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October 2023, Volume 29, Number 4

DHS: Border

Congress funds the federal government via 12 appropriations bills, many of which contain riders that dictate how funds are to be spent. Congress agreed on $1.6 trillion in discretionary spending for FY24, but the Senate wants to spend more with “emergency” measures while the House wants to cut federal spending by rescinding previously approved appropriations.

Congress avoided a government shutdown October 1, 2023 when the House enacted a last-minute bill supported by Democrats and opposed by a handful of Republican conservatives that provides funding through mid-November 2023 but does not include funds for more border security and aid for Ukraine.

CBP. Customs and Border Protection reported 182,000 encounters between ports of entry in August 2023, up from 132,000 in July, 100,000 in June, and 171,000 in May. Half of those encountered in summer 2023 were parents with children, and most were released into the US.

There were over 8,000 encounters a day in September 2023; the record was almost 10,000 a day in May 2023. Mexican railroad company Ferromex suspended freight operations on 60 trains serving border cities such as Ciudad Juárez due to the high number of migrants using them to get to the border.

DHS in October 2023 announced that 20 miles of border barriers would be constructed in the Rio Grande Valley to deter illegal entries, waiving 26 federal laws to speed construction.

The Biden Administration is trying to deter illegal entries by increasing penalties for crossing illegally and opening new channels to enter legally. However, the upsurge at the border made it impossible to use the harsher policies and, as more migrants were released into the US, more migrants entered.

Over 2.2 million unauthorized migrants were encountered just inside the Mexico-US border in FY22, including almost 500,000 families with children. During the first 10 months of FY23, there were 1.6 million encounters just inside the border, including over 400,000 families with children. The number of encounters with migrant families reached a record 91,000 in August 2023, surpassing the previous record of 84,500 in May 2019 and putting the US on track for three million encounters in FY23.

Over 40,000 migrants a day may enter the US legally at ports of entry to apply for asylum after making appointments via the CBPOne app. If these migrants are included, encounters and CBPOne entries exceeded 230,000 in August 2023, putting the US on track for over three million entries.

CIS estimated 12.6 million unauthorized foreigners in the US in May 2023, up from 10.2 million in January 2021. MPI estimated that there were 11.2 million unauthorized foreigners in the US in 2021, including 5.2 million from Mexico and 0.8 million each from Guatemala and El Salvador. The number of Mexican-born unauthorized foreigners in the US peaked at 7.7 million in 2007.

More migrants are crossing the Darien Gap and headed north, almost 400,000 in the first nine months of 2023 compared with 248,000 in 2022; over 500,000 migrants are expected to cross the Darien Gap in 2023. Colombian towns at the southern end of the Darien Gap such as Acandi are benefitting from migrants headed north. Local residents charge migrants for boat rides and guides through the roadless jungle.

A major beneficiary is the Gaitanist Self-Defense Forces or Gulf Clan that collects an $80 tax from each migrant to ensure that migrants are not robbed during their journeys. Guides charge $150 or more to accompany migrants through the Darien Gap, which is developing restaurants and other infrastructure that provide migrants with places to rest and refresh; prices rise as migrants get further from major towns. Migrants are vulnerable in southern Panama, where multiple gangs operate.

To discourage migrants from heading for the US border, DHS’s safe mobility initiative is opening processing centers for foreigners in Colombia, Costa Rica, and Guatemala seeking to enter the US for family unification or another status. About 10 percent of the 40,000 applicants who registered in these centers between June and September 2023 were put on a path to enter the US.

ICE. Several owners and managers of Magnolia Cleaning Services in Williamsburg, Virginia were sentenced to prison for trafficking Central American youth under 18 to clean linens for hotels and timeshares. Magnolia charged the workers for housing and was ordered to pay $4 million in penalties and restitution.

The Family Expedited Removal Management program was created after Title 42 ended in May 2023 to quickly determine who may qualify for asylum and who should be deported quickly. Solo adults are deported quickly, and the FERM is aimed at speeding up the removal of families to deter their entry. Some 62,000 solo adults were encountered in July 2023, compared with 60,000 families.

Under FERM, ICE places ankle monitors on household heads, releases them into the US, and arranges for an interview with an asylum officer within a few weeks. Those who do not qualify for asylum, about half of those interviewed in summer 2023, are allowed one appeal and then deported, drawing protests from advocates who want migrants to have more time to present their cases and appeal.

DACA. Federal judge Andrew S. Hanen ruled in September 2023 that the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals created by President Obama in 2012 was unlawful because Obama did not have the authority to create DACA. The number of people with DACA status peaked at 700,000 and was 580,000 in September 2023.

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