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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Migration

Daily Border Links: January 23, 2024

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Developments

In a brief 5-4 ruling, the Supreme Court sided with the Biden administration and granted the federal Border Patrol permission to cut through the spools of concertina wire that Texas’s state government has placed along dozens of miles of border along the Rio Grande. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Amy Coney Barrett sided with the high court’s three Democratic appointees.

In late October, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) had banned federal agents from cutting the razor-sharp wire, as they had been doing in order to access asylum seekers and people in distress along the riverbank. While a federal district court sided with the administration, the 5th Circuit had allowed Texas’s ban to remain in place while appeals proceeded, leading the Department of Justice to seek an emergency action from the Supreme Court. Texas’s appeal is ongoing, with arguments scheduled for February 7.

The January 22 Supreme Court ruling does not affect Texas’s January 10 banning of Border Patrol agents from a 50-acre riverfront park in Eagle Pass. Nor does it affect Texas’s placement of a string of buoys in the river in Eagle Pass, which remains while the 5th Circuit considers an appeal of its own earlier ruling ordering their removal.

“Border Patrol is not planning to use the order as a green light to remove the razor wire barriers if they do not present an immediate hazard,” a “senior agency official” told the Washington Post.

As of last August, Texas state police had treated 133 migrants for injuries caused by the concertina wire.

Since November, a small group of senators has been negotiating a compromise that might allow the Biden administration’s request for $110.5 billion in Ukraine and Israel aid, new border spending, and other priorities to move forward, in exchange for Republican demands for restrictions on asylum and perhaps on other migration pathways. Senators now say they are near agreement on what those restrictions will be, and that legislative language could emerge this week.

“Our work is largely done. The conversation has really moved over to Appropriations. So, there’s no reason why we couldn’t begin consideration this week,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut), the Democrats’ chief negotiator and the chairman of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee. “We are at the point of drafting and finalizing text.”

“It’s not going to be ready today, to be able to go out. Everybody’s got to have several days to be able to go through it. It’s gonna depend on final timing – it would be quite a push to be able to get it out this week,” said lead Senate negotiator James Lankford (R-Oklahoma).

The deal may include a Title 42-style authority to expel asylum seekers, regardless of protection needs, when daily migrant encounters exceed a certain number at the U.S.-Mexico border. It may also raise the standard of “credible fear” that asylum seekers must meet when placed in screening interviews with asylum officers, a process known as “expedited removal.” The agreement might also increase detention of asylum seekers pending adjudication of their cases.

It is not clear whether senators have resolved Republican demands for limits on the 70-year-old presidential authority to offer temporary “humanitarian parole” to some migrants. The Biden administration has paroled over 1 million migrants, including 422,000 people who came to ports of entry after securing appointments with the CBP One smartphone app; 340,000 citizens of Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela permitted to apply online; and 176,000 beneficiaries of the “Uniting for Ukraine” policy.

“The emerging Senate deal seeks to reduce parole numbers by tightening immigration enforcement and speeding up processing,” the New York Times reported. “There are some changes that will be made in parole that I think will get at the abuse and misuse of it,” said Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-South Dakota). CBS News reported that a compromise deal might exclude paroled people from applying for asylum, but official sources consulted by the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent denied that.

Another barrier to agreement is appropriations: if Republicans win new limits on asylum and other migration, implementing them will cost money, and legislative language will have to account for that.

If senators do reach a deal this week, “we’d expect the Senate to stay in session for as long as it takes to complete action on the measure,” wrote John Bresnahan at Punchbowl News. “Meaning through the weekend or whatever it takes for a final vote.”

Even if the Senate passes a Ukraine-Israel-border bill, it would then go to the House of Representatives, where the Republican majority, egged on by former president Donald Trump, may demand even stricter limits on migration.

At The Hill, Rafael Bernal highlighted the absence of Congressional Hispanic Caucus members from the Senate negotiations on restricting protection-seeking migration in exchange for Ukraine and other aid.

A statement from Ken Salazar, the U.S. ambassador to Mexico, revealed that the U.S. government repatriated migrants on 79 flights between January 1 and 21. The planes returned people to Guatemala (36 flights), Honduras (23), El Salvador (6), Colombia (3), Venezuela (3), Ecuador (2), Peru (2), Romania / India (1), Dominican Republic (1), Nicaragua (1), and Haiti (1).

Salazar’s statement credited Mexico with dismantling “at least 10 of the most prolific criminal organizations” engaged in migrant smuggling.

“On December 18 we had a pressure on the border of 12,498 migrants (per day) and we managed to reduce it to 6,751,” Mexico’s foreign minister, Alicia Bárcena, said at a presidential press conference on January 22.

Nine Democratic governors sent a letter to the White House and Congress calling for federal aid to help manage arrivals of migrants seeking refuge in their states.

Daily Border Links: January 22, 2024

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Developments

Several cabinet-level officials from the United States and Mexico met in Washington on January 19 “to follow up on migration commitments made on December 27.” Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Foreign Relations Secretary Alicia Bárcena, and other top officials “discussed the positive impact of efforts to increase migration controls on bus and train routes, crack down on criminal smuggling networks, and scale up repatriations for those who do not have a legal basis to remain in our countries,” according to a State Department readout. U.S. officials are giving Mexico’s actions much credit for January’s reduction in migrant encounters at the border.

Mexico’s Foreign Ministry announced that U.S. and Mexican representatives will soon pay a visit to Panama’s Darién Gap migration corridor. They will also meet soon to discuss migration with the newly inaugurated government in Guatemala.

Texas authorities recovered a body from the Rio Grande in Eagle Pass’s Shelby Park, the area where Texas’s state government has barred entry of Border Patrol agents. A woman and two children drowned in the area on January 12. “Caught in the middle” of the state-federal dispute in Eagle Pass “are residents of this mostly Mexican American town of 28,000 residents, some who say they feel helpless after the state seized their park,” reads an overview by Uriel García at the Texas Tribune.

Guatemalan police dispersed an attempted caravan of about 500 mostly Venezuelan and Honduran migrants who had crossed into Guatemalan territory on January 20. (As often happens, most of the migrants will instead re-enter through irregular border crossings and seek to avoid detection, often hiring smugglers or bribing officials to do so.)

