Migrants from countries far beyond Central America are increasingly arriving at the country’s borders under the Biden administration, specifically to come across the U.S.-Mexico border illegally and risk getting caught.
Since the start of the government’s fiscal year in October 2020, Border Patrol agents nationwide have encountered significantly more people from the Caribbean, Central Europe, and South America than last year. Although migrants from Mexico and Central America make up roughly 75% of all illegal immigrants at the northern, southern, and coastal borders, far more people from other countries are arriving. Some have traveled thousands of miles and across oceans for the chance to get into the United States, predominantly by walking across the southern border.
“We are seeing a permanent change in migration at the U.S.-Mexico border. And now it's expanding,” said Theresa Cardinal Brown, managing director of immigration and cross-border policy at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington. “We're seeing huge increases in people, not from the Central American countries and not from Mexico, which means this is now just the migration route.”
Border Patrol agents who work along U.S. borders saw a 13,951% increase in Venezuelans taken into custody between June 2020 and this June, BPC’s Grace Kluender wrote. This comes as more than 26,000 Venezuelans have fled political repression and dire economic circumstances.
From Ecuador, a country of 17 million people located on the northwestern tip of South America, more than 54,000 people have been encountered by U.S. border authorities over the past nine months — five times more than at the same point last year.
Further south in central South America, Brazilians are also leaving. Nearly 30,000 Brazilians were encountered at the border, compared to fewer than 9,000 the previous year. Last June, just 80 Brazilians were apprehended. The 6,678 Brazilians seen last month is an 8,248% increase. The coronavirus pandemic hit Brazil harder this year than last, prompting domestic crises that citizens are attempting to flee.
Cuban apprehensions increased from 14,000 as of June 2020 to more than 26,000 last month. Migration from Haiti is up 2,906% in the same period.
More than 34,000 people from the Philippines and 4,369 Romanians were stopped at the border. The “other” category of migrants, whose home country could not be determined, doubled to more than 37,000 this year.
While the change in migration patterns is obvious, Brown said, the federal government is focused on responding rather than planning. For example, while the Border Patrol has responded to this 21-year high in illegal immigration at the border by putting up tents to hold and release people from custody, it ought to make plans to deal with it if it continues or worsens.
The Biden administration's focus on resolving the "push" factors that prompt people from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras to migrate to the U.S. also needs to change to include factors that prompt people from other countries to come, Brown said. Otherwise, Central American migration will drop, but global migration to the U.S. will continue to rise.
“What about Nicaragua? What about Brazil and Venezuela? What about Haiti? What about Ukraine and Romania? And Congo. What are the root causes there? How are you going to manage that?” Brown said.
The Border Patrol’s “enforcement mentality” does not consider how human migration differs from smuggling drugs, firearms, money, and other items.
“They're just lumping it all together in saying we have to secure the border from all of it when the motivations and the rationales and the people you're dealing with are very different,” Brown said. “We don't control when people arrive. And we have to manage them once they do. And it's got to be that balance of treating people in a humane way but enforcing the rules.”
The reactive approach of taking people into custody before sending them back to their home country or allowing them to live in the U.S. could be replaced with a proactive approach, Brown said.
Lora Ries, senior fellow for homeland security at the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank in Washington, said the U.S. government ought to take an individualized approach by considering each person's cause for fleeing rather than situations in countries as a whole.
She said most people migrating from Central American countries don't meet the criteria for asylum, "but this administration, like the Obama administration, wants more people to get into the U.S., to remain in the U.S., and to be given asylum."
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Original Author: Anna Giaritelli