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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Border Security

Undoing a Human Right, Without Even Acknowledging that Alternatives Existed

When coming out in support of rolling back a decades-old human right, it’s best to at least make it look like you considered the alternatives.

Some prominent centrist and center-left commentators have published pieces supporting last week’s Biden administration imposition of severe restrictions on the legal right to seek asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border. Some viewed it as an unfortunate but necessary step; some were downright celebratory.

  • “I’m conflicted, finding myself caught between pro-refugee instincts and a practical recognition that the system wasn’t working,” wrote New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof. Couching it as an “open borders” question, not a “right to seek protection” issue, he concluded, “we can’t absorb everyone who wants in, and it’s better that the ladder be raised in an orderly way by reasonable people.”
  • Also at the New York Times, columnist David Leonhardt called the right to enter the U.S. asylum system, which was created after the United States’ 1968 accession to the Refugee Convention and 1980 passage of the Refugee Act, a “loophole.” It may be true that some people are applying for asylum because they know the backlogged U.S. system will let their cases drag on for years, but Leonhardt does not discuss options for fixing that.
  • At his Liberal Patriot Substack, Democratic Party-adjacent demographer Ruy Teixeira excoriated the “progressive left” for holding Joe Biden “prisoner” on migration policy, and celebrated the new asylum curbs as a “jailbreak” for the President.

These columnists are entitled to their views. They may be right that inaction on the border could cost Joe Biden with some swing voters. And as noted, they may be right that the asylum system’s slowness and inefficiency could be a “pull factor” for some migrants.

These opinion pieces fail, though, by refusing to recognize that another option exists: an option that isn’t “swinging the doors open” (Kristof’s phrase). If the asylum system is broken (of course it is), then the Biden administration could fix it. This would be an administrative challenge—a fair amount of hiring and training—but hardly a moon shot for the U.S. federal government.

None of these columns talks about making the U.S. asylum system viable, and faster, adjusting it to a new era of historic worldwide migration. They don’t even mention it as an option to be discarded. Their analyses treat the asylum system as a fixed and immutable variable that we can’t do anything about. (So, incidentally, does the text of the administration’s interim final rule laying out the new asylum restriction: it laments the system’s backlog but scarcely mentions ways to address it.)

The new rule focuses only on the asylum system’s initial entry point: the U.S.-Mexico border. That makes it yet another in a ten-year-long series of efforts to deter asylum seekers at the borderline itself, or just before it. Like the others, from family separation to Remain in Mexico to Title 42 to Mexican government crackdowns, it will hurt people in the short term but will fail to move the numbers in the long term.

Where change is most urgently needed is further along in the asylum process. The backlog isn’t at the border: it lies in what happens afterward.

Imagine if it took less than a year to hand down most people’s asylum decisions, with full due process and without locking them up in detention. Imagine it being rare and unusual for cases to take longer than a year, because the system had enough judges, asylum officers, processors, case managers, and access to legal representation.

Right now—a full ten years after the first wave of Central American child and family asylum seekers surprised the Obama administration—the U.S. government is very far from that. With 725 immigration judges—9 fewer than in October!—and much fewer than 1,000 asylum officers available to attend to 1.3 million asylum cases and about 2 million other immigration cases, asylum decisions commonly take many years. In 2022, TRAC Immigration estimated an average of 4.3 years.

People who may not have understood the intricacies of U.S. asylum requirements when they came here—they just learned about the backlog’s effects via social media—end up in the United States, living their lives and awaiting a decision, for a very long time.

In many cases, such a long stay could be a good outcome because of the contributions people make while here. But it is insanity to require them to hire smugglers to get through the Darien Gap then run Mexico’s predatory organized-crime gauntlet just to touch U.S. soil, suffering abuse along the way.

Along with opening up other legal pathways, then, the goal should be to slash asylum backlog wait times while respecting and expanding rights. Fewer people who are unlikely to qualify would opt for the asylum system if the normal wait was shorter.

All that stands in the way of that is the hiring and training of a few thousand judges and asylum officers. A hiring expansion along these lines ($110m for new immigration judges, 4,338 new asylum officers) was part of the “border deal” legislation that failed in the Senate earlier this year.

Organizations and experts have recommended variations of this solution a ridiculous number of times. They include WOLA, Human Rights First, the Migration Policy Institute, the American Immigration Council, the National Immigration Forum, and the Bipartisan Policy Center, among many others.

What the Biden administration did last week is not that solution. Far from it. They decided to shut things down on the front end, rather than move to reduce the backlog.

Instead of shoring up and rebuilding the system to match an era of historic protection-seeking migration, they have made the system itself harder to access, in a way that is likely to endanger people and is almost certainly illegal.

We need an explanation for why the administration chose not to pursue the “reduce the backlog” option (and why that hasn’t been an important part of DHS budget requests since 2021). Defenders of last week’s “asylum shutdown” should at least add a sentence somewhere saying, ”We considered this but decided against it because X.”

The opinion columnists defending the “shutdown” fail even to mention action to reduce the asylum backlog. None even glance at building up asylum processing and adjudication capacity to get those ridiculous wait times down.

They don’t even raise it in order to shoot it down. They don’t say “this is impractical,” “this costs too much,” or “this might be a good way forward, but it’s gradual and can’t move the needle between now and November.” Instead of engaging this viable alternative, they blame “the left” for constraining the President from cracking down on asylum seekers.

Others have pointed out factual inaccuracies in these widely read pieces. But the most unsatisfying part of what they wrote is the failure even to acknowledge the “reduce the backlog” option, even just to dismiss it.

The United States is watering down a human right granted in past generations. This shouldn’t be done lightly, by blithely ignoring widely proposed, doable alternatives.

Weekly U.S.-Mexico Border Update: June 7, 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.

Due to an extended period of staff travel and commitments, this will be the last Weekly Border Update until July 26; we look forward to resuming a regular publication schedule on that date.

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:

As of 12:01 AM on June 5, migrants who enter U.S. custody between U.S.-Mexico border ports of entry, with few exceptions, may no longer apply for asylum. The Biden administration made this long-signaled change with a proclamation and an “interim final rule” on June 4. Asylum access is “shut down” until daily migrant encounters at the border drop to a very low average of less than 1,500 per day. The ACLU, which challenged a similar asylum ban during the Trump era, plans to sue. It is not clear whether, with its current resources, the administration will be able to deport or detain a significantly larger number of  asylum seekers than it already is.

Mexico’s refugee agency, COMAR, reported receiving 36,860 requests for asylum during the first five months of 2024. That is 42 percent fewer than during the same period in 2023. As in recent years, Honduras, Cuba, and Haiti are the top three nationalities of asylum seekers in Mexico’s system, and most applications are filed in Tapachula and Mexico City. This year’s drop in applications is unexpected, as Mexico’s government reports stopping or encountering over 480,000 migrants between January and April alone.

THE FULL UPDATE:

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Daily Border Links: June 6, 2024

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Daily Border Links are following a sporadic publication schedule between May 3 and July 19. Due to staff travel, this is the last daily update for a while. Regular daily updates will return on July 22.

Developments

The Biden administration’s new proclamation and rule curtailing asylum access at the U.S.-Mexico border, which it calls “Securing the Border,” went into effect at 12:01 AM on Wednesday, June 5. A leaked ICE implementation guidance is also available.

For explanations of the new rule’s provisions, implementation, and likely outcomes, see analyses from WOLA, the American Immigration Council, Human Rights Watch, the American Immigration Lawyers’ Association, the Cato Institute, and a coalition of legal and human rights groups. The American Immigration Council also published an in-depth explainer.

For migrants who cross the border between ports of entry, fail to specifically ask for protection (known as the “shout test”), or cannot prove a very high standard of fear of return, the legal right to asylum is now suspended until the daily border-wide average of Border Patrol migrant apprehensions drops below 1,500.

The last month with an average that low was July 2020, in the early moments of the COVID-19 pandemic. Reporters from the New York Times and CBS News tweeted that Border Patrol apprehended about 4,300 people on Tuesday June 4 and about 4,000 on Wednesday June 5. The daily average in May, one of the Biden administration’s lightest months, was about 3,800. The Washington Post cited internal DHS projections expecting an average of 3,900 to 6,700 apprehensions per day between July and September.

Should the daily average ever drop below 1,500, the rule would suspend the asylum restriction until the average once again climbs above 2,500.

The new measures add to the Biden administration’s May 2023 “Circumvention of Lawful Pathways” asylum ban, which already denied asylum to non-Mexican citizens who crossed between ports of entry, cannot prove a higher standard of fear, and did not have an asylum application turned down in another country along the way.

It is unclear whether the new rule resulted in increased returns or deportations of migrants yesterday—a briefing from DHS officials offered no numbers—and if so, how they were carried out.

“We intend to challenge this order in court,” the ACLU announced. Aaron Reichlin-Melnick of the American Immigration Council noted that the ACLU “successfully blocked” a similar “2018 Trump asylum ban within days.” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut), the principal Democratic negotiator on an unsuccessful “border deal” that sought to legislate a similar asylum limit, said “I am sympathetic to the position the administration is in, but I am skeptical the executive branch has the legal authority to shut down asylum processing between ports of entry on its own.”

A UNHCR statement voiced “profound concern” about the Biden administration’s new rule.

The administration’s announcements did not refer to increased capacity to implement its new barriers to asylum seekers. That would involve costly measures like more asylum officers for expedited removal proceedings, more detention space, or more capacity to deport migrants (more flights, or permission from Mexico to deport more non-Mexican citizens by land). Three DHS officials told the Washington Post that “the administration has not scheduled a short-term increase in deportation flights to ramp up the number of migrants returned to their home countries under the new measures.”

The New York Times’s Hamed Aleaziz reported that when asylum seekers in custody try to prove that they meet higher standards of fear of return (called “reasonable probability” of harm), they will have just four hours to find legal representation. “Migrants previously had at least 24 hours or more to find a lawyer.”

Reports from the border documented worry and perplexity among migrants. Migrants passing through the northern state of Durango told Milenio that the U.S. policy change did not alter their plans. “We do not have a plan, and we cannot return. This is a low blow,” a 64-year-old man from Colombia told the Guardian in Ciudad Juárez. Some told the Guardian that they are now considering crossing through the dangerous nearby desert. Shelter operators in northern Mexican border cities braced for new strains on their capacity.

Coverage of the new rule’s political and electoral implications found progressive Democrats outraged by the rollback of asylum rights; most Republicans claiming it is “too little, too late” and doesn’t do enough to stop migrants from arriving; and centrist Democrats—especially those from tightly contested states or districts—supporting it.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador told reporters that, in a June 4 conversation with President Biden, he encouraged Biden to deport non-Mexican migrants directly, not into Mexico: “Why do they come to Mexico? We have no problem, we treat migrants very well, all of them, but why triangulate?” (Mexico accepts up to a combined 30,000 U.S. deportations per month of citizens of Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela.)

Border Patrol Chief Jason Owens tweeted that the agency has documented more than 300 deaths of migrants on U.S. soil since the fiscal year began in October, with the hot summer months just beginning.

Mexican migration agents and National Guard personnel carried out a June 5 operation to evict migrants from a plaza near the Mexico City headquarters of the country’s refugee agency, COMAR.

The Panamanian government’s human rights ombudsman filed a criminal complaint about more than 400 alleged cases of sexual violence perpetrated against migrants in the Darién Gap region. Before Panama’s Health Ministry suspended its permission to operate in March, Doctors Without Borders had been documenting these cases.

Analyses and Feature Stories

The Washington Post reported on the Texas state government’s intense campaign to shut down El Paso’s Annunciation House migrant shelter.

“Though there’s little to be done now about this recycled immigration policy” at the border, President Biden “could use his executive power to shield immigrants from deportation and allow them to work legally,” argued Andrea Flores of Fwd.us in a New York Times column.

A feature at the Guardian told the stories of five asylum seekers’ difficult and even traumatic passage through the U.S. asylum system.

The New York Times reported on how the San Diego region has been impacted by a notable increase in migration over the past several months.

An Inter-American Dialogue slide presentation cited “1145 charter flights of at least 150 passengers en route to the Mexico-US border” landing in Managua, Nicaragua between July 2023 and January 2024.