In Mexico, a “caravan” that left the Mexico-Guatemala border zone at Christmas remains in the southern state of Oaxaca. About 1,400 participants are aiming to get to Mexico City on foot, as Mexico has prohibited vehicles from transporting them.

Migration has declined sharply in south Texas’s Rio Grande Valley, which from 2013 to 2021 was first in migrant encounters among Border Patrol’s nine U.S.-Mexico border sectors, the Washington Examiner reported. An increase in organized crime violence on the Mexican side of the border, in the conflictive state of Tamaulipas, may be a key reason for the reduction.

Currently, the busiest of the nine Border Patrol sectors is Tucson, Arizona. There, Sector Chief John Modlin tweeted that agents apprehended 11,900 migrants between January 12-18. That is a significant drop from 18,000-19,000 per week during the first 3 weeks of December 2023, but an increase over 9,200 apprehensions the week of January 5-11.

Apprehensions remain low in the El Paso Sector (far west Texas and New Mexico): 470 per day during the week of January 12-18, down from over 1,000 per day in December.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) and the ranking Democrat on the chamber’s Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) are part of a four-person delegation to the U.S.-Mexico border and to Mexico City. Rep. McCaul voiced “worry about the mental health of our Border Patrol. The suicide rate is going up. They don’t have the proper resources.”

President Biden told reporters on January 19 that the border is not secure: “I haven’t believed that for the last 10 years, and I’ve said it for the last 10 years. Give me the money.” In prepared remarks, he added, “I’m ready to solve the problem. I really am. Massive changes. And I mean it sincerely.”

A release from the Texas governor’s office broke down a total of 101,800 migrants placed on buses since April 2022, at state expense, to Washington, New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Denver, and Los Angeles.

Analyses and Feature Stories

A potential deal in the Senate for tighter asylum restrictions for Ukraine aid “is already wobbling, as House Speaker Mike Johnson faces intense pressure from Trump and his House allies to demand more sweeping concessions from Democrats and the White House,” read an Associated Press analysis. “This febrile atmosphere makes the chances of border reform—tricky even under a more productive Congress—look slim,” the Economist observed. “Plenty of Republicans will conclude that this is no bad thing.” A New York Times analysis noted, “Election-year politics is playing a big role.”

60 House of Representatives members in the New Democrat Coalition signed a letter to Speaker Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana) calling on him to negotiate a migration-restrictions-for-Ukraine-aid deal in good faith.

A backgrounder from the International Refugee Assistance Project explained the Biden administration’s “Safe Mobility Offices” in Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Guatemala. These are a so-far limited effort to make legal immigration pathways available to some migrants in those countries, so that they may avoid traveling to the U.S.-Mexico border to seek asylum. The document includes a flowchart laying out the Offices’ complex approval process.

Two conservative media outlets, Fox News and NewsMax, published stories over the weekend reporting on organized crime violence in Mexican border cities. “No one wants to work on anything else right now. Everyone wants to work with the migrants because you can make a lot of money from it these days and it is easy work,” according to a quote from a cartel member in Ciudad Juárez that appeared in both articles.

“President Joe Biden’s third year in office was another letdown” at the border for both immigration restrictionists and immigrant rights advocates, wrote the Washington Examiner’s Anna Giaritelli.

On the Right

Video: Migration Dynamics: Trends, Challenges, and Opportunities in the Northern Triangle

(Not sure why I’m making that facial expression.)

Many thanks to New York-based Network 20/20, an organization “that bridges the gap between the private sector and foreign policy worlds,” for inviting me to participate in a virtual panel last Thursday. With Elizabeth Oglesby of the University of Arizona and Diego de Sola of Glasswing International, we talked about the causes of migration away from Central America, and the good and bad of U.S. policies, past and present.

Weekly U.S.-Mexico Border Update: January 19, 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.

THIS WEEK IN BRIEF:

In the most recent escalation of its hardline border policies, the state government of Texas barred Border Patrol agents from a riverfront park in the border city of Eagle Pass. Two days later, a woman and two children drowned in the Rio Grande. Texas National Guardsmen prohibited Border Patrol from entering the park even in emergencies. The Biden administration sent Texas a cease-and-desist letter, and the state-federal jurisdictional clash will likely go to federal court.

Following a meeting between President Biden and congressional leadership, top senators said a deal could emerge next week that might allow the President’s request for Ukraine aid and other priorities to move forward. The price would be meeting some Republican demands for restrictions on asylum and perhaps other migration pathways, which a small group of senators continues to negotiate. Even if senators reach a deal, it could fail in the Republican-majority House, where demands for migration curbs are more extreme.

After setting records in December, migration encounters at the U.S.-Mexico border have dropped by more than half since the holidays. Biden administration officials claim that Mexico’s government has contributed to the drop with more aggressive migration control efforts. Numbers are also down significantly in the treacherous Darién Gap region between Colombia and Panama.

THE FULL UPDATE:

Read More

Daily Border Links: January 19, 2024

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Developments

A high-level delegation of officials from Mexico is in Washington today to discuss measures to control U.S.-bound migration. “U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, and White House homeland security adviser Liz Sherwood-Randall are representing the United States, with Mexican Foreign Affairs Secretary Alicia Barcena leading the visiting delegation,” Voice of America reported.

In a briefing, U.S. officials said they do not anticipate announcing any major agreement following today’s meetings. They credited Mexican efforts to block migrants, along with seasonal declines, for January’s decrease in migrant encounters at the U.S.-Mexico border. “We were seeing 10- to 12,000 people a day back in December. Now it’s 2,800, 3,100 people a day,” Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), who represents a border district, told the Washington Post.

In preparation for today’s high-level meetings, Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Troy Miller and U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Ken Salazar met yesterday with the commissioner of Mexico’s National Migration Institute (INM), Francisco Garduño. Garduño is facing criminal charges in Mexico for alleged mismanagement and corruption of INM officials that led to 40 migrants dying in a March 2023 fire in a Ciudad Juárez detention facility.

Human Rights Watch issued a statement urging the Mexican government to reject any agreement with the Biden administration that would send asylum seekers back to Mexico.

