Mexico–United States border crisis

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Mexico–United States border crisis
Families Belong Together SF march 20180630-4299.jpg
Children stand on the steps of San Francisco City Hall for a "Families Belong Together" rally.
MotiveAsylum seeking in the U.S.
TargetMigrants from Central America
Deaths7,216 (1998-2017)[1]
650 in 2021[2]
Arrests940,000 in 2022 fiscal year[3]

Migration into the U.S. from Mexico has been following a surging trend during the last several years.[4] The migrants seek asylum in the United States at the Mexico–United States border. These include tens of thousands of unaccompanied children who arrive at the US–Mexico border which have ignited debates on how to react.[5]


The number of migrants attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border has been surging during the last several years. Reduced enforcement of US federal immigration laws by the Biden Administration has resulted in significantly increased numbers of migrants attempting to cross the border.[4] Every year, tens of thousands of unaccompanied children arrive at the US-Mexico border, igniting debate on how to react.[5]

The agents of the U.S. Border Patrol, a federal law enforcement agency, are tasked with deterring, detecting, and apprehending any person crossing into the United States illegally at any point not designated as a port of entry by the Attorney General of the United States. Additionally, agents interdict and seize contraband smuggled into the United States through non ports of entry. Border Patrol agents are both immigration and customs officials.[6]

Death along the border[edit]

Being one of the world's "most lethal land borders",[7] hundreds of migrants die per year along the United States – Mexico border while attempting to cross into the United States from Mexico illegally.[8] The U.S. Border Patrol reported 294 migrant deaths in the fiscal year 2017 (ending September 30, 2017), which was lower than in 2016 (322), and any year during the period 2003–2014. Exposure (including heat stroke, dehydration, and hyperthermia) were the leading cause.[9]

According to the estimates by group Border Angels, about 10,000 people have died in their attempt to cross border since 1994.[10] The statistics reflect only known deaths and do not include estimates for those who have never been found.[11] Some migrant deaths may go unreported even when they are brought to the attention of officials.[12]

U.S. Border Patrol reported that 3,221 migrants were rescued in the fiscal year 2017.[13]


Obama administration[edit]

In 2014, the United States declared a crisis at the border due to an influx of unaccