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Migrant Justice Newsletter - April 2024

To read the full article: Migrant Justice Newsletter - April 2024 | InterReligious Task Force on Central America (

Welcome to IRTF’s March 2024 newsletter on Migrant Justice and the current situation at the US-Mexico border. After you’ve looked through the articles, we hope you can take a few minutes to see the TAKE ACTION items at the bottom.

In this newsletter, please read about 

1.  Changing Trends in Migrants at US-Mexico Border

2. ICE Air: Update on Removal Flight Trends 

3. Study Reveals: Border Wall Height Exacerbates Trauma Incidents 

4. At the Border: Recent Incidents at and around the US-Mexico Border 

5. Border Patrol and Local Law Enforcement’s Patterns of Abuse in Ohio’s Immigration Enforcement

6. Raising the Credible Fear Screening Standard Will Endanger Lives but Won’t Fix The Border  

7. Children in US-Mexico Border Camps

8. Migrants Mired in Transit as Mexico Becomes US’s Immigration Enforcer

9. Kidnapping of Migrants and Asylum Seekers at Texas-Tamaulipas Border Reaches Intolerable Levels 

10.  Migrant Deaths in New Mexico and Western Texas 

11. Human Rights in the Darién Gap of Panamá


Here is what you can do to take action this week in solidarity with migrants and their families. (See details at the bottom of this newsletter.)








Please consider supporting IRTF’s Migrant Justice work.

You can DONATE now at

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IRTF, 3606 Bridge Ave., Cleveland OH 44113


(1) Changing Trends in Migrants at US-Mexico Border

Border Patrol apprehended 140,644 migrants in February. While this was in fact a 13% increase compared to January, it was the seventh lowest month of apprehensions since Biden took office.

Top nationalities encountered by US immigration enforcement at southern border:

Mexico, Guatemala, Cuba, Colombia, Ecuador, Haiti

Increases in March 2024 (compared to Jan/Feb)

Brazil (increased by 87%), Colombia (65%), Ecuador (50%), El Salvador (31%), Peru (67%)

Decreases in March 2024 (compared to Jan/Feb)

Cuba (7% fewer), India (56%), Turkey (72%), Russia (15%), Venezuela (24%)


(2) ICE Air: Removal Flights

Over the last 12 months, there have been 7,947 ICE Air flights; 1,527 of those have been removal flights.  With an estimated average of 100 passengers per flight, this means that over the past 12 months, as many as 152,700 people could have been returned to Latin America, the Caribbean and a small number to Africa by air by the U.S.


In March 2024, removal flights decreased from 137 in February to 133 in March. The Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala (51), Honduras (27), and El Salvador (10) were destinations for 66% of all removal flights in February.


OCT = 52 removal flights

NOV = 45

DEC = 47

JAN = 52

FEB = 58

MAR = 51


OCT = 34 removal flights

NOV = 40

DEC = 40

JAN = 37

FEB = 29

MAR = 27

El Salvador

OCT = 20 removal flights

NOV = 14

DEC = 9

JAN = 11

FEB = 12

MAR = 10



OCT = 5 removal flights

NOV = 5

DEC = 4

JAN = 6

FEB = 7

MAR = 12



(3) Study Reveals: Border Wall Height Exacerbates Trauma

Experts at trauma centers along the border express concern over the surge in injuries following the federal government's expansion of the U.S.-Mexico border wall. University of California-San Diego Health physicians attribute the rise in injuries to the heightened wall. A study revealed a significant increase in trauma cases treated at UC San Diego Health Trauma Center, from 42 in 2019 to 440 in 2023. Chief trauma surgeon, Jay Doucet, MD, notes a substantial uptick in injuries, including broken legs and spinal injuries, since the taller wall's construction. He emphasizes the severity of injuries and the burden it places on the trauma system. San Diego County Supervisor, Jim Desmond, underscores the need for enforcing immigration laws to address the chaotic situation at the border. Despite challenges, Pedro Rios of the American Friends Service Committee advocates for aiding migrants and hopes for safer immigration processes.