The Title 42-style expulsion of asylum seekers at the U.S.-Mexico border appears to be a consensus element of negotiations between a small group of senators seeking a formula that might grant the Biden administration’s request for Ukraine aid and other priorities, while meeting Republican demands for restrictions on asylum and other migration. Reporting points to Senate negotiators agreeing on expelling asylum seekers, regardless of protection needs, if daily migrant encounters at the border exceed a certain number. Such a measure would require Mexico to accept expelled migrants, as it did for citizens of seven countries during the COVID pandemic.

The senators might reveal consensus legislative language as early as next week. Still, the agreement’s prospects for passing the Republican-majority House of Representatives have grown dimmer. While he claims to support Ukraine aid, Speaker Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana) has called for tougher limits on asylum and other migration pathways in the funding bill than what are likely to appear in the Democratic-majority Senate’s version. And former president Donald Trump is now vocally opposing the Senate deal, even before its contents are known.

The House and Senate passed legislation keeping the government open at 2023 funding levels through early March. Conservative House Republicans briefly sought to include hard-line border and migration language in this “continuing resolution,” but in the end, the chamber passed a “clean” funding bill.

Panama’s security minister will meet today with Colombian counterparts to discuss efforts to curb organized crime and migrant smuggling in the Darién Gap.

The treacherous jungle region has seen four months of declines in migration, from a record 81,946 people in August to a 12-month low of 24,626 in December. Still, a remarkable 520,085 people migrated through the Darién in 2023, more than double the previous record set in 2022.

Numbers continue to drop: the deputy director of Panama’s National Migration Service said that more than 6,000 people passed through the Darién during the first 12 days of January, a rate that—if sustained—would mean less than 16,000 migrants for the month, the fewest since June 2022.

ICE removed a reported 61 people aboard a plane to Haiti yesterday. “The timing of this removal flight breaks the full-year 2023 pattern of 1 flight each month at the END of the month so I’ll be watching to see if the pattern moves to 2 per month,” tweeted Tom Cartwright of Witness at the Border, who closely monitors removal flights.

Analyses and Feature Stories

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is inciting a conflict between Border Patrol and the state’s National Guard that is inching closer and closer toward a violent clash between armed agents of state and federal law enforcement,” warned Mark Joseph Stern at Slate.

Chelsie Kramer and Emma Winger warned at the American Immigration Council’s Immigration Impact blog, “The stakes are high. If allowed to stand, other states might set up their own immigration enforcement schemes, splintering the already complex immigration system and leading to widespread arrests and deportations without key federal protections.”

“During the Civil Rights Movement, there were three major crises in which Southern governors, refusing orders to desegregate schools, attempted to defy the federal government,” recalled a San Antonio Express-News editorial.

“The Biden administration seems out of ideas. And standing behind a standard-bearer deploying xenophobia as a selling point in a hotly contested bid for reelection, Republican calls to “secure the border” amount to little more than a political bludgeon,” wrote Eduardo Porter at the Washington Post.

“In the past, the majority [of Mexican citizens crossing the border] were migrants of opportunity, largely single men, and some women, looking for work opportunities,” Princeton University migration expert Douglas Massey told James North at the New Republic. “But in recent years, we now see from Mexico migrants of despair—entire families, including children. …What we have on the border now is a humanitarian crisis, and not really an immigration crisis.”

Cuba’s El Toque recalled that Cuban migrants who receive humanitarian parole—those who use the Biden administration’s sponsorship program, and those who seek asylum via CBP One appointments at the border—are not eligible for the Cuban Adjustment Act, which normally allows Cuban citizens to apply for U.S. residency after a year in the United States.

An Associated Press article explained the humanitarian parole authority, a big sticking point in Senate negotiations over adding migration restrictions to the Biden administration’s Ukraine funding request.

The Border Chronicle featured a photo narrative about U.S. surveillance technology along the border, created by Arizona-based geographer Dugan Meyer and photographer Colter Thomas.

On the Right

Daily Border Links: January 18, 2024

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Developments

President Biden hosted top congressional leaders at the White House on Wednesday, where senior administration officials urged them to approve a $110.5 billion request for funding for Ukraine, Israel, border efforts, and other priorities. Congressional Republicans are holding up the request with demands for changes to U.S. law that would reduce migrants’ access to asylum and other legal pathways.

Senate leaders said that they are close to a deal that might allow the legislation to move ahead as early as next week. That deal might include a Title 42-like authority to expel asylum seekers, regardless of protection needs, when migrant encounters exceed a daily threshold. It might also require asylum seekers subjected to “credible fear” screening interviews to prove a higher standard of threat.

Democrats continue to resist Republican demands that the deal restrict the 70-year-old presidential authority to grant temporary humanitarian parole to some migrants. Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-South Dakota) said that parole is the chief Republican demand that remains unresolved.

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana) indicated that his chamber’s Republican majority will demand even stricter measures than what is likely to emerge from Senate negotiations, like a reinstatement of the Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” policy. Republican senators are pushing back, insisting that stricter measures cannot pass the Democratic-majority Senate.

On Wednesday night, Fox News host Laura Ingraham told Speaker Johnson that ex-president Donald Trump told her he opposes the likely Senate deal and wants Johnson to oppose it too. As most House Republicans are tightly loyal to Trump, this is a severe blow to the funding package’s prospects.

A delegation of Mexican government officials, led by the secretaries of foreign relations, defense, and navy, will be in Washington on Friday to discuss migration with the U.S. secretaries of state and homeland security.

The House of Representatives passed a brief resolution “denouncing the Biden administration’s open-borders policies.” Fourteen Democrats voted for it, including two representing south Texas border districts.

On Thursday the House Homeland Security Committee will hold its second hearing seeking to establish House Republicans’ case for impeaching Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on grounds of failing to secure the border and halt migration. House Republicans are working on a fast timetable, though it is not clear whether they have enough votes to impeach within their own caucus. A letter from 26 former senior DHS officials, from both Republican and Democratic administrations, opposed the impeachment proceedings.

Late Wednesday, Texas authorities announced their first arrests of migrants, on state trespassing charges, in a large park along the Rio Grande in Eagle Pass where police and national guardsmen have barred Border Patrol from operating for the past seven days.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had given Texas until the end of the day Wednesday to rescind its order and allow Border Patrol to operate in Shelby Park, at which time it would refer the matter to the Department of Justice. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton published a letter on Wednesday rejecting DHS’s demand.

