Increased Enforcement at Mexico’s Southern Border

wolaAn Update on Security, Migration, and U.S. Assistance

New Report by the Washington Office on Latin America

In a report released today, the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) reveals that, far from deterring migrants from making the journey north, the most notable effects of Mexico’s Southern Border Program have been a significant uptick in apprehensions and changes in where and how migrants are traveling. These changes expose migrants to new vulnerabilities, while isolating them from the network of shelters established along traditional routes.

From when it was announced in July 2014 to June 2015, Mexico’s stepped-up migration enforcement resulted in a 71 percent increase in apprehensions of Central American migrants and potential refugees, compared to the same period one year earlier. Based on research and visits during the last two years to Mexico’s southern border zone, WOLA researchers found that Mexico’s increased apprehension and rapid deportation of migrants has not been paired with a greater capacity to screen them for protection concerns, leading many to be deported back to dangerous situations in their home countries.

Read the report…

NEW ESSAY | Homeland Security as a Theory of Action: The Impact on U.S./Mexico Border Management

By Alan D. Bersin and Michael Huston

Anatomy of a RelationshipThe terrorist attack on 9/11 in effect closed America’s borders.  The drawbridges were raised, airports and seaports shut down and cross-border traffic at land ports of entry was reduced to a trickle.  Defense and security and enforcement became the exclusive orders of the day.

The U.S. reaction generally and particularly on the Southwest Border was understandable, though it remained more instinctive than considered.  We had experienced a new vulnerability in our “homeland,” a concept that seemed foreign, strange and distant before 9/11.  Reflexively we retreated behind our borders and hunkered down behind the boundaries of Fortress America.

It soon became evident that the costs of “hunker down security,” i.e. the impact of closing the borders, would deliver an unacceptable, catastrophically self-defeating blow to our economy.  The events of 9/11, accordingly, initiated a wrenching turn in the way Americans viewed globalization and the manner in which their government understood and practiced internal security and external defense.  Policymakers were compelled to formulate new theories of action and respond to a dramatically altered threat environment.  Specifically, policy makers grappled with the challenge of how to secure the homeland in a world that was increasingly borderless.  The evolving policy and operational results may be the lasting legacy of September 11, 2001.

This paper examines these developments from the perspective of the relationship between Mexico and the United States and their shared management of a common border.  Although the emergence of a U.S. homeland security doctrine has significantly affected all trade and travel to and from the United States, it has had special importance for and a distinctive impact on U.S. – Mexico bilateral relations.

The above text is an excerpt from the introduction to the essay. This essay is part one of our series “The Anatomy of a Relationship: A Collection of Essays on the Evolution of U.S.-Mexico Cooperation on Border Management.” 

Read the essay. 

Facing the Facts on Illegal Immigration

7/19/15 New York Times

Hundreds of thousands of immigrants 2 participate in march for Immigrants and Mexicans protesting against Illegal Immigration reform by U.S. Congress, Los Angeles, CA, May 1, 2006Donald Trump is entitled to his own opinions, not his own facts, to paraphrase Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

Mr. Trump, a Republican presidential candidate, gets a lot wrong in his comments about immigration and Mexico. There is no evidence that Mexican officials are dispatching criminals across a porous border, and immigrants don’t commit more crimes, studies show.

Yet even some of his critics give him credit for tapping into something real: what they see as the perils of President Obama’s lax approach to immigration, generally, and enforcement along the Mexican border in particular.

“We need to secure the border,” says Carly Fiorina, another presidential contender. This, too, is misleading.

Read more…

NEW PUBLICATION: Reflections on Mexico’s Southern Border

By Duncan Wood, Christopher Wilson, Eric L. Olson, Brenda Elisa Valdés Corona, and Ernesto Rodríguez Chávez

April 1, 2015

Puente Dr. Rodolfo Robles Ciudad Hidalgo Chiapas - Tecún Umán Guatemala  DSC_0914 Ernesto (2)In early March, 2015, a small group of researchers from the Washington-based Wilson Center and from Mexico’s Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México and Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas traveled to the southwestern section of the Mexico-Guatemala border to observe developments in migration, various types of illicit trafficking, trade, and border management. While there, we met with a wide range of government and non-governmental actors. We crossed the border and visited the official and irregular installations at Ciudad Hidalgo-Tecún Umán and Talisman-El Carmen. We met with officials from Mexico’s SRE (Foreign Ministry), SEMAR (Navy/Marines), the Interior Ministry’s Coordinación para la Atención Integral de la Migración en la Frontera Sur, and INM (National Immigration Institute); including a visit to the migrant holding center Estación Migratoria Siglo XXI in Tapachula. We were able to dialogue with a range of Chiapas state officials in charge of law enforcement and economic development in the border region. We visited two migrant shelters run by Scalabrini priests, one on each side of the border, and held meetings with NGO representatives and academics working on issues of human rights protection in relation to migrants, migrant workers, sex workers and victims of human trafficking. Finally, we met with Guatemala’s interagency border security task force, Fuerza de Tarea Interinstitucional Tecun Uman, including personnel from several Guatemalan government agencies.

In this brief publication, each of the five researchers participating in the visit presents a short reflection based on several of these encounters.

Click here to read the publication. 

We Don’t Know How Secure Our Border Is

1/27/2015 National Journal

Border - MexicoRep. Michael McCaul’s Secure Our Borders First Act will be voted on in the House next week, and it requires the Homeland Security Department to construct 400 miles of new roads and more than 100 miles of new border fences. It deploys new technology such as a biometric exit system at ports of entry and directs more air power to track migrants. It also requires DHS to disclose more data on how safe the border is.

But as the House risks putting divisions within its own ranks on display and goes head-to-head with the Obama administration, it’s worth asking: How secure are the 2,000 miles that stretch from California to Texas today to begin with?

There’s only one problem — nobody can tell you.

Read more…

Mexico’s Southern Border Strategy: Programa Frontera Sur

07/11/14 Christopher Wilson, Pedro Valenzuela

chiapasThe most common adjective used to describe Mexico’s southern border with Guatemala and Belize is probably ‘porous.’ The large volume of Central American migrants, including many families and unaccompanied minors, crossing the border on their way north to the United States suggests as much. The simultaneous operation of criminal groups involved in drug trafficking, human trafficking, migrant smuggling and other sinister pursuits in the region adds several layers to the challenge.

Read more…

DHS revises rules for use of deadly force on border

06/04/14, Homeland Security News Wire

U.S. Border PatrolmenOn 30 May DHS released new guidelines detailing when the use of force by Border Patrol officials is authorized. The lack of explicit scenarios within the rules, however, has led to questions of when such acts are truly warranted.

On 30 May DHS released new guidelines detailing when the use of force by Border Patrol officials is authorized. The lack of explicit scenarios within the rules, however, has led to questions of when such acts are truly warranted.

As the Los Angeles Times reports, these new revisions arrive amidst increasing criticism of unreasonable use of force and a much publicized, leaked damning internal report — both within the past six months. This documentation reveals some glaring abuses, including the fact “that some border agents stood in front of moving vehicles as a pretext to open fire and that agents could have moved away from rock throwers instead of shooting at them.”

Read more…