting to return to China, either after failing credible fear interviews while in custody, or due to “loneliness, deceit [including labor exploitation], or family pressure.”

On the Right

Latin America-Related Events in Washington and Online This Week

(Events that I know of, anyway. All times are U.S. Eastern.)

Monday, April 8, 2024

  • 3:00 at Wilson Center Zoom: Discussing Mexico’s First Presidential Debate (RSVP required).
  • 6:00 at George Washington University: Elections and Electoral Democracy in Latin America (RSVP required).

Tuesday, April 9, 2024

  • 8:30-5:30 at Georgetown Law School: Protecting Environmental Defenders in an Age of Climate Emergency (RSVP required).
  • 9:30-12 at Zoom: Transitional Justice in Colombia: The Environment as-and-for Transitional Justice (RSVP required).
  • 11:30-12:30 at the Wilson Center and online: Book Presentation: Siete Presidentes y el Crimen Organizado (1982-2023) by Sergio Aguayo (RSVP required).

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Thursday, April 11, 2024

  • 9:00-10:00 at the Inter-American Dialogue: New Infrastructure—Emerging Trends in Chinese Investment in Latin America (RSVP required).
  • 3:00 on Zoom: Im/Mobility in Migratory Contexts (RSVP required).

Friday, April 12, 2024

  • 1:30 at the Atlantic Council and online: Local perspectives: Unlocking US-Colombia ties on development and democracy (RSVP required).

Daily Border Links: April 8, 2024

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Developments

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told reporters that the U.S. and Chinese governments are discussing increasing the currently very small number of Chinese citizens whom Beijing allows to be aerially deported back to China.

The latest monthly report on ICE deportation flights from Witness at the Border noted that a plane did take migrants back to South Korea and China in March. With eight Chinese nationals aboard, NBC News noted, this flight was an example of “expensive and logistically challenging ‘Special High-Risk Charter’ flights, sometimes via South Korea.”

Mayorkas added that Texas’s use of razor-sharp concertina wire along the Rio Grande is a problem. “We do not consider concertina wire to be effective. It impairs Customs and Border Protection’s ability to do its job, and we’re also seeing migrants rather easily cutting concertina wire,” the Secretary said.

The Texas state National Guard has now extended its coils of concertina wire to the very edge of the Rio Grande in El Paso, to prevent asylum seekers from reaching U.S. soil and trying to turn themselves in to the federal Border Patrol farther up the riverbank. At parts of the El Paso border, asylum seekers have been encamped on the U.S. bank of the river, awaiting a chance to turn themselves in despite the heavy presence of Texas soldiers and police.

In California, San Diego County authorities said that CBP had released 24,000 mostly asylum-seeking migrants onto the city’s streets since late February, when county funding for migrant reception shelters ran out.

A “Migrant Via Crucis” caravan that began the week before Easter has now walked through much of Mexico’s southernmost state of Chiapas, with some arriving in Oaxaca. While the original participants have dwindled, more migrants have joined the procession. Human rights defenders said that some participants had an altercation with vehicles full of armed men, likely members of an organized crime group.

In Empalme, Sonora, Mexican soldiers threatened humanitarian workers who were offering assistance to migrants near the local railroad tracks. The director of the town’s Casa Franciscana shelter said a soldier told her, “You are on the list,” adding “It’s the first time that we encountered the Army doing something like this. We had a very good dialogue before.”

House Republicans’ impeachment of DHS Secretary Mayorkas, alleging that his management of the border and migration constitute “high crimes and misdemeanors,” is likely to end quickly in the Senate as the U.S. Congress reconvenes this week. An actual conviction, which would require a two-thirds vote in the Democratic-majority Senate, is impossible, and Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) will probably use other procedural maneuvers to prevent an actual trial from happening.

Former top border and migration agency officials, including Rodney Scott, who was chief of Border Patrol for the first several months of Joe Biden’s administration, flanked Donald Trump during a campaign event with a non-profit called “Border911.”

The foreign ministers of Panama and Colombia met on April 5 for a discussion of issues including migration through the Darién Gap region that straddles their common border. The two governments’ discussions of migration cooperation have been uncommon.

The foreign ministers said they disagreed with an April 3 Human Rights Watch report documenting both governments’ lack of coordination and governance in the Darién region.

“Five men were killed early Friday, bringing the total to 21 homicide victims in the first five days of April” in Ciudad Juárez, across the border from El Paso, noted Border Report.

Analyses and Feature Stories

An Associated Press analysis looked at Democrats’ election-year effort to neutralize the border security issue, seeking to convince voters that Republicans “playing games” with the border are to blame for current challenges.

The Christian Science Monitor and Time, in an article by NYU professor Kevin Kenny, examined how the Texas state government’s actions at the border are challenging federal control over migration policy.

Violent crime is dropping in the United States, and is lower in states with so-called “sanctuary cities” than elsewhere, wrote Caitlin Bellis in an analysis puncturing the “migrant crime” narrative for the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers’ Guild.

