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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Asylum

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.

More Asylum Appointments, Please

Figure 1: Number of CBP One Appointments per City (February 2024)

Tijuana CBP One: 385
Mexicali CBP One: 75
Nogales CBP One: 100
Ciudad Juárez CBP One: 200
Piedras Negras CBP One: 60
Nuevo Laredo CBP One: 55
Reynosa CBP One: 195
Matamoros CBP One: 380

The latest quarterly “Asylum Processing at the U.S.-Mexico Border” report is out, from Stephanie Leutert and Caitlyn Yates at the University of Texas Strauss Center. It is the resource to find out about U.S. asylum availability for migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border’s ports of entry, the length of waitlists, shelters, and security threats.

As it has done since June, after TItle 42 ended, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) offers 1,450 daily appointments at the ports of entry for migrants who wish to turn themselves in to U.S. authorities. The process involves making an appointment using the CBP One smartphone app.

Three points, just from this map:

  1. 1,450 sounds like a lot of daily appointments. Still, it is less than a third—in some months, less than a quarter—of the number who give up on this app-driven process (or don’t even know about it), and instead cross the Rio Grande or seek a break in the border wall, then wait for Border Patrol to apprehend them. For those who resist doing that and stick with the app, wait times in northern Mexico now routinely run a few months.
  2. CBP grants 43 percent of these appointments in Mexico’s Tamaulipas state, the only border state that has a State Department Level 4 travel warning because of organized crime violence. Criminal groups in Tamaulipas specialize in kidnapping migrants, while corrupt Mexican agents and officials collude—and everyone, surely including CBP, knows it.
  3. Also, recall that Border Patrol’s Tucson, Arizona sector is the agency’s busiest right now, with hundreds of asylum seekers at a time turning themselves in to agents in the desert. You’d think Border Patrol agents would be the first ones pushing CBP to increase Nogales, Arizona CBP One appointments beyond a measly 100. Those 100—7 percent of the total—are the only ones available in the roughly 600 miles between Calexico, California and El Paso, Texas.

Pour One Out for the Senate Border Compromise

Republican senators refused to consider a big Ukraine-Israel-border funding bill unless it included language changing U.S. law to make it harder for migrants to access asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border. A group of senators negotiated for two and a half months, coming up with a set of measures three days ago that outraged both migrants’ rights defenders who feared people would be harmed, and far-right Republicans who wanted it to go further.

The bill with the compromise language just failed on the Senate floor, by a vote of 49-50. (It was a procedural vote that needed 60 votes to allow debate to begin.)

Republicans demanded that the border-migration language be included, but in the end only four voted for it (Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah, and the Republicans’ chief negotiator, James Lankford of Oklahoma). Even Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), who had vocally backed Lankford’s negotiating effort, voted “no.”

Five Democrats voted “no.” (Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) had to change his vote to “no” for procedural reasons allowing a reconsideration of the bill.) They were Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Bob Menendez of New Jersey, Alex Padilla of California, and Bernie Sanders (I) of Vermont, who opposed the unconditional Israel aid in the bill.

I hope that the senators move soon to approve aid to Ukraine, this time without weakening the right to asylum.

See also:

First Look at the Senate Negotiators’ Asylum-Limits-For-Ukraine-Aid Bill Language

The Senate’s leadership has just dropped the text of a $118 billion supplemental appropriation, complying with a Biden administration request, which would provide additional aid to Ukraine and Israel, among other priorities including $20 billion for border and migration needs.

Republican senators’ price for allowing this bill to go forward in the Senate—where Democrats have a majority but most legislation requires 60 votes to end debate and proceed to a vote—was new restrictions on migration at the U.S.-Mexico border.

This 370-page legislative text has been out for less than 2 hours as I write this, so my reading this Sunday evening has not been thorough. But it appears to include a lot of the controversial limits on access to asylum that had already been reported in media. (I summarized those last week in a Q&A document and in our weekly Border Update.)

Provisions include:

  • Requiring asylum seekers placed in “expedited removal”—usually 20-25,000 per month right now, but likely to expand—to meet a much higher standard of “credible fear” in screening interviews with asylum officers. The goal is to thin out asylum applications and make it unnecessary for as many cases as possible to go to immigration court.
  • Reducing the time for a large number of asylum seekers’ cases from years to a few months, often while in tightly controlled, costly alternatives-to-detention programs.
  • It does not appear to tighten the presidential use of humanitarian parole authority to permit some classes of migrants to enter the United States, though it adds a detailed reporting requirement.

