The past week in U.S. border security
- The Trump administration will issue its initial “top line” budget request to Congress today. Word is it will include $1.5 billion to start border-fence construction in 2017, and $2.6 billion for 2018.
- Families in south Texas’s Rio Grande Valley are already getting notices from the federal government requiring them to sell their private land abutting the border. The Austin American-Statesman talks to Rio Grande Valley families whose riverfront land was bisected, often bizarrely, by fencing built after the 2007 Secure Fence Act. The public radio show Reveal also talks to landowners in the same area.
- The federal government’s border-wall request for proposals asks would-be contractors to come up with designs for a “nominally 30 feet tall” concrete structure “that will meet requirements for aesthetics, anti-climbing, and resistance to tampering or damage.” (Most recently built fencing is 14-17 feet tall and made of thick steel bollards.) The request has been updated to allow for “other,” non-concrete designs.
- Republican chairmen of the House and Senate Homeland Security Committees are balking at the idea of building a wall over the border’s entire 2,000-mile length. (The head of the Border Patrol union doesn’t favor a border-wide wall either. Brandon Judd told NPR in January, “We’re not talking about a continuous wall from California down to Texas. We’re talking about a wall in strategic locations.”) Asked whether Mexico would truly be paying for the wall, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) replied, “Uh, no.” A Pew Research Center survey finds that while Republicans everywhere favor building a wall, their enthusiasm shrinks the closer you get to the actual border.
- Democrats in the Senate are considering forcing a federal government shutdown rather than include border-wall funding in the 2017 federal budget. Congress still hasn’t passed a budget for this year, and the current “continuing resolution” maintaining funding near 2016 levels expires on April 28, the last weekday before Trump’s 100th day in office.
- February saw the lowest monthly number of apprehended migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border since at least 2000, when monthly statistics are publicly available. Apprehensions dropped by 40.5 percent from January. Migrants’ (and their smugglers’) perceptions of a U.S. crackdown are by far the most likely reason.
- NPR reports that U.S. authorities are deporting busloads of migrants, including some apprehended in the interior of the United States, into Reynosa, currently one of the most dangerous places in Mexico. Some of these deportations are occurring “in the middle of the night”—a practice that the Obama administration had halted in some of the most violent parts of the border because of the likelihood of harm to deportees.
- The New York Times reports that “smuggling fees from El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, the poverty- and violence-stricken Northern Triangle of Central America, have climbed as high as $15,000.” While there’s no great data, fees had appeared only to start hitting $10,000 after Mexico’s 2014 southern border-zone crackdown.
- The Trump administration continues to insist on deporting non-Mexican asylum seekers back into Mexico while they await a U.S. decision on their cases. Mexico’s government rejects this emphatically, along with the Homeland Security Department’s proposal to separate apprehended children from their parents. Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray also noted that requests for legal advice at Mexico’s consulates in all 50 U.S. states have increased by 400 percent since President Trump’s January 20 inauguration.