A woman and two children from Mexico drowned in the river near the park last Friday night; Texas’s ban left Border Patrol agents unable to be present to detect or rescue them.

In an unusual move, the federal 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has agreed to reconsider its December ruling ordering Texas to remove a 1,000-foot string of buoys placed down the middle of the Rio Grande in Eagle Pass. Texas had asked the court for an “en banc” hearing of all 17 of its active judges, a request that gets granted only about 1 percent of the time. That hearing will happen in May; in the meantime, the buoys may remain in the river. Most of the Circuit’s 17 active judges are Republican appointees, though the 3-judge panel that ordered the buoys removed included 2 Democratic appointees.

Very low temperatures are threatening asylum seekers gathered outdoors along the border, especially in southern Arizona and in Matamoros, Mexico across from Brownsville, Texas. As many as 1,000 people await processing in the Tohono O’odham Nation lands along the border in remote desert southwest of Tucson, and others continue to arrive near Sásabe, just west of Nogales.

After a night in crowded shelters in Matamoros, most migrants waiting in an outdoor camp have returned to a precarious tent encampment despite the freezing temperatures. The Sidewalk School, a charity that operates in Matamoros and Reynosa, is appealing for donations to help provide for them.

On the Right

Daily Border Links: January 17, 2024

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Developments

After House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana) appeared poised to reject a possible bipartisan Senate deal to restrict access to asylum at the border—arguing that it doesn’t go far enough—Republican senators urged Johnson to reconsider. Senate negotiators have been discussing restrictions on asylum—including a possible Title 42-style expulsion authority—in exchange for Republican support of a White House request for funding for Ukraine, Israel, border operations, and other priorities.

In the Senate, where 60 votes are needed to move legislation forward, Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas), John Thune (R-South Dakota), and others argued that it will be impossible to get enough moderate Democrats to go along with migration restrictions in the future, if a Republican president is elected. “This is a unique moment in time. It’s an opportunity to get some conservative border policy,” Thune said. Senate Republicans’ lead negotiator, Sen. James Lankford (R-Oklahoma), had a phone call with Speaker Johnson, who reiterated his support for the hard-line bill (H.R. 2) that passed his chamber on a party-line vote last May.

President Biden will meet with congressional leadership at the White House today to push for passage of his funding request.

“Maybe they [Border Patrol] could have prevented this because they would have seen what was happening” using their “scope trucks,” said Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), who was among the first to denounce the death of three migrants in the Rio Grande while Texas national guardsmen barred Border Patrol from accessing a riverfront park in Eagle Pass. Since Cuellar’s January 13 statement, a Border Patrol official clarified that the mother and two children had already drowned when Texas blocked agents from Shelby Park. Still, as a Department of Justice Supreme Court filing noted, it is “impossible to say what might have happened if Border Patrol had had its former access to the area.”

Texas officials granted NewsNation correspondent Jorge Ventura to the park yesterday, where he posted video of Texas guardsmen using riot shields to block a migrant from entering the park to turn himself in.

Texas Democrats held a press call at which some, like Rep. Joaquín Castro of San Antonio, demanded that President Biden federalize Texas’s National Guard. “I want to be very clear what is happening in Texas right now is incredibly dangerous,” said Rep. Veronica Escobar of El Paso.

One state legislator, Eddie Morales of Eagle Pass, called on Biden to suspend access to asylum temporarily. “I spoke with multiple Reps who clarified that he [Morales] is alone in this position,” tweeted Pablo de la Rosa of Texas Public Radio.

Several Democratic senators, including some facing tough re-election races this year, introduced the “Stop Fentanyl at the Border Act,” which would increase funding for CBP officers, Border Patrol agents, scanners for ports of entry, and similar items.

Mexican authorities arrested in Cancún, and deported to Bogotá, Nelson Enrique Bautista Reatiga alias “Poporro,” who Colombia’s police chief called a “main coordinator” of smuggling Colombian migrants to the United States. He allegedly helped Colombian, Peruvian, and other South American citizens arrive at the U.S. border after flying to Mexico, which citizens of Colombia and Peru can mostly do visa-free.

Analyses and Feature Stories

“Moderate Democratic legislators can tell themselves and their constituents that reaching this type of deal is a way to stop abuse of the asylum system and won’t turn away ‘worthy’ claimants, but that’s simply a lie,” wrote Felipe de la Hoz at the New Republic.

At the Border Chronicle, Melissa del Bosque reports of encountering NewsMax reporter Jaeson Jones reporting from an Arizona site where asylum seekers had arrived, while accompanied by several masked, armed men “wearing hats marked with the logo of the Texas Department of Public Safety Intelligence and Counterterrorism division.” The men confronted humanitarian volunteers in the area and identified themselves as providers of “intelligence for House committees, including the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability.”

A UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll finds that 30 percent of California Democratic voters believe that the U.S.-Mexico border is not secure.

On the Right

Daily Border Links: January 16, 2024

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Developments

On Friday January 12, two days after Texas’s state government started blocking Border Patrol from a 2.5-mile stretch of the Rio Grande in Eagle Pass, three migrants—a woman and two children—drowned to death. The Department of Homeland Security stated that Border Patrol agents were aware that the migrants were in distress in the river, but were prevented from acting because Texas national guardsmen “physically barred” them from entering the area.

Texas is denying DHS’s account, claiming that the drownings had already occurred when Border Patrol sought to access the area. A Justice Department filing before the Supreme Court stated that the drownings had already happened when Border Patrol was blocked, but that it is “impossible to say what might have happened if Border Patrol had had its former access to the area.”

DHS sent a January 14 letter to Texas’s state attorney-general giving the state until Wednesday to reinstate Border Patrol’s access to Shelby Park in Eagle Pass. If Texas refuses, the letter promises “appropriate action,” including referring the matter to the Department of Justice. DOJ is already litigating Texas’s placement of buoys in the river in Eagle Pass; Texas’s ban on Border Patrol agents cutting concertina wire along the river; and Texas’s controversial anti-migrant law known as S.B.4.

“I think it’s not an exaggeration that this is as direct a confrontation between a state and the federal government as we’ve seen since desegregation,” Steve Vladeck, a constitutional law expert at the University of Texas School of Law, told the Washington Post.