Plus, the big one:

  • As expected, the bill would allow the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to impose a Title 42-like expulsion authority, “summarily removing” asylum-seekers from the United States (except for hard-to-prove Convention Against Torture appeals), when unauthorized migrant encounters reach a daily threshold.
  • That threshold is:
    • An average of 4,000 migrant encounters per day over 7 days, which would allow DHS to start expelling people at the Secretary’s discretion.
    • Expulsions become mandatory once the average hits 5,000 per day, or if encounters hit 8,500 in a single day.
    • “Encounters” means people who come to the border and end up in Customs and Border Protection (CBP, which includes Border Patrol) custody without documents or authorization. Even if all 5,000 of them are deported or detained, the expulsions authority would still kick in.
    • “Encounters” includes people who come to ports of entry with appointments made using the CBP One smartphone app; the bill requires DHS to maintain the capacity to keep receiving at least 1,400 of these people each day (nearly the current number of daily CBP One appointments), even when it is expelling people.
      • While these 1,400 would not be in danger of expulsion, they do count toward the daily “encounter” threshold. If CBP takes 1,400 per day at ports of entry, then the expulsions could kick in if Border Patrol apprehends 2,600 or 3,600 more per day between ports of entry (for the 4,000 and 5,000 thresholds).
      • Border Patrol apprehensions between ports of entry have averaged less than 3,600 per day during only 2 of the Biden administration’s first 36 full months. They have never averaged less than 2,600 per day.

  • It is not clear whether Mexico would agree to take back expelled migrants, and if so from which countries.
  • The expulsions would stop if the past week’s daily average dropped to 75 percent of the amount that triggered it (3,000 per day if the 4,000-encounter threshold was used; 3,750 per day if the 5,000-encounter threshold kicked in).
  • A previously undisclosed element of the new Title 42-style authority: it would automatically “sunset,” or repeal, after three years. And DHS would have fewer days per year to employ it during each of those three years. (It would take an act of Congress to renew the authority or make it permanent—which is certainly not impossible.)

What do I make of this?

  • Just as we pointed out in our Q&A last week, if this became law it would send thousands of people back to likely danger. The expulsion authority will ensnare many people with legitimate and urgent asylum claims, denying them due process. It will place many at the mercy of organized crime along the migration route and in Mexican border cities. And it wouldn’t even be justified with a thin “public health” reasoning, like Title 42 was: asylum seekers would be kicked out just because too many other people were fleeing. “The United States cannot deny someone the right to seek safety and protection just because they are number 5,001 in line that day,” a statement tonight from Human Rights First put it.
  • And again, as the Q&A and another post from last week made clear, it won’t reduce migration, except perhaps for an initial few months. We seem to forget that the Title 42 era (March 2020-May 2023) was one of the busiest times ever for migration at the U.S.-Mexico border. The experience of Title 42 should have made clear for everyone the futility of deterring protection-seeking migrants.

Either way, though, this legislation is probably not going to pass. Though I’m complaining here about some of these provisions’ cruelty, I don’t see enough red meat here to satisfy far-right and rabidly pro-Trump Republicans, especially in the GOP-majority House of Representatives. Even those who were willing to live without a full return to Trump’s policies were demanding a lower threshold number for expulsions, and curbs on the presidential humanitarian parole authority. Since they didn’t get those, they may obstruct the bill.

So the negotiators of this text added language that may endanger people. They took great pains, though, to minimize the harm it might do to asylum seekers. It is good that they tried to do so—but it means that it will be rough going in the MAGA-heavy, election-year House of Representatives.

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

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

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

From the conclusion:

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

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

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

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

Read the whole thing here.

At WOLA: Migration Can’t and Shouldn’t Be Blocked. But it Can be Managed.

Here’s an 1,100-word statement recalling and highlighting some of the basic principles underlying our border and migration work. Backed up with lots of numbers and data, of course.

The main points:

  1. Most migrants arriving in the United States are exercising their right to seek asylum
  2. The United States needs to invest in managing, in a humane and timely manner, migrants and asylum seekers—NOT in more border security
  3. Legislative proposals from “border hawks,” like the “Secure the Border Act” (H.R2), would endanger thousands of lives

Read it here. It comes with an embedded video:

17,000 Deportations of Non-Mexicans Into Mexico Since Title 42 Ended

In a conversation with reporters whose transcript has not yet been posted online, Blas Nuñez-Neto, the Department of Homeland Security’s assistant secretary for border and immigration policy, dropped an important and rarely publicized statistic.

