A ‘sea change’ at the border is making things difficult for Biden

A 'sea change' at the border is making things difficult for Biden
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There is an important detail missing from many conversations about the growing number of immigrants arriving in the Border between the United States and Mexico.

Decades ago, the vast majority of migrants trying to cross the border between ports of entry were Mexican. A few years ago, most came from the Central American countries known as the Northern Triangle: Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. But now, according to Border Patrol statistics, the number of people coming from outside those places is growing, and fast.

David Bier calls it a “radical change” and a “new phenomenon that no one talks about.” Bier, associate director of immigration studies at the Cato Institute, noted this change in a recent thread on Twitter. It’s an eye-opening detail, he says, that reveals a lot about what the Biden administration is facing at the border and why the situation has been so difficult to resolve.

To better understand this trend, CNN dove into the data. Here’s a look at what we’re seeing, why this change is so significant, why it’s happening, what this looks like on the ground, and what could happen next.

What we are seeing: There is a big change in who comes to the US-Mexico border. Large numbers of migrants from Mexico and the Northern Triangle are still making the journey. But the number of immigrants from other countries, represented here in purple, has increased significantly.

In 2007, the number of migrants in this “other” category was negligible. But since then, it has grown dramatically, by 11,000%, with the steepest increase in the last two years.

US Border Patrol encounters still show more migrants from Mexico attempting to cross the southwest border in July than from any other single country. But so far this fiscal year, for the first time, encounters with migrants from outside of Mexico and the Northern Triangle are outpacing encounters with migrants from either of those regions.

A handful of countries make up a large part of this growing group on the border. The number of times U.S. Border Patrol officers on the southwest border have encountered migrants from Cuba, Colombia, Nicaragua and Venezuela has increased dramatically in the last two years.

A word of caution about the numbers: For this analysis, we used U.S. Customs and Border Protection statistics on Border Patrol encounters, which include both migrants who are apprehended and detained, at least temporarily, at the border, as well as migrants who they are immediately expelled to their home countries and to Mexico. This data gives us the best overall picture of who is arriving and what is happening at the border.

But officials have acknowledged that the numbers may be inflated, because they include some migrants who were returned under the public health policy “Title 42”, then tried to cross again. In other words, the same people can be counted multiple times.

This is an issue that primarily affects migrants from Mexico and the Northern Triangle, who are more likely to be subject to Title 42 restrictions than migrants from other countries.

Why this is important: Doris Meissner, who directs U.S. immigration policy work at the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute in Washington, says the rise of additional nationalities at the border “makes border enforcement more difficult.” even more complicated.”

For decades, many border policies have been designed with Mexican immigrants in mind, he says, but it is much more difficult to deport people to other countries. there are limits which nationalities can be reverted to under Title 42, for example. And cold diplomatic relations can also affect deportations.

“These populations … require different types of responses,” says Meissner. “We have not put in place an asylum system that is in any way up to the challenge that this change has brought.”

Administration officials argue that they are working hard to address the root causes of migration. and President Joe Biden he has described it as a “hemispheric challenge.”

But Bier says officials aren’t doing enough.

“The Biden administration cannot respond to this new reality with the same old playbook,” he said on Twitter. He told CNN that’s exactly what the administration appears to be doing. “It’s a lot of the same kinds of responses,” she says.

Why is it happening: There’s no simple reason why this happens, says Bier.

“There are as many answers,” he says, “as there are countries represented in that group.”

CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus recently told CBS News it is impossible to identify all the factors that drive migrants to make the journey, given how complicated the situations are in their countries of origin. “It’s a very complex set of dynamics,” he said.

Meissner, who served as commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service from 1993 to 2000, says the pandemic has played a major role in intensifying economic pressures.

Other factors are also at play. An increase in the number of Cubans heading to the US, says Meissner, can be attributed in part to a new air route between Cuba and Nicaragua. CNN’s Patrick Oppmann reported that after Nicaragua eliminated visa requirements for Cubans, people started posting ads online selling their houses “all in” to pay for the expensive airfare.

Deteriorating economic conditions, food shortages and limited access to health care are increasingly pushing Venezuelans to leave, and a growing Venezuelan community in the United States is also a draw, says Meissner.

For Colombians and Nicaraguans, economic instability, exacerbated by the pandemic, has been the main driver of migration, he says, but politics is also playing a role.

Increased repression under the Ortega regimeespecially during the recent presidential elections, it has cemented the belief among many Nicaraguans that the country’s political turmoil will not be resolved any time soon,” says Meissner.

And those who previously viewed neighboring Costa Rica as a destination, he says, are more likely to look elsewhere due to declining job prospects there.

Rising inflation and unemployment in Colombia are driving more migration, says Meissner. Social unrest after a wave of protests in 2021 and political divisions that intensified during recent presidential elections are also likely to influence migrants’ decisions, she says.

How does this look on the ground: This is not just something we can see with statistics. Both migrants and Border Patrol officials say they are noticing the change.

More Cubans than ever are leaving the island. look where they go

Yuma Border Patrol Sector Chief Chris Clem told CNN’s Priscilla Alvarez last month that the sheer number of nationalities crossing the border was wearing down their agents.

“The countries that we are receiving now, those nationalities are flying in, coming to the border, and they have to be processed and there are so many of them that are challenging the workforce,” he said.

Speaking to CNN earlier this year.a Cuban migrant described a house in the Mexican desert where she waited with others to cross the border.

One room was full of Cubans, he said. And another was full of people from different countries.

“There were Colombians, Bangladeshis, Venezuelans, Nicaraguans, Haitians,” he said. “It seemed like everyone was there.”

What could happen next: Like everything related to the border, there is a lot of debate about what officials should do about it.

Biden administration officials have repeatedly emphasized that the border is not open. But those who favor increasing immigration restrictions argue that the administration’s policies have incentivized more people to try their luck crossing the border illegally. Some, including more than 50% of Republicans, according to a recent NPR-Ipsos poll – they say they believe it is entirely true that “the United States is experiencing an invasion on the southern border”. And some Republican candidates are emphasizing this message as the midterms approach, promising they will do more if elected to crack down on illegal immigration.

Bier and Meissner say the changing composition of migrants at the border shows how badly the US immigration system is in need of an overhaul.

“Many, if not most, of these people are likely to be ineligible for asylum, even though they are fleeing very difficult conditions,” says Meissner. “We desperately need Congress to address immigration laws and make possible other legal avenues to come to the United States.”

And countries across the Western Hemisphere must work together and address migration as a shared responsibility, he says.

So far, there are no signs that this trend is slowing down. And Bier and Meissner say they don’t expect that to happen.

“It’s totally plausible to think that this could go on for many years,” Bier says, “because we don’t have the infrastructure to push people out as quickly as they arrive.”

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