“I’m glad for what Gov. Abbott is doing,” the president of the Border Patrol agents’ union, Brandon Judd, told Fox Business, calling DHS’s statements “propaganda.”

Migrant encounters at the U.S.-Mexico border continue to be well below December’s record-setting levels, hovering above 3,000 per day after exceeding 10,000 per day in December.

In Border Patrol’s Tucson Sector, which is currently the busiest of the agency’s nine U.S.-Mexico border sectors, Chief John Modlin reported 9,200 migrant apprehensions in the week ending January 11, down from 18,400-19,400 during each of the first three weeks of December.

In Jacumba Springs, California, Mexican authorities claim that daily arrivals have dropped to about 380 per day, from up to 1,200 last month.

“After a significant decrease in migrant encounters earlier this month, migrant apprehensions in the Del Rio Border Patrol Sector have increased since last week,” CNN reported. “About 1,000 migrant apprehensions took place Sunday in the Del Rio Sector, compared to between 500 and 600 earlier in the week.”

Temperatures are below freezing along the south Texas-Mexico border. On the Mexican side, Texas Public Radio reported, “Some migrants, more than 300 in Matamoros, still remain outdoors after authorities displaced more than a thousand individuals from encampments last month on the day after Christmas.”

A small group of senators continues to negotiate limits on asylum and other legal migration pathways, as a way to win Republican support for a budget package including aid to Ukraine and Israel and resources for border operations. It is possible, though far from certain, that legislative language could emerge this week. Negotiators appear to have agreed on a higher standard in asylum seekers’ “credible fear” interviews and Title 42-style expulsions of asylum seekers when migrant arrivals rise above a certain threshold. Republicans continue to insist on curbing the presidential authority to issue humanitarian parole, in particular to asylum seekers released at the border following “CBP One” appointments at ports of entry.

House Republican leaders are signaling that a deal coming out of the Senate could be “dead on arrival” (a phrase from Majority Leader Steve Scalise (R-Louisiana)) if it doesn’t include items that Democrats are very unlikely to agree to, like hundreds of miles more border wall and a revived “Remain in Mexico” program. At Semafor, Joseph Zeballos-Roig pointed out that any harsh new measures involving more deportations would require Mexico to be willing to accept many of them.

Speaker Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana) posted a screenshot of what Fox News claimed were elements of a border deal with the words, “Absolutely not.” These included an increase in green card approvals and a threshold of 5,000 migrant arrivals per day that might trigger expulsions. Sen. James Lankford (R-Oklahoma), the Republicans’ lead negotiator, replied that the screenshot was false.

Lankford told Politico’s Burgess Everett that “If he can get 25 or more of the 49 GOP senators to sign onto something, he’s betting that it might be enough to get Speaker Mike Johnson to take up a big emergency spending bill with Ukraine aid—without losing the gavel to a conservative rebellion.”

Panama has acquired eight helicopters, among other measures to step up its patrolling of the treacherous Darién Gap migration corridor. The Panamanian government is calling the effort “Operation Chocó II,” and it is to last for at least six months.

Mexico’s foreign minister “ordered the 53 consulates in the United States and five in Canada to reinforce their media activity to defend the name of Mexico in the face of hate and fear speeches” during the upcoming 2024 U.S. electoral campaign, Milenio reported.

In 2022 and 2023, Mexico issued ‘oficios de salida’ to 33,695 citizens of Cuba. These “formally oblige them to leave the national territory, but in practice allow them to continue on their way to the northern border. …Meanwhile, 49,978 were granted visitor’s cards for humanitarian reasons, which allow them to remain in the country, travel freely and obtain employment for up to one year,” Reforma reported.

The state commission on missing persons in Baja California, Mexico reported that 30 migrants went missing in the Tijuana-San Diego area in 2023, but immigration officials and advocates assert that the true number of disappeared is much higher.

Homicides in Tijuana (pop. 1.7 million) dropped by 8 percent from 2022 to 2023, to a still very-high 1,884.

Analyses and Feature Stories

Policy changes that might come from a deal in the Senate, like enabling asylum seeker expulsions and weakening humanitarian parole, “are likely to drive more unauthorized migration to the border and make President Biden’s immigration challenges even worse,” wrote Andrea Flores of fwd.us, a former Biden White House official, at the New York Times.

“David J. Peters, a sociologist at Iowa State University who studies opioid addiction in rural areas, argued that the campaigns focusing on Mexico and border security are an easier sell than focusing on the underlying reason people take drugs, whether it’s unequal economic opportunities, family instability or mental health woes,” reported the Washington Post.

San Diego’s inewsource reported back after “reporters spent 48 straight hours, starting noon Jan. 2, in and around the encampments” where migrants are awaiting Border Patrol processing near Jacumba Springs, California.

This Is a Tragedy, and the State of Texas Bears Responsibility

This is incredibly serious.

Seeking to score political points, the State of Texas has barred the federal Border Patrol from a swath of the Rio Grande where a lot of drownings happen.

Yesterday, an adult and two children drowned. Texas failed to respond to Border Patrol’s urgent warnings.

“This is a tragedy, and the State bears responsibility,” says Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), who often leans right on border issues.

Congressman Henry Cuellar - Serving the 28th District of Texas | recently learned that three migrants - a female adult and two children - drowned in the Rio Grande River near Shelby Park in Eagle Pass.

Border Patrol learned on Friday, January 12, 2024, at approximately 9:00 P.M. that a group of six migrants were in distress as they attempted to cross the Rio Grande River. Border Patrol attempted to contact the Texas Military Department, the Texas National Guard, and DPS Command Post by telephone to relay the information, but were unsuccessful. Border Patrol agents then made physical contact with the Texas Military Department and the Texas National Guard at the Shelby Park Entrance Gate and verbally relayed the information. However, Texas Military Department soldiers stated they would not grant access to the migrants - even in the event of an emergency - and that they would send a soldier to investigate the situation. Earlier today, Saturday, January 13, 2024, the three migrant bodies were recovered by Mexican authorities. Border Patrol personnel were forced out of Shelby Park earlier this week by the Texas National Guard under order of Governor Abbott. As a result, Border Patrol was unable to render aid to the migrants and attempt to save them.

