border security

Marine General John Kelly is Trump's Pick for DHS

Marine General John Kelly is Trump’s Pick for DHS

During the campaign, Trump promised to make America safe again. He’s doing it. Marine General John Kelly, 66, is his pick for the Department of Homeland Security. Trump has asked three Generals to be in his cabinet so far, which has many on the left, including some Democrat veterans worried. But it’s a formidable team he has picked to protect the United States, and the left wingers needn’t be…

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What if we re-imagined the US-Mexico border wall as architecture? Read more about the project in this week’s Design and Violence blog post. 

[Ronald Rael (American, b. 1971), Virginia San Fratello (American, b. 1971). Borderwall as Architecture: Teeter-totter alternative border solution. 2014. Dimensions and materials variable. Image courtesy of Rael San Fratello] 

The image…is of Carlos La Madrid, 19…shot in the back three times…and killed by a U.S. Border Patrol agent March 21, 2011 on the U.S. side of the border wall in Douglas, Ariz. His mother, Guadalupe Guerrero, who lives in Tucson, has become an outspoken figure on border violence in her attempt to seek answers and justice…


An investigative report that matters: Apparently 17 million pounds of marijuana has been confiscated by the U.S. Border Patrol between January 2005 and October 2011, the Center for Investigative Reporting reports. The lede on the ABC News story on the matter? “If you’ve always wanted to roll a spliff the size of the Washington Monument, the Border Patrol may be able to help.” I, for one, salute the Washington Marijuanament.

(Spotted this via firthofforth but had to post separately because OH MY GOD THE GRAPHIC)

Border violence is a prohibition problem. Just as we did for Al Capone and his murderous colleagues 90 years ago, our drug laws have created the battlefield on which tens of thousands are dying. By doggedly hanging onto marijuana laws that make criminals out of our children while our leaders proudly consume wine at state dinners, we have created an illegal marketplace with such mind-boggling profits that no enforcement measures will ever overcome the motivation, resources and determination of the cartels.

The Fence

The border the United States shares with Mexico is nearly 2,000 miles long and contains numerous natural and man-made barriers. The construction of the fence, the most significant man-made barrier in North America, started in 2006, has cost more than 3 billion dollars and spans around 700 miles (1,126 km).

This photo is part of a series titled “The Fence,” by Reportage photographer Charles Ommanney. You can view an exhibition of this work at the Leica Store in Miami through July, with an opening reception next Friday, May 29th at 7:30pm. Visit the Leica Store website for more info.


They go by many names,

They come from all backgrounds,

But they all have one job in common,

Protecting life.

No human being held by United States authorities should ever be exposed to hunger, extreme temperatures, physical or verbal abuse, or denial of medical care.

Sen. Barbara Boxer said in a press release announcing a new bill to ensure humane detention conditions at Customs and Border Protection facilities. 

In November, we reported that immigrants apprehended near the border sometimes are held in what they, as well as some Border Patrol agents, call las hieleras, or “the freezers.” 

Now, Sen. Boxer is proposing a new bill that would implement standards for Customs and Border Protection facilities, such as adequate climate control, potable water, access to toilets, access to medical care and special treatment for pregnant women.

More details on the proposed legislation here.

In El Paso, residents aren’t waiting for Congress to fix immigration

EL PASO, Texas — As 2013 drew to a close, volunteers for the Border Network for Human Rights (BNHR) fanned out into El Paso and the surrounding communities to collect stories of abuse and mistreatment by law enforcement officials. The annual effort seeks to establish accountability for officers working along the El Paso sector of the U.S.-Mexico border.

Amid the steady stream of complaints that rolled in, Fernando Garcia, the organization’s director, noticed a conspicuous absence of grievances against Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and the El Paso County Sheriff’s Department. “I said, ‘This cannot be,”’ recalled Garcia. He extended the campaign for two weeks and told volunteers to focus on finding any potential complaints against Border Patrol, an arm of CBP. But once again, volunteers found no verifiable incidents of abuse.

