struggle for the border
US government policies for dealing with unauthorized migrants at the Mexico-US border are endangering Hondurans and other Central Americans by sending them back to their home countries without adequate consideration of their asylum claims, according to a 44-page report that the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) organization released on Oct. 16. "In its frenzy to stem the tide of migrants from Central America, the US is sending asylum seekers back to the threat of murder, rape and other violence," said Clara Long, the HRW researcher who wrote the report, "'You Don't Have Rights Here': US Border Screening and Returns of Central Americans to Risk of Serious Harm."
Here we go again. Francis X. Taylor, under-secretary for intelligence and analysis at the Department of Homeland Security, testified before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security on Sept. 10 that operatives of the extremist jihadi movement variously known as ISIS, ISIL or the Islamic State have discussed infiltrating the United States through the Mexican border. "There have been Twitter and social-media exchanges among ISIL adherents across the globe speaking about that as a possibility," Taylor said in response to a question from Sen. John McCain, who wanted to know if any ISIS chatter had been intercepted that "would urge infiltration into the United States across our Southwestern border." But Taylor said he was "satisfied that we have the intelligence and the capability at our border that would prevent that activity." And when pressed further, he admitted: "At present, DHS is unaware of any specific, credible threat to the US homeland from ISIL."
Mexico's El Universal reports June 18 that a protected witness testified to the Prosecutor General of the Republic (PGR) that members of the US Border Patrol collaborated with the Sinaloa Cartel in arms trafficking to the powerful criminal organization. The sworn testimony is being used as evidence in the case against the cartel's recently apprehended kingpin, Joaquin Guzmán Loera AKA "El Chapo"—who is accused, along with numerous other charges, of supervising the Gente Nueva gang, the cartel's armed wing.
US vice president Joe Biden made a one-day visit to Guatemala on June 20 for a meeting with regional authorities on the recent increase in Central Americans, especially underage minors, apprehended while attempting to enter the US without authorization at the Mexican border. Calling the influx of children "an enormous danger for security" as well as a "humanitarian issue," Biden said the US planned to continue repatriating the young immigrants but would provide Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras with $9.6 million to reintegrate the deportees into society. The US is also offering financial aid that officials say will help stop the flow of immigrants: $40 million to Guatemala to launch a five-year program to reduce youth recruitment into gangs; $25 million for a five-year program to add 77 youth centers to the 30 now operating in El Salvador; $18.5 million through the six-year-old US-sponsored Central America Regional Security Initiative (CARSI) to support Honduran institutions in the fight against crime; and $161.5 million for CARSI throughout the region.
In very disturbing news from Mexico's northeast border state of Tamaulipas, police on Oct. 1 said they rescued 73 abducted migrants outside Reynosa after following their apparent captors to a house and hearing frantic calls for help. Of the victims, 37 were Mexicans, 19 were from Honduras, 14 from Guatemala and another three from El Salvador. They included women and minors, some of whom reported having been sexually abused. Three suspects were detained, who are believed to have seized the migrants on buses they stopped in the desert. Some of the victims had been held for up to four months while their captors demanded payment from their families, police said. Weapons and drugs were also seized at the home, including nearly 700 rounds of bullets, a hand grenade, and almost 10,000 kilograms (22,046 pounds) of what was "believed to be" marijuana. (Reuters, Oct. 2)
On June 4 Mexican army soldiers freed 165 people, mostly Central Americans, who the authorities said had been held for as much as three weeks by an unidentified criminal organization at a safe house in Las Fuentes, Gustavo Díaz Ordaz municipality, a few miles from the US border in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas. One person, apparently a lookout for the kidnappers, was arrested. The captives were reportedly migrants planning to cross illegally into the US; the smugglers ("polleros") they had hired may have turned them over to a criminal group, possibly the Gulf drug cartel or the Los Zetas gang.
About 253,000 firearms are bought in the US and transported illegally into Mexico each year, according to estimates published on March 18 by researchers at the University of San Diego's Trans-Border Institute and the Rio de Janeiro-based Igarapé Institute. The researchers' report, "The Way of the Gun: Estimating Firearms Traffic Across the US-Mexico Border," estimates that these sales generate $127.2 million a year in revenue and account for about 2.2% of the annual firearms sales in the US. During 2010-2012 an estimated 46.7% of federally licensed firearm dealers "depended for their economic existence on some amount of demand from the US-Mexico firearms trade to stay in business," the report says.
José Antonio Elena Rodríguez, a 16-year-old Mexican shot dead by US Border Patrol agents at the Mexico-US border near Nogales, Arizona, the night of Oct. 10, 2012, was hit by at least eight bullets and maybe as many as 11, according to an autopsy report made available to reporters on Feb. 7. The report, prepared by doctors for the Sonora State Attorney General's Office, found that at least seven of the bullets hit the unarmed teenager in the back. The shooting came a week after an Oct. 2 incident in which a Border Patrol agent was shot dead by other agents in the dark near the border in Cochise County, Arizona.