Since the Title 42 pandemic expulsions policy ended in May, Mexico has accepted the U.S. deportation into its territory of 17,000 citizens of Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. These are people denied access to asylum under the Biden administration’s “transit ban” rule.

17,000 over nearly 5 months is far fewer than the rate of Title 42 expulsions during the pandemic, when Mexico agreed to accept nearly a million land-border expulsions of citizens of Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Venezuela, Haiti, Cuba, and Nicaragua. Today, Mexico just accepts citizens of the latter four countries. But 17,000 is still a lot of people, some with protection needs denied because, under the “transit ban” rule, they crossed the border improperly.

The last time we saw this number reported was July 27, when Nuñez-Neto mentioned 4,000 deportations of those countries’ citizens into Mexico. So there have been another 13,000 in the succeeding 10 weeks, or nearly 200 deportations into Mexico each day.

Why isn’t this statistic shared more often, for instance in CBP’s monthly data updates? My guess is that Mexico doesn’t like to see it publicized, and the U.S. government respects those sensibilities. (DHS would probably be happy to share news about its deportations into Mexico, out of a belief that it might discourage some migrants.)

Asylum Requests in Mexico by Nationality

Using data released today from the Mexican government’s Refugee Aid Commission (COMAR), here is the breakdown of asylum requests before Mexico’s system during what is certain to be a record-breaking year. Asylum requests in Mexico are on track to exceed 150,000 in 2023.

Chart: Asylum Requests in Mexico by Nationality

2023: Haiti 33%, Honduras 27%, Cuba 11%, El Salvador 4.5%, Venezuela 4.2%, Guatemala 4.1%, All others <4%
Since 2013: Honduras 32%, Haiti 22%, Cuba 10%, El Salvador 8.95%, Venezuela 8.93%, All others <5%

	Honduras	Haiti	Cuba	El Salvador	Venezuela	Guatemala	Nicaragua	Brazil**	Chile**	Other Countries
2013	530	14	98	309	1	47	20			277
2014	1035	25	96	626	56	108	28			163
2015	1560	16	37	1476	57	102	28	2		145
2016	4129	47	43	3494	361	437	70	2		213
2017	4274	436	796	3708	4038	676	62	4	1	624
2018	13679	76	214	6193	6331	1347	1271			524
2019	30082	5530	8679	9039	7621	3772	2233	554		2841
2020	15364	5909	5712	4011	3241	3002	803	368	806	1698
2021	36079	50944	8249	5945	6125	4118	2894	3795	6891	4740
2022	31005	17074	18076	7782	14886	5259	8975	2569		12596
2023	31055	37736	12777	5033	4784	4646		3531	3183	10215

Data table

Last month, Mexico received 11,984 asylum requests, the second-lowest monthly total all year. 33 percent came from citizens of Haiti, plus another 6 percent from Brazil and Chile who are almost entirely the children born in those countries to Haitian migrants there. Honduras followed with 27 percent of September’s total, then Cuba (11 percent).

Mexico’s Asylum Applications Are on a Record-Breaking Pace

The director of the Mexican government’s Refugee Aid Commission (COMAR) just shared on ex-Twitter that 112,960 people sought asylum in Mexico’s protection system during the first 9 months of 2023.

The tweet reads, “At the end of September, COMAR had registered 112,960 applicants for refugee status in Mexico. This figure exceeds by 26.39% the historical mark for the same period established in 2021. With this trend, the number of applicants will exceed 150,000 by the end of the year.”

Here’s how Mexico’s asylum applications during the first nine months of 2023 compare with the first nine months of the previous five years. It’s not even close.

Asylum requests in Mexico continue on a record-breaking pace

Data table

The Mexican government’s refugee agency, COMAR, just posted data through August about the number of migrants from other countries who have applied for asylum in Mexico. Eight months into the year, COMAR is nearly at 100,000 applications, on pace to reach, or be just below, 150,000 by the end of the year. Mexico appears certain to break 2021’s record of 129,768 asylum applications.

Most applicants are from Haiti, Honduras, and Cuba. As Gretchen Kuhner of Mexico’s non-governmental Institute for Women in Migration (IMUMI) pointed out in last week’s WOLA Podcast, a lot of migrants stranded in Mexico are being channeled into the asylum system by a lack of other options for having a legal status in the country.

More asylum appointments desperately needed at the Arizona border

Here’s another foray into brief video, as I continue practicing use of some very complicated software.

