Tag Archives: Border

Analysis: Trump’s border wall faces reality check

President Donald Trump’s vow to accelerate construction of a “contiguous, physical wall” along the Mexican border is slamming into a Washington reality— who’s going to pay for it and how?

Continue reading Analysis: Trump’s border wall faces reality check

Trump orders construction of border wall and punishment for sanctuary cities

President Donald Trump on Jan. 25 ordered construction of a U.S.-Mexican border “wall” and punishment for cities shielding illegal immigrants while mulling restoring a CIA secret detention program.

Also, a draft executive order seen by Reuters that Trump is expected to sign in the coming days would block the entry of refugees from war-torn Syria and suspend the entry of any immigrants from Muslim-majority Middle Eastern and African countries Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Iraq, Iran, Libya and Yemen while permanent rules are studied.

Trump’s executive orders on Wednesday signaled a tough action toward the roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, whom he already has threatened to deport.

In a move critics called a slight to the integrity of American democracy, Trump also said he would seek a “major investigation” into what he believes was voter fraud in the November election, despite overwhelming consensus among state officials, election experts and politicians that it is rare in the United States.

“We are going to restore the rule of law in the United States,” Trump told an audience that included relatives of people killed by illegal immigrants at the Department of Homeland Security after signing two executive orders.

The directives ordered the construction of a multibillion-dollar “wall” along the roughly 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border, moved to strip federal funding from sanctuary states and cities that harbor illegal immigrants and expanded the force of U.S. anti-immigration agents.

His plans prompted an outcry from immigrant advocates and Democratic lawmakers who said Trump was jeopardizing the rights and freedoms of millions of people while treating Mexico as an enemy, not an ally, and soiling America’s historic reputation as a welcoming place for immigrants of all stripes.

“The border wall is about political theater at the expense of civil liberties,” said Christian Ramirez, director of the Southern Border Communities Coalition immigrant advocacy group.

“It is not national security policy. Border communities are among the safest in the nation, and patrolling them with tens of thousands of heavily armed, poorly trained, unaccountable agents puts lives at risks. This will turn these communities into de facto military zones,” Ramirez said.

The White House said the wall would stem the flow of drugs, crime and illegal immigration into the United States.

The immigration crackdown has sparked fear among  “dreamers,” whose parents brought them to the United States illegally and who received deportation relief and work permits from President Barack Obama’s administration.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said “dreamers” should not be worried. “We’re focused on physical security of the border, we’re focused on those who are coming to do us harm from terrorist states and things like that,” he told MSNBC.

TENSION WITH MEXICO

Trump’s actions could further test relations with Mexico.

Trump’s policies, including his demand that the North American Free Trade Agreement with Mexico and Canada be renegotiated or scrapped, have put Mexico’s government on the defensive. Trump and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto are due to meet next week.

Pena Nieto said he “regrets and disapproves” of the push by Trump to build a new wall along the border.

Officials in cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, Denver, Washington, San Francisco and Seattle offer some forms of protection to illegal immigrants. Billions of dollars in federal aid to those cities, often governed by Democrats, could be at risk under Trump’s move.

Trump said construction on the wall would start within months, with planning starting immediately and he said Mexico would pay back to the United States “100 percent” of the costs. Mexican officials repeatedly said that is not going to happen.

The cost, nature and extent of the wall remain unclear. Trump last year put the cost at “probably $8 billion,” although other estimates are higher, and he said the wall would span 1,000 miles because of the terrain of the border.

END OF ‘CATCH AND RELEASE’

Trump’s directives would end the practice known by critics as “catch and release” in which authorities apprehend illegal immigrants on U.S. territory but do not immediately detain or deport them.

The directives also include hiring 5,000 more U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents.

They also create more detention space along the southern border to make it easier to detain and deport people.