The Catholic Charities humanitarian migrant respite center in McAllen, which receives people released from CBP custody, commemorated ten years of operations. Headed by Sister Norma Pimentel, the well-known shelter was a response to the first major arrival of child and family asylum seekers, which at the time was mostly Central American citizens arriving largely in south Texas.

From WOLA: “The Futility of ‘Shutting Down Asylum’ by Executive Action at the U.S.-Mexico Border”

Past generations granted new rights. We’re living in an era when government is taking those rights away. Roe v. Wade (1973) got perforated two years ago by Republican judicial nominees. Now the right to asylum, enshrined in the Refugee Act of 1980, no longer applies to threatened people who came to the border to ask for protection “the wrong way” and at a time judged “too busy.”

Here’s a Q&A I wrote for WOLA explaining the basics of what just happened:

  • What does the executive action do?
  • Doesn’t this violate U.S. law?
  • Is this a new “Title 42?”
  • The Senate failed twice to pass a law trying to do this. How is this executive action legal?
  • Doesn’t this rely heavily on Mexico’s cooperation?
  • Will this, in fact, deter migrants?
  • Instead of “shutting down” asylum, is there a better way to manage large numbers of arriving asylum seekers?

Read the whole thing here.

Daily Border Links: June 4, 2024

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Daily Border Links are following a sporadic publication schedule between May 3 and July 19. Regular daily updates will return on July 22.

Developments

Later today, President Biden will sign a sweeping proclamation shutting down the right to seek asylum for migrants apprehended on U.S. soil between the U.S.-Mexico border’s ports of entry. Several border-region mayors, mainly from Texas, will be on hand, along with some centrist Democratic legislators. The Departments of Homeland Security and Justice will issue an interim final rule laying out how they will implement the “asylum shutdown.”

According to several media reports, the “asylum shutdown” would be triggered when Border Patrol’s daily migrant encounters exceed 2,500 per day, as they have in every month since February 2021. The right to asylum between ports of entry would not be restored until migrant apprehensions drop below a daily average of 1,500 per day, which has not happened since July 2020.

Of the 296 months since fiscal 2020, the daily average has exceeded 2,500 in 110 of them: 37 percent of the time. During those 110 months, had the executive order been in place, it would have triggered an asylum shutdown. The daily average has dropped below 1,500 just 42 percent of the time (124 months), which would have made restoring asylum difficult had the executive order been in place.

Unless there is a radical change in migration patterns at the border, then, this is an effective ban on asylum between ports of entry. The Trump administration sought to implement a similar “asylum ban” 2019—making it absolute, without the numerical thresholds—but courts threw it out because it violated Section 208 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which guarantees due process for people asking for asylum on U.S. soil.

Other likely elements of the executive order, according to secondary reports:

  • Its legal justification will be Section 212(f) of the INA, which allows the President to prohibit the entry of entire classes of non-citizens considered “detrimental to the interests of the United States.” It is doubtful, however, that 212(f) applies to people who have already arrived on U.S. soil and are requesting protection. “ A reliance on 212(f) that prevents access to asylum arguably directly conflicts with the INA,” reads a new policy brief from the American Immigration Lawyers’ Association.
  • It will not apply to unaccompanied minors or victims of “severe” trafficking.
  • It will not apply to people who have made appointments at border ports of entry using the CBP One app. We have heard nothing about any possible changes to the number of appointments that this app will make available; the current cap is 1,450 per day.
  • People will be screened for fear of return only if they specifically manifest such fear to U.S. authorities.
  • Unlike Title 42 expulsions, those who are removed under this new arrangement will be penalized, probably by being barred for several years from reentering the United States.

Elements that are not clear include:

  • What would happen if the number of apprehended migrants exceeds border authorities’ ability to deport them, detain them, or screen them for the executive order’s likely elevated criteria for fear of harm. All of these require resources. During the “Title 42” era, thousands per day were released into the U.S. interior because authorities could not detain or remove them.
  • What the Mexican government’s cooperation with deportations of rejected asylum seekers might look like.

Democratic legislators who defend migrants’ rights are upset, the Washington Post reported. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus told White House Chief of Staff Jeff Zients that the measure is “very, very disappointing.”

The Republican-majority House of Representatives’ Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee met this morning to “mark up” (amend and approve) its draft of the chamber’s 2025 budget bill for the Department of Homeland Security. The draft bill, which reflects Republican priorities, has virtually zero chance of passage before the November election.

It includes mandatory spending on border wall construction. It provides funding for a total of 22,000 Border Patrol agents, nearly 3,000 more than the present workforce. It would eliminate funding for the Case Management alternatives-to-detention pilot program, the Office of Immigration Detention Ombudsman, and the Family Reunification Task Force, and the Shelter Services Program. It would prohibit use of the CBP One app “to facilitate the entry of aliens into the country.” It would increase ICE’s detention bed capacity to 50,000, up from the currently funded level of 41,500.

Amid increasing pre-summer heat, CBP reported four deaths of migrants in its El Paso Sector (Texas-New Mexico) over the weekend.

Arizona’s Republican-majority legislature is close to approving a law similar to Texas’s controversial S.B. 4, which makes it a state crime to cross the border improperly. Rather than go to Gov. Katie Hobbs, a Democrat who would veto it, the law would become a ballot measure when Arizonans vote in November. S.B. 4, which would let Texas enforce its own immigration policy and incentivizes racial profiling, remains suspended as litigation continues.

The police chief of San Luis Rio Colorado, Sonora, Mexico—a border city just south of Yuma, Arizona—was assassinated in a broad-daylight ambush in the middle of the city yesterday.

A Border Patrol agent in Texas’s Rio Grande Valley was arrested on charges of helping migrants cross into the United States in exchange for bribes.

Analyses and Feature Stories

Following a U.S. Government Accountability Office report about Border Patrol agents’ confiscation of migrants’ belongings and documents while in custody, Cronkite News talked to advocates and service providers in Arizona who are documenting the problem and filing complaints.

The New York Times looked at recent poll data showing reduced support for immigration within U.S. public opinion.

On the Right

Daily Border Links: June 3, 2024

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Daily Border Links are following a sporadic publication schedule between May 3 and July 19. Regular daily updates will return on July 22.

Developments

President Biden is expected to issue an executive order tomorrow (Tuesday June 4) at least partially “shutting down” the right to ask for asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border. It is likely to enable U.S. border authorities to channel asylum seekers into rapid removal from the United States, at times when daily migrant arrivals exceed a certain threshold, probably 4,000 or 5,000 people per day. At busy moments along the border, the executive order could institute a policy similar to the pandemic-era Title 42 expulsions regime.

The administration is expected to claim that the new “shutdown” authority’s legal underpinning is Section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which allows the President to bar the entry of entire classes of non-citizens considered “detrimental to the interests of the United States.” However, courts have cast doubt on whether 212(f) can in fact be used to remove an asylum seeker already on U.S. soil and asking for protection, who are protected by Section 208 of the INA.

It appears that the “shutdown” would only apply to asylum seekers apprehended between the land border ports of entry. Those with appointments made using the CBP One smartphone app would still be processed.

The move comes just after Sunday’s presidential election in Mexico, whose government will be expected to cooperate in receiving at least some of the migrants refused asylum access and sent back across the land border. Claudia Sheinbaum, the mayor of Mexico City and the candidate of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s MORENA party, won in a landslide.

At least two Texas border-city mayors are expected to be on hand in Washington for tomorrow’s executive order announcement.

CBS News and Fox News reported that Border Patrol agents at the U.S.-Mexico border apprehended about 118,000 migrants during May 2024, which would make May the third-lightest month for border migrant arrivals of the Biden administration’s 40 full months in office. This continues a trend of reduced migration, dating from January, that appears to owe a lot to the Mexican government’s migrant interdiction operations.

ICE removed migrants to their countries of origin on 151 flights in May, the most in a month since August 2023 (153), according to the latest “ICE Air Flights” report by Thomas Cartwright of Witness at the Border. This added up to 6.6 deportation flights per weekday, “just over the prior 6-month average of 6.4.” 90 percent of those flights went to Guatemala (47), Honduras (29), Mexico (18), Ecuador (17), El Salvador (13), or Colombia (12). For its part, Mexico carried out nine deportation flights: five to Honduras, three to Guatemala, and one to Colombia.

“The United States is in talks with Venezuelan authorities to resume direct repatriation flights” to Caracas, noted the Venezuelan opposition-aligned daily Tal Cual.

For the second straight week, the chief of Border Patrol’s Tucson, Arizona sector reported more migrant apprehensions than did the chief of Border Patrol’s San Diego, California sector. Tucson had been the border’s number-one migration destination, measured by apprehensions, between July and March, but was outpaced by San Diego in April. A Fox News correspondent cited preliminary Border Patrol data indicating that Tucson apprehensions exceeded those of San Diego in May by a margin of 33,000 to 32,000.

Corrupt Mexican migration (INM) agents operating a checkpoint at the Tijuana airport have been using it to extort money from migrants passing through, and this has happened “for years,” municipal migration official Enrique Lucero told Border Report.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) announced the completion of construction at a state government military base near Eagle Pass. 300 Texas National Guard soldiers are now quartered there, a number that will rise to 1,800.

Abbott also reported that since April 2022, Texas has bused over 117,900 released migrants to the Democratic Party-governed cities of Washington DC, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Denver, and Los Angeles, without first coordinating with or informing those cities’ municipal officials.

Analyses and Feature Stories

The New York Times detailed an election-year spike in threats and infiltration attempts suffered by humanitarian organizations, like shelters, assisting migrants on the U.S. side of the border. It identifies James O’Keefe of the provocateur organization Judicial Watch as a ringleader of the campaign against border charities.

In 2023, only 56 percent of unaccompanied migrant children defending their cases in U.S immigration court had attorneys representing them, ABC News noted. The immigration court system does not guarantee a right to counsel, even for parentless children, so “minors are left to navigate the different avenues of relief alone, fill out documents in a foreign language, and argue their case before a judge.”

At the New Yorker, Stephania Taladrid profiled Mexico’s foreign minister, Alicia Bárcena, who has sought to defend Mexico’s interests and to push for more action on migration’s “root causes” amid U.S. pressure to crack down on migration transiting Mexico. That pressure has intensified this year, the article notes, as perceptions of border security and migration could determine some voters’ decisions in a tight U.S. election. An unnamed Mexican official described the Biden administration’s approach to migration policy as “schizophrenic.”

At the San Diego Union-Tribune, Wilson Center analysts Alan Bersin and Diego Marroquin Bitar predicted that Mexico’s approach to the border and migration will change little with the June 2 electoral victory of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s chosen candidate, Claudia Sheinbaum.

The Nicaraguan opposition-aligned investigative media outlet Onda Local identified some of the officials directing a thriving human smuggling route through Nicaragua, which does not require visas for most visiting nationalities. It alleges that the director of Air Transportation of Nicaragua’s Civil Aeronautics Institute, Róger Martínez Canales, “has the task of collecting the ‘fee’…from the money generated by human trafficking, which amounts to several million dollars, since for each migrant a sum of between $5,000 and $10,000 is charged then distributed among those involved, the airlines and international companies indirectly involved in the business.”

Weekly U.S.-Mexico Border Update: May 31, 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.

Due to an extended period of staff travel and commitments, we will produce Weekly Border Updates irregularly for the next two and a half months. We will resume a regular weekly schedule on July 26.

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:

After failing twice to enact such a measure through legislation, the Biden administration appears poised to issue an executive order that would allow U.S. border authorities to turn back or deport asylum seekers whenever the number of arriving migrants exceeds a specific threshold. The legal authority on which such an executive order would be based appears shaky, and there is a significant probability that it would not withstand challenges in the judicial system.

Mexico’s government reported encountering or stopping 120,879 migrants during the month of April, a record that only slightly exceeds similar numbers reported every month since January. Well over half of April’s total were citizens of South American nations. Mexico’s stepped-up efforts to block migrants, which appear to involve aggressive busing into the country’s interior more than deportations or detentions, have left large numbers of migrants stranded there amid a notable drop in U.S. authorities’ migrant encounters.

The U.S. Border Patrol was founded 100 years ago this week. Some analyses of the milestone have focused on the agency’s checkered human rights record. The Southern Border Communities Coalition and congressional Democrats, drawing attention to a recent GAO report’s findings, voiced concern that reforms aimed at more impartial oversight of use-of-force cases aren’t going far enough.