At Semafor, Jordan Weissman highlighted data indicating that the increase in migration at the U.S.-Mexico border may be buoying the robust current level of U.S. economic growth.

The Los Angeles Times profiled iACT, a nonprofit that has organized soccer activities for children of asylum seekers stranded in northern Mexico border cities.

On the Right

Weekly U.S.-Mexico Border Update: April 5, 2024

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

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

THIS WEEK IN BRIEF:

The number of migrants entering Border Patrol custody declined from February to March, by about 2 percent, according to preliminary data. Migration usually increases in spring: this is only the second time this century that Border Patrol has recorded a February-to-March decline. Increased enforcement in Mexico may be a cause. Weekly data show Border Patrol apprehensions declining in Arizona and California from the beginning of March to the end of March.

A 24-year-old Guatemalan woman’s fatal March 21 fall from the border wall in San Diego drew new attention to the region’s sharply increased numbers of wall-related deaths and injuries. Elsewhere in San Diego, a federal judge ruled that outdoor encampments where Border Patrol makes asylum seekers wait to be processed violate a 1997 agreement governing the treatment of children in the agency’s custody.

“Now, to be fair, maybe Texas went too far,” said Texas’s solicitor general in arguments before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which is considering the constitutionality of the state’s harsh new law, S.B. 4. The law, if allowed to go into effect, would permit Texas law enforcement to arrest, imprison, and even deport people for the crime of illegal entry from Mexico. However the appeals court rules, the law is almost certainly headed for the Supreme Court.

Panamanian authorities report that an average of 1,200 people per day migrated through the treacherous Darién Gap jungle region during the first quarter of 2024, well ahead of 2023’s record-setting pace. Human Rights Watch published a big report finding fault with the Colombian and Panamanian government’s responses to Darién Gap migration, and calling for the U.S. and other governments to expand legal migration pathways. The New York Times documented the alarming recent increase in cases of sexual assault committed against migrants in the Darién.

THE FULL UPDATE:

Read More

Daily Border Links: April 5, 2024

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Developments

Following a hearing last Friday, a federal court ruled that Border Patrol must care for children who are among the groups of asylum seekers whom the agency forces to wait for hours or days to be processed at the borderline in California. District Court Judge Dolly Gee ruled that conditions at the “open air detention site” encampments east of San Diego—where food, water, sanitation, and medical care come from volunteers, not agents—violate the 1997 Flores settlement agreement, which governs the treatment of child migrants in U.S. custody.

Border Patrol and CBP had been arguing that the children and other migrants at camps between border wall layers in San Diego and near Jacumba Springs, California, are not yet in the agency’s custody: they are still free to go back to Mexico. The court found otherwise: the children count as “in U.S. custody” and must receive care and be processed quickly. By May 10, CBP’s juvenile coordinator must provide a report about the number of children present at the outdoor camps and the steps the agency is taking to care for them.

The decision is a victory for the National Center for Youth Law, the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law, and Children’s Rights, which filed a motion before Judge Gee’s court, and for groups that have been providing aid and filing complaints, like Al Otro Lado, American Friends Service Committee, Universidad Popular, and the Southern Border Communities Coalition.

CBS News and the Washington Examiner confirmed reports that Border Patrol’s apprehensions of migrants declined by 2 percent from February to March at the U.S.-Mexico border. This springtime drop is very unusual: available monthly data since 2000 only show this happening once before, in 2017.

“One of the reasons for the decrease was the government of Mexico’s continued significant enforcement efforts to disrupt some of the transportation networks moving people up to the border,” a CBP official told CBS.

In a video posted to Twitter, the top U.S. diplomat in Nicaragua called out “permissive Nicaraguan authorities who irresponsibly encourage migration” of West African countries’ citizens. Large numbers from Senegal, Mauritania, Guinea, and nearby nations have been arriving in Managua by air. Nicaragua does not require that they secure visas in advance; the authoritarian government instead charges steep fees upon arrival.

The number of Russian and Ukrainian citizens requesting asylum or residence in Mexico has increased 170 percent since Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine, Milenio reported.

Analyses and Feature Stories

A WOLA feature, based on a series of interviews with service providers, documented a sharp increase in kidnappings and attacks on migrants, including sexual assaults, in Mexico’s organized crime-dominated border state of Tamaulipas. Corrupt Mexican officials allegedly facilitate these crimes. U.S. policies, the report finds, are not taking the danger into account: deportations into Tamaulipas are heavy, access to ports of entry is heavily restricted, and the state concentrates 43 percent of the insufficient number of border-wide CBP One appointments.

The New York Times’s Julie Turkewitz highlighted worsening levels of sexual violence that criminal gangs commit against migrants passing through the Darién Gap. The report features an evasive answer from a U.S. diplomat in Panama, and questions the Panamanian government’s March decision to suspend Doctors Without Borders, the non-governmental organization that had most consistently been documenting rising sexual violence. Panamanian government officials, meanwhile, are facilitating the work of far-right U.S. social media influencers visiting the region.