(4) At the Border: Recent Incidents at and around the US-Mexico Border 

March 29 - CBP released body-worn camera footage of the February 17 death, apparently by suicide, of a man in a holding cell at a Laredo, Texas, checkpoint. The footage does not show the exact circumstances of how the man died because “the video recording system at the Border Patrol checkpoint was not fully functioning at the time of the incident.”


April 5 - A 24-year-old Guatemalan woman’s fatal March 21 fall from the border wall in San Diego drew new attention to the region’s sharply increased numbers of wall-related deaths and injuries. Elsewhere in San Diego, a federal judge ruled that outdoor encampments where Border Patrol makes asylum seekers wait to be processed violate a 1997 agreement governing the treatment of children in the agency’s custody


April 5 - sharp increase in kidnappings and attacks on migrants, including sexual assaults, in Mexico’s organized crime-dominated border state of Tamaulipas. Corrupt Mexican officials allegedly facilitate these crimes. U.S. policies, the report finds, are not taking the danger into account: deportations into Tamaulipas are heavy, access to ports of entry is heavily restricted, and the state concentrates 43 percent of the insufficient number of border-wide CBP One appointments.


April 12 - Recent years’ sharp rises in migrant deaths continue in Border Patrol’s El Paso Sector, which includes the border in far west Texas and all of New Mexico. After a record 149 remains were recovered there in the 2023 fiscal year, the death toll stands at 34 halfway through the 2024 fiscal year, and the hot summer months are yet to come. Dehydration, heat exhaustion, and drowning are the principal causes of death.


Want to find out more about the conditions at the southern US border? Sign up for the weekly Border Update from WOLA. 



(5) Border Patrol and Local Law Enforcement’s Patterns of Abuse in Ohio’s Immigration Enforcement

 Although just 4.3% of Ohio’s population is Latinx/Hispanic, more than 65% of Border Patrol’s apprehensions were of Latinx individuals. Sometimes Ohio local law enforcement agencies commonly stopped immigrant drivers for minor traffic offenses and then contacted Border Patrol requesting their presence at the scene.  Local law enforcement initiated more than half of arrests of people suspected of being undocumented. Records show that Border Patrol agents co-patrolled—also described as ride-alongs—in Ohio State Highway Patrol vehicles to conduct immigration checks at routine traffic stops. Border Patrol also routinely conducted transportation checks at bus and train stations in Toledo and Sandusky and interrogated passengers. Fifteen percent of all arrests reviewed happened at an Amtrak train station or a Greyhound bus station.


The American Immigration Council and Advocates for Basic Legal Equality (ABLE) analyzed the Border Patrol’s enforcement records from the Sandusky Bay Border Station and found:

  • The primary targets of immigration enforcement actions were male laborers of Latin American origin, between the ages of 23 and 40, of darker skin complexion. 
  • Eighty-nine percent of arrests were individuals of color, labeled by USBP’s “complexion” categories as “Black,” “Dark Brown,” “Dark,” “Light Brown,” “Medium Brown,” and “Medium.”
  • US nationals made up 23.2% of USBP apprehensions and an additional 1.3% of individuals apprehended were not deportable.





(6) Raising the Credible Fear Screening Will Endanger Lives but Won’t Fix the Border

The article argues against raising the credible fear screening standard for asylum seekers, asserting that such actions would endanger lives, violate international and domestic law, and fail to address the underlying challenges at the border. It contends that raising the standard would lead to unjust deportations of individuals with significant chances of proving their eligibility for asylum, and highlights cases of erroneous negative determinations under the current standard. Furthermore, it warns that heightening the standard would violate international refugee legal standards and increase the risk of persecution for vulnerable individuals. The text also criticizes administrative attempts to circumvent legal screening standards enacted by Congress and argues that raising the standard would not deter migration or solve the asylum issue. Instead, it advocates for real solutions such as improving access to ports of entry, enhancing reception capacity, and ensuring prompt access to work authorization for asylum seekers.




(7) Children in US-Mexico Border Camps

 The Court found that Customs & Border Patrol (CBP) violated the Flores Settlement by holding children in unsafe and unsanitary conditions, not providing children with appropriate food, and not processing children as expeditiously as possible. 


