The number of Mexicans attempting to illegally cross the U.S.-Mexico border has risen to a level not seen since 2008. According to Mexico News Daily, 147,000 Mexicans were detained by U.S. border patrol agents in the first three months of 2021. This number is about the equivalent of two-thirds of all arrests of Mexicans by CBP in 2020. If this trend continues – and there is no indication that it will not continue – it is estimated that 590,000 Mexicans will be detained by CBP this year. For reference, in 2008, more than 600,000 were detained.
The current situation is a reversal of the trend in recent years. The spike in the number of Mexicans not going through legal immigration channels is a reversal of the decrease in migration numbers seen in recent years. In 2017, for the first time ever, the number of Mexicans returning to Mexico from the U.S. exceeded the number of Mexicans crossing the border. A migration expert notes that CBP arrests of Mexicans in March were more than four times higher than the level seen in recent years.
“In March, for example, border patrol captured 171,000 people, of whom 68,000 were Mexicans. … What we have seen in other years is [the detention of] 15,000 Mexicans [per month],” she said.
Rendón attributed the surge to economic factors related to the coronavirus pandemic as well as displacement caused by violence.
In the almost 2 1/2 years since President López Obrador took office, about 776,000 Mexicans have been detained by the CBP, meaning that arrests during the six-year term of the current government are on track to exceed the number recorded during the 2012–2018 presidency of Enrique Peña Nieto, during which about 1.15 million Mexicans were intercepted.
This is not good news for Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. He gave an interview in 2019 in which he spoke of his “dream” of reaching a point when Mexicans would no longer need to migrate to the U.S. for work. His hopes of Mexicans remaining in Mexico have not been achieved. A newspaper columnist notes that Mexicans have the same problems in their country they have always had – among them poverty and a lack of job opportunities. The pandemic contributed to Mexico’s problems, too.
“About four of every 10 migrants detained on the [United States] southern border in recent weeks are of Mexican origin,” Krauze wrote, adding that “the grave trend” threatens to undo gains made over the past decade during which migration of Mexicans to the U.S. recorded negative numbers.
“The consequences of the pandemic have been particularly harsh in Mexico, where the government has failed in the containment of the health emergency and in the management of the economic crisis. The explosion in poverty in the country has the same consequence as always: the people go to where there is … the possibility to survive,” he wrote.
President Lopez Obrador is being pressured to work quickly by Mexican officials. His government has failed to continue lowering the trend of migration seen during the Trump administration. Biden’s confusing messaging around illegal immigration has added to the crisis.
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