Reporting from the Colombian side of the Darién Gap, InsightCrime pointed out that the current route requiring boat travel across the Gulf of Urabá is not migrants’ most direct path to the Panamanian border. Other land routes are shut off, however, by the “Gulf Clan,” the organized crime group that controls the region, which reserves them “for other types of activities,” mainly cocaine trafficking.

Under current U.S. immigration law, “If a person from a high-demand place such as Mexico, India, and China were to ‘get in line’ for residency today, they might be waiting anywhere from two to eight decades.” This is pushing people into the U.S. asylum system, Regina Lankenau observed in the Houston Chronicle.

“Six months ago, we had never seen somebody from Bangladesh or Africa in this part of the desert,” Pastor Randy Mayer of Arizona’s Green Valley Samaritans told PBS NewsHour.

At the Huffington Post, Matt Shuham looked at some Republican politicians’ easily disprovable claim that the Biden administration’s well-publicized humanitarian parole initiative for four nationalities is a “secret flight program.”

Washington Post data columnist Philip Bump refuted Donald Trump’s claims that increased migration of Chinese citizens owes in part to the Chinese government “building an army from within” made up of “very healthy young men.”

A Slate column by David Faris criticized the Biden administration for extending Temporary Protected Status to Venezuelan citizens without proper “follow-through,” like providing assistance to help with their integration into U.S. communities. It would be possible to transfer funds for these priorities, Faris argued, if Biden were to declare that a national emergency exists.

On the Right

Daily Border Links: April 4, 2024

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Developments

In an hour-long hearing in New Orleans, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments about Texas’s controversial state law S.B. 4, which would allow state officials to arrest, imprison, and deport migrants for illegal entry. The law raises the specter of states enforcing their own immigration laws, and of Texas law enforcement profiling people and demanding they prove their status anywhere in the state.

“Now, to be fair, maybe Texas went too far,” the state’s solicitor-general surprisingly said. “What Texas has done here, they have tried to develop a statute that goes up to the line of the Supreme Court precedent but allows Texas to protect the border.”

The Texas official, Aaron Neilson, said that when arrested migrants are found guilty and agree to be deported instead of jailed, Texas authorities will hand them over to U.S. officials at border ports of entry, rather than carrying out their own deportations into Mexico. Neilson “then stumbled to explain how that is different from what is happening at the border now,” the Associated Press reported.

It is not clear when the appeals court will rule on S.B. 4’s constitutionality; the same three-judge panel already stayed the law while its deliberations continue. Regardless of the outcome, the challenge to the law—led by the federal Justice Department, joined with a suit brought by the ACLU and local organizations—is almost certain to go to the Supreme Court.

A CNN analysis recalled that Texas’s goal is probably to get a now more conservative Supreme Court to revisit a 2012 ruling that struck down a harsh law that Arizona passed in 2010.

A San Diego NBC affiliate added more detail to the account, summarized in a March 29 CBP release, of a 24-year-old Guatemalan woman’s fatal March 21 fall from the border wall between Tijuana and San Diego. The woman had been hanging from the wall and yelling for help for about 24 minutes before she let go and fell to her death from the 30-foot, Trump-era structure.

A fire truck initially showed up at the wrong side of the wall, and was unable to arrive at the woman’s location in time. The woman fell before fire department personnel arrived and about a minute after a Border Patrol agent left the scene “to meet with other agents and coordinate the transportation of other migrants apprehended in the area.”

A spokesperson for the San Diego Fire Department said, “CBP did the right thing by telling us the height of the wall at that initial location, but CBP did not provide SDFD with the best access point to the patient.” CBP will release body-worn camera footage of the incident.

Migrants are reporting abuse at the hands of Mexican National Guard personnel whom Mexico’s government recently deployed to sites east of San Diego where asylum seekers attempt to cross and turn themseves in to Border Patrol. A woman from Ecuador told Border Report that guardsmen separated women from the group with which she was traveling, groped them, and demanded bribes of $2,500 per person. Others spoke of demands for $800 and theft of belongings.

“He did not speak with any of us, so it was kind of shocking seeing that he had said that he had spoke with us, and misinforming people on live TV,” said the relative of a Michigan woman killed earlier month, apparently by an undocumented individual, whose case was part of an April 2 Donald Trump speech. The candidate told a Michigan crowd that he spoke to Ruby García’s family, but the family says that is false.

Trump’s repeated citing of “migrant crime,” Greg Sargent observed at the New Republic, “is straight from the authoritarian playbook. As The Atlantic’s Anne Applebaum has noted: ‘The repetition of the phrase ‘migrant crime’ is a tactic stolen from [far-right Hungary Prime Minister] Victor Orban, who used to use ‘Gypsy crime’ in the same way.’”