Colombia voices skepticism about Panama’s new president’s promise to shut down Darién Gap migration. UNHCR data continue to show that many Venezuelan migrants in the Darién first sought to settle elsewhere in South America. Ecuadorians are skipping the Darién route by flying to El Salvador.

THE FULL UPDATE:

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Daily Border Links: May 31, 2024

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Daily Border Links are following a sporadic publication schedule between May 3 and July 19. Regular daily updates will return on July 22.

Developments

Reports that the White House may launch an executive order to limit asylum access at the border are converging on Tuesday (June 4) as a likely date for an announcement. The measure would enable U.S. border authorities to “shut down” access to asylum seekers, instead channeling them into rapid removal from the United States, at times when daily migrant arrivals exceed a certain threshold, probably 4,000 or 5,000 people per day.

At busy moments along the border, then, the executive order would institute a policy similar to the pandemic-era Title 42 expulsions regime.

The Biden administration appears to be relying on a provision in U.S. law (Section 212(f) of the Immigration and Nationality Act) that allows the president to ban arrivals of entire classes of migrants. Any order will face legal challenges, and courts may rule that Section 212(f) does not apply once a migrant has already arrived on U.S. soil and is requesting protection under U.S. asylum law.

“The talks were still fluid and the people stressed that no final decisions had been made” about the executive order, the Associated Press cautioned.

Texas security forces, principally National Guard soldiers, have begun firing non-lethal ammunition at migrants—mainly pepper irritant projectiles but perhaps also rubber bullets—on what seems to be a routine basis along the Rio Grande between El Paso and Ciudad Juárez. The Texas personnel are discharging these weapons even though the migrants are usually on the other side of fencing and concertina wire, and thus pose no imminent threat. Those claiming to have been in the line of fire include families and journalists.

Migrants in Ciudad Juárez told EFE that the Texas personnel fire at them even “while they sleep.” They displayed bruises and un-ruptured projectiles. “In addition to aggressions with weapons, said migrants on the river, are constant verbal aggressions and the use of laser beams to damage the eyes,” the report added.

As May draws to a close, “the El Paso, Texas-Juarez, Mexico area recorded a maximum temperature of 96 degrees on Thursday,” Border Report reported. “Juarez city officials say several migrants in the past two weeks have come down with heat-related illnesses, including dehydration.” Most of the city’s migrant shelters, which are about 60 percent full right now, force single adults to spend daylight hours off their premises.

Analyses and Feature Stories

The University of Texas’s Strauss Center released the latest in a long series of reports about asylum processing at U.S.-Mexico border ports of entry. “In May 2024, the ports of entry in Tijuana and Matamoros each had nearly 400 daily CBP One appointments, constituting 52 percent of all available slots,” while all official border crossings border-wide allowed about 100 “walk-ups” per day.

The report discusses some of the difficulty that asylum seekers are experiencing in reaching the U.S.-Mexico border due to Mexico’s 2024 crackdown on migration. Mexico’s Migration Policy Unit released data this week showing that authorities had stopped or encountered 481,025 migrants between January and April, 231 percent more than during the same period in 2023.

The International Refugee Assistance Project published a second update with information about the State Department-coordinated “Safe Mobility Office” (SMO) program. As of mid-May 2024, about 190,000 people had registered for appointments to seek legal migration pathways at SMOs, managed with UNHCR and IOM, in Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Guatemala. The majority of SMO registrants—at least 110,000—were Venezuelans in Colombia. Over 21,000 registrants at all offices have been approved for resettlement under the State Department-run Refugee Admissions Program.

The SMOs already refer a few registrants to legal migration pathways in Spain and soon Canada. CBS News reported that the offices may soon channel some Latin American migrants to Greece and Italy.

Telling the story of a Northeast Cartel hitman killing carried out in Zapata, Texas, a feature from USA Today’s Rick Jervis illustrated the difficulty of carrying out cross-border organized crime investigations. Political disagreements about “Operation Lone Star,” Jervis noted, has worsened law enforcement cooperation between Mexico and the state of Texas.

Between January 1 and April 16, Guatemala has expelled over 7,500 migrants into Honduras, UNHCR reported. “77% were Venezuelans, 9% Colombians and 6% Ecuadorians.” Meanwhile, funding cutbacks have drastically reduced, “from over eight to three,” the number of humanitarian organizations offering assistance in Agua Caliente, the Honduran border town where most Guatemalan expulsions take place.

At Public Books, S. Deborah Kang examined the historical and current challenges that asylum seekers face in Border Patrol custody, from many agents’ predisposition against asylum to the expansion of Expedited Removal.

Daily Border Links: May 30, 2024

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Developments

Three San Diego-area House Democrats, along with Texas Rep. Joaquín Castro, sent a letter to leadership of DHS and CBP with questions about oversight of Border Patrol in human rights cases. Castro and Reps. Juan Vargas, Sara Jacobs, and Scott Peters called on the border agencies to follow recommendations in a May 13 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, which found that Border Patrol’s Office of Professional Responsibility needed to improve the independence and impartiality of personnel investigating critical use-of-force incidents. The Southern Border Communities Coalition had raised the issue at a May 28 event in San Diego.

Georgia Sen. Jon Ossoff (D) visited the border in El Paso, Ciudad Juárez, and New Mexico. The centrist member of the Senate Intelligence Committee warned, “The threat of terrorism associated with unlawful entry to the United States is real.”

Upon searching a mobile phone at a vehicle stop of a car smuggling migrants in Arizona, Border Patrol agents claim to have discovered a Telegram group chat involving 1,000 people sharing information about plans to pick up and transport undocumented people.

About a quarter of people in Venezuela are considering migrating, but of those, 47 percent would stay if the opposition were somehow allowed to win the country’s July 28 presidential elections, according to a Delphos poll reported by the Associated Press.

Analyses and Feature Stories

In a Time excerpt from a new book about immigration, Stanford University Professor Ana Raquel Minian provided a rapid overview of the history of U.S. detention of apprehended migrants. It concluded: “Rather than caging migrants and refugees, the government should simply release them and allow them to reside with friends, family, or community members in the U.S. while it examines their cases.”

Daily Border Links: May 29, 2024

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Developments

Texas National Guard personnel fired at least one pepper irritant projectile on migrants at the Rio Grande in El Paso on Tuesday. The migrants, who included families with children, were separated from the soldiers by a mass of fencing and concertina wire and posed no apparent threat of death or injury, calling into question Texas’s use-of-force guidelines. Texas’s Department of Public Safety has not commented on the incident, caught on video from the Ciudad Juárez side.

“An unidentified Venezuelan man said two pepper balls struck him in the neck and side after he crossed the Rio Grande to plead with the soldiers to let families come across the razor wire,” Border Report reported. A Venezuelan mother and father told a videographer that they had “placed a piece of cardboard between two shrubs on the Mexican side of the river to protect their 1-year-old daughter from stray shots.” A photographer said that a guardsman shot at him twice while he filmed from the Mexican side.

“The reality is that some people do indeed try to game the [asylum] system,” the Biden administration’s homeland security secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, told CBS News. “That does not speak to everyone whom we encounter, but there is an element of it, and we deal with it accordingly.”

“The White House and a White House official told me that no final decisions have been made about an executive action that is potentially being considered” to shut down migrants’ access to asylum at the border at times of heavy migration, reported PBS NewsHour’s Laura Barron-Lopez. “But sources told me that this specific executive action could come as early as next week after the Mexican elections on June 2.”

Analyses and Feature Stories

Upon this week’s 100th anniversary of the founding of Border Patrol, the agency’s chief, Jason Owens, looked back on his career and told CBP’s Frontline magazine website that people considering a career in the force should fully commit to it as a “calling.” Owens described tools using AI technology as a “force multiplier” for agents in the field. “It would be so much better if the migrants went to the port of entry,” Owens added. (CBP has capped port of entry capacity to receive asylum seekers at 1,450 people per day border-wide.)

The Southern Border Communities Coalition commemorated the anniversary with a press conference in San Diego with loved ones of people killed, wounded, or racially profiled by agency personnel, none of whom has been penalized.

“Revelations of some agents’ racist vitriol toward migrants, along with allegations of sexual misconduct against women employees, have rocked public trust in recent years,” noted a Christian Science Monitor analysis of Border Patrol’s centennial.

The International Displacement Monitoring Center “recorded over 6.3 million total IDPs [internally displaced persons] in the Americas at the end of 2023, marking a 6% decrease from the end of 2022 but remaining on par with 2021’s figure of 6.2 million,” notes a summary of IDMP’s mid-May annual report at Jordi Amaral’s Americas Migration Brief. Conflict and violence displaced over 600,000 people in 2023.

Daily Border Links: May 28, 2024

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Developments

Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector (7,400) saw more migrant apprehensions than its San Diego Sector (6,157) last week, according to tweets from the sector chiefs. For a period of eight weeks, San Diego had measured the most migration of all nine of Border Patrol’s U.S.-Mexico border sectors, for the first time since the late 1990s. But San Diego was eclipsed, at least for last week, after experiencing a 39 percent drop in migration over 3 weeks.

If Joe Biden “were to try to shut down portions of the border, the courts would throw that out, I think, within a matter of weeks,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut) told CBS News’s Face the Nation. Murphy was Senate Democrats’ chief architect of unsuccessful border legislation that would have, among other provisions, shut down asylum access when migrant encounters exceeded a certain level at the U.S.-Mexico border.

A CNN analysis noted how Democratic legislators and candidates in tight races are most likely to favor placing limits on access to asylum at the border.

“Last week U.S. authorities expelled 200 migrants who crossed through Gate 40 of the border fence [in El Paso] and handed them over to the Mexican National Migration Institute (INM) in Ciudad Juárez, where they were warned that they would be returned to Chiapas, a state on Mexico’s southern border,” EFE reported. Still, the article noted, Venezuelan migrants stranded in Ciudad Juárez are not giving up.

EFE also reported that fentanyl addiction is increasing in Ciudad Juárez, and some migrants in the Mexican border city are falling prey to it.

Throughout the Mexican northern-border state of Chihuahua, where Ciudad Juárez is the largest city, migrants are being caught up in a worsening wave of ransom kidnappings carried out by organized crime, France24 reported.

“We’re gonna be barricading every area where people are crossing—until we get every area to have like this area is right now,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) told CBS News’s 60 Minutes; “this area” was the heavily fortified Shelby Park in Eagle Pass. (Texas’s border with Mexico is about 1,200 miles long.)

In the same segment, Raúl Ortiz, who headed Border Patrol between 2021 and 2023, criticized Abbott for not cooperating with Border Patrol, but also voiced dissatisfaction with the Biden administration: “I’ve never had one conversation with the president. Or the vice president, for that matter.”

Former Border Patrol agent Hector Hernandez was sentenced to 87 months in federal prison for taking bribes to smuggle methamphetamine and migrants across the U.S.-Mexico border. Hernandez had been employed by Border Patrol in San Diego.

Analyses and Feature Stories

A Mother Jones analysis of the U.S. Border Patrol at its 100th anniversary highlighted aspects of the agency’s founding, at the urging of Texas Congressman Claude Benton Hudspeth, that reflect political and social tensions and contradictions about U.S. border security and immigration that remain in place today. “Chaos is not just the absence of a border; it is also the consequence of trying to maintain one,” Murphy wrote.

Of 128 migrants transiting Panama interviewed by UNHCR earlier this month, 69 percent were from Venezuela, and of these, half came directly from Venezuela. Of the half of Venezuelans who had sought to live elsewhere before migrating northward, 60 percent had applied for legal status in those other countries, mainly Colombia, Peru, or Ecuador.

Of all 128, 69 percent reported suffering physical insecurity (attacks, drownings, or falls) while crossing the Darién. 22 percent observed between 1 and 20 cadavers along the trail.

Colombia “would not agree with” Panamanian President-Elect José Raúl Mulino’s campaign promise to shut down the Darién Gap by deporting migrants who cross the treacherous route, said Foreign Minister Luis Gilberto Murillo. Instead, “what we have to offer is more humanitarian outlets for this population that crosses through that area.”

The Colombian news site Cambio looked at the logistical, human rights, and practical obstacles that would stand in the way of “shutting down” the Darién.