On April 3, a US federal district court judge ruled that children languishing in open-air camps along the US-Mexico border should be “expeditiously” provided with safe and sanitary housing. The legal challenge on behalf of children focused on two camps in San Diego, California, but the judge’s order could have farther-reaching implications.


The government argues that children who have not yet been processed at immigration centers are not yet under US custody, and therefore the government has no obligation to provide them with care. As a result, some children have had to wait at camps for hours, or even days, until their cases are processed.


Judge Dolly M Gee of the US district court of central California disagrees. In her ruling on April 3, she wrote: “Juveniles, unlike adults, are always in some form of custody.” On their arrival, migrants are given a wristband marked with a date; when they ask Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) officers if they can leave to get food and water, they are told no, the judge noted in the decision. And “if an individual does leave [the site], Border Patrol brings them back.”







(8) Migrants Mired in Transit as Mexico Becomes US Immigration Enforcer

 “It used to be that the Darién Gap was the most horrific part of their journey, but now people are saying that Mexico is the worst,” said Ari Sawyer, a researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Mexico is the new jungle.”


Mexico’s detention of migrants has reached almost 800,000—a fourfold increase since before the global health pandemic.  Besides detention, the Mexico National Institute of Migration is employing other tactics to make it harder for migrants to travel north. These include checkpoints on roads and greater efforts to stop migrants hitching a ride on cargo trains. More and more migrants are stuck in transit. And that makes them more vulnerable to abuses like kidnapping and extortion.





(9) Kidnapping of Migrants and Asylum Seekers at Texas-Tamaulipas Border Reaches Intolerable Levels

Tamaulipas is the only Mexican border state, and one of six Mexican states overall, to which the State Department has assigned a “level four—do not travel” designation, the same severity as Afghanistan.


The groups controlling criminality in Tamaulipas make millions of dollars annually from cross-border drug trafficking, human trafficking, and migrant smuggling, an industry that has boomed under restrictive U.S. border policies that bottle up or return large numbers of migrants to northern Mexico. But this isn’t the only way criminal groups seek to extract as much money as possible from migrants: they also systematically kidnap migrants, inflicting physical and psychological harm, and demanding exorbitant ransoms from their relatives.



(10) Migrant Deaths in New Mexico, Western Texas

Along with a sharp increase in overall deaths in BorderPatrol’s El Paso Sector, women now account for more deaths than men. A statistic unprecedented anywhere else along the border, for any year. One explanation for this is the increasing inability for people not prepared for a desert journey into more remote areas. 

The only way to prevent the death and suffering that have become so commonplace in the US-Mexico borderlands is to end the policy of Prevention Through Deterrence, abolish the US Border Patrol, and dismantle the border barriers that have divided so many communities.




(11) Human  Rights in the Darién Gap of Panamá

100,000 migrants have already crossed the Darién Gap this year.


In March, the Washington, DC-based NGO Quixote Center, together with its partner Red Franciscana (Franciscan Network) organized a delegation of faith leaders to Panama. They traversed the entire length of the country to encounter and understand the migrant experience, beginning with the treacherous Darién Gap that connects Colombia to Panama.


Migrants and local Panamanians spoke in detail about extreme levels of sexual violence, extortion, robbery, and murder in the Darién Gap. Children report seeing dead bodies. Residents say that Colombian cartels control the Darién crossing, charging up to $1200 per migrant to cross the jungle.  People exit the jungle by foot, or by boat if they have the money.





Now that you are up to date on some of the issues at and around the southern border of the U.S., here are some quick things you can do this week to take action in solidarity with migrants and their families.


El Salvador has been under a state of emergency for nearly two years during which time there have been countless human rights violations, with massive arbitrary detentions, 78,000 people including children detained, and people dying in prison for lack of access to health care. The State Department needs to urge President Bukele to restore rights and end this inhumane policy.


For background:

(1) watch this recent panel explaining the current situation inEl Salvador, such as fraud during recent elections, the military and police repression against communities with organized resistance, and the economic exploitation that is fueling a new wave of displacement.

(2) read this article on how President Nayib Bukele has reduced gang violence by replacing it with state violence.