A Texas National Guard soldier participating in “Operation Lone Star” is in custody after a March 31 arrest for attempting to smuggle a migrant in his vehicle near Eagle Pass.

EFE reported that a drought has reduced to a trickle the Suchiate River, which forms part of the border between Guatemala and Chiapas near Tapachula, Mexico, easing migrants’ crossings.

Analyses and Feature Stories

PBS NewsHour spoke to a smuggler in southern Mexico who “charges up to $21,000 per person for longer journeys and says his network has moved 50,000 people into the U.S. since 2021.”

On the Right

Daily Border Links: April 3, 2024

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Developments

Mexico’s government deployed more than 200 immigration agents to Ciudad Juárez, across the Rio Grande from El Paso, a border sector where migration has been increasing. The operation is to expand from the borderline to the southern parts of Mexico’s border state of Chihuahua, of which Ciudad Juárez is the largest city.

The agents are apprehending undocumented migrants and, when possible, transporting them away from Mexico’s northern border zone. Though just 6,500 of Mexico’s 240,000 January-February migrant encounters ended in deportations, its government has massively bused migrants to the country’s center and southern regions.

Agents are breaking up migrant encampments near the Rio Grande, where Texas state national guardsmen are preventing people from approaching the U.S. border wall and turning themselves in to federal Border Patrol agents to ask for asylum.

The Mexican government operation, La Verdad de Juárez recalled, was launched “five days after the one-year anniversary of the fire in a migrant detention facility in Juárez that killed 40 migrants and injured 27 others.” The detention facility fire, La Verdad recalled, happened two months after a similar deployment of over 200 INM agents to Juárez. Many of the migrants who died on March 27, 2023, had been rounded up in raids throughout the city.

A much-circulated March 21 video from the El Paso side of the river had shown a group of migrants pushing past Texas state guardsmen in order to reach the border wall and seek to turn themselves in to Border Patrol. 214 people were arrested and booked into the El Paso County jail. Of those, all but 39 have been released into Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody. Many are contesting criminal charges of “rioting.”

At a campaign event in Michigan, former president and presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump launched into several minutes of baseless anti-migrant invective. “They have wrecked our country” was among the things that Trump, flanked by uniformed police, said of people who have crossed the U.S.-Mexico border.

Trump addressed part of his remarks to “suburban housewives,” promising to keep them safe from “illegal aliens crawling through your windows and ransacking your drawers.”

The ex-president said that he had spoken with “some of” the family of a Grand Rapids, Michigan woman who was murdered by an undocumented migrant, an acquaintance, in March. (The alleged killer entered the United States in 2020, when Trump was president and the Title 42 pandemic expulsions policy was in place.) The family said that Trump had not contacted any of them.

Analyses and Feature Stories

A new Human Rights Watch (HRW) report on migration through the Darién Gap finds fault with the Colombian and Panamanian governments’ failure to protect the more than 40,000 people per month who have been passing through the treacherous jungle route. The 25,000-word report, a follow-up to an earlier report published in November, finds that the two governments, whose territory includes the Darién, do not do enough to coordinate their response.

The report calls on the U.S. government and other international actors to establish other legal migration pathways including “a region-wide temporary protection regime that would grant all Venezuelans and Haitians temporary legal status,” and to fund humanitarian responses.

HRW Americas Director Juanita Goebertus called out Panama for its recent suspension of Doctors Without Borders (MSF), which had been providing medical care at the Panamanian end of the Darién trail. MSF had been vocally calling for action about the rising number of cases of sexual abuse that its medical personnel had been detecting.

At The Progressive, human rights researcher Claudia Villalona published a report from the sites east of San Diego where asylum seekers spend hours or days in makeshift outdoor encampments as they wait for Border Patrol agents to allow them to turn themselves in. This practice, which advocates call “open-air detention sites,” is the subject of an ongoing lawsuit in federal court.

Daily Border Links: April 2, 2024

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Developments

For the second consecutive month, Ali Bradley of the right-leaning NewsNation outlet published leaked CBP migration data from March to her social media accounts. (Bradley’s early-March leak of February data turned out to be very close to the final count released weeks later.)

Bradley reported 137,557 Border Patrol apprehensions of migrants at the border in March, which would be a 2 percent decrease from February—only the second time, in the 25 years for which we have data, in which migration declined from February to March.

The leaked data point to migration increasing since February from three countries (Mexico +5%, Venezuela +88%, Ecuador +35%) and decreasing from two (Guatemala -35%, Cuba -4%).

This would be an important increase in migration from Venezuela: during January and February, U.S. encounters with Venezuelan migrants lagged far behind Mexico’s, indicating that a large number of Venezuelan migrants have been stuck in Mexico.

The leaked data indicate increased migration in two Border Patrol sectors (San Diego, California +7% and El Paso, Texas +27%) and reduced migration in another two (Tucson, Arizona—the busiest sector— -15%, Del Rio, Texas -20%).