The Ecuadorian daily Primicias reported on the increasing number of northbound Ecuadorian citizens who are avoiding the Darién Gap by flying to El Salvador, which does not require visas of visiting Ecuadorians. “Between January and April 2024, 43,408 travelers have left Ecuador [for El Salvador] and 4,112 have returned.” Some are subject to bribery shakedowns and mistreatment by Salvadoran and other corrupt Central American officials.

On the Right

Daily Border Links: May 24, 2024

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Developments

The Democratic-majority Senate held a “test vote” yesterday on the Border Act, a series of border security and migration measures that resulted from bipartisan negotiations between November and February. Those measures included a provision that would cut off protection-seeking migrants’ access to asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border, Title 42-style, when daily migrant encounters exceed an average of 4,000 (discretionary asylum shutdown) or 5,000 (mandatory asylum shutdown).

The bill needed 60 votes to proceed to open debate and an eventual vote; it failed by a 43-50 margin, with all but 1 Republican voting “no,” along with 6 Democrats (or Democratic-caucusing independents). Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) called it “a sad day for the Senate, a sad day for America.”

The Border Act was identical to legislation that failed to clear a procedural vote in the Senate on February 7, by a 49-50 margin, when—in response to Republican demands—it was attached to Ukraine and Israel aid.

Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski was the only GOP senator to vote for the bill yesterday; three other Republicans changed their vote to “no.” Two Democrats changed their votes from “yea” to “nay,” as did Democratic-caucusing independent Kyrsten Sinema (Arizona), who helped draft the original February compromise.

Voted contrary to party/caucus majority (7):

Democrats (voted “Nay”) (4):

– Cory Booker (NJ)
– Laphonza Butler (CA)
– Ed Markey (MA)
– Alex Padilla (CA)

Democrat-caucusing Independents (voted “Nay”) (2):

– Bernie Sanders (VT)
– Kyrsten Sinema (AZ)

Republicans (voted “Yea”) (1):

– Lisa Murkowski (AK)
From “Yea” in February to “Nay” in May (6):

Democrats (2):

– Cory Booker (NJ)
– Laphonza Butler (CA)

Democrat-caucusing Independents (1):

– Kyrsten Sinema (AZ)

Republicans (3):

– Susan Collins (ME)
– James Lankford (OK)
– Mitt Romney (UT)  

CBS News reported that during the first 21 days of May, Border Patrol has apprehended an average of just 3,700 migrants per day. If that pace continues through the end of the month, May 2024 would be the third-lightest month for migration at the border of the Biden administration’s forty months in office.

A continuing crackdown in Mexico is a key cause for what has been about a 54 percent drop in migration since the record-setting month of December 2023. “Mexican officials have pledged to help keep encounters at the United States’ southern border below 4,000 a day. But that will depend on whether the country has the money to keep up enforcement,” the Economist reported.

4,281 Border Patrol agents left the agency between October 2020 and April 2024, an annual attrition rate of about 6 percent, according to data obtained through the Freedom of Information Act by Anna Giaritelli of the conservative Washington Examiner. The article cites unnamed agents blaming the Biden administration for low morale; many say morale is low because they cannot detain many apprehended migrants.

As Border Patrol underwent a surge of hiring in the years after September 11, 2001, a large number of agents are completing 20 years on the force and eligible for retirement, Giaritelli notes.

Texas’s state Department of Public Safety released aerial video recorded several miles inside New Mexico, near the Santa Teresa Port of Entry, showing people throwing sand and a water bottle at Border Patrol agents seeking to apprehend migrants at the border wall.

Analyses and Feature Stories

The Texas Observer and the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting published an in-depth investigation of vigilante groups’ and militias’ activities along the border. The piece highlighted these groups’ illegal actions, their relationships with law enforcement including some media-friendly right-wing sheriffs and some Border Patrol agents, and the dangers they pose to migrants and the rule of law.

An analysis by Christian Paz at Vox cited politicians’ rhetoric, the economy, and concerns about “chaos” as key reasons for a drop in support for immigration in U.S. public opinion.

The U.S.-Mexico border region is “not a political football or plaything to be bandied about. It’s not the stick to whatever carrot was dangled before the immigrant rights movement,” wrote Marisa Limón Garza of El Paso’s Las Américas Immigrant Advocacy Center.

Weekly U.S.-Mexico Border Update: May 24, 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.

Due to an extended period of staff travel and commitments, we will produce Weekly Border Updates irregularly for the next two and a half months. We will resume a regular weekly schedule on July 26.

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:

For the second time this year, the U.S. Senate’s Democratic majority sought to bring to a vote a package of border legislation that would, among other provisions, implement Title 42-style suspensions of the right to seek asylum at the border when the number of migrants at the border exceeds certain thresholds. The “Border Act” failed by a 43-50 vote in the face of opposition from some Democrats uncomfortable with the asylum suspension, and nearly all Republicans, who argued that it was not aggressive enough. Media are reporting that the Biden administration plans to issue an executive order in June to enable a similar asylum “shutdown” mechanism at the border.

Although May is normally a peak month for migration, the daily average of Border Patrol migrant apprehensions at the U.S.-Mexico border had dropped to 3,700 so far in May, one of the lowest points of the entire Biden administration. Weekly data indicate that even border sectors that had seen migration increases in the first months of the year, like Tucson, Arizona and San Diego, California, are now experiencing reductions.

Migrants allege that Texas National Guard personnel beat a Honduran migrant so badly that he later died on the Rio Grande riverbank in Ciudad Juárez. Arizona, not Texas, has seen the sharpest migration declines in 2024 despite Gov. Abbott’s claims that his policies have shifted migrants westward. Those policies,some of which Pope Francis called “madness,” have included striking levels of racial profiling, according to an ACLU Texas report. State authorities’ razor wire in Eagle Pass has caused “an unusually high number” of hospitalizations in Eagle Pass, “including young children,” USA Today reported.

THE FULL UPDATE:

Read More

Daily Border Links: May 23, 2024

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Daily Border Links are following a sporadic publication schedule between May 3 and July 19. Regular daily updates will return on July 22.

Developments

Today the Democratic-majority Senate will consider the Border Act, a series of border security and migration measures that resulted from bipartisan negotiations between November and February. The most controversial of these is a provision that would cut off protection-seeking migrants’ access to asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border, Title 42-style, when daily migrant encounters exceed an average of 4,000 (discretionary asylum shutdown) or 5,000 (mandatory asylum shutdown).

The Border Act is identical to legislation that failed to clear a procedural vote in the Senate on February 7, when—in response to Republican demands—it was attached to Ukraine and Israel aid (which ultimately passed separately in April). At the time, nearly all Republicans, led by Donald Trump, opposed it, arguing that it was not aggressive enough against migration at the border.

Republican opposition is similarly certain this time, and it appears that fewer Democrats may vote for the bill today than in February, since Ukraine aid is no longer at stake. Still, the Biden administration and Senate Democratic leaders are viewing this defeat as good 2024 electoral strategy: they believe that it undermines Republican arguments that Democrats are insufficiently aggressive about border security, and that it reveals Republicans to be uncooperative.

Still, the result will be that for the second time in four months, most Senate Democrats will go on the record as supporting a historic rollback of threatened people’s right to seek asylum on U.S. soil: a right that emerged in the years after World War II and was cemented into U.S. law in 1980.

Adding to a Politico report from last Friday, NBC News reported today that the Biden administration plans to introduce an executive order in June enabling an asylum “shutdown” similar to that foreseen in the “Border Act.”

The report notes that this legally dubious measure would require much cooperation from Mexico’s government, which would have to accept a large number of non-Mexican migrants deported back across the border after being refused asylum. (This number would greatly exceed ICE’s capacity to deport people back to their often distant countries by air.) Administration officials are “in talks with Mexican leaders to get their crucial buy-in before proceeding” with the executive order, NBC noted.

The chief of Border Patrol’s San Diego Sector reported that agents there apprehended 6,157 migrants during the week of May 15-21. That represents a 39 percent drop in migration over the past 3 weeks in San Diego, which led all 9 of Border Patrol’s U.S.-Mexico border sectors in apprehensions in April. It is possible that San Diego may have dropped from the number-one spot among border sectors; available data, however, do not yet show migration increasing elsewhere along the border.

CBP reported seizing 11,469 pounds of methamphetamine at the Otay Mesa port of entry near San Diego on Monday. As the agency reported seizing 93,881 pounds of the drug during the first 7 months of fiscal 2024, this single seizure would increase CBP’s yearly meth haul by 12 percent.

As Mexico continues stepped-up efforts to make it more difficult for migrants to access the U.S.-Mexico border, Border Report reported that a “caravan” of about 1,000-1,200 migrants arrived in Puebla, southeast of Mexico City, while smaller groupings have been departing Mexico’s southern border-zone city of Tapachula, Chiapas. (Puebla is nearly 600 miles south of the nearest U.S.-Mexico border crossing.)

Analyses and Feature Stories

The Texas state government’s “Operation Lone Star” has spent more than $11.2 billion on a border crackdown that has racially profiled people (96 percent of those arrested have been of Hispanic origin) and principally ended up charging “people who pose no threat to public safety” for misdemeanor offenses, according to a new report from the ACLU of Texas.

A column from Migration Policy Institute President Andrew Selee noted that the early May regional migration summit in Guatemala highlighted the need for greater cooperation and coordination of nations’ migration policies at a time of increased flows.

On the Right

The Biden Administration’s Rush to Curtail Asylum at the Border Doesn’t Even Make Sense as a Campaign Strategy

(I think I wrote this in a way to make clear that I don’t want the Biden administration, under any circumstances, to harm asylum seekers’ right to due process and protection at the U.S.-Mexico border. Instead of appealing to morality, however, this post instead emphasizes cold, strategic calculation. Its tone errs on the side of cynicism.)

Imagine that you’re a political operative in the Biden administration or at the Biden campaign. You believe that the stakes are as high as they could be in 2024, as your insurrection-backing, authoritarian-trending, ethically challenged opponent enjoys a slight lead in most polls.

You want the migration situation at the U.S.-Mexico border to be as far off the national radar as possible. That means no chaotic images of mass migrant arrivals seeping into any “mainstream” media outlets (that is, all media to the left of Rupert Murdoch’s properties). No screaming “border crisis” headlines, no big-city mayors going off-message.

You know there’s no way to “solve” the broken U.S. border management, immigration, and asylum systems in the five-plus months that remain until Election Day. You also know that any policy change that toughens conditions for migrants at the border usually brings a short-term reduction in their numbers, even if it doesn’t last for very long. (We call this “wait and see mode”: migrants and smugglers hold back for a while to see what the new policy’s consequences will be, and then numbers recover.)

With others in the presidential brain trust, you have been preparing a measure that would refuse asylum access to people at the border, moving to deport them quickly. This measure would get triggered not by asylum seekers’ protection needs, but by how busy the border happens to be. It would shut down the right to asylum whenever the number of migrants arriving at the border exceeds a certain daily average.

That measure appears in legislation that failed in the Senate in February, and that is being reintroduced—and likely to fail again—this week. An asylum “shutdown” is also likely to be at the heart of a legally dubious executive order that the White House is getting ready to issue.

Perhaps you lament rolling back gravely threatened people’s right to petition for asylum on U.S. soil. (That’s a right that emerged after World War II, has been a U.S. international law commitment since 1968, and has been part of U.S. law since 1980.) You know you’re watering down this right, turning the humanitarian clock backward, and perhaps condemning thousands to possible death, torture, or imprisonment.

But perhaps you justify that, somehow, by telling yourself that you’re “saving democracy.” By pushing the migration numbers down for a few months, you reduce the salience of the border issue, one of the Trump campaign’s main themes, thus weakening the former president’s prospects for a re-election that could be catastrophic for the American experiment.

But then, so far this year, something unexpected has happened: migration at the border has declined even without harming asylum. The number of Border Patrol apprehensions lately is half of what it was during the record-setting month of December 2023. There has been no normal springtime increase. March was less than February, April was less than March, and the number of new arrivals seems to be dropping, too, in May.

The main reason appears to be a migration crackdown inside Mexico. Mexican authorities report stopping about 120,000 people per month, way more than they ever had before. (Mexico is also in the midst of a presidential election, with voting on June 2, a week from Sunday.)

