An End-of-Year Migrant Surge

Happy Wednesday! Spirit Airlines accidentally rebooted the Home Alone movie series this holiday season when a crew member “incorrectly boarded” an unaccompanied 6-year-old boy on a flight departing from Philadelphia on December 21, sending him to Orlando instead of Fort Myers, Florida. The minor was reconnected with his family and, at least as far as we’ve heard, did not have to violently foil any robberies.

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • U.S. forces launched strikes on Monday against three drone facilities used by Iranian-backed militias in Iraq in response to a series of attacks on U.S. installations in Iraq and Syria that injured three U.S. service members, leaving one in critical condition. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin called the strikes “necessary and proportionate,” and U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) assessed they likely destroyed the facilities and killed “a number of Kataib Hezbollah militants.” Iranian-affiliated groups in Iraq and Syria have carried out dozens of attacks on U.S. troops since Hamas’ October 7 attack on Israel, and Monday marked the fifth U.S. military retaliation. Meanwhile, Iran claimed an Israeli airstrike in Damascus, Syria, on Monday killed Sayyed Razi Mousavi, a top general in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) said to be overseeing the shipment of weapons to Hezbollah, an Iran-backed terrorist group in Lebanon. Though Israeli officials did not confirm they were behind the strike, Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said Tuesday Israel was already “in a multifront war” and had responded in six of seven active theaters: Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Iran. 
  • The U.S. military reported Saturday night that Iran had fired a one-way attack drone from its territory earlier in the day, striking a Japanese-owned tanker in the Indian Ocean—the first in a recent string of attacks targeting busy shipping lanes to have allegedly come directly from Iran. The same day, the USS Laboon—an American destroyer on patrol in the Red Sea on Saturday as part of the U.S.-led maritime task force Operation Prosperity Guardian—shot down four drones fired at the ship by Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen. The warship also responded to distress calls from two other vessels that suffered a hit and a near miss in the Red Sea. On Tuesday, CENTCOM said the Laboon and U.S. F/A-18 Super Hornet fighter jets from the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group based in the eastern Mediterranean Sea shot down more than a dozen attack drones and missiles fired by the Houthis over the southern Red Sea over a ten-hour period beginning Tuesday morning. The White House has said Iran is “deeply involved” in the escalating attacks on vessels traveling through the Red Sea—an assessment Iran’s foreign minister denied as “baseless.”
  • Hamas and its allied terror group, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, on Monday reportedly rejected an Egyptian-led proposal that included their ceding of control of the Gaza Strip and a phased return of all the remaining hostages in exchange for a permanent ceasefire. The two groups reportedly rejected any concessions unrelated to the return of hostages, more than 100 of whom are still believed to be held in Gaza. It’s not clear whether Israel’s war cabinet considered the deal, which fell short of the three “prerequisites for peace” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu articulated in a Wall Street Journal op-ed Monday: “Hamas must be destroyed, Gaza must be demilitarized, and Palestinian society must be deradicalized.” The U.S. allowed a U.N. Security Council (UNSC) resolution, which called for additional aid to Gaza with toned-down language urging the eventual cessation of hostilities, to pass on Friday. The U.S. had vetoed several UNSC resolutions related to the war in Gaza over their insistence on a ceasefire and failure to condemn Hamas’ October 7 attack. Russia—another permanent member that, like the U.S., has veto power—abstained in protest of the softer language on a ceasefire, while the other 13 members voted in favor of the resolution. 
  • Jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was located in a Siberian prison, his spokeswoman said Monday, after his lawyers and allies lost contact with him earlier this month. Russian authorities moved Navalny—serving a 19-year sentence on extremism-related charges in what a U.S. State Department spokesperson characterized as an “unjust detention”—from a prison near Moscow to a remote penal colony in northern Russia. Ivan Zhdanov, the head of Navalny’s anti-corruption organization, suggested the transfer was an attempt by Russian President Vladimir Putin to isolate the opposition figure ahead of Russian elections in March. 
  • Ukraine’s Air Force announced Friday it had shot down three Russian fighter-bomber aircraft in the southern part of Ukraine, marking one of the most successful operations against Russian airpower since the beginning of the war. Ukrainian military officials also claimed to have destroyed a Russian warship in an overnight attack in Crimea on Monday, sharing video of a massive explosion—though Russian state media reported the amphibious landing ship was only damaged. 
  • On Tuesday, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu claimed his forces captured the eastern city of Maryinka, which had been in Ukrainian hands since the beginning of the war. The commander of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, General Valerii Zaluzhnyi, on Tuesday held his first press conference since the February 2022 invasion, saying the town—which the Russians are seeking to capture in an effort to advance further west from the city of Donetsk—had been entirely leveled, and Ukrainian troops had withdrawn to the edges of the town. In a rare acknowledgement of steep Ukrainian casualties, Zaluzhnyi also called for the mobilization of additional troops as the draft text of a bill in parliament proposed lowering the conscription age for Ukrainian men from 27 to 25.
  • In an unsigned order released on Friday, the Supreme Court declined to immediately decide whether former President Donald Trump is immune from prosecution for his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election. U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is overseeing special counsel Jack Smith’s election subversion case against Trump, ruled against the former president’s immunity claim earlier this month, leading Trump to appeal her decision. Smith asked the Supreme Court to bypass the U.S. Court of Appeals and issue an expedited decision to avoid any delays to the trial set to begin on March 4. After Friday’s ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit will begin hearing arguments in the case on January 9, though its ruling will likely still reach the Supreme Court eventually.
  • President Joe Biden issued a pardon for certain offenses related to marijuana use and possession under federal and Washington, D.C., law last week, building on a more expansive pardon for marijuana offenses signed last year. Last week’s proclamation included a pardon for offenses that occurred on federal land, which was not included in the last clemency effort. No federal prisoners were eligible for release under either proclamation, but the pardons were aimed at removing barriers—like getting a job or signing a lease—associated with drug offenses. Also last week, Biden commuted the sentences of 11 people serving time for nonviolent federal drug offenses. 