Mexican authorities yesterday surged police, immigration agents, and national guard personnel to their side of the border between Ciudad Juárez and El Paso, Border Report reported.

Analyses and Feature Stories

At the American Prospect, Dara Lind of the American Immigration Council calls for investing in the U.S. asylum and refugee systems, expanding support for humanitarian migrants, and not abandoning the post-World War II commitment to the Refugee Convention at a time of record-high global migration. “America still loves a refugee,” Lind concludes. “It’s just not clear whether the American government is up to the task.”

Two attorneys from the WilmerHale firm, writing for Bloomberg Law, find zero basis for Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) claim that migration to his state meets the constitutional definition of an “invasion.”

An essay from the Niskanen Center’s Gil Guerra draws attention to increasing migration from Colombia, Ecuador, China, and India.

The Council on Foreign Relations’ Will Freeman warned that worsening political turmoil and corruption in Peru portend further increases in migration of that country’s citizens to the U.S.-Mexico border, which is already at a historic high.

Despite some recent reporting and rhetoric giving the opposite impression, an InsightCrime analysis finds that Venezuela’s fast-growing “Tren de Aragua” organized crime group “appears to have no substantial U.S. presence and looks unlikely to establish one.”

An article in the medical journal Cureus found “lower extremity” and “lumbar spinal” injuries to be common in a sample of 108 people who had fallen from the border wall between 2016 and 2021.

“A lot of people living in the world’s borderlands experience what scholars refer to as a human rights encounter,” wrote Arizona-based journalist John Washington at High Country News. “In such an encounter, you meet someone who has crossed the border despite being legally barred from doing so, in which moment you’re presented with a choice: You can help the person with water, shelter or a ride—but if you do so, you risk being arrested, prosecuted, and even imprisoned.”

An Associated Press analysis asserted that Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant message, which failed to appeal to swing voters in 2018, 2020, and 2022, could land harder this year because migrants with economic needs have been arriving in more areas in the U.S. interior.

Email Update is Out

Here’s a new “weekly” e-mail about stuff I’ve been working on, for those who’ve signed up to receive them.

There’s a Weekly Border Update with a bit too much data, a roundup of arms transfers that took place in the Americas over the past month (way too many), links to five really good “long reads” about security in the Americas over the past month, and some notes about asylum access at the U.S.-Mexico border. Also, links to some really good readings, and to six Latin America-related events that I know of in Washington or online this week.

If you visit this site a lot, you probably don’t need an e-mail, too. But if you’d like to get more-or-less regular e-mail updates, scroll to the bottom of this page or click here.

Five Latin America Security Long-Reads from March

The Unsolved Crime in “Total Peace”: Dealing With Colombia’s Gaitanistas (International Crisis Group, Tuesday, March 19, 2024).

The Gaitanistas, Colombia’s largest and richest armed and criminal group, remain outside the government’s initiative for dialogue with all the country’s armed organisations. To avoid jeopardising other peace processes and to protect civilians, Bogotá should seek gradual talks with the Gaitanistas, while maintaining security pressure

Blanca Carmona, Cindy Ramirez, Gabriela Minjares, Jack Sapoch, Melissa del Bosque, Monica C. Camacho, Rocio Gallegos, Death Trap: Juarez Migrant Detention Center Fire a Year Later (El Paso Matters, La Verdad (Ciudad Juarez Mexico), Lighthouse Media, El Paso Matters, Tuesday, March 19, 2024).

Previously undisclosed security camera footage – as well as court documents and exclusive interviews with survivors – show a number of safety failures and oversights that created a death trap at a Juárez migrant detention center fire a year ago this month

Cindy A. Morales Castillo, Viaje a las Entranas del Canon del Micay: Asi se Vive en el Mayor Fortin de la Disidencia de Mordisco (El Espectador (Colombia), Sunday, March 17, 2024).

El control de este punto se ha consolidado como el talón de Aquiles de la negociación de paz entre el Estado Mayor Central y el Gobierno Petro

Megan Janetsky, Rodrigo Abd, Victor R. Caivano, Native groups sit on a treasure trove of lithium. Now mines threaten their water, culture and wealth (Associated Press, Associated Press, Wednesday, March 13, 2024).

In the “lithium triangle” – a region spanning Argentina, Chile and Bolivia – native communities sit upon an estimated trillion dollars in lithium

Alma Guillermoprieto, Forty-Three Mexican Students Went Missing. What Really Happened to Them? (The New Yorker, Monday, March 4, 2024).

One night in 2014, a group of young men from a rural teachers’ college vanished. Since then, their families have fought for answers

Latin America-Related Events in Washington and Online This Week

(Events that I know of, anyway. All times are U.S. Eastern.)

Tuesday, April 2, 2024

  • 4:00 at the Atlantic Council and atlanticcouncil.org: Venezuelans’ view of the July elections: A look at public opinion (RSVP required).