This is causing enormous hardship for people stranded in Mexico, but as a hard-boiled political operative, that doesn’t concern you. What counts is that migrants are solidly in “wait and see mode” for now. Your campaign is enjoying a relative lull in media coverage and public consciousness of the border situation.

Maybe you won’t view it as politically necessary to eviscerate the right to asylum after all. Or, at least, not until cracks begin to show in the virtual wall that Mexico has built. No cracks are yet visible: May numbers are dropping at the U.S.-Mexico border, and also further south in the Darién Gap.

Even by your amoral political calculations, then, it makes no sense to drop an asylum-curtailing executive order right now. Do it too soon, and migrants’ “wait and see” period could fade before November, risking sharp migration increases at the border in the weeks and months leading up to Election Day.

If you share this view, though, then you’re not getting through to your colleagues. According to Politico, the White House is likely to drop the executive order in June.

A June announcement would likely come after Mexico’s election on June 2, half a dozen people familiar with the timeline told West Wing Playbook. It would also allow the White House to roll out the policy before election season really heats up and before the conventions later this summer. The current timeline will also put the president on track to announce the executive action before his debate with Trump at the end of the month.

That makes no sense. If your goal is to keep migration down before Election Day, here is a likely scenario for how this might play out—and it’s not what you’d want:

  • The June announcement of an executive order causes migration to drop further from levels that, apparently due to Mexico’s crackdown, were already among the lowest of the Biden administration.
  • The effect is that migration remains low throughout the summer.
  • But soon enough, migrants and smugglers discern that many asylum seekers can still be released into the U.S. interior. For instance:
    • So far this fiscal year, one-third of migrants apprehended by Border Patrol came from countries that (a) are not in Mexico and Central America, and (b) are not Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, or Venezuela, the four states whose citizens Mexico has agreed to accept as deportees under the Biden administration’s post-Title 42 “asylum ban” rule.
    • Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) runs about 30 deportation flights per month to those countries, which means ICE’s aerial deportation capacity there is perhaps 4,000 people per month. But about 55,000 people per month from those countries have entered Border Patrol custody this year. These countries’ citizens’ probability of removal is quite slim, even with the executive order in place.
  • As has happened with so many previous short-term policy changes—most prominently Title 42—migration levels start rising, as the “wait and see” period eases. This could happen by early fall, just in time for the most intense period of the election campaign.

That’s why the possibility of a June executive order is perplexing, even from a cold, amoral, ends-justify-the-means political operative’s perspective. Why drop a nuclear bomb on the right to asylum when the migration numbers are already down, and when the effect on border arrivals is not likely to last long?

(My main problem with this piece’s argument is that it appears to green-light issuing an asylum-eviscerating executive order not in June, but later in the election cycle, should an increase in migration occur at that point. The only response is a grim one: if migrant arrivals do indeed start moving upward in the summer or early fall, a White House crackdown would be inevitable. The administration would be certain to take a drastic step to knock the numbers down ahead of Election Day.

In that miserable scenario, it would at least be less awful to see the administration drop its “asylum shutdown” executive order—which until then had been sitting, unreleased, on a White House hard drive—instead of adopting some new, even more harmful escalation on top of an executive order in place since June.)

Daily Border Links: May 22, 2024

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Developments

Border Patrol recorded about 3,000 migrant apprehensions on May 20, according to data obtained by CBS News. No full month of the Biden administration—not even February 2021—has recorded a daily average as low as that.

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told reporters that “the drop stems from several factors, including the administration’s efforts to expand legal migration channels and increase deportations of those who enter illegally, as well as more immigration enforcement by Mexico.” This appears to acknowledge that Mexico has been accepting a larger number of deportations of Cuban, Haitian, Nicaraguan, and Venezuelan citizens into its territory under the Biden administration’s post-Title 42 “asylum ban” rule.

As the Senate majority Democratic leadership seeks to bring the Border Act to a vote this week, with new restrictions on access to asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border, it’s increasingly possible that the bill might get fewer votes than it did in February, when a similar measure attached to Ukraine and Israel aid failed in the face of Republican opposition.

All but five Senate Democrats voted for the bill in February, but the number of defections could be larger this time since Ukraine aid is not at stake—that aid package passed separately in April.

  • Sen. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey), who voted for the bill in February, declared his opposition.
  • A statement from leadership of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus warned that “if this bill passes, it will set back real comprehensive immigration reform by years.”
  • Sen. James Lankford (R-Oklahoma), the lead Republican in November-February negotiations that appeared to have led to a bipartisan deal on the legislation, said that he will vote “no” this time, changing his vote from February. The Border Act, Lankford told CNN, “is no longer a bill, now it’s a prop.”
  • Moderate Republican senators who voted for the bill in February (Susan Collins of Maine, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mitt Romney of Utah) are sounding unenthusiastic about voting for it this time, though they still might do so.

Either way, the bill is certain to fail to get the 60 votes that it needs, under Senate rules, to proceed to debate and a vote on passage.

Analyses and Feature Stories

The Guardian reported San Diego-area aid workers’ struggle to help newly arrived asylum seekers navigate the complicated U.S. system, and to provide supplies to people seeking to turn themselves in to Border Patrol in increasingly remote border areas. “The philanthropic funding, I think due to a lot of the anti-immigrant rhetoric coming from both sides of the aisle, has really dried up,” said Erika Pinheiro, director of local aid and advocacy group Al Otro Lado.

As the House Homeland Security Committee holds a hearing today on the use of AI for border and other domestic security missions, Faiza Patel and Spencer Reynolds of the Brennan Center for Justice issued policy recommendations to break DHS’s reliance on “unproven programs that rely on algorithms and risk the rights of the tens of millions of Americans.”

The Texas Observer profiled Laredo environmental advocate Tricia Cortez, who has led forceful local opposition to federal and state attempts to build border walls in and near her city.

“There have been an unusually high number of migrants hospitalized, including young children, in Eagle Pass after coming into contact with the razor wire” that Texas state authorities have laid down along the Rio Grande, noted a USA Today report from the mid-Texas border city.

Daily Border Links: May 21, 2024

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Developments

The White House and Senate majority Democratic leadership remain determined to bring the Border Act to a vote this week.

Among its many provisions, this bill includes a temporary mechanism that would shut down access to asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border when daily migrant encounters exceed 4,000 per day (discretionary) or 5,000 per day (mandatory). If passed, this would be a historic rollback of threatened individuals’ half-century-old right to petition for asylum on U.S. soil.

Nonetheless, the White House issued a statement of “strong support” for the bill, and President Joe Biden called Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) and House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana) to urge them to support the bill.

Republicans, however, appear poised to block the Border Act in the Senate, where it needs 60 senators to agree to proceed to debate and a vote. Nearly identical legislation, attached to Ukraine and Israel aid, failed to clear this hurdle in the Senate on February 7.

Republicans contend that the bill is not restrictive enough, and are likely unwilling to hand Biden a legislative win on the border-migration issue in an election year. Democrats appear to be calculating that even a legislative loss helps shield them from campaign-season accusations of being insufficiently “aggressive” at the border.

Asked by CBS News about the state of Texas’s legal attacks on Annunciation House, a Catholic migrant shelter in El Paso, Pope Francis replied: “That is madness. Sheer madness. To close the border and leave them there, that is madness. The migrant has to be received. Thereafter you see how you are going to deal with him. Maybe you have to send him back, I don’t know, but each case ought to be considered humanely. Right?”

We’ve heard no new updates on local media reports citing allegations that members of the Texas National Guard severely beat a Honduran migrant on May 17 and pushed him across the borderline from El Paso to Ciudad Juárez, where he died of his injuries on the riverbank.

Analyses and Feature Stories

A UNHCR factsheet noted that 2024 financial requirements for integrating Venezuelan migrants in Latin American countries are only 15 percent fulfilled, increasing the likelihood that some may fail to integrate and move on to the United States.

On the Right

Texas Gets No Credit for 2024’s Drop in Migration

Of Joe Biden’s 39 full months in office, 2024 so far has seen the months with the third, fourth, eighth, and ninth fewest migrants apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border. April was fourth-fewest.

This was unexpected, since it immediately followed some of the Biden administration’s heaviest months for migration, including the record-setting December 2023. The drop appears to owe to a sustained crackdown carried out by Mexico’s government, with migration agents, national guardsmen, and other security forces blocking migrants’ northward progress.

The governor of Texas, Greg Abbott (R), has been claiming that his state government’s border crackdown reduced migration there and pushed it to states further west. That’s not what the data show.

Since record-setting December, and also since migration dropped in January, Arizona—not Texas—has seen the sharpest percentage drop in migration. Arizona has a Democratic governor, and its state government is not carrying out a severe deterrent policy like Abbott’s $10 billion-plus “Operation Lone Star.” Yet Arizona’s migration reduction is similar. So Texas doesn’t get the credit.

We can zoom in further to look at what has happened to migration in each of Border Patrol’s nine U.S.-Mexico border sectors.

Viewed this way, one of Texas’s five sectors did see the sharpest drop in migration: Del Rio, in mid-Texas, fell 86 percent from December to April; 39 percent from January to April. It is the only Texas sector to have decreased more sharply than the border-wide average.

But Tucson, Arizona—Border Patrol’s busiest sector between July 2023 and March 2024—fell almost as steeply as Del Rio (61% since December and 38% since January).

And after a December-January drop, all other Texas sectors are increasing.

Del Rio’s migration decline was led by super-sharp drops in arrivals from Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua, three nationalities (along with Haiti) whose citizens the Mexican government allows the Biden administration to deport into Mexico under its May 2023 post-Title 42 “asylum ban” rule.

Deportation into Mexico without allowing a chance to seek asylum is almost certainly illegal: a federal judge already struck this part of the rule down (it remains in place pending appeal). It’s possible that this practice—more than Texas’s concertina wire, buoys, and soldiers—may have affected the choices these nationalities’ migrants made in Del Rio since January.

Border-wide between January and April, for every Cuban, Haitian, Nicaraguan, or Venezuelan migrant who crossed the border irregularly (43,040), more than five instead arrived via legal channels: either the “CBP One” app (about 120,000) to make appointments at ports of entry, or the Biden administration’s humanitarian parole program (about 108,000) for these nationalities.

In Tucson, no nationalities declined as steeply as did Venezuelans, Nicaraguans, and Cubans in Del Rio. But the drop has happened across the board, with only modest increases in apprehensions of Colombians and Peruvians.

From what we know of the month of May so far, migration along the border could be declining even further. Twitter reports from the San Diego and Tucson Border Patrol sector chiefs have showed both regions declining over the past two weeks. The El Paso municipal government’s “migrant crisis” dashboard is also showing flat, even slightly reduced, numbers of encounters there.

Daily Border Links: May 20, 2024

Daily Border Links are following a sporadic publication schedule between May 3 and July 19. Regular daily updates will return on July 22.

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Developments

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) confirmed that the body’s Democratic majority intends to bring the “Border Act” to a vote this week. The legislation incorporates provisions of a bill that failed in the Senate in early February after months of negotiations between Democrats and Republicans.

Of its many provisions, the most controversial is a mechanism that would shut down access to asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border if daily migrant encounters exceed 4,000 or 5,000 per day.

This provision’s inclusion in the earlier bill, which also included Ukraine and Israel aid, was a large concession for Democrats, but Republicans still rejected it, echoing Donald Trump’s argument that it did not go far enough.

If the Border Act goes to a vote this week, it is unclear whether any Republicans will support it. But it would be the second time in three months that Senate Democrats go on the record supporting a historic rollback of threatened migrants’ right to seek asylum in the United States.

The White House and some leading Senate Democrats view the bill as a means to take the border issue away from Republicans during the election year by appearing “aggressive.” However, migrants’ rights advocates are urging Senate leaders not to take this step because of its potential for harm.

Local media are reporting that a Honduran migrant died just south of the borderline between El Paso and Ciudad Juárez after being severely beaten. Other migrants allege that the victim’s assailants were members of the Texas National Guard, who prevented them from crossing to the U.S. side to turn themselves in to U.S. federal authorities.

If accurate, the incident would be the first time in decades that a U.S. soldier purposefully killed a civilian on U.S. soil.

After U.S. authorities sent another deportation flight to Haiti on May 16, UNHCR’s U.S. office urged them to refrain from doing that again while the Caribbean nation’s public security emergency persists.