This is a tragedy, and the State bears responsibility.

Daily Border Links: January 12, 2024

Developments

Texas’s state government has “indefinitely” taken over and sealed off the expansive riverfront park in the city of Eagle Pass and is prohibiting federal Border Patrol agents from accessing it to process asylum-seeking migrants. Texas state authorities have instead sought to arrest migrants and jail them for trespassing.

The mayor of Eagle Pass pointed out that migrant arrivals there have dropped to about 400 per day, from a peak of 4,000 per day at times in December.

Advocates had planned to hold a ceremony in Shelby Park on Saturday to commemorate the many migrants who died trying to cross the border in 2023—many of them drowned in the river near Eagle Pass.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) generated an outcry with comments in a Jan. 5 interview with right-wing radio host Dana Loesch: “The only thing that we are not doing is we’re not shooting people who come across the border because, of course, the Biden administration would charge us with murder.”

Congress is out of session until Tuesday, as negotiations drag on regarding a deal that might allow legislative approval of the Biden administration’s request for $110.5 billion in aid to Ukraine and Israel, border items, and other priorities. Republican legislators are demanding curbs on asylum, humanitarian parole, and other pathways to migrant protections as a condition for their support of the spending package.

In remarks, lead Democratic negotiator Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut) took a hard line against Republican demands that any compromise limit the 70-year-old presidential power to grant migrants temporary humanitarian parole. Republican negotiators James Lankford (R-Oklahoma) and Thom Tillis (R-North Carolina) criticized the Biden administration’s use of parole for asylum seekers released following appointments at ports of entry arranged via the CBP One app.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) urged Republican senators to “take this opportunity” and support what emerges from negotiations between a small group of senators. Negotiator Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Arizona) said that the small group is down to final items and close to presenting a compromise legislative framework or text. Sen. Lankford sounded optimistic about this compromise gaining as many as 70 votes in the Senate.

Several Democrats said that they would reject a funding bill if it included border wall spending and a renewed “Remain in Mexico” program, which House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana) called for in a Wednesday radio interview.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas offered to testify before the House Homeland Security Committee, where the chamber’s Republican majority has launched proceedings to impeach him. Mayorkas turned down the Committee’s invitation to appear at its next hearing on Thursday the 18th, because he has to meet with a visiting delegation of Mexican officials. Committee Chairman Mark Green (R-Tennessee) accused Mayorkas of “putting the interests of Mexico ahead of the American people.”

Anabela Meza Cevallos, president of the Association of Ecuadorian Residents in Mexico (Ecuarmex), said she expected migration from Ecuador to rise further following a dramatic January 9 display of organized crime violence throughout the country. U.S. authorities encountered 122,841 Ecuadorian migrants at the Mexico border between December 2022 and November 2023, 6th among all countries during that period.

Before being kidnapped near the border in Tamaulipas, Mexico between December 30 and January 3, 26 Venezuelan and 6 Honduran migrants aboard a bus from Monterrey passed through 2 Mexican security checkpoints, at which they “were extorted by officials for 500 pesos, or $30, per person each time,” Reuters reported.

More than 100 animals died in an August wildfire in a south Texas wildlife refuge because they were trapped by a concrete levee-style border wall, the Guardian reported.

Analyses and Feature Stories

Restrictions on protection-seeking migration, like those urged by Republican legislators in ongoing negotiations, will “strengthen incentives for migrants to attempt border crossings between legal ports” and “drive up demand for the services of human smugglers,” wrote Will Freeman of the Council on Foreign Relations at Time.

Amid declining birthrates in the United States, the foreign-born population may have reached an estimated 15 percent last year. The last time that happened, in 1910, “a nativist frenzy and sharp restrictions on immigration” ensued, Lauren Villagrán wrote in USA Today.

On the Right

Daily Border Links: January 11, 2024

Developments

A small group of senators continues to negotiate a deal that might allow the Biden administration’s request for a big package of aid to Ukraine and Israel, border funding, and other priorities to move forward in the chamber. In exchange for supporting the bill, Republicans continue to demand restrictions on the right to seek asylum, as well as on other legal migration pathways. They appear to be near agreement on raising standards that asylum seekers must meet in “credible fear” interviews, and on expelling asylum seekers into Mexico, Title 42-style, when daily migrant numbers reach a certain threshold or when migrants do not specifically request asylum.

Democratic negotiators continue to resist Republicans’ insistence that any agreement include a numerical cap or other tight limits on the presidential authority—which dates back to the 1950s—to offer temporary parole to migrants on humanitarian grounds. It is not fully clear whether Republicans are targeting the Biden program to parole citizens of Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Ukraine, or more specifically the use of parole to release asylum seekers from the border into the U.S. interior, following “CBP One” appointments at ports of entry, while their cases await adjudication.

CBS News reported that the Senate negotiations’ scope has expanded beyond asylum and parole to include “conversations about Afghan evacuees, the children of high-skilled visa-holders, and work permits for asylum-seekers,” items that could sweeten the deal for Democratic legislators.

Republican senators are sounding skeptical about whether a deal that might satisfy them can be reached, and cast strong doubt on whether any legislative language might emerge this week.

They pointed out, too, that whatever gets agreed must then go to the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, where demands for limits on asylum and legal migration may be even stiffer. “We cannot be involved in securing the border of Ukraine or other nations until we secure our own,” House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana) told a conservative radio host. “And so that border fight is coming, and we’re going to die on that hill.” Johnson called for more border wall and a revival of the Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” program, which does not appear to have been a significant demand in Senate negotiations. Johnson and President Biden discussed border policy in a January 10 phone call.

House Republicans began their effort to impeach Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas with a lengthy hearing in the Homeland Security Committee, at which they argued that Mayorkas has failed to do his duty to secure the border. A letter from a group of law scholars argued that the Constitution does not allow impeachment for alleged “maladministration,” only “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.”

The first days of January have seen a sharp drop in migration through the Darién Gap region straddling Colombia and Panama. The Panamanian government’s migration director said the drop could be caused by a bridge collapse near Necoclí, Colombia and by increasing use of aerial routes to Nicaragua, which avoid the Darién entirely.

