A chronology of events related to U.S. border governance and migration

April 28, 2020

  • NPR interviews residents in Starr County, Texas, as the administration files lawsuits against locals to acquire land for border construction despite the pandemic and nationwide demands to halt the project. Texas Civil Rights Project staff attorney Ricky Garza, representing a dozen landowners, states that 14 new lawsuits were filed in March alone.

Tags: Fencing

April 28, 2020

  • The Center for Biological Diversity releases footage of border wall construction destroying parts of the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge and the Tinajas Altas Mountains near Yuma, Arizona. The remote area, next to Mexico’s El Pinacate y Gran Desierto de Altar Biosphere Reserve, is not a major crossing point for smugglers or migrants but is home to the core population of Sonoran pronghorn, kit foxes, golden eagles, and other endangered species.

Tags: Environment, Fencing, Migration, Yuma

April 28, 2020

  • The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals hears arguments over House Democrats’ lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s use of defense funding to build the wall along the southern border. The case is one of several lawsuits filed against the Trump administration over its emergency border wall funding.

Tags: Budget, Fencing

April 28, 2020

  • U.S. defense officials state that the Pentagon is actively considering reducing the number of troops at the southern border by September and replacing them with members of the National Guard. This would bring the deployment in line with previous military operations at the border by the Bush and Obama administrations. There are approximately 5,000 active duty troops deployed to the border.

Tags: Civil-Military Relations, Military Deployments

April 27, 2020

  • Defense Secretary Mark Esper, in a memo to acting Pentagon Comptroller Elain McCusker, directs McCusker to “release funding associated with 22 currently deferred projects within the United States” totaling over $500 million to “enable the execution” of border wall construction. To fill the hole left by restoring the funds, Esper substitutes overseas projects appropriated by Congress, including $274 million worth of military construction projects in Europe intended to deter Russia.

Tags: Budget, Civil-Military Relations, Fencing

April 27, 2020

  • Refugees International issues a brief on the interim rule issued by the Health Department and the order issued by the CDC on March 20 limiting immigration to the United States, which were extended another 30 days on April 20. They state that the rule and order are not justified on public health grounds and illegally target asylum seekers for expulsion. Vox releases a similar report, examining the repercussions of the new policies.

Tags: Asylum, Human Rights, Migration, Public Health

April 23, 2020

  • After stopping the fourth attempt to smuggle people into the U.S. by tractor-trailer in the last four months, El Centro Sector CBP agents warn the public of the strategy’s rising trend. This fourth attempt resulted in the apprehension of 42 migrants near Calexico, California. 

Tags: Apprehensions, El Centro, Migration, Smuggling

April 22, 2020

  • National Border Patrol President Brandon Judd states that crossings between the official ports of entry are at their lowest numbers in approximately 45 years due to the coronavirus outbreak and the travel ban. Judd notes that the drop in activity by cartels is one of many factors contributing to the decrease.

Tags: Migration, Narcotrafficking

April 21, 2020

  • The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals rules that the federal government cannot be held liable for the actions of CBP agent Esteban Manzanares, who abused, sexually assaulted, and buried alive three Honduran migrants who had crossed into Texas from Mexico in 2014. According to the court, Manzanares was not acting within his official CBP agent capacity when he assaulted the trio.

Tags: Crimes Against Migrants, Human Rights, Migration, Organizational Culture

April 20, 2020

  • The San Diego Union-Tribune confirms that the Otay Mesa Detention Center has the largest number of confirmed coronavirus cases of all ICE detention centers, with 18 detainees, 9 U.S. Marshals Service inmates, 10 CoreCivic employees, and 8 medical staffers testing positive.

Tags: Human Rights, Migration, Public Health

April 20, 2020

  • The United States, Canada, and Mexico announce the extension of the restrictions barring nonessential travel across their respective borders for another 30 days amid the coronavirus pandemic. At this time, the U.S. has more than 760,000 cases and Mexico has more than 8,000.

Tags: Migration, Public Health

April 18, 2020

  • The Arizona Republic reports on migrant aid groups like the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project in Arizona, Al Otro Lado in California, and Border Kindness in Mexicali, Mexico. The article focuses on the difficulties faced by the organizations as they provide essential services to asylum seekers stranded at the border in the absence of federal assistance as coronavirus cases surge in both the U.S. and Mexico.

Tags: Asylum, Migration, Public Security, Remain in Mexico

April 17, 2020

  • Immigration detainees inside the Otay Mesa Detention Center in San Diego begin a hunger strike to protest the lack of health care precautions that has led to the largest ICE detention outbreak in the country. Detainees are unable to maintain social distancing and the ill are being told to gargle salt water by maskless and gloveless guards before being sent back to their “pods” with no COVID-19 testing taking place. 

Tags: Detention, Human Rights, Migration, Public Health, San Diego

April 17, 2020

  • Gilmer Barrios, a citizen of Guatemala with an open case in U.S. immigration court and no prior deportation order, was stopped at a CBP checkpoint near San Diego, California, and rapidly deported to Tijuana on March 23. On April 17, Barrios has finally secured passage back to the United States after intervention from the Guatemalan consul general in Los Angeles, California.

Tags: Apprehensions, Deportation, Guatemala, Migration, Organizational Culture

April 15, 2020

  • DHS issues a new environmental waiver to expedite approximately 15 miles of border construction in five non-contiguous segments in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley. The waiver puts the Rio Grande Valley National Wildlife Refuge at risk.

Tags: Environment, Fencing, Rio Grande Valley

April 15, 2020

  • Senator Martin Heinrich (D-NM) and House Representative Henry Cuellar (D-TX) lead a bicameral letter with 25 Senators and 66 Representatives to Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf, Attorney General William Barr, and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper demanding the administration halt ongoing wall construction as the U.S. responds to COVID-19. 

Tags: Fencing, Public Health

April 14, 2020

  • Colegio de la Frontera Norte (COLEF), a leading research university in Tijuana, Mexico, releases a study of the city’s 31 migrant shelters. In the analysis, COLEF recommends that the Mexican government support the relocation of “at least two thirds” of the 5,100 migrants in Tijuana due to the Remain in Mexico policy to hotels in the city to curb coronavirus mitigation in makeshift encampments and shelters.

Tags: Asylum, Border and Migration Politics, Migration, Remain in Mexico