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(Photo: Tom A. Peter)

5 Facts about Migration from Central America’s Northern Triangle

In recent weeks, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has conducted a series of raids targeting Central American families who arrived at the United States’ southern border in the past two years. The raids have generated widespread opposition: more than 140 Members of Congress wrote to the administration to criticize the operations, and service providers, advocates, and religious groups have expressed concerns about human rights and lack of due process. The administration’s apparent belief that deporting families and children will send a message deterring other would-be migrants is short-sighted and inhumane.

Beyond their immediate effect on the immigrant community, the debate that the raids have generated raises the question: what is driving people to leave their homes and communities in Central America?

The facts make clear that refugees, people in need of protection, and migrants—including unaccompanied minors—will continue to leave the Northern Triangle countries in record numbers until their governments can implement policies that actually reduce violence, insecurity, and poverty, tackle corruption, and strengthen weak institutions. U.S. and international institutions must respond appropriately and humanely to refugees and those in need of protection, and must aid Central America in addressing the root causes of violence and corruption.

Below are five facts about migration from the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras since 2014:

1. High levels of violence continue to plague Central America’s Northern Triangle; in the case of El Salvador, violence is not only high, but increasing. Central America’s Northern Triangle region is among the most violent in the world.

According to police statistics, El Salvador’s 2015 national murder rate reached approximately 103 homicides per 100,000 people, a level of violence not seen since the end of the country’s civil war. Last year’s 6,650 homicides are an approximately 70 percent increase over 2014, following the unraveling of a truce between rival gangs and an aggressive crackdown by security forces. While El Salvador received the unwanted designation of the most violent country in the hemisphere, violence levels remain high in neighboring Honduras and Guatemala.

Honduras’ homicide rate was 57 murders for every 100,000 people in 2015. Though this was a drop from 69 homicides per 100,000 people in 2014, the rate remains among the world’s worst.

In Guatemala, the homicide rate slightly decreased in 2015 from 32 to 29.5 violent deaths per 100,000 people. With a total of 4,778 homicides in 2015, Guatemala saw an estimated 13 murders per day, according to the country’s national police. To put these numbers into perspective, the murder rate in the United States is around 5 per 100,000 inhabitants. This is one seventh of the rate in Guatemala, and one twentieth of the rate in El Salvador.

Homicide statistics are just one measure of the pervasive violence in many marginalized communities in all three countries. Extortion is also widespread. Data compiled by the Honduran daily La Prensa revealed that Salvadorans pay an estimated US$400 million a year in extortion fees, while Hondurans pay around $200 million and Guatemalans an estimated $61 million. Small businesses, the public transport sector, and poor neighborhoods are the most heavily hit.  A 2013 report revealed that 70 percent of small businesses in El Salvador are victims of extortion. According to a Guatemalan human rights organization, between January and July of 2014, at least 700 people had been killed for failing to pay extortion fees.

2. People are fleeing community-level violence, which is often personal and direct. They face real and specific threats from street gangs, extortionists, drug traffickers, and from domestic abuse, and so may be potential targets if returned. In many poor and marginalized communities in all three countries, women and children are victims of extortion, abuse, rape, murder, and gang-related violence. In many of these communities, citizens face explicit threats on their lives for reasons that may include bearing witness to a crime, attempting to leave a gang, or failing to pay an extortion fee or war tax. A 2014 report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) found that women in particular face a “startling” degree of violence in the Northern Triangle, including rape, assault, extortion, and threats by armed criminal groups. Sixty-four percent of women interviewed for the study cited targeted threats or attacks as one of their primary motivations for leaving their communities.

Although there are no official records of how many deported migrants have been killed upon return to their home countries, one study has estimated that over 80 returnees have been murdered in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras since January 2014. A recent article published in The Guardian profiled three cases of returned migrants who were murdered shortly after being deported from the United States, one only days after his arrival. A short documentary produced by the New York Times chronicling the journey of several unaccompanied children from Honduras described the endemic violence as a key factor in many of the minors’ decision to make the risky journey north.

