The number of migrant families crossing the southwest border has once again broken records, with unauthorized entries nearly doubling what they were a year ago, suggesting that the Trump administration’s aggressive policies have not discouraged new migration to the United States.
At least 70 such groups of 100 or more people have turned themselves in at Border Patrol stations that typically are staffed by only a handful of agents, often hours away from civilization. By comparison, only 13 such groups arrived in the last fiscal year, and two in the year before.
The difference is that the nature of immigration has changed, and the demographics of those arriving now are proving more taxing for border officials to accommodate. Most of those entering the country in earlier years were single men, most of them from Mexico, coming to look for work. If they were arrested, they could quickly be deported.
Now, the majority of border crossers are not single men but families — fathers from Honduras with adolescent boys they are pulling away from gang violence, mothers with toddlers from Guatemala whose farms have been lost to drought. Most of these migrants may not have a good case to remain in the United States permanently, but because of legal constraints, it is not so easy to speedily deport them if they arrive with children and claim protection under the asylum laws.
… the practical effect is that most families are released into the country to await their hearings in immigration court. The courts are so backlogged that it could take months or years for cases to be decided. Some people never show up for court at all.
Given U.S. law and policies, all of this makes sense. But why was it different 20 or 30 years ago? We haven’t changed our laws or policies, have we?
Is it Guatemala that has changed for the worse? The population was 8.9 million in 1990 and is now over 17 million (Wikipedia). In other words, there are twice as many people trying to share whatever resources they have down there. But, on the other hand, from 1960 to 1996, the country was embroiled in a civil war. Despite the pressure from the near-doubling of population, surely life in Guatemala today is better than during an actual war.
How about Honduras? Population was 4.9 million in 1990 against 9 million today (Wikipedia). But the 1969-1999 period is summarized as “Wars and corruption” by Wikipedia. Life in Honduras overall should be better today compared to 30 years ago.
- “‘You Have to Pay With Your Body’: The Hidden Nightmare of Sexual Violence on the Border” (nytimes, March 3, 2019), inadvertently making a strong case for the border wall that the same newspaper says is idiotic?
- “Trump’s Surprising New Ally in Mexico? The Government” (nytimes, March 1, 2019): “Mexican officials are carrying out the Trump administration’s immigration agenda across wide stretches of the border, undercutting the Mexican government’s promises to defend migrants and support their search for a better life.” (i.e., the newspaper that ridiculed Trump for saying the Mexicans would pay for a physical border wall reports that Mexico is now enforcing a virtual border wall)