Thursday, April 4, 2024

Friday, April 5, 2024

  • 10:00-12:00 at the Brookings Institution and Brookings.edu: The 10th annual Breyer Lecture: Matias Spektor on the US, the West, and international law in an age of strategic competition (RSVP required).

Daily Border Links: April 1, 2024

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Developments

From the first to the fourth week of March, the number of migrants whom Border Patrol apprehended in its busiest border sector—Tucson, Arizona—dropped by 5,000 or 41 percent, according to regular Twitter updates from the sector chief. Tucson agents apprehended 12,200 migrants during the week of March 1-7; that number has declined during each subsequent week, reaching 7,200 during March 22-28. The reason for the sharp drop is unclear.

At the end of the first quarter of 2024, the number of people who have migrated through Panama’s Darién Gap stands at 109,069, up from 87,390 during the same period in 2023. The month-to-month trend is flat, though: 36,001 people in January, 37,165 in February, and 35,903 in March. Of this year’s migrants, 69,568 (64 percent) have been citizens of Venezuela, a proportion similar to 2023.

U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee, who oversees the Flores settlement agreement governing the treatment of children in CBP custody, presided over a March 29 hearing about Border Patrol’s practice of requiring asylum seekers to wait outdoors for long periods at the borderline in order to turn themselves in. Children are among those subsisting in makeshift encampments in Border Patrol’s San Diego Sector. Government attorneys argued that migrants at the camps are technically not in U.S. custody and don’t require care.

Eight people from China died off the coast of Oaxaca, Mexico after the boat in which they were migrating capsized.

A CBP release documented the death of a Guatemalan woman, who fell from the border wall after pleading for help on the evening of March 21 east of San Diego.

An AP-NORC poll found majorities of U.S. respondents favoring the hiring of more Border Patrol agents and more immigration judges. Only 42 percent supported building a border wall. 58 percent ranked immigration “as an extremely or very important issue to them personally.”

42 percent of people in Ecuador surveyed by Cedatos declared an intention to migrate; of that number, 55 percent named the United States as their desired destination.

The number of people whom Texas’s state government has placed on buses to Democratic-governed cities now stands at 108,600 since April 2022, a small fraction of the population released from CBP custody during that period. Over two-thirds of the buses have gone to New York and Chicago. Texas also claims that its law enforcement forces have arrested 41,200 migrants “with more than 36,700 felony charges,” usually for trespassing.

An El Paso magistrate judge released some of the migrants caught on video on March 21 pushing past Texas national guardsmen in order to turn themselves in to Border Patrol agents at the border wall.

On the U.S. bank of the Rio Grande, separated from El Paso by Texas state authorities’ concertina wire, migrants bearing flags of several nations staged a “stations of the cross” ceremony on Good Friday.

Analyses and Feature Stories

Many asylum seekers with disabilities cannot access the CBP One smartphone app to make appointments at U.S.-Mexico border ports of entry, according to a complaint that the Texas Civil Rights Project and Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center filed last week.

CNN profiled volunteers doing humanitarian work along Arizona’s border with Mexico. This has involved using private vehicles to transport people in distress to Border Patrol custody, which is technically a federal crime.

Together with a working group of legal experts and advocates, the International Refugee Assistance Project developed a document laying out a legal action agenda for individuals displaced by the effects of climate change.

Of the 545,043 people documented as migrating through Honduras in 2023, 47 percent were women, girls, and boys, reported the UN Refugee Agency. Of 1,381 interviewed by UNHCR and partners last year, 45 percent said they were “in need of international protection as they were forced to leave their country of origin due to violence and persecution.”

On the Right

Arms Transfers in the Americas: Some Links from the Past Month

Brazil

Visiting Brazil, French President Emmanuel Macron highlighted binational cooperation on submarines, which began in 2008. Brazil has used French technical assistance to build three of four planned diesel attack subs. While Brazil is cooperating with France’s Naval Group corporation on a Brazilian-built nuclear submarine, France is reluctant to transfer the most advanced technologies.

Ecuador

The U.S. government delivered to Ecuador a C-130H cargo aircraft and a mobile police barracks. The latter is a series of shipping containers converted into sleeping areas, food service, and other facilities for police operating along Ecuador’s border with Colombia. According to U.S. Ambassador Michael Fitzpatrick, the cargo plane, built in 1974 and part of Afghanistan’s Air Force between 1988 and 2021, is valued at $12 million.

At the aircraft handover event, Amb. Fitzpatrick also “highlighted an investment of US$10 million to rehabilitate the FAE’s fleet of Super Tucanos [Brazilian-made attack aircraft] and the delivery of night vision tools and weapons for the Ecuadorian military,” according to the Ecuadorian daily Primicias.

Faced with a possible Russian embargo on Ecuadorian bananas, the government in Quito abandoned a plan to send used “junk” Russian-made equipment to the United States in exchange for a shipment of U.S.-made items. The plan apparently had been to hand over Ecuador’s Russian-made equipment to the government of Ukraine.