3. These individuals have nowhere to turn for protection if they are sent back. Countries of the Northern Triangle are not providing security for their citizens. Victims of violence, extortion, sexual abuse, and death threats rarely find protection from the authorities. In fact, many victims fear the police as much as the criminals. In the Northern Triangle countries, rule of law and law enforcement institutions are weak and corrupted. The majority of police forces are underfunded, plagued by poor leadership, and sometimes complicit in criminal activity.

In El Salvador, growing concerns of reports of police and security force involvement in extrajudicial killings and human rights abuses are troubling. Among the Northern Triangle countries as a whole, the statistics on criminal investigation and prosecution are appalling: only five percent of homicide cases lead to a conviction in the region. Given this context, it is not surprising that women, children, and youth consider fleeing their communities in search of safety and protection.

4. The dangers people are fleeing are documented in skyrocketing requests for asylum or other forms of protection from citizens of the Northern Triangle, not just in the United States but in other countries of the region. It is not illegal to cross international borders to seek asylum. While the United States continues to be a primary destination, the countries neighboring the Northern Triangle, including Mexico, Costa Rica, Belize, and Nicaragua, have seen requests for asylum from citizens of these countries increase by almost 1,200 percent since 2008. Between 2008 and August 2015, Costa Rica alone saw a sixteen-fold increase in asylum requests from the Northern Triangle countries. Request for asylum in Mexico, primarily from Northern Triangle countries, have more than doubled since 2013. In a further illustration that fear and insecurity are driving migration and requests for asylum and protection, a UNHCR analysis of credible fear screenings carried out by U.S. asylum officers found that in 2015, 82 percent of the women from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico who were screened on arrival at the U.S. border “to have a significant possibility of establishing eligibility for asylum or protection under the Convention against Torture.”

Of course, the decision to migrate is a complicated one, and a variety of factors–especially economic insecurity and family situation–play into the decision.  But there can be little doubt that violence and insecurity are major drivers in the decision of a growing number of Northern Triangle citizens to leave their country in search of protection.

5. While there has been an increase in Central American migrants, especially women, children, and families, overall migration at the United States’ southern border is low, and there is no migration crisis at our border. While headlines about Central Americans’ flight from violence may leave the other impression, the fact is overall migration to the United States through the southern border has plummeted in recent years. There is simply no crisis of illegal border-crossing to justify the recent deportation policy. In fiscal year 2015, Border Patrol apprehended 331,313 people at the U.S.-Mexico border. That is the second fewest of any year since 1972, and the number of Mexican citizens apprehended (186,017) is the lowest since 1970. (In 2000 Border Patrol, with less than half as many agents as 2015, apprehended over 1.6 million Mexicans.)

At the same time, however, Border Patrol apprehensions of certain vulnerable populations, namely family units and unaccompanied children, have increased. Recently released statistics reveal that Border Patrol apprehended 8,412 family-unit members and 5,783 unaccompanied children from the Northern Triangle in December 2015, the highest numbers for any December. The persistently increasing levels of youth and family migration—during a month in which migration is typically low— strongly suggest that these groups are fleeing dangerous conditions within their countries, and will continue to do so while these root causes remain unaddressed.

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Conan helps to patrol the US-Canada border in style.

From Late Night with Conan O'Brien.


Slate’s photo blog, Behold, profiles Getty Images photographer John Moore and his work on immigration and border-security issues, which he has focused on since 2010.

Moore said he approached the project with the intent of looking at the issues “in as many ways as possible.” He said he explained the point of his project to immigrant communities and those in migrant shelters around the United States as wanting to put a human face on the issue; many decided to participate. He photographed a variety of people, including older men who were recently deported after living in the United Sates for many years, Cubans seeking asylum, and transgender people. He also tried to focus on families who had assimilated into American society.

Read more from the profile and see John’s work on