This one is about the border with Arizona. During a very hot summer, the busiest part of the U.S.-Mexico border has made only 100 appointments per day available to asylum seekers.

Instead of reporting to a point of entry, thousands are crossing in dangerous desert during record heat. The number of CBP One appointments needs to increase in Nogales.

From WOLA: 10 Things to Know About the End of Title 42

What a week last week was. I was just back from Honduras, I had an all-day staff planning retreat Wednesday, and I drove from Washington to Massachusetts and back on Thursday and Friday, as my daughter finished her first year of college.

And, oh yes, Title 42 ended on May 11th.

Things were so busy that, while I managed to write this commentary for WOLA’s site as fast as I could type it, I never actually posted a link to it here, at my personal site.

A week later, this piece has almost exactly 40,000 “unique pageviews” and about twice that many “pageviews,” according to WOLA’s Google Analytics account. That definitely breaks my career record, at least for writings where I’ve seen the stats.

Here’s the summary. The entire analysis, with lots of graphics, is here.

10 Things to Know About the End of Title 42

by Adam Isacson

Summary

May 11 is the final day for the Trump and Biden administrations’ “Title 42” policy, which undid the basic right to seek asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border for 38 months.

Now, 2.8 million migrant expulsions later, the U.S. government is reverting to immigration law as it existed before the world went into lockdown. But as it does so, the Biden administration is adding a new limitation on asylum that, with Mexico’s cooperation, promises to continue the pandemic-era practice of sending asylum seekers away from the United States, placing many in danger.

Media coverage is anticipating a wave of migration at the border, with headlines proclaiming that officials are “bracing for an influx.” Legislators are seeking new ways to block asylum seekers, citing “chaos.” Such concerns are misplaced.

Migration will increase, just as it did before each of Title 42’s earlier, abortive expiration dates. But the post-May 11 increase is likely to be neither giant nor long-lasting. After all, Title 42 hardly deterred migration in the first place: it’s at or near record levels already, right now. And the Biden administration is working, with the Mexican government’s collaboration, to keep asylum out of reach to an extent that may resemble what we’ve already seen over the past 38 months.

Instead of a “migrant wave,” we should be concerned about:

  • A questionably legal “asylum transit ban” rule, about to go into effect, that could endanger many thousands of people who, though on U.S. soil, will be denied the legal right to seek protection. It’s not yet clear which nationalities, and which demographics, of migrants would be sent back into Mexico without that right. But if fully implemented, this rule would put asylum out of reach to an extent recalling what we saw during Title 42.
  • A worsening crisis of stranded migrants in Mexico’s border cities, resulting from the López Obrador government’s agreement to take back asylum seekers whom the U.S. government rejects, often without giving them a hearing.
  • A humanitarian crisis along the migration route, as new nationalities try to traverse treacherous regions like the Darién Gap.
  • The continued dysfunction of the U.S. asylum system, and the fragility of the tattered patchwork of alternative pathways to legal entry into the United States.

The situation at the border after May 11 may, for a time, appear disorderly. But it already has been, and it was before the pandemic began. If anything, Title 42’s lifting will make plain the need to reform our immigration system and align it with reality. And it will highlight the U.S. political system’s frustrating paralysis in the face of that challenge.

The facts on the ground bear this out. Here they are, in ten points.

Here’s what Title 42 does to people

From a Stephania Taladrid account of a Venezuelan family’s journey posted to the New Yorker on Thursday. This obviously happened before October, when Title 42 was expanded to allow Venezuelans to be expelled into Mexico, also.

While Yenis readied herself to cross, Alexis learned that the woman in the other group was Salvadoran; she was in the company of her four children. Each of them got in line to form a human chain across the Rio Grande.

Once in the water, Yenis turned her back on the current to minimize its impact on her belly. There was an islet mid-river, where she paused to regain her breath, and everyone else huddled around her. It was there that the Salvadoran woman confided that she needed a favor. She had heard that Salvadoran adults, unlike Venezuelans, were not being let into the U.S. Like Alexis and Yenis, she and her children had been through too much to risk deportation, so she needed her son and daughters to make the final leg of the trip on their own. The couple exchanged glances, unable to utter a single word—they felt enough responsibility already with Diana and their unborn child. But, before they could say no, the woman began to wade in the opposite direction. “Me los cuidan, por favor,” she said—“Please, take care of them.”

Asylum requests in Mexico through January

Mexico’s refugee agency (COMAR) received nearly 13,000 requests for asylum in January, a pace that, if sustained for the entire year, would bring a record 154,000 asylum applications in Mexico’s system in 2023.