Bolivia

Bolivia’s minister of government announced that the European Union (EU) had provided 20 million Bolivianos’ (about US$2.9 million) worth of “weapons, equipment, clothing, and reconditioned aircraft” to the Bolivian police force’s Special Force for the Fight against Drug Trafficking (FELCN). An EU communiqué sought to clarify, however, that its counter-drug aid to Bolivia “includes or can be used for the purchase of armaments.” The Ministry of Government, in response, specified that the aid included “night vision devices and portable equipment for the identification of controlled substances.”

Chile

Chile’s national police force (Carabineros) took delivery of four Hunter TR-12 armored vehicles built in Colombia by Armor International.

In protest of Israel’s human rights abuses in Gaza, Chile’s government banned Israeli companies from its annual International Air and Space Fair (FIDAE), one of Latin America’s largest air shows.

Colombia

For the same reason, Colombia’s government has suspended all military trade with Israel. Major Israeli defense items in Colombia’s arsenal include the Atmos artillery system, the Barax air defense system, about 300,000 Galil rifles, and some aging Kfir fighter jets.

Colombia is discussing with the United States a possible purchase of F-16 fighter planes, which cost roughly US$160 million apiece, to replace the Kfirs.

Colombia is also discussing with the United States a possible purchase of more UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters. That helicopter model was a central item in the United States’ “Plan Colombia” arms transfers of the 2000s; combining grants and purchases, Colombia has the world’s sixth-largest Black Hawk fleet.

Nicaragua

The U.S. State Department blocked the export of all U.S.-originated defense articles to Nicaragua’s authoritarian government. While the United States has not been transferring such articles to Nicaragua, the measure seeks to stop third countries from transferring to Nicaragua any items with U.S.-made components.

Venezuela

Venezuela obtained a “Hunter SHH100” anti-drone system from Skyfend, a Chinese company.

Some of the F-16 jets that Venezuela purchased from the United States in the years before Hugo Chávez’s 1998 election are still operable. Three of them took part in an early March military exercise.

Uruguay

“Uruguay is negotiating the purchase of weapons, radars, and military trucks with the United States,” noted Southern Command’s Diálogo website.

Honduras

In late 2023, Honduras purchased 10 South African-built “Black Mamba” armored police vehicles and has already begun using the two that have been delivered on operations in urban neighborhoods.

Peru

Peru has almost completed a $25.5 million overhaul of four Russian-made Mi-8MTV-1 Hip H transport helicopters belonging to its army. Defensa.com reported that Peru has renovated more than 15 Russian helicopters in its arsenal in the past 5 years; many of them sustained bullet impacts on operations in the VRAEM region, where Shining Path remnants continue to operate.

Much of Peru’s army equipment is Russian-made, the result of a changeover made when Peru was ruled by a left-leaning military dictatorship that came to power in 1968.

No Plans to Expand CBP One Appointments…

Catching up on what was said at a House Homeland hearing last week about the CBP One app, which Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is using to allow 1,450 asylum seekers per day inside Mexico use to make appointments at U.S. land border ports of entry.

An official from CBP’s Office of Field Operations told the Committee that:

  • Asylum seekers’ average wait inside Mexico for a CBP One appointment is “2 1/2 months right now.”
  • CBP has no plans to increase the number of appointments.
With respect to the wait times for individuals in Mexico, it’s averaging about two and a half months right now.
We do have to take into consideration the operations at our ports of entry.
We are not there just simply encountering inadmissible individuals who are attempting to enter the United States.
We have the facilitation of lawful travel and trade.
We also have to work outbound operations to interdict weapons and currency. We have to make sure that we’re intercepting narcotics, specifically fentanyl.
So to ensure that we are not walking away from any of the missions, stream- lining this process, ensuring that we can advance information to officers and automate it to the extent possible, but not also walk away from those other critical missions.
We’re not looking to expand the number of appointments.

There is clearly a need for more appointments, as the number of asylum seekers crossing illegally to turn themselves in to Border Patrol is still a multiple of those who manage to get appointments at ports of entry using the app. And in some parts of the border, investigators from the University of Texas Strauss Center have documented, the wait is now as much as six months.

Once asylum seekers arrive at the port of entry, they cannot leave the physical line or they risk losing their turn. The individuals crossing have been waiting for six months.
Civil society organizations in the city report that some migrants are waiting for up to six months before they receive a CBP One appointment.15 This long wait time has caused stress and uncertainty among the migrant population, and people periodically cross the Rio Grande instead of waiting. On the U.S. riverbank, the Texas National Guard has placed more than ten rows of concertina wire. Migrants who cross the river in this zone become stuck between the river and the concertina wire.

Weekly U.S.-Mexico Border Update: March 29, 2024

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

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

THIS WEEK IN BRIEF:

Migration at the U.S.-Mexico border usually  increases in springtime. That is not happening in 2024, although numbers are up in Mexico and further south. Increased Mexican government operations to block or hinder migrants are a central reason. Especially striking is migration from Venezuela, which has plummeted at the U.S. border and moved largely to ports of entry. It is unclear why Venezuelan migration has dropped more steeply than that from other nations.

