Customs and Border Protection reports that in recent months, following months of news reports on President Trump’s effort to build a wall and close the Southern Border that record numbers of undocumented families are crossing our southern border. Long term statistics show that the number has been steadily rising for at least three years—but that this year has seen explosive growth.
In February alone, over 36,000 illegal immigrants were taken into custody while crossing the southern border. The number of people captured crossing the border illegally traveling with family far exceeded the number of individuals crossing alone by nearly 6,000. That is to say, more undocumented immigrants are traveling as families than are traveling alone.
The overall number of illegal immigrants reached an 11 year high, according to a report by Katharina Buchholz of Statista. In fact, more people have been apprehended crossing the border illegally in February of this year than were apprehended in the entirety of 2018.
Buchholz writes, “Recently, more immigrants that are coming across the Southern U.S. border have traveled from countries in Central America, like Honduras, Guatemala or El Salvador, while undocumented immigrants from Mexico remain the largest group…Family units have been traveling as part of larger groups of up to 100 people, which have been branded as “migrant caravans” by different media outlets. Customs and Border Protection said they had apprehended groups of 100 or more people on 53 occasions since October on the U.S.-Mexico border.”
According to her chart, the spike of illegal border crossings follows a patterned increase. But the final spike on this most recent uptick in illegal border crossings has been much sharper than it was in previous years. The trend seems to follow a consistent three-year pattern that begins at around 10,000 illegal border crossings and peaking three years later at around 50,000 to 60,000.
This year, it has already capped out at just under 70,000. But we are only two years into the cycle at this point. We still have another year to go- if the pattern holds- until illegal border crossings return to the baseline of between 10,000 and 30,000.
Illegal border crossings fell to a 10 year low at the start of 2017. Numbers returned to their normal mid-cycle high about one year ago, and are now higher than they have been since 2014.
Immigrants traveling alone and those traveling in family groups follow the same patterns of frequency and the same patterns of change. In other words, when fewer families enter- individual migrations decrease at the same rate. This tells us that whatever it is that slows the illegal immigration of individuals is the same thing that slows that of families. If we could pinpoint the cause of the change in rates- we might actually have a chance of solving the problem of illegal immigration.
Is it changes in economic conditions south or north of the border? Is it changes in border security?
In an address on the border security crisis, President Trump said, “We have requested more agents, immigration judges, and bed space to process the sharp rise in unlawful migration fueled by our very strong economy.”
According to President Trump, the uptick in illegal immigration is due to America’s growing economy. This could be an adequate explanation. The rates of illegal immigration have remained the same. The cycles exhibit the same profiles for the three-year cycle- but the overall numbers are up proportionally.
The consistency seems to indicate that factors inhibiting immigration are stable. These would be border security, primarily. It is the illegal immigrant population itself that is pushing harder to gain entry. It’s a bit like holding your thumb over the end of a hose and then turning up the pressure.
However, it is interesting to point out that during the migrant caravan crisis that started around October of 2018, there were reports that aid groups were urging the caravan on. These groups were offering food and medical support as well as passing out literature describing the benefits the migrants would have access to once they successfully crossed the border.
At the same time, criminal gangs were pursuing the caravan, robbing and kidnapping vulnerable individuals from the edges of groups of travelers. Other criminals were offering transportation to caravan members, only then to hold them for ransom- or selling them to human traffickers.
Sadly, there are no official numbers available on how many travelers in the caravan were kidnapped, killed, assaulted, raped or otherwise assailed by the predatory groups who preyed on them. All we have are those who emerge and are captured on the northern side of the border. And they aren’t talking.