Over 1 million migrants arrested on US-Mexican border since October 2020

By Joanna Kedzierska

Over 1 million migrants arrested on US-Mexican border since October 2020

The US Department of Homeland Security has confirmed that over 1 million migrants have been arrested on the US-Mexican border since October 2020. In May 2021 alone, the number amounted to 172,000, according to the U.S. Border Patrol.

Most migrants come from Central America’s Northern Triangle, i.e., Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador although Venezuelans have also been recorded among the numbers.

Every country in the Northern Triangle has been experiencing an increase in gang-related violence which has prompted many people to flee due to attacks, levels of extortion, and the high rate of homicide, the highest globally. Furthermore, these countries have also recently been hit by climate-driven natural hazards including two disastrous hurricanes that destroyed the crops and livelihoods of many people. All these factors have led to an increase in hunger and poverty rates which have been further exacerbated by the ongoing pandemic.

Although Venezuelans initially migrated to other Latin American countries when these nations began to witness worsening economic conditions, hunger, and poverty this forced Venezuelan migrants to move further towards the U.S.

The chances of being granted asylum differ greatly. Migrants from Venezuela are much more likely to be allowed to cross the border while Central American migrants are often sent back. This is because Venezuelans legally qualify for asylum as they come from a country that has been ravaged by disaster which is not the case for migrants from other Central American countries. Only 26% of Venezuelans who applied for asylum this year have been rejected compared to 80% of the applications submitted by those coming from the Northern Triangle.

By 2017, there were about 3.5 million immigrants from Central America in the U.S. Since 2018, migrant flows have been intensifying with caravans becoming the new method of migration. Should this pace be maintained, the number is expected to exceed the highest previously recorded in 2000 when 1.7 million migrants were arrested.

Although the U.S. has invested millions of dollars every year in development assistance for Central America and Mexico, it has recently seen a dramatic increase in the number of migrants from those regions at its borders.

Ursula Roldán, a researcher and coordinator at the Institute for Migration Research and Policy Management (INGEP) at the Rafael Landívar University in Guatemala, told DevelopmentAid:

“Foreign aid doesn’t help because Central American countries have structural problems, such as corruption, impunity, and lack real economic reforms which should have been conducted by political and business elites. The possibilities of small businesses are very limited, public services like healthcare, education is not sufficient.”