Just over 1,000 migrants continue to participate in a “caravan” in southern Mexico, a regrouped remnant of a much larger migration and protest that began at Christmas. They are now in Oaxaca, having walked through Mexico’s southernmost state of Chiapas; Mexican authorities are allowing participants to walk but prohibiting anyone from transporting them in vehicles.

Analyses and Feature Stories

A report from the Migration Policy Institute called for significant investments in migrant processing and ports of entry at the border, federal mechanisms to help direct migrants to communities that wish to accommodate them, more diplomatic coordination with countries along the route, and vastly more investment in asylum adjudication, among other recommendations.

Reuters accompanied the difficult journey of migrants aboard a Texas state government-funded bus from Brownsville, Texas to Chicago.

“Today, liberals describe border-security measures that the Democratic Party once would have favored as severe, cruel or ‘Trump-era,’” wrote New York Times columnist David Leonhardt.

Former Mexican foreign minister Jorge Castañeda asked why President Andrés Manuel López Obrador doesn’t demand more from the United States as a precondition for Mexico performing “containment” of U.S.-bound migrants.

Stuart Anderson of the National Foundation for American Policy doubted, in a Forbes column, that Mexico might agree to some of the cross-border expulsions, deportations, and “Remain in Mexico” referrals that would result from Republican demands for stricter limits on asylum.

On the Right

At Least 545,000 People—Many From Outside the Americas—Migrated Through Honduras in 2023

As we noted in a June report, Honduras keeps a reasonably accurate count of migrants transiting its territory, because it requires people to register with the government in order to have permission to board a bus. A minority travel with smugglers and don’t register, but most do.

Honduras also reports the nationalities of “irregular” migrants in something close to real time, so here’s what in-transit migration looked like through December.

Data table

The top 15 nationalities transiting Honduras during December were:

  1. Venezuela 13,803 (32% of 42,637 total)
  2. Cuba 8,997 (21%)
  3. Guinea 3,558 (8%)
  4. Ecuador 3,324 (8%)
  5. Haiti 3,001 (7%)
  6. China 2,121 (5%)
  7. India 1,472 (3%)
  8. Colombia 1,461 (3%)
  9. Senegal 706 (2%)
  10. Chile (children of Haitians) 456 (1%)
  11. Afghanistan 325 (1%)
  12. Vietnam 325 (1%)
  13. Peru 305 (1%)
  14. Brazil 249 (some children of Haitians) (1%)
  15. Angola 222 (1%)

The top 15 nationalities during all of 2023 were:

  1. Venezuela 228,889 (42% of 545,364 total)
  2. Cuba 85,969 (16%)
  3. Haiti 82,249 (15%)
  4. Ecuador 46,086 (8%)
  5. Colombia 13,136 (2%)
  6. Guinea 12,902 (2%)
  7. China 12,184 (2%)
  8. Senegal 8,964 (2%)
  9. Mauritania 5,816 (1%)
  10. Uzbekistan 5,153 (1%)
  11. India 4,366 (1%)
  12. Chile (children of Haitians) 3,004 (1%)
  13. Egypt 2,845 (1%)
  14. Afghanistan 2,729 (1%)
  15. Angola 2,640 (0.5%)

A few things are notable about this data:

  1. Nationalities from Asia and Africa are heavily represented. The Americas made up just 8 of December’s top 15 countries, and 6 of 2023’s top 15 countries. The situation in the Darién Gap is similar: only 7 of the top 15 nationalities counted by Panamanian authorities during the first 11 months of 2023 were Latin American or Caribbean.
  2. The total is similar to that measured in the Darién Gap. Panama’s Public Security Ministry reported on Monday that a stunning 520,085 migrants passed through the Darien Gap in 2023. Honduras reported a similarly stunning 545,364. Both are more than double 2022’s totals.
  3. Honduras’s total is greater than the Darién Gap, even though some migrants don’t register, because it includes many migrants who arrived by air in Nicaragua. Honduras’s neighbor to the south lies north of the Darién Gap, making it unnecessary to take that treacherous route, and does not require visas of visitors from most of the world. A growing number of people from Cuba, Haiti, and other continents have been taking circuitous commercial air routes, or often charter planes like one halted in France two weeks ago, to arrive in Managua and then travel overland to seek asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border. Much of the increase in migration through Honduras reflects the growth of that route—especially those from African countries, whose numbers declined in the Darién Gap because Nicaragua presented a safer, shorter alternative. (Darién Gap travelers from outside the Americas often fly first to Ecuador or Brazil.)

Daily Border Links: January 3, 2024

Staff are taking a few days off. Daily links will resume on January 11.

Developments

After breaking records before the holidays, arrivals of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border have dropped sharply, at least for the moment. Border Patrol apprehended 2,500 migrants on January 1, down from over 10,000 during several days in mid-December. On a call with reporters, unnamed U.S. officials praised Mexico for taking “enhanced enforcement actions” including deportation flights to Venezuela, which the officials said that they also expect to “ramp up.” With less need to divert personnel into migrant processing, by January 4 CBP will reopen its Lukeville, Arizona port of entry, as well as a temporarily shuttered PedWest pedestrian crossing south of San Diego, California, a pedestrian crossing in Nogales, Arizona, and one of two border bridges between Piedras Negras, Coahuila and Eagle Pass, Texas.

Congress begins its 2024 session on Monday, but a small group of Senate negotiators is already back in Washington, as they continue seeking a deal that would allow the body to move forward with the Biden administration’s emergency request for $110.5 billion in aid to Ukraine and Israel, more border measures, and other priorities. Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Connecticut), James Lankford (R-Oklahoma), and Kyrsten Sinema (I-Arizona) met for 90 minutes yesterday, along with DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Republican legislators are insisting on changes to U.S. law that would put asylum and other legal pathways out of reach for many more migrants. “We gotta do something. They ought to give me the money I need to protect the border,” President Biden told reporters yesterday.

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-Louisiana) will lead a delegation of more than 60 House Republicans today to the border at Eagle Pass, Texas. If senators manage to reach and approve a deal on a spending bill, House Republicans are likely to demand even stricter limits on asylum and other legal migration pathways once their chamber takes up the legislation. Speaker Johnson’s visit is under attack from the Republican far right. Leading border hawk Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) said he will not be in Eagle Pass because “our people are tired of meetings,” while onetime Trump chief of staff Steve Bannon dismissed the trip as a “photo op.”