Despite concerns about the Salvadoran security forces’ human rights record and democratic backsliding, the U.S. government has granted them drone equipment valued at $4.5 million, which “will be employed along the border regions to reinforce El Salvador’s security against illegal smuggling and migrant crossings,” EFE reported, citing a U.S. embassy statement. The recipient unit is the armed forces’ Sumpul Task Force, a unit that focuses primarily on borders.

Of the nine sectors into which Border Patrol divides the U.S.-Mexico border, the two that have seen the most migration since January are Tucson, Arizona and San Diego, California. Both sectors have seen two weeks of declining migrant encounters, according to Twitter posts from their chiefs.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has been claiming that his state government’s border crackdown has reduced migration there and pushed it to states further west. In fact, though, Arizona—not Texas—has seen the steepest declines in migration since the record-setting month of December, according to data released last week by Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Migrant encounters have in fact risen 5 percent in Texas since January as they declined 30 percent in Arizona.

“Historically, this sector had been number one in irregular migrants,” Andres Garcia, a Border Patrol spokesman in the agency’s Rio Grande Valley sector in south Texas, told a gathering of Latin American journalists. “Now we are down to number four. What is happening? It doesn’t depend on us, it depends on the ‘logistics’ on the Mexican side. I’m talking about the criminal organizations that move this traffic through other areas of the border.”

The presidents of Mexico and Guatemala met in the border-zone city of Tapachula, Chiapas, on May 17. Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Bernardo Arévalo agreed to deepen collaboration on border and migration management and to improve official border crossing infrastructure.

The director of Panama’s migration agency, Samira Gozaine, told the Associated Press that high costs and coordination challenges would make it impossible for incoming President-Elect José Raúl Mulino to carry out his campaign pledge to deport migrants passing through the treacherous Darién Gap region.

CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility is investigating whether top Border Patrol officials, including Chief Jason Owens and Rio Grande Valley Sector Chief Gloria Chavez, properly disclosed their contacts with Eduardo Garza, owner of a prominent Laredo-based customs brokerage company.

NBC News broke the story, adding to an earlier report that “Owens and Chavez are already under investigation by CBP’s Office of Professional Responsibility for their contacts with [tequila maker Francisco Javier] González, who wanted to make a Border Patrol-branded tequila to celebrate the agency’s 100th anniversary this month.”

Analyses and Feature Stories

Since 2014, U.S. immigration courts have heard 1,047,134 asylum cases, and granted asylum or other deportation relief in 685,956 of them (66%), according to Syracuse University’s TRAC Immigration data project.

Of the more than 500,000 Nicaraguan people who have migrated to the United States since a 2018 crackdown on dissent, many have not applied for asylum, leaving their documented status uncertain, the Inter-American Dialogue’s Manuel Orozco told the independent media outlet Confidencial.

Brave New World

I keep a little webpage that generates tables of data about migration at the U.S.-Mexico border, using CBP’s regularly updated dataset.

For weeks, I’ve wanted to have the ability to sort the tables by clicking on their column headers. It seemed like a big job, though, especially figuring out how to keep the columns’ totals at the bottom, not included in the sort.

This evening, though, I thought to ask ChatGPT—and it gave me exactly what I wanted, with only a couple of dozen lines of code. Here’s what the tables can do now:

Animated GIF of the table being resorted, in descending and ascending order, when column headers are clicked.

The whole process took less than 20 minutes: two queries and me copy-pasting the code into the page. It works flawlessly, which is very cool, and perhaps a bit creepy.

Try it out here.

Weekly U.S.-Mexico Border Update: May 3, 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.

Due to an extended period of staff travel and commitments, we will produce Weekly Border Updates irregularly for the next two and a half months. We cannot publish Updates during the next two weeks; sporadic posting will begin in late May. We will resume a regular weekly schedule on July 26.

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THIS WEEK IN BRIEF:

Preliminary numbers published by CBS News and the Washington Post indicate that Border Patrol agents apprehended 129,000 or 130,000 migrants in April, a slight decline from February and March. U.S. officials continue to credit Mexican efforts to block migrants, which were the subject of a phone conversation between Presidents Biden and López Obrador. Migration through Panama’s Darién Gap also appears to have declined in April.

With fiscal year 2024 half over, CBP’s border drug seizure data points to notable declines in opioids, including the first-ever drop in fentanyl seizures. Cocaine and methamphetamine are increasing compared to 2023, while seizures of cannabis—which decreased precipitously after U.S. states started regulating its use—remain at a low level. Except for cannabis, at least 82 percent of border drug seizures occur at land-border ports of entry.

Human Rights Watch published a report on how the CBP One app denies access to asylum through “digital metering” at the U.S.-Mexico border. ProPublica and the Texas Tribune examined the relationship between U.S. border policies, including encouraging Mexico to interdict migrants, and tragedies like the March 2023 detention facility fire that killed 40 people in Ciudad Juárez. A consortium of journalists published a series on how organized crime, with corrupt officials’ collusion, transports migrants across Mexico in tractor-trailer containers.

THE FULL UPDATE:

Read More

Daily Border Links: May 2, 2024

Due to an extended period of staff travel and commitments, we are producing “Daily Border Links” posts less regularly between May 3 and July 19. We will be unable to post Daily Border Links at all between May 3 and May 17. Following this period, Daily Border Links will again be “daily,” with minor interruptions, between July 22 and the end of the year.

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Developments

The chief of Border Patrol’s San Diego Sector—the westernmost of the agency’s nine U.S.-Mexico border sectors—reported that agents there apprehended 10,023 migrants during the week of April 24-30. That cements San Diego’s status as the border’s busiest sector, a position it has not held since the late 1990s.

Border Patrol agents had already been making asylum seekers wait for hours or days in the open air at the sector’s California borderline before being able to process them. Now, the Washington Examiner’s Anna Giaritelli reported based on a leaked internal document, some migrants are hiking into rural California seeking to turn themselves in directly to Border Patrol stations or other law enforcement facilities.

A letter from 32 Democratic members of Congress urged House appropriators to avoid funding any federal government activities that involve collaboration with the Texas state government’s “Operation Lone Star.” The letter noted that “groups have documented repeated cases of Border Patrol turning over migrants to Texas state law enforcement instead of processing them for immigration purposes and ensuring they have access to legal protections for those fleeing violence and danger.”

In leaked audio of a phone conversation with Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham complained that Border Patrol is focusing resources on seizing state-licensed cannabis at interior checkpoints. “They’re saying that they’re worried about fentanyl. So they’re taking all of our cannabis,” the governor was heard saying. “For the love of God, put them at the border in Sunland Park [west of El Paso] where I don’t have a single Border Patrol agent, not one. And people pour over, and so I’m cranky with the secretary.”

Analyses and Feature Stories

A report from Human Rights Watch detailed how rules mandating use of the CBP One app restrict access to asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border, forcing many to wait for months in precarious and vulnerable conditions inside Mexico. The report included examples of people kidnapped for ransom by Mexican criminal groups while awaiting appointments. CBP personnel, it found, routinely turn asylum seekers away from ports of entry, even when they say they are in danger, because they did not use the app to make appointments. The report called on DHS to stop making the app’s use mandatory and instead increase processing capacity at border ports of entry, while increasing adjudication capacity to reduce asylum case backlogs.

“The Right Way,” a video produced by ProPublica and the Texas Tribune, profiled a Venezuelan family who had to wait for five months in Ciudad Juárez for a CBP One appointment, during the 2023 period when 40 migrants died in a detention center fire in the city.

An article by the Migration Policy Institute evaluated the Title 42 pandemic expulsions policy, which expired a year ago on May 11. Despite nearly 3 million expulsions, it found, migration at the U.S.-Mexico border reached new highs during the 38 months that the policy was in place. The report debunked claims that bringing back Title 42 or a similar “asylum shutdown” policy would deter or significantly reduce irregular migration: “While Title 42 offers a campaign-style slogan to shut down the border, the reality is that it never met that promise. And whatever outcomes it had came at the very sizeable cost of reneging on decades of U.S. commitments to guaranteeing humanitarian protection.”

On the Right

Daily Border Links: May 1, 2024

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Developments

Migration through the Darién Gap has declined in April, a surprising development confirmed by an April 29 press release from Panama’s migration authority. The release reported that 136,523 people had migrated through the treacherous region since January 1, a number that stood at 110,008 on March 31. That means the average daily traffic through the Darién was 947 people per day during the first 28 days of April. That is the second-lowest daily average of any month since February 2023.

Similarly, a look at Honduras’s statistics shows a daily average of 1,281 over the first 24 days of April, which is also down significantly from 1,473 in March and 1,701 in February.

The Huffington Post’s Roque Planas, who broke a story in February about Border Patrol agents’ frequent use of the slur “tonk” to describe migrants, published new revelations from the agency’s internal emails and text messages. The communications, from 2017 to 2020, reveal agents joking about beating or poisoning migrants. “Now you’re leaning left and sounding like a snowflake,” wrote one agent after a colleague used the word “migrant” to describe a migrant.

Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) top official, Troy Miller, testified Tuesday before the House of Representatives’ Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security. Questioning noted that Border Patrol’s apprehensions at the U.S.-Mexico border have fallen recently to about 3,900 per day; members of Congress credited Mexico’s stepped up migrant interdiction operations. Miller noted that he has “an individual, a senior advisor assigned to me that is solely dedicated to working with Mexico.”

A front-page Washington Post story cites U.S. officials’ belief that the Mexican government’s crackdown on migration is “the biggest factor” explaining 2024’s relative decline in migration at the border. Border Patrol’s migrant apprehensions in April totaled “about 130,000,” reporter Nick Miroff revealed; that would be a decline from 140,638 reported in February and 137,480 in March. “The next several weeks will be a key test” of Mexico’s interdiction operations, officials told Miroff.

The Associated Press reported, citing White House national security spokesman John Kirby, that U.S. cooperation with Mexico to curb migration will intensify in the areas of “prevent[ing] major modes of transportation from being used to facilitate illegal migration to the border, as well as the number of repatriation flights that would return migrants to their home countries.”

A release from the Government Accountability Project regretted that CBP’s testimony did not address whistleblowers’ complaints about contracting failures in the agency’s medical care system for migrants in custody, which they allege contributed to a child’s preventable death in Texas in May 2023. Rep. Lauren Underwood (D-Illinois) asked Miller about measures taken in the aftermath of 8-year-old Anadith Danay Reyes Alvarez’s in-custody death.

Two women were hospitalized and in need of “higher level care” after falling from the border wall in San Diego, local news reported. In San Diego, the report added, “This year so far, at least five migrants have died as a result of a border wall fall, while dozens more have been injured.”

Four U.S. senators—two Democrats and two Republicans—sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas voicing concerns, and requesting information about, CBP’s warrantless searches of travelers’ electronic devices at border crossings. The signers included Sen. Gary Peters (D-Michigan), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.

NOTUS reported that two Texas border counties’ police departments—Webb (Laredo) and Val Verde (Del Rio)—have purchased “TraffiCatch,” surveillance technology that tracks cellphone and Bluetooth signals and matches them to license plates. The counties used federal grant money (Operation Stonegarden) to buy the systems. “We are well beyond the idea that people have no privacy in public,” said Jennifer Granick of the ACLU. “Here, they’re installing this mass surveillance system. The public doesn’t know about it.”

Mexico has sent 600 troops to its northeastern border states of Tamaulipas and Nuevo León amid worsening violence between competing criminal groups.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) imposition of secondary state “safety inspections” at El Paso ports of entry—apparently a tactic to force Mexico to do more to block migrants—has snarled cargo traffic from Ciudad Juárez, “stopping the movement of 1,344 units in two days, representing 87.4 million dollars in merchandise,” according to a local freight transportation association.

Analyses and Feature Stories

A ProPublica and Texas Tribune investigation drew a straight line between years of U.S. border and migration policies—including “outsourcing” of enforcement to Mexico—and the March 2023 detention facility fire that killed 40 migrants in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. Nothing has changed about U.S. policy since; “If migrant deaths would lead to policy change, we would have changed policies a long time ago,” migration expert Stephanie Leutert told reporter Perla Trevizo.