Reporting by Julia Edwards Ainsley; Additional reporting by Mica Rosenberg, Roberta Rampton, Jonathan Landay, Mark Hosenball, Doina Chiacu, Andy Sullivan, Mohammad Zargham, Eric Beech and Susan Heavey; Writing by Will Dunham; Editing by Alistair Bell and Peter Cooney.

After Mexico visit, Trump renews hardline stance on immigration

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump vowed on Aug. 31 that anyone who is in the United States without legal papers would be subject to deportation if he is elected, sticking with his hardline position on immigration after flirting with a softer approach.

In a major speech in the border state of Arizona, Trump took a dim view of the 11 million people who crossed into the United States illegally, a week after saying many were “great people” who had lived in the country for years and contributed to American society.

He said all people in the United States without legal documents would have “only one route” to gain legal status if Trump were to win the Nov. 8 presidential election: “To return home and apply for re-entry.”

“Our message to the world will be this: You cannot obtain legal status or become a citizen of the United States by illegally entering our country,” Trump said.

“People will know you can’t just smuggle in, hunker down and wait to be legalized,” he said. “Those days are over.”

Trump again vowed that Mexico would pay for construction of a “great border wall” between the two countries. He spoke hours after Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto told Trump in a face-to-face meeting in Mexico City that Mexico would not pay for it.

“We will build a great wall along the southern border,” Trump said. He added, “And Mexico will pay for the wall – 100 percent. They don’t know it yet, but they’re going to pay for the wall.”

Trump said at a joint news conference with Pena Nieto that he and the Mexican leader did not discuss who would pay for the wall. Pena Nieto remained silent on the issue at the event, but said later on Twitter he did raise the issue.

“At the beginning of the conversation with Donald Trump I made it clear that Mexico will not pay for the wall,” Pena Nieto said in a tweet.

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HARDLINE RETURN

Trump used the Phoenix speech to clarify his stance on immigration after prevaricating on the issue last week. He returned to the hardline rhetoric that powered him to the Republican presidential nomination over 16 rivals, heartening those conservatives drawn to Trump by the issue.

Ann Coulter, a far-right activist who had fretted that Trump might be softening, tweeted: “I hear Churchill had a nice turn of phrase, but Trump’s immigration speech is the most magnificent speech ever given.”

Correct The Record, an organization supporting Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in the Nov. 8 presidential election, slammed Trump.

“Tonight confirmed what we knew all along – there is no ‘softening’,” Correct The Record spokeswoman Elizabeth Shappell said.

Trump’s “America First” positions are aimed at rallying middle-class people who feel they have lost jobs to illegal immigrants or to the outsourcing of jobs abroad.

However, he may have put himself at risk of limiting his ability to broaden his base of support to include more Hispanic-Americans and more moderate Republican voters who do not think it is possible or practical to crack down on all illegal immigrants.

In his speech, Trump emphasized that his priority would be to quickly deport those among the undocumented population who have committed serious crimes.

“As with any law enforcement activity, we will set priorities,” Trump said. “Anyone who has entered the United States illegally is subject to deportation. That is what it means to have a country.”

He said he would form a commission to study which regions or countries he would suspend immigration from, saying Syria and Libya would be high on his list. This would be his way of carrying out his proposed ban on Muslims from some countries without getting into their religious affiliation.

Trump said he would also establish a “deportation task force” to identify criminals subject to deportation, would triple the number of federal deportation officers, and increase the number of border patrol stations.

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REBUKE, PROTESTS

Trump is trailing Clinton in opinion polls and the New York businessman’s aides hoped the trip would make him look presidential and show he was willing to deal head-on with thorny issues such as relations with Mexico.

Pena Nieto said at the joint news conference with Trump in Mexico City that the many millions of Mexicans in the United States deserved respect. However, he offered only a mild rebuke of Trump for his rhetoric.

“The Mexican people has felt aggrieved by comments that have been made, but I was sure his interest in building a relationship is genuine,” Pena Nieto said.