Mexican authorities are still searching for a group of 31 migrants, from a few countries, kidnapped from a bus in northern Mexico near the border on December 30. The mass abduction happened in Mexico’s easternmost border state, Tamaulipas, which is notoriously dangerous. Authorities freed a group of five Venezuelans, including two minors, who according to Reuters were not part of the bus group. Kidnappers in Tamaulipas “take 10 to 15 migrants a day who come to Reynosa or Matamoros for their CBP appointments,” Father Francisco Gallardo of the Diocese of Matamoros, a longtime shelter director, told Milenio.

The Biden administration Justice Department is asking the Supreme Court for an emergency ruling to decide whether Border Patrol agents have the right to cut through the hundreds of miles of razor-sharp concertina wire that Texas state authorities have laid along the Rio Grande. Texas had sued in federal court in late October to prevent agents from cutting the wire to access asylum seekers on the riverbank, except in emergency situations. (Once on U.S. soil, people have a right to ask U.S. authorities for asylum.) A district court judge denied Texas’s request, but the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals sided with Texas on December 19.

A “migrant caravan” that made U.S. headlines over Christmas has ended in the municipality of Mapastepec, about 75 miles from Mexico’s border with Guatemala, where remaining caravan participants have turned themselves in to Mexican migration authorities. According to La Jornada, activist and organizer Luis García Villagrán said “an agreement could be reached for the delivery of documents” allowing more than 3,000 migrants to stay legally and possibly to travel through Mexico.

Analyses and Feature Stories

“On a warming planet, migration is not the security risk. The security risk is the backlash to it,” Tom Ellison of the Center for Climate and Security wrote at Just Security.

Daily Border Links: January 2, 2024

We’ll be posting updates on January 2 and 3, then staff are taking a few days off. Updates will resume a daily tempo on January 11.

Developments

Sources within CBP told Fox news that the agency encountered 302,000 migrants in December, a new single-month record. The number includes both Border Patrol apprehensions and arrivals of migrants at ports of entry. (The latter have averaged just over 50,000 in recent months). The largest monthly Border-Patrol-plus-ports-of-entry amount CBP had previously reported was 269,735 in September 2023.

2023 ended with a total of 520,085 people crossing the treacherous Darién Gap between Colombia and Panama, according to Panama’s Public Security Ministry. That is more than double the 2022 total, and 120,000 of them were under age 18. “Venezuelans 328,667, Ecuadorians 57,222, Haitians 46,558 and from China 25,344 were the most recurrent nationalities crossing,” the Ministry tweeted. Monthly passage of migrants declined from October (49,256) to November (37,231) to December (24,626), repeating what may be a seasonal pattern.

Thirty-one migrants are missing, presumed kidnapped, in Mexico’s organized crime-dominated border state of Tamaulipas, where armed men in five pickup trucks stopped a bus on a highway between Monterrey and the border city of Reynosa on December 30.

In Ciudad Juárez, following a large-scale mid-December arrival of migrants aiming to cross the border into El Paso, migrant shelters are down to about 60 percent capacity as new arrivals are declining. “We expect it to increase in 15 days or within a week,” said a Ciudad Juárez shelter network spokesperson.

Their numbers reduced, participants in a “migrant caravan” that got media attention in the days after Christmas have walked about 60 miles of Chiapas, Mexico’s southernmost state, since December 24.

Analyses and Feature Stories

“When a migrant does not have the resources” to pay Colombia’s Gulf Clan organized crime group for permission to cross the Darién Gap, the chief of staff of Colombia’s Navy told Caracol Radio, “we’ve had indications that women are forced to provide sexual services or they are also told that they must transport between 10 and 20 kilos of cocaine to have the right to pass through that region.”

UNHCR’s representative in Mexico says that 35,000 migrants—mainly asylum seekers—have contributed US$10 million per year in taxes to Mexico after settling in recent years in the country’s north, where employers report labor scarcity.

On the Right

December 2023 Set a New U.S.-Mexico Border Monthly Migration Record

Update January 29, 2024: CBP has released final December 2023 data. Read an updated post with nine charts illustrating migration trends.

Border Patrol shares monthly data about its apprehensions of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border since October 1999. As this chart shows, during that time, the number of migrant apprehensions in a single month has never exceeded 225,000. (224,370 in May 2022, 222,018 in December 2022, 220,063 in March 2000.)

Data table

That threshold has now been passed. CBS News’s Camilo Montoya-Galvez reported yesterday, “U.S. Border Patrol agents took into custody more than 225,000 migrants who crossed the southern border—in between official crossings—during the first 27 days of December, according to the preliminary Department of Homeland Security [DHS] statistics.”

(This number does not include approximately 50,000 more migrants who come each month to ports of entry—official border crossings—usually with appointments.)

Montoya-Galvez shared Border Patrol’s daily averages, showing modest decline in migrant arrivals over the past week:

The current spike in migration peaked before Christmas, during the week starting on Dec. 14 and ending on Dec. 20, when Border Patrol averaged 9,773 daily apprehensions, according to the data. On several days that week, the agency processed more than 10,000 migrants in 24 hours.

Unlawful crossings along the U.S.-Mexico border have decreased this week, but remain at historically high levels. On Wednesday, Border Patrol processed 7,759 migrants, the statistics show.

In his morning press conference yesterday, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador shared this slide of data from Customs and Border Protection (CBP, Border Patrol’s parent agency), depicting CBP’s monthly migrant encounters through the first 17 days of December. This slide appears to combine Border Patrol apprehensions with CBP’s port-of-entry encounters, so the numbers are a bit higher.

Combining encounters with migrants at the ports of entry and between them, the chart shows a daily average of 9,787 people per day over December 1-17, increasing to 10,187 per day over December 1-21.

The chart shows a sharp increase in daily arrivals of Venezuelan citizens, whose numbers dropped in October and November after the Biden administration’s October 5 announcement that it was resuming deportation flights to Caracas.

There have since been 11 such flights, DHS reported on December 27. It appears that despite the (not huge) risk of being on one of these roughly one-per-week flights, Venezuelan asylum seekers are again coming in greater numbers.

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