Migration at the U.S.-Mexico border increased by 8 percent from January to February; the portion that is Border Patrol apprehensions of migrants grew by 13 percent. February’s levels were still on the low end for the Biden administration. Preliminary March data indicate no further increases this month.

Texas’s governor, an immigration hardliner, is claiming credit for a westward shift of migration toward Arizona and California. Uncertainty over a harsh new law—currently blocked in the courts—could be leading some migrants to avoid Texas, but the overall picture is more complex. Migration declined slightly in Arizona in February and is still dropping there in March, while four out of five Texas border sectors saw some growth in February.

President Bernardo Arévalo of Guatemala, in his third month in office, paid his first official visit to Washington, meeting separately with President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. The White House touted $170 million in new assistance to Guatemala and the operations of a U.S.-backed “Safe Mobility Office” that seeks to steer would-be migrants toward legal pathways. In 2023, Guatemala’s previous government expelled more than 23,000 U.S.-bound migrants, most of them from Venezuela, back across its border into Honduras.

THE FULL UPDATE:

Read More

Daily Border Links: March 29, 2024

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Developments

The New York Times reported from an open air holding site in the mountains east of San Diego, California, where asylum seekers often must wait outdoors for days for the opportunity to turn themselves in to Border Patrol. Agents provide no shelter, food, water, and medical care; that is up to volunteers. The situation threatens the migrants’ health, and “a Federal District Court judge in California could rule as early as Friday on whether the government is legally required to shelter and feed the children as they wait.”

Ten humanitarian organizations in Mexico City warned of the increasingly precarious situation of migrants from many countries stranded in Mexico’s capital. Most are attempting to secure online CBP One appointments at U.S.-Mexico border ports of entry.

Nicaragua Investiga covered the Migrant Via Crucis march and protest in Chiapas, Mexico’s southernmost state. At least 2,000 migrants stranded near Mexico’s southern border began walking through the state on Monday, though their numbers have since dwindled. “Some of the participants in the mobilization claim that their goal is to reach Mexico City, but these marches generally disintegrate as they become too strenuous and as the authorities hand out [travel] permits while they are en route.”

The House of Representatives’ Republican leadership will send the Senate articles of impeachment for Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on April 10. The move comes nearly two full months after the House impeached Mayorkas, by a one-vote party-line margin on their second try. Republican leaders allege that Mayorkas has committed “high crimes and misdemeanors” by not carrying out border and migration law to its fullest extent (which would cost far more than the amount of money that Congress appropriates). The Democratic-majority Senate could dismiss the case without going to a trial.

Analyses and Feature Stories

Jonathan Blitzer’s recent book about Central America, U.S. policy, and migration “effectively illustrates the timidity and opportunism of the US political class, which has repeatedly blocked reforms that would allow an orderly and safe flow of workers and their families across the border,” reads a lengthy review by Hector Tobar in the New York Review of Books.

Jacobin published an adapted excerpt of Petra Molnar’s book The Walls Have Eyes: Surviving Migration in the Age of Artificial Intelligence. The deployment of military-grade surveillance technologies along the border, Molnar argues, treats a humanitarian issue like a security crisis and ends up diverting migrants to more remote and dangerous areas, inflating an already high death toll.

On the Right

U.S. Military and Police Equipment Arriving in Ecuador

Source: @USembassyEC on Twitter.

Ecuador took delivery of two big U.S. military and police aid items this week. The U.S. government’s security assistance program has been ramping up following a January 9 outbreak of organized-crime violence around the country and subsequent state-of-emergency declaration from President Daniel Noboa.

  • A “mobile police barracks” for use along Ecuador’s side of its border with Colombia, consisting of eight converted storage containers, a sewage tank, and an electric power plant. “An estimated 80 police officers trained for border control tasks, from the Unit for the Fight against Organized Crime (ULCO), will patrol nearby roads and border zones, then spend nights and eat in the containers, which have a kitchen, dining room, dormitories, and meeting areas, among other spaces,” reported El Universo.
  • A C-130H Hercules cargo aircraft that the U.S. government had originally scheduled for a 2026 handover to Ecuador, but reprioritized in light of the security situation. The plane, valued at over $12 million, was built in 1974. In 1988, the U.S. government gave it to Afghanistan’s Air Force; following the 2021 Taliban takeover in Kabul, the U.S. Air Force reconditioned and modernized the plane.

Ecuador is now almost certainly the number-two recipient of U.S. security assistance in the Western Hemisphere after Colombia, surpassing Mexico.

Daily Border Links: March 28, 2024

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Developments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Analyses and Feature Stories

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

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

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

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

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

On the Right

Daily Border Links: March 27, 2024

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Developments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Analyses and Feature Stories

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

On the Right

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