Noticias Telemundo and the Centro Latinoamericano de Investigación Periodística (CLIP) published a third installment of a series, begun yesterday, documenting the increasing and dangerous use of tractor-trailers to transport migrants across Mexico. The illicit smuggling business has come more directly under big national cartels’ control and depends on widespread corruption among immigration and security forces. The report, relying on a database of more than 170 trucks that crashed, were detained, or were abandoned between 2018 and 2023, offers many examples.

  • Albinson Linares, Angela Cantador, Ronny Rojas, Traileres, Trampa para Migrantes (CLIP, Noticias Telemundo, Chiapas Paralelo (Chiapas), April 30, 2024).

Human Rights Watch released a report moments ago documenting rights violations resulting from CBP’s requirement that asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border use the CBP One app, combined with the Biden administration’s post-Title 42 asylum “transit ban” rule.

The New York Times dug into the story of a counterfeit flier, attributed to a migrant aid group in Matamoros, Mexico, that urged migrants to vote for Joe Biden. Though it was a forgery, the Heritage Foundation think tank and several Republican politicians shared it publicly.

Daily Border Links: April 30, 2024

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Developments

In an April 28 phone conversation, U.S. President Joe Biden and Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador discussed joint action to keep border crossing numbers down. “The two leaders ordered their national security teams to work together to immediately implement concrete measures to significantly reduce irregular border crossings while protecting human rights,” read a joint statement.

The statement did not specify what these new measures might be, but an unnamed senior Biden administration official told the New York Times that possibilities included efforts “to prevent railways, buses and airports from being used for illegal border crossing and more flights taking migrants back to their home countries.”

The call took place at Biden’s request. An ongoing Mexican crackdown is a widely cited reason for a drop in irregular migration since January at the U.S.-Mexico border. However, Border Patrol chiefs’ weekly updates have noted increases in migration to San Diego and Tucson, and recent days saw large numbers of migrants arriving, mostly by train, in Ciudad Juárez across from El Paso.

A collaborative effort among several Latin American journalistic outlets documented migrant smugglers’ dangerous but widespread use of tractor-trailers as a key vector for moving people through Mexico to the U.S. border.

In Chiapas, Mexico’s southernmost state, an organization called the Cartel de Chamula, whose members are largely Indigenous Tzotzil people and which has been aligned with the Sinaloa Cartel, dominates migrant smuggling operations, the reporters found. Chiapas was the scene of a December 2021 tractor-trailer accident that killed 56 of about 200 migrants whom smugglers had stuffed into its container. The report found that endemic corruption at all levels of government enables the smugglers’ operation.

The reporting project interviewed “Alberto,” a truck driver whom criminal groups have coerced into transporting migrants from Michoacán to Mexico’s northern border state of Tamaulipas, where the Gulf Cartel “is the one that transports migrants.” The migrants aboard pay steep fees—often about US$800—for their transport, which is facilitated by corrupt arrangements, including bribes to Mexican National Guardsmen and other officials.

The truck driver detailed how corrupt authorities allow his human cargo to pass through road checkpoints. The National Guard’s price, Alberto said, is “500 pesos per migrant” (about US$30) every time guardsmen stop the truck. If the National Migration Institute (INM) stops the truck because no payments were made in advance, Alberto added, the migration agents charge 1,000 pesos (US$60) per migrant.

The Texas state government’s aggressive “secondary inspections” of cargo trucks entering El Paso have increased truckers’ wait times in Ciudad Juárez from the usual one hour to eight hours, costing the industry about $32 million per day. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) uses these “safety” checks, which force truckers to undergo double inspections at border crossings—first federal, then state—“to pressure U.S. and Mexican officials to prevent mass illegal migration,” Border Report noted. CBP is responding by increasing hours of operation at nearby ports of entry.

New UNHCR reports estimated that more than 166,000 irregular migrants crossed into southeastern Honduras from Nicaragua during the first three months of 2024. Only about 20 percent of migrants did not register with the Honduran government, which is a required step for boarding buses across the country. At least 148,000 exited Honduras into Guatemala during the first quarter.

The number of people transiting Honduras is greater than that of people transiting the Darién Gap because many migrants are flying into Nicaragua, which has loose visa requirements for many nationalities.

A joint statement following an April 29 U.S.-Brazil migration dialogue praised Brazil’s “Operation Welcome,” which has documented and integrated over 500,000 Venezuelan migrants since 2018.

Following a mistrial last week after the jury could not agree on a verdict, prosecutors in Nogales, Arizona will not seek to retry George Alan Kelly, a rancher who fired his AK-47 at a group of migrants on his cattle ranch in January 2023, killing a 48-year-old Mexican man.

Analyses and Feature Stories

While migration and the border are top-tier issues for voters in the 2024 U.S. election campaign, “migration occupies a secondary place” on voters’ list of concerns ahead of Mexico’s June 2024 elections, columnist Olga Pellicer wrote at Mexico’s Proceso. As more migrants become stranded in Mexico, Pellicer noted, the danger of xenophobia rises, and the Mexican government’s lack of an institutional framework becomes more evident.

Daily Border Links: April 29, 2024

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Developments

Over 1,000 migrants arrived in Ciudad Juárez atop train cars, despite Mexico’s months-long operations to block northbound migration. Many headed to the Rio Grande to seek to turn themselves in to Border Patrol to seek asylum, but Texas state authorities have blocked most of them on the riverbank.

It is one of the largest mass arrivals of migrants at the border during a 2024 calendar year marked by a Mexican government crackdown that has made it more difficult for migrants to get across Mexico’s territory. “Some U.S. officials are attributing the surge to a concerted effort by transnational criminal organizations” in Mexico to move migrants northward, according to Border Report.

In response, Texas’s state National Guard has stocked up on less-lethal “pepperball” ammunition, while state police have stepped up “safety inspections” of cargo trucks crossing into El Paso. The state checkpoints begin shortly after trucks cross official ports of entry. This double inspection—federal, then state—is causing hours-long delays at border crossings into El Paso.

Migrants in Ciudad Juárez told EFE that they crossed to the U.S. side of the Rio Grande to ask U.S. authorities for asylum, but Texas state National Guard personnel aggressively pushed them back into Mexico.

The mostly Venezuelan migrants added that they fear Mexican organized crime more than Mexican migration authorities, but their fear of authorities mistreating them—or even handing them over to criminals—prevents them from asking for help.

Mexican authorities stopped a Ciudad Juárez-bound tractor trailer with 131 migrants inside. 108 were from Guatemala, 22 from Ecuador, and 1 was from El Salvador. Fourteen were unaccompanied children.

Someone on the Mexico side of the U.S.-Mexico border fired a weapon at an agent near San Elizario, in eastern El Paso county, on April 25. CBP has reported no injuries or other information about the incident.

USA Today covered Mexican forces’ strategy, intensified so far in 2024, of busing migrants away from the U.S. border zone and into the country’s interior, often Mexico’s far south. This, analysts told reporter Lauren Villagrán, has done more than Texas’s state crackdown to reduce recent migration into Texas. The Mexican government is relying less on international deportation or long-term detention.

Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said that he plans to meet with Guatemalan President Bernardo Arévalo at the end of May, probably near the two countries’ border. Migration will be among the topics of discussion between the outgoing Mexican president and the recently inaugurated Guatemalan leader.

Guatemala’s Attorney General’s Office raided the Guatemala City offices of Save the Children, apparently looking for evidence of abuse of migrant children. Prosecutors “claimed Save the Children and a number of other non-governmental groups could ‘be participating in child trafficking operations,’” the Associated Press reported.

Save the Children stated that its staff have done nothing wrong, and noted that the prosecutor’s office has made no specific allegations.

Political motivations, with U.S. links, are a likely factor. The secretary general of the Attorney General’s Office issued a video, distributed by Fox News, calling on Texas state Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) to aid his investigation. Paxton recently sought legal action against Annunciation House, an El Paso migrant shelter, but was rebuffed by a state judge.

In Guatemala, the attorney general is a separate branch of government, not part of the executive branch headed by President Arévalo. The current attorney-general, Consuelo Porras, has aggressively sought to prosecute anti-corruption judicial operators and journalists, is a frequent hindrance to Arévalo, and faces strict U.S. sanctions for links to corruption and anti-democratic behavior.

San Diego’s county supervisor said that Border Patrol agents in the border’s westernmost sector—rather suddenly the busiest part of the border—apprehended 2,000 people on April 23 alone. CBP has released more than 30,000 migrants onto the city’s streets since February, when a county-run reception center shut down for lack of funding.

In Colombia, a draft resolution appeared to indicate that the government was going to begin requiring Venezuelan citizens in the country to possess a passport. If that were to occur and Venezuelans faced such a barrier to documented status in Colombia, a U.S.-bound exodus through the Darién Gap would be likely. After an outcry, the Colombian government walked this back; President Gustavo Petro denied that a passport requirement was in the offing.

Legislation sponsored by Rep. Lou Correa (D-California) urges CBP to explore making greater use of artificial intelligence at the border.

Analyses and Feature Stories

An update from UNHCR broke down, by country, the 1.157 million refugees, asylum seekers, and internally displaced people currently in Mexico and Central America. This is about double the figure from 2020.

An article from the Migration Policy Institute recalled that the pandemic-era Title 42 expulsions policy did not reduce migration at the U.S.-Mexico border.

A report from the Center for Migration Studies calls for deep, long-term reforms to the U.S. immigration court system’s staffing and infrastructure, along with other reforms to the immigration system, to reduce the system’s backlog of more than 2.5 million cases. Because of that backlog, most asylum seekers released into the U.S. interior from the border can expect to remain in the immigration court system for years. A “BacklogPredictor” tool helps estimate future backlogs and resource needs based on different assumptions.

The New York Times reported on how portraying migration at the border as an “invasion,” which only recently was considered an extreme, marginal position, is now a staple of mainstream Republican politicians’ rhetoric.

The mistrial of George Kelly, an Arizona rancher who shot and killed a migrant on his property, is emblematic of the polarized, politicized, and complicated situation along the border today, explained an essay by Rachel Monroe at the New Yorker.

An Axios poll found half of U.S. respondents favoring mass deportations of undocumented migrants. On the other hand, 58 percent said they support expanding legal immigration pathways, and 46 percent favored protecting asylum seekers with “legitimate” cases.

Texas state “border czar” Mike Banks, a former career Border Patrol agent, told USA Today, “Over the next five years … we’re going to continue building tactical infrastructure. We’re going to continue building border wall. Right now, our current pace is about one mile a week. We’re going to put up things like the border buoy barriers.”

On the Right

Weekly U.S.-Mexico Border Update: April 26, 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:

Mexican security and migration forces’ stepped-up operations to interdict migrants, especially in the northern border state of Chihuahua, have been suppressing the number of migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border. However, these have come with human rights complaints, and reductions are unlikely to last long as large numbers of people continue to migrate across Mexico’s southern border.

The House of Representatives’ April 20 passage of a Ukraine-Israel-Taiwan aid bill formally ended Republican legislators’ monthslong effort to tie strict border and migration controls to any aid outlay. That effort had foundered after a negotiated deal in the Senate failed in February. House Republican leaders allowed consideration of a separate hardline border bill on April 20; it failed but attracted five votes from centrist Democrats.

Panama reported removing 864 migrants, much of them with U.S. assistance, since April 2023. Guatemala has expelled over 7,900 migrants from other countries into Honduras and El Salvador so far this year. And Mexico has deported over 7,500 Guatemalans back to their country since January.

An upgrade to a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) report includes a list of the top 100 nationalities of migrants whom Border Patrol has apprehended since 2014. The data reveal that the apprehended migrant population was 97 percent Mexican and Central American a decade ago, but only 52 percent Mexican and Central American today.

THE FULL UPDATE:

Read More

Daily Border Links: April 25, 2024

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Developments

The chief of Border Patrol’s San Diego, California sector reported that agents there apprehended migrants 9,513 times over the seven days ending April 23. That is a 6 percent increase over the previous week and a 36 percent increase over two weeks prior. For the first time since the late 1990s, San Diego is almost certainly the busiest of Border Patrol’s nine U.S.-Mexico border sectors.

Volunteers providing humanitarian aid to asylum seekers waiting in open-air sites along the California border say that numbers are increasing there; donors are encouraged to contribute needed items on an Amazon wishlist.