The number-one nationality of asylum applicants in January was Haiti, the nation that was also number one in 2021. Honduras was COMAR’s number-one asylum-seeking nationality in 2022 and prior years.

Here’s the table with this chart’s underlying data. Note that Afghanistan, for the first time, made the “top ten” in January with 430 asylum requests. Afghanistan was the number-nine nationality of migrants passing through Panama’s Darién Gap region in January (291 migrants reported by Panamanian authorities).

Asylum “transit ban” incoming

We’re hearing word from Los Angeles Times and Reuters reporters that the Biden administration plans to announce today its new rule curtailing asylum for migrants who passed through third countries on their way to the U.S.-Mexico border. (That is, anyone who is not Mexican.)

This could not only trigger a humanitarian crisis, it is almost certainly illegal and would depend on Mexico’s government taking back thousands—perhaps tens of thousands—of vulnerable people.

WOLA explained this in a report, written principally by me, published last Friday.

At wola.org: “How the Biden Administration May Keep Asylum out of Reach After Title 42”

Title 42 could finally end, along with the U.S. government’s COVID-19 public health emergency, on May 11. This new commentary lays out what may happen next.

According to what’s taking shape, migrants seeking protection in the United States may still face a hard time. The Biden administration may reject asylum seekers using a “transit ban” and expedited removal procedures, if Mexico takes deportees. The blow would be softened by two programs, humanitarian parole and use of the “CBP One” app, but both are deeply flawed right now and need a lot of fixes.

Read the whole thing here. También está disponible en español.

Title 42 didn’t deter migration

It’s so perplexing that people are convinced that Title 42 slowed migration, and that its lifting will be a major change.

Here’s what happened to single-adult migrant encounters at the US-Mexico border after Title 42 went into effect. Not a deterrent, to say the least.

Title 42 did not similarly increase child and family migration over what came before. But it didn’t reduce it, either.

The 4 countries whose citizens could be expelled across the land border into Mexico? Title 42 slowed growth in their migration, though it remained high. But citizens of all other countries surpassed them since last summer.

Title 42 did NOT reduce US-bound migration of non-Mexicans through Mexico, which has hit all-time record levels.

Northbound migration through Panama’s treacherous Darién Gap was rare before Title 42, which did nothing to deter it.

By increasing incentives not to turn themselves in to US authorities, Title 42 probably contributed to today’s horrific amount of migrant deaths on US soil along the border.

Title 42 had no impact on drugs crossing the border. Fentanyl, for instance, is almost entirely seized at ports of entry (blue) and checkpoints (brown), it appears in most cases by US citizens.

If Title 42 ends, a short-term increase is likely. Asylum seekers from 5 countries subject to land-border expulsions into Mexico will finally have a chance to seek protection, after being bottled up for 33 months.

But don’t believe for a moment that Title 42 ever reduced migration.

(P.S.: These and other charts are at WOLA’s Border Oversight page.)

Timeline of major Title 42 developments

This (likely with a bit more editing/polish) will be in tomorrow’s WOLA Border Update, but it’s also useful as a standalone post:

  • March 2020: The Trump administration’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) imposed the measure, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, as U.S. borders closed to most travel. Citing the difficulty of detaining asylum seekers in congregate settings where viruses could spread, the order—drafted by hardline immigration opponents in the Trump White House, citing an obscure 1940s quarantine law—suspended the right to seek asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border. It ordered CBP to block asylum seekers from approaching ports of entry (official border crossings) and to quickly expel all migrants, regardless of protection needs, apprehended elsewhere. It was later revealed that CDC officials opposed this application of Title 42, but bent under intense political pressure. Mexico agreed to accept land-border expulsions of 4 countries’ citizens: its own, plus those of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.
  • November 2020: D.C. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan ruled that Title 42 could not be used to expel unaccompanied child migrants. This decision was overturned on appeal in January 2021, just before Joe Biden’s inauguration, but the Biden administration has chosen not to expel non-Mexican unaccompanied children. The Trump administration had expelled unaccompanied kids 15,863 times between March and November 2020.
  • January 2021: The Biden administration kept the Title 42 measure in place. Of all Title 42 expulsions since March 2020, at least 81 percent have taken place since Joe Biden’s inauguration.
  • August 2021: After negotiations with the Biden administration broke down, the ACLU and other organizations resumed litigation challenging Title 42 in D.C. District Court.
  • September 2021: Following a large-scale arrival of Haitian migrants in Del Rio, Texas— notorious for disturbing images of Border Patrol agents on horseback charging at migrants—the Biden administration began a large-scale campaign of aerial expulsions back to Haiti. Witness at the Border would count 229 expulsion flights to Port-au-Prince and Cap-Haïtien between September 2021 and May 2022.
  • March 2022: The CDC decided that the pandemic’s reduced intensity made it possible to end Title 42 expulsions. The Biden administration set May 23, 2022 as Title 42’s termination date.
  • April 2022: Human Rights First reported tracking “at least 10,250 reports of murder, kidnapping, rape, torture and other violent attacks against migrants and asylum seekers blocked in or expelled to Mexico due to Title 42 since the Biden administration took office.”
  • May 2022: Mexico agreed to accept land-border expulsions of Cubans and Nicaraguans for a few weeks, until May 23.
  • May 2022: In response to a lawsuit brought by Republican state attorneys-general, Louisiana Federal District Court Judge Robert Summerhays issued a preliminary injunction blocking the Biden administration from lifting Title 42. The May 23 deadline was revoked, and expulsions continued.
  • August 2022: For the first time ever, migrants from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras comprised less than half of the population of migrants encountered at the U.S.-Mexico border. This was largely because migrants from these countries faced a very high probability of Title 42 expulsion, but citizens of all other countries (especially Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Colombia) were more difficult for the U.S. government to expel; most were being released into the U.S. interior.
  • October 2022: The U.S. and Mexican governments announced that Mexico has agreed to accept land-border expulsions of citizens of Venezuela.
  • November 2022: In the case (Huisha-Huisha vs. Mayorkas) brought by the ACLU and other organizations, Judge Emmet Sullivan struck down Title 42. He acceded to a Biden administration request for five weeks in which to wind down the policy. Republican state attorneys general filed a motion to allow them to intervene in the suit.

Asylum requests are increasing again in Mexico’s system

13,217 migrants applied for asylum in Mexico’s system in November 2022, the most in a month since November 2021, according to the Mexican government’s Refugee Aid Commission (COMAR). November’s asylum requests increased 15 percent over October, and 47 percent over September.

From October to November, COMAR received the largest increase in applications from citizens of Venezuela—27 percent—though the number of Venezuelan applicants was in second place behind that of citizens of Honduras. Venezuela’s applications almost certainly increased because, after the U.S. and Mexican governments began applying Title 42 and expelling Venezuelans into Mexico on October 12, Venezuelan citizens could no longer seek protection in the United States.

All nationalities measured increases in asylum applications from October to November:

  • Venezuela: +27%
  • Haiti: +17%
  • Dominican Republic: +14%
  • Colombia: +12%
  • Honduras: +12%
  • El Salvador: +12%
  • Others: +12%
  • Brazil: +12%
  • Guatemala: +12%
  • Cuba: +11%
  • Nicaragua: +5%

Despite what you hear from some U.S. politicians and media outlets, the Americas’ ongoing migration event is not just a US-Mexico border phenomenon. People are fleeing everywhere. Colombia and others are assimilating millions of Venezuelans. Costa Rica is doing the same with Nicaraguans. And here’s Mexico.

Busy month for Mexico’s asylum system

Of 2022’s first 10 months, October was second only to March in the number of migrants who applied for asylum in Mexico. The Mexican government’s Refugee Aid Commission (COMAR) received 11,391 requests for protection during October.

The most came from Honduras, Mexico’s number-one asylum-seeking country of citizenship so far in 2022 (3,077 in October), followed by Haiti (third overall in 2022, 1,865 asylum seekers in October), Cuba (second in 2022, 1,674 in October), and Venezuela (fourth in 2022, 1,549 in October). The largest percentage increases in asylum seekers’ countries of citizenship from September to October were those from Venezuela (18%), Guatemala (16.3%), Haiti (16.0%), and Colombia (15%).

It is perhaps unsurprising that Venezuela saw the largest monthly percentage growth in asylum seekers. U.S. border authorities expelled about 6,000 Venezuelan migrants back into Mexico, without affording them a chance to ask for U.S. asylum, under the Title 42 expansion arrangement that the U.S. and Mexico announced on October 12. That means an increased population of Venezuelan citizens stranded in Mexico, and thus more asylum applicants.

COMAR reports approving 93 percent of Venezuelan citizens’ asylum applications this year. That exceeds the approval rate of all other reported nationalities, including Honduras (90%), El Salvador (89%), Cuba (50%), and Haiti (20%).

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