(3) Click here to ask your congressperson and US senators to contact the US State Department to protect human rights in El Salvador. You can cite this recent report from Amnesty International (El Salvador: The institutionalization of human rights violations after two years of emergency rule)


Haiti is desperate. In the absence of a functioning state, criminal organizations (which now control 80% of the country’s capital) terrorize the population with rape, kidnapping, and murder, all with impunity.


Click here to contact Congress. Urge them to

(1) Support S396, the Haiti Criminal Collusion Transparency Act, to identify and hold accountable those who are financing the gangs.

(2) Support HR 6618, the ARMAS Act, in the House, and introduce a companion bill in the Senate—to stop the illegal flow of weapons from the US to Haiti

(3) End U.S. support for de facto prime minister Ariel Henry

(4) Redesignate and extend Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for Haitians, which is set to expire on August 4, 2024.

(5) Stop all deportation flights and interceptions at sea

(6) Immediately increase humanitarian aid

(7) Open a channel of communication and comprehensive, inclusive consultation on the future of Haiti

(8) Condition military and police aid on a) consultation with Haitian civil society before deployment, and b) human rights protections


The Biden administration has resumed deportation flights to Haiti. For the first time since January 18, more than 70 Haitians were expelled to Haiti from the United States on April 18 on the first deportation flight since heavily armed gangs launched a bloody insurrection which has paralyzed the capital and forced the prime minister from office. And in between Jan 18 and April 18, the U.S. Coast Guard has been returning Haitians picked up by sea. President Biden has the authority to grant humanitarian parole and stop the deportations to Haiti, where the current situation is “cataclysmic,” according to the United Nations.


Click the White House comment page and demand that the Biden administration HALT all deportations to Haiti.


Congress recently introduced the Defending Borders, Defending Democracies Act (H.R. 7372), which is a dangerous bill that will significantly undo protections for unaccompanied children and their families seeking refuge in the United States. If it becomes law, the Defending Borders, Defending Democracies Act will again place unaccompanied children in harm’s way, where they are more likely to experience human trafficking, sexual exploitation, and extreme violence.

This bill would decimate longstanding, bipartisan safeguards for unaccompanied children, including:

(1) mandating expulsions of unaccompanied children seeking protection at the U.S.-Mexico border without proper screenings, all but guaranteeing their return to danger;

(2) subjecting unaccompanied children, as young as two years-old, to a “Remain in Mexico” program requiring them to wait alone in unsafe conditions in Mexico pending immigration proceedings in the United States;

(3) forcing some unaccompanied children to languish in jail-like Customs and Border Protection (CBP) detention for up to a full year—120 times longer than current law permits.


Click here to urge your congressperson to reject HR 7372.



Join Ohio Immigrant Alliance for a meaningful volunteering opportunity with the #ReuniteUS campaign on Tuesday, June 11.  We will be delivering copies of "Broken Hope" (a book about the lives, hopes, and dreams of people who were deported by Lynn Tramonte of OHIA and Suma Setty of CLASP, with research by Maryam Sy of OHIA) to congressional offices in Washington D.C. On April 12, NPR’s “Here and Now” included a powerful segment featuring two deported advocates & mothers, Tina Hamdi & Assia Serrano, who help lead the Chance to Come Home campaign. Both Tina and Assia are survivors of domestic violence, lived in Ohio & New York for decades, and currently live in exile as they fight to return to the U.S. to reunite with their young children.


Come to help ensure that people who were deported are seen and heard in the halls of Congress! You will be paired with at least one other person, and receive training before the delivery. Sign up here.



Refugee Resource Center operates in the basement of St. Colman’s Parish (2027 W 65th St) and opens up on Saturdays from 9-12 for new arrivals to come get necessities that are not provided by other assistance. To serve the 45 families who come to the center each week, there is a great need for diapers, feminine napkins, toilet paper,  laundry detergent, shampoo, body soap, deodorant, dish soap and general household cleaner. Pots and pans also needed. 


If you would like to organize a collection of some of these items (maybe at your place of worship, school, or community group), please contact Kelly and she will help you arrange drop off at the site.


Please support this work

Please consider supporting IRTF’s Migrant Justice work.

How to donate

You can DONATE now at

Venmo @irtfcleveland

PayPal @irtfcleveland


IRTF, 3606 Bridge Ave., Cleveland OH 44113