Another Migrant Caravan Approaches

Migrants take part in a caravan towards the border with the United States in Tapachula, Chiapas State, Mexico, on December 24, 2023.  (Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images)
Migrants take part in a caravan towards the border with the United States in Tapachula, Chiapas State, Mexico, on December 24, 2023. (Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images)

While Christians around the world celebrated Christmas Eve this weekend, thousands of migrants gathered in Tapachula—a town in southern Mexico near the Guatemalan border—and headed north on foot. The caravan includes an estimated 7,000 people walking under a banner that reads “Exodus from poverty.” Their destination is the U.S. border, more than 1,000 miles north. 

Migrant caravans—often a cable-news flashpoint—have increased in frequency over the last five years as Central and South America struggle with a historic refugee crisis. The people on the road from Tapachula represent just a fraction of the millions of U.S.-bound migrants fleeing violence, instability, and poverty in their home countries. With apprehensions surging again, border and immigration authorities are stretched to their limits as lawmakers struggle to reach an agreement on border security.

Over the last three weeks, the number of migrants crossing the border has reached historic levels. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has reportedly encountered—meaning detained, deemed inadmissible, or expelled—more than 10,000 people per day. And those border-crossing figures are up from a record-setting autumn: CBP reported 242,418 encounters at the southern border in November, 240,986 in October, and 269,735 in September—the largest number of encounters in a single month on record. (CBP has yet to release December’s official data.) Fiscal year (FY) 2023 saw 2.48 million encounters at the southern border, exceeding last year’s all-time record of 2.38 million. For comparison, the total number of encounters in FY 2019 was 977,509.

This content is available exclusively to Dispatch members
Try a membership for full access to every newsletter and all of The Dispatch. Support quality, fact-based journalism.
Already a paid member? Sign In
Comments (403)
Join The Dispatch to participate in the comments.
Load More