Five centrist Democrats who had voted last Saturday for a very strict Republican-led border bill issued a statement yesterday doubling down on their position. The Democrats called on President Biden to reinstate the “Remain in Mexico” policy and to begin Title 42-style expulsions of asylum seekers, while full-throatedly endorsing the Border Patrol union’s hardline stance on border security.

In Mexico’s northern border state of Chihuahua, national guardsmen detained 150 Central American migrants who were staying in a hotel in the state capital. In Ciudad Juárez—Chihuahua’s largest city, across from El Paso—guardsmen, immigration agents, and municipal police carried out an operation to prevent 400 migrants who had arrived atop a cargo train from reaching the borderline.

The Biden administration has paused court-ordered remediation of environmental damage caused by Trump-era border wall construction, citing litigation in a separate case involving the state of Texas. The Sierra Club, Southern Border Communities Coalition, and ACLU announced yesterday that they are seeking to intervene in the Texas case in order to restart remediation projects.

Analyses and Feature Stories

The National Immigration Forum and other centrist groups (Niskanen Center, Hispanic Leadership Fund, Mormon Women for Ethical Government, State Business Executives, Association of Equipment Manufacturers, Border Perspective) published a proposed “border security and management framework” document. It calls for creating a corps of asylum officers to adjudicate most protection claims at the border in less than two months, along with increased resources for U.S. border security agencies and drug interdiction technologies.

CalMatters reported on lengthening wait times at the San Ysidro port of entry south of San Diego, amid increased cross-border traffic and longstanding CBP Field Operations staffing and infrastructure deficiencies.

Wait times for cargo at the busy commercial port of entry in Laredo, Texas have also been worsening, though Mexican government software glitches seem to be much of the cause.

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Daily Border Links: April 24, 2024

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Developments

Mexican migration agents pulled 400 migrants off of a cargo train in rural Chihuahua, Mexico, leaving them stranded in the desert, the human rights organization Derechos Humanos Integrales en Acción (DHIA) denounced. The group included 150 children and 7 pregnant women. Mexico’s National Migration Institute (INM) stepped up its operations in Chihuahua, the northern border state that includes Ciudad Juárez, at the beginning of April.

Asylum seekers who do arrive in Ciudad Juárez are now seeking to turn themselves in to Border Patrol agents at Gate 40 along the El Paso border wall on the bank of the Rio Grande. This is east of Gate 36, where Texas state police and National Guard have set up a large presence, with several coils of razor wire, to prevent asylum seekers from approaching federal authorities.

A group of 141 migrants who had breached the Texas state barrier in El Paso on March 21 were indicted yesterday on misdemeanor rioting charges. The Texas state grand jury’s ruling came one day after a county judge had thrown out the charges, finding insufficient probable cause. The March 21 incident, showing migrants pushing past guardsmen to reach the border wall and Border Patrol agents, was caught on video and circulated widely on social media.

El Paso’s police have applied for a $2.8 million state grant to help it combat the Venezuelan-originated “Tren de Aragua” criminal organization. “We haven’t had contact with that gang (in criminal cases), but that’s not to say they are not here in El Paso,” a police spokesman told the El Paso Times.

So far this calendar year, Mexican authorities have deported 5,689 Guatemalan citizens by land and another 1,831 by air. U.S. authorities returned 22,887 Guatemalans.

A group of relatives of missing Central American migrants traveled to Tijuana to search for them. “It took more or less a year for them to add his file as a case for search in Mexico, because the communication from my country did not go through,” said the wife of a Guatemalan man whom she last heard from in Sonora in 2021.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said it met with Mexico’s National Search Commission to seek improved exchange of forensic information about migrants who have gone missing in Mexico and Central America, especially fingerprints.

The Biden administration released the 771-page text of a final rule to govern the treatment of unaccompanied migrant children in the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement.

Analyses and Feature Stories

A new data report from TRAC Immigration notes that U.S. immigration judges are ordering 50 percent more deportations now than in 2019, the peak year of the Trump administration. In the first half of fiscal year 2024, judges ordered 136,623 immigrants deported.

In 2019, 32 percent of migrants appearing in immigration court had attorneys; that has dropped to 15 percent this year.

38 percent of 2024’s rulings were asylum cases. Of those instances, only 21 percent were ordered removed; the rest received asylum or some other status allowing them to remain in the United States.

An explainer from the National Immigration Forum dug into existing efforts and pending proposals to have USCIS asylum officers—not immigration judges—adjudicate more asylum cases for migrants who arrive at the border.

The Border Chronicle’s Melissa del Bosque interviewed Zachary Mueller of America’s Voice about the controversial and possibly illegal activities of “Border 911,” a pro-Trump group whose members include former top officials of Border Patrol, CBP, and ICE.

Daily Border Links: April 23, 2024

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Developments

Panama’s government posted statistics showing that 110,008 people migrated through the Darién Gap during the first 3 months of 2024. That is 26 percent more migration than Panama measured during the first 3 months of 2023, a year in which 520,085 people ended up traveling through the Darién Gap.

22 percent of this year’s migrants were children. Of the adult population, 36 percent were women. 64 percent of this year’s total have been citizens of Venezuela, followed by Ecuador (8%), Haiti (7%), Colombia (6%), and China (6%).

The pace of migration has been unusually steady, averaging 1,161 migrants per day in January, 1,282 in February, and 1,188 in March. Last year, migration in the Darién jumped 55 percent from February to March.

Between January 1 and April 16, Guatemalan authorities expelled 7,735 mostly U.S.-bound migrants into Honduras and 177 into El Salvador. In this respect, the new government of Bernardo Arévalo has made no changes to its predecessors’ approach to in-transit migration. Of this year’s expulsions, 77 percent have been citizens of Venezuela. Other frequently expelled nationalities include Colombia (9%), Ecuador (6%), and Haiti (2%). Guatemala’s expulsions included 44 citizens of China and 18 citizens of Turkey.

Some of the migrants whom Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) paid to have flown to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts in September 2022 have been granted “U” visas, a status for victims of crimes that are currently being investigated or prosecuted, the Miami Herald reported. A U.S. district judge in Massachusetts also found recently that the private contractor Florida hired to run the flight, Vertol Systems, may have “participated in a scheme to recruit vulnerable individuals through deceit so they could unwillingly and publicly be used as a prop in an extremely divisive national debate,”

Eight dead bodies abandoned along a highway near Chihuahua, the capital of Mexico’s northern border state of the same name, may be related to turf battles between migrant smuggling organizations in the area, Border Report reported.

“Of Costa Rica’s 5.2 million inhabitants, one million are relatively recent migrants. Twenty percent of births are to Nicaraguan mothers and 20 percent of prisoners are of Nicaraguan origin,” said Costa Rica’s foreign minister, Arnoldo André Tinoco.

The independent Nicaraguan outlet Nicaragua Investiga reported on the two years of red tape and indifference that a family suffered as it tried to repatriate from Texas the remains of a young man who died of drowning in the Rio Grande in May 2022.

The jury was unable to agree on a verdict in the trial of Arizona rancher George Alan Kelly, who allegedly shot and killed Mexican migrant Gabriel Cuen-Buitimea on his property in January 2023. The judge in the case declared a mistrial.

Analyses and Feature Stories

Speaking to analysts about migration patterns, a National Public Radio piece concluded that Mexico’s ongoing efforts to block migration will not reduce arrivals at the U.S. border for long, as flows into Mexico from the south remain robust.

In a third in-depth report about U.S.-bound migration published in the past 10 days, the Honduran digital outlet ContraCorriente reported on the increasing diversity of nationalities of migrants taking the very risky journey through Mexico atop the La Bestia cargo train.

“The notion that there is a crisis caused by the border is fallacious,” economist James Gerber, author of the new book Border Economies: Cities Bridging the U.S.-Mexico Divide, told Sandra Dibble at Voice of San Diego. “There is a crisis in U.S. immigration policy, that’s the crisis. People are going to migrate and they’re going to migrate in bigger numbers over time because of the climate crisis. This is something that we need to learn how to manage better.”

Even immigration restrictionist groups avoid using the term “invasion” to describe migration—as many Republican politicians are doing—because it is “inaccurate and incendiary,” reported Rafael Bernal at The Hill.

“When we encounter someone fleeing starvation, political repression and threats to their life and liberty, we should see ourselves in them,” wrote Shmuly Yanklowitz, a rabbi who often works at the border in Arizona, in a Passover reflection published by the Chicago Tribune.

Daily Border Links: April 22, 2024

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Developments

Congressional Republicans’ effort to attach hardline border measures to Ukraine aid legislation formally ended on Saturday, when the House of Representatives approved a Ukraine and Israel aid bill with no border or migration content.

The GOP demand, issued last fall, spurred a months-long Senate negotiation process, yielding a deal that would have changed the law to, among other provisions, halt asylum access at the border when migration reached certain levels. That deal failed when Republican senators rejected it in early February.

In a gesture to border hardliners, House Republican leadership allowed a separate bill to come to a vote on Saturday that would have effectively shut down the right to seek asylum at the border. H.R. 3602, the “End the Border Catastrophe Act,” included most of the provisions of H.R. 2, a strict bill that the House passed in May 2023 without a single Democratic vote. Because it was rushed to the floor in suspension of the House’s rules, H.R. 3602 failed by a 215-199 vote on Saturday. Unlike H.R. 2, though, it got 5 Democratic “yes” votes.

Border Patrol’s San Diego, California Sector experienced a weekly jump in migrant apprehensions and now firmly leads the Tucson, Arizona Sector as the apparent busiest region of the U.S.-Mexico border. While both sectors saw increases last week, San Diego reported 8,959 apprehensions during April 10-16 (28 percent more than the previous week) and Tucson reported 7,500 during April 12-18 (12 percent more than the previous week).

An Albuquerque Journal report from New Mexico’s Cibola County Correctional Center noted an increase in the number of Venezuelan migrants being deported from the Center into Mexico.

Edixon Del Jesus Farias-Farias, a 26-year-old citizen of Venezuela and a detainee in an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention facility in Conroe, Texas, died on April 18. “An autopsy is pending to determine the official cause of death,” reads an ICE release.

Though licensed cannabis is now legal in New Mexico, Border Patrol continues to seize the drug, which remains illegal on the federal level, at the agency’s interior checkpoints in the state, the Associated Press reported. This “prompted a discussion this week” between Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

Analyses and Feature Stories

A greater share of this year’s reduced population of migrants is coming to the border in states west of Texas. The Texas Tribune examined Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) claims that his state government’s hardline border policies are causing the westward shift, concluding that the reasons “are much more complicated” and that the trend is probably temporary.

Gov. Abbott’s office reported busing 112,700 migrants to Democratic-governed cities since April 2022.

A significant cause of the border-wide decline is the Mexican government’s 2024 crackdown on migration transiting the country. However, “uneven enforcement and widespread corruption” ensure that Mexico rarely “blocks” migrants: its actions “make migrants’ journey north riskier, costlier, and slower,” Christine Murray reported at the Financial Times.

Despite rhetoric about terrorists potentially crossing the U.S.-Mexico border, “since 1975, the annual likelihood of an American being murdered in a foreigner-committed terrorist attack is about one in 4.5 million,” recalled the Cato Institute’s Alex Nowrasteh.

Ecuadorian migrants transiting Mexico who spoke to Agénce France Presse said that they were nervous about identifying themselves to Mexican authorities as citizens of Ecuador, two weeks after Ecuador’s government raided the Mexican embassy in Quito, triggering a breakdown in diplomatic relations.

While most of the thousands of migrants per week transiting Honduras pass through the country quickly, some need to stay and seek temporary work, medical assistance, and shelter, the Honduran online outlet ContraCorriente reported. While some formal shelters and humanitarian aid exist, many migrants rely on informal shelters provided by local citizens or stay in rented rooms in private homes.

“The next administration in Mexico will inherit an incomplete and deficient action plan to deal with migration” from Central America, wrote Brenda Estefan of IPADE Business School at Americas Quarterly, calling for a renewed and more collaborative focus on “root causes” of migration after President Andrés Manuel López Obrador leaves office at the end of the year.

Rep. Susan Wild (D-Pennsylvania) penned a column endorsing the Dignity Act, a bipartisan bill that includes border and migration provisions that reflect some priorities of border hardliners and some priorities of migrant rights defenders.

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