Demonstrators gathered beneath a monument to Mexican independence in the center of the capital to protest against the visit, some holding placards emblazoned with captions such as: “You are not Wall-come” and “Trump and Pena out.”

Trump has been pilloried in Mexico since he launched his White House campaign last year.

Clinton, a former secretary of state, said Trump could not paper over his previous harsh language against Mexico.

“It certainly takes more than trying to make up for more than a year of insults and insinuations by dropping in on our neighbors for a few hours and then flying home again,” she told a convention of the American Legion military veterans’ group in Cincinnati.

All photos provided via Reuters Media Express service.

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White House calls Paul Ryan’s remarks on immigration ‘preposterous’

The White House accused new House Speaker Paul Ryan on Nov. 2 of “pandering to the extreme right wing” of his party on immigration.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Ryan’s recent comments on immigration reform are “preposterous” and disappointing.

The Wisconsin Republican said on Nov. 1 that he’s ruled out passing comprehensive immigration legislation while President Barack Obama is in office. He said Obama cannot be trusted on the issue because he went around Congress to take executive actions shielding from deportation millions of people living in the country illegally.

Earnest called the remark “ironic.” He said it’s Ryan who supported an immigration deal, then failed to push for it to come up for a vote in the House.

The White House criticism comes as Ryan is maneuvering carefully on the issue of immigration, long a priority for him. With most House conservatives wary of anything that could constitute “amnesty” for the 11.5 million immigrants living here illegally, Ryan has offered repeated assurances, before and after becoming speaker last week, that he will not pursue comprehensive immigration legislation as long as Obama is president. 

It’s a new stance for Ryan, who as recently as last year was working behind the scenes in the House to promote immigration legislation following Senate passage of a comprehensive bill, including a path to citizenship for those here illegally. 

The secretive House efforts largely collapsed in the aftermath of former Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s upset loss in a GOP primary in June of 2014, attributed to Cantor’s supposed support for immigration legislation. 

Ryan even embraced eventual citizenship for those here without legal documents, something that’s anathema to many conservatives. In a 2013 appearance before the City Club of Chicago alongside the leading pro-immigrant activist in the House, Democratic Rep. Luis Gutierrez of Illinois, Ryan said: “We do not want to have a society where we have different classes of people who cannot reach their American dream by being a full citizen. That is a very important part of immigration reform.”

Asked on Nov. 1 on NBC’s “Meet the Press” about his support for a “path to citizenship,” Ryan emphasized something different, saying: “Well, legal status is what I was talking about.”

Legal status versus citizenship is an important distinction, partly because only citizenship confers the right to vote. His office said Ryan supports “earned legal status,” noting that this could eventually lead to citizenship through existing channels.

Ryan has been under pressure from conservative lawmakers demanding assurances from him on the issue, even as Gutierrez and other activists have criticized him for offering such promises. 

Earnest said Ryan’s remarks don’t bode well for a “new era of Republican leadership.”

Artist rendering U.S.-Mexico border fence ‘invisible’

Armed with sky-blue paint, artist Ana Teresa Fernandez began to “erase” the border fence that splits up Mexico and the U.S. near Nogales, Mexico.

Fernandez, who was born in Mexico but raised in San Diego, is leading an effort to paint the border fence in Nogales, Sonora, so blue that it blends with the sky, rendering it nearly invisible. Nogales sits on the border with Nogales, Arizona.

Fernandez solicited the help of about 30 volunteers who helped paint.

“This wall has become a symbol of pain, a symbol where we lament the lives who have not been able to cross it,” Fernandez said.

The artist wants to use her painting as a visual platform of migrant and human rights on an international level.

“For me, the border, the border wall, is like a tombstone,” she said.

Neither the Mexican or U.S. authorities interrupted the painters as they covered a little over 30 feet of fencing with blue paint.

“It’s not erasing the border, it’s pulling the sky down to us,” the 34-year-old said.

This isn’t the first time Fernandez “pulls down they sky.”

She painted the border fence on a beach in Tijuana in 2012, saying the border fence mostly exists for Mexicans, not Americans.

This week’s project attracted the attention of Luis Guerra, an immigrant who was deported two years ago. Guerra lived in the U.S. since he was 13 years old and has U.S.-born children. The 36-year-old said he can’t enter to the U.S. to see his family.

Guerra volunteered to paint.

“It gives me strength. It makes me feel like I’m strong,” Guerra said. “Now I don’t feel like I’m in jail. It looks nice.”

Susannah Castro, of Border Community Alliance, invited Fernandez to take on this project. She said Mexican authorities were made aware of the project and didn’t object.

“We’re not doing anything illegal. We’re an humanitarian organization and we’re not gonna shy away from these topics,” Castro said.

Added Fernandez: “The role of an artist is to make sure people don’t become compliant.”

Help wanted: Lawyers needed for immigrant children

Most of the nearly 60,000 Central American children who have arrived on the U.S.-Mexico border in the last year still don’t have lawyers to represent them in immigration court, and advocates are scrambling to train volunteer attorneys to help cope with the massive caseload.

With the number of unaccompanied immigrant children more than doubling this past fiscal year, the need for attorneys has surged, and it has been exacerbated by the immigration courts’ decision to fast-track children’s cases, holding initial hearings within a few weeks instead of months.

Immigrants can have counsel in immigration courts, but lawyers are not guaranteed or provided at government expense. Having an attorney can make a big difference: While almost half of children with attorneys were allowed to remain in the country, only 10 percent of those without representation were allowed to stay, according to an analysis of cases through June by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University.

Efforts are underway from White Plains, New York, to New Orleans to train attorneys at private law firms on the country’s byzantine immigration laws and how to work with traumatized, Spanish-speaking children, many of whom are fleeing violence — a far cry from the corporate clients most deal with on a daily basis.

“We’re doing pretty well on finding willing lawyers. We’ve got to get them trained, we’ve got to get them matched to that child,” said Reid Trautz, director of the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s practice and professionalism center. “It just takes time.”

Last month, Vice President Joe Biden urged lawyers to increase efforts to take on the children’s cases. Since then, the cities of San Francisco and New York have each announced plans to allocate roughly $2 million to help provide more lawyers for unaccompanied minors. California has appropriated $3 million toward the effort.

About 800 immigration lawyers have signed up to volunteer on the cases, the immigration lawyers association said.

So have many other attorneys without any background in immigration law. They are being trained and paired with experienced immigration practitioners, who serve as mentors.

“We’ve had tax lawyers do this, corporate lawyers, real estate – anybody can do it,” said Ricardo Martinez-Cid, president of the Cuban American Bar Association, which started a program earlier this year to represent unaccompanied children in Miami.

Immigrant advocates say the efforts are working, but not as quickly as desired. Nonprofit organizations have been boosting staff, but there aren’t enough experienced immigration lawyers to take on the cases or to mentor volunteers. Nor is there enough long-term funding for cases that can take more than a year to resolve, they said.

“It is very much a triage situation, and it is very, very frustrating because you know when someone calls and you turn them away, it is very unlikely they’ll find counsel,” said Judy London, directing attorney of the immigrants’ rights project at Los Angeles-based Public Counsel.

Some children will apply for green cards under a federal program for abused and abandoned children, while others who came fleeing violence in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala are seeking asylum.

One of the biggest challenges for volunteer lawyers is getting clients to open up about their lives when they have been beaten, raped or seen friends and family killed.

Three of the 30 children whose cases are being handled by Public Counsel have a history of suicide attempts or risk of suicide, London said. Most children are not going to feel comfortable walking into a fancy law firm and would probably run from the building, she said, unless an attorney meets the child outside and walks jointly through the door.

Jack Ross, an attorney in Southern California, said he met with a 16-year-old client four times before he told his full story. The boy, who arrived in the country two years ago, fled years of violence from his father and a police department that refused to protect him, he said.

“It’s some of the most compelling legal work you can do, because the stakes are so high,” said Ross, who represents hospitals and care providers in negligence claims and contract disputes. “You become so emotionally invested in the client, their well-being is really at the forefront of everything, and that doesn’t happen a lot in law.”

Before the recent influx of unaccompanied children, only about half were represented, said Wendy Young, president of Kids in Need of Defense, a nonprofit that pairs volunteer lawyers with children. She could not say how many children now have lawyers, but said certainly fewer than before.

Advocates have sued to demand the government provide the children with attorneys at the government’s expense. The lawsuit is pending before a judge in Seattle.

They say children with representation are more likely to attend their court hearings.

This week, the Homeland Security Department acknowledged that tens of thousands of young families caught on the border failed to meet with federal immigration agents as instructed. A spokeswoman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement said she could not say whether they attended court hearings on their cases.

At a recent immigration court hearing in Los Angeles, most of the 19 children whose cases were scheduled showed up. Seven had attorneys. Others were accompanied by a relative, as the judge reviewed their names and ages.

Their guardians were given a handout with a list of low-cost legal service providers and told to return in December with a lawyer.

KKK calls for shooting children at border

The leader of a U.S. hate group says he wants to see corpses at the southern border as a way of protecting the United States from children seeking refuge in the United States.

Robert Jones, described as the Imperial Wizard of the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, gave an interview to Al Jazeera America dressed in his KKK robes on the subject of immigrant children threatening the “white homeland.”

Jones, in the interview that caught the attention of the Southern Poverty Law Center, said the president had “sold out the American people.”

He also said, “If we can’t turn them back, I think if we pop a couple of them off and leave their corpses laying at the border maybe they’ll see we’re serious about stopping immigration.”

Jones claimed that African-Americans in the United States are “waking up to this illegal immigration problem” and “agreeing with the Klan.”

SPLC, meanwhile, reported that right-wing militia members armed with assault rifles are again on border patrols.

States where immigrant children are released

States with established Central American immigrant communities have received the most unaccompanied children released to sponsors this year after they were arrested at the U.S.-Mexico border.

Here’s a state-by-state breakdown of the 30,340 who have been released through July 7:

Alabama: 407

Alaska: 5

Arizona: 186

Arkansas: 166

California: 3,150

Colorado: 221

Connecticut: 325

Delaware: 117

District of Columbia: 187

Florida: 3,181

Georgia: 1,154

Hawaii: 8

Idaho: 8

Illinois: 305

Indiana: 245

Iowa: 122

Kansas: 179

Kentucky: 237

Louisiana: 1,071

Maine: 8

Maryland: 2,205

Massachusetts: 773

Michigan: 92

Minnesota: 173

Mississippi: 179

Missouri: 121

Montana: 1

Nebraska: 192

Nevada: 122

New Hampshire: 13

New Jersey: 1,504

New Mexico: 18

New York: 3,347

North Carolina: 1,191

North Dakota: 4

Ohio: 360

Oklahoma: 212

Oregon: 50

Pennsylvania: 386

Rhode Island: 119

South Carolina: 350

South Dakota: 21

Tennessee: 760

Texas: 4,280

Utah: 67

Vermont: 3

Virgin Islands: 4

Virginia: 2,234

Washington: 211

West Virginia: 10

Wisconsin: 50

Wyoming: 6

Source: U.S. Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families.

Analysis: GOP paralyzed by immigration reform

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s startling primary loss last week to a tea party-backed opponent illustrates how the GOP finds itself paralyzed by immigration reform. The policy most party leaders agree is best for the Republican Party’s future is risky for most House Republicans seeking re-election in the fall.

Almost all represent districts that are home to few minorities and they are in greater danger of losing to a primary challenger than to a Democrat in the general election. That leaves little incentive for the GOP-controlled House to even touch an immigration overhaul that would to grant citizenship to many of the 11 million people living in the country illegally.

Economics professor David Brat hammered Cantor, R-Va., for purportedly backing “amnesty” for people in the U.S. illegally during his primary challenge. He called his unexpected victory a wake-up call that “immigration reform is DOA.” Others, however, said it was Cantor’s reluctance to act on immigration reform that hurt him at the polls.

After Cantor’s defeat, Republicans are left in a quandary before the 2016 election — what to do about an issue that’s often a winner in primaries but could cripple the party in a White House race before a more diverse electorate.

“Pain can be a good teaching tool sometimes,” said Mario H. Lopez, a Republican and executive director of the Hispanic Leadership Fund. “It may take another White House beat-down before some folks understand what kind of cliff they’re walking over.”

Many people involved in the immigration debate have similar predictions about what will happen next: The House takes no action on an immigration overhaul, President Barack Obama makes good on his promise to ease deportations by executive action later this summer, and that inflames the GOP even more, dooming any bill in 2015.

When the next presidential race gets underway, a broad field of the GOP’s presidential candidates will be competing for the support of primary voters who are far more opposed to an immigration overhaul than most Americans.

To some Republicans, that brings back memories of 2012, when Republican Mitt Romney adopted tough-on-illegal-immigration rhetoric to win the Republican presidential primaries. On Election Day, Hispanic and Asian voters overwhelmingly backed Obama.

The lone policy recommendation of GOP’s post-mortem on Romney’s loss was to pass immigration reform. While 14 Republican senators voted for an immigration overhaul that chamber passed last year, the measure was declared dead on arrival in the House. Republican lawmakers, many of whom were focused on the midterms, sought to avoid angering their base.

Immigration skeptics argue that’s the right way for the party to appeal to the working class.

“There aren’t enough rich people and there aren’t enough businesspeople to elect people to office,” said Roy Beck, president of Numbers USA, which advocates for less immigration and believes those in favor of an overhaul are catering to financial elites who want to import cheaper workers into the U.S. “They have to have wage-earners.”

Immigrant rights groups complained that Cantor was part of the reason the overhaul died in the House, but as majority leader he opened the door to narrower measures that would grant citizenship to people brought to the U.S. illegally as children. That was enough to fuel his primary challenger.

It wasn’t immigration alone that doomed Cantor. The Virginia congressman sowed resentment by spending too much time focused on national issues as majority leader and not enough tending to his district. Others note that South Carolina GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham, a chief architect of the Senate’s immigration overhaul, easily won his primary against a batch of tea party challengers.

And yet, the message appears clear to Republicans in Congress. Last week, House Speaker John Boehner said a bill probably wouldn’t be possible this year.

“Perception is reality in politics, and the perception among Republican members of Congress is going to be that (Cantor) lost because he took a somewhat squishy stance on immigration,” said Republican pollster Glen Bolger, who expects similar caution among 2016 hopefuls.

“You’ll see the volume turned way down on that,” Bolger said. “You’re going to see a lot more caution and a lot less risk-taking.”

Among the 2016 prospects taking care with the issue is Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who has received a tepid reaction from some Republican activists for a proposal that would let some people living in the U.S. illegally receive citizenship. He told reporters this week the immigration debate has become too charged.

“We’re trapped in this rhetoric and we have to get beyond that,” Paul said.

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio changed course on immigration in the wake of a backlash from GOP activists that followed his work as one of the eight co-authors of the Senate overhaul. He now argues the country shouldn’t consider creating a citizenship pathway until it secures its southern border.

“That was true before last night,” Rubio said the day after Cantor lost. “That’s especially true now.”

Matt Schlapp, a Republican consultant who worked for President George W. Bush, said the varying politics of immigration doom the prospects for any near-term action. After this year’s midterms, Democrats are sure to spend the next two years beating up on Republicans for the lack of movement, which in turn will lead the GOP to dig in deeper.

“If we have divided government, the politics have to work for both parties,” Schlapp said. “Until we get these things worked out, this just isn’t going to happen.”

Officials: Immigrants assaulted by border patrol agent were surrendering

An immigrant woman, her daughter and another girl who said they were kidnapped and assaulted by a border patrol agent were in the process of surrendering to the agent when their ordeal began, according to officials.

Agent Esteban Manzanares, who officials say committed suicide last week, is accused of driving the three away from the river after they surrendered and assaulting them. The other agent said Manzanares cut the wrists of the adult woman, assaulted one teenager in the group, and then fled the area with a second teenage girl.

The Honduran embassy in Washington, D.C., said the three are a mother, her underage daughter and another girl not related to them. The FBI has said the three were in the U.S. illegally.

The woman who had escaped the attack and walked upriver tripped a camera at the border fence shortly after 5 p.m. last Wednesday, according to federal officials.

They said in the camera image a woman can be seen walking toward a gap in the fence. The border agent said there was blood covering her wrists. Within 10 minutes of the camera image being taken, agents responded to the woman and began a search for the others.

One federal law enforcement official spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to talk about the case because the FBI was leading the investigation. Another border agent spoke on condition of anonymity because the agent was not allowed to speak to the media because of the ongoing investigation.

Customs and Border Protection, the federal agency of which the Border Patrol is part, has said that when it found the woman she told them she had been attacked by a man. The federal official said the woman described the man as wearing green fatigues. Border Patrol agents wear green uniforms. She also described a vehicle that the federal official said authorities believed to be a Border Patrol vehicle.

The official and the agent said a search was quickly launched in the area for the other two victims. One of the teenagers was found near the border in the brush, and hours later the second girl was located in Manzanares’ home in Mission, the federal official and the agent said. Mission is a suburb of McAllen, close to the Texas-Mexico border about 350 miles from Houston.

When authorities approached the agent’s apartment, they heard gunfire. A short time later, when investigators went into the apartment, they found him dead and rescued the other girl.

A CBP official told The Associated Press that the agent was on duty when he encountered the females and that his shift had ended by the time authorities showed up at his house and he shot himself. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because it is an ongoing investigation by the FBI.

Karol Escalante, a spokeswoman for the Honduran embassy in Washington, D.C., said the three Hondurans are recovering at a hospital in McAllen. She would not elaborate on their injuries.

R. Gil Kerlikowske, Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said in a statement that such acts are not representative of Border Patrol agents. He added that the agency is working to make sure the victims receive proper care.

“I am deeply sorry that this incident occurred and am committed to doing everything in my power to prevent incidents like this from occurring again,” he said.

The Border Patrol agent who participated in the search said Manzanares was assigned to Anzalduas Park. The FBI said it is awaiting an autopsy report on Manzanares, who the Border Patrol said had been with the agency since 2008.

In a statement in Spanish, the Honduran foreign ministry condemned the assaults and kidnapping and asked the U.S. government for a thorough investigation, for psychological and medical assistance for the victims, for financial compensation and for legal immigration status for the victims.

“Lastly, the government of Honduras calls on the U.S. government to protect the human rights of immigrants, whatever their migratory status might be because all countries – their authorities in particular – are obligated to respect the dignity of human beings,” the statement concludes.

The number of apprehensions by the Border Patrol – a figure commonly used to gauge the ebb and flow of illegal border crossers – rose by 16 percent last year to 420,789 people detained. More than half of those arrests were made in Texas.

Border Patrol Chief Michael Fisher said last October that much of the increase was due to a rise in the number of people from Central America trying to enter the U.S. in South Texas.

While apprehensions of Mexican nationals remained fairly steady, arrests of immigrants from other countries, including Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, rose 55 percent. Limited economic opportunities and widespread gang and drug cartel violence in Central America have driven tens of thousands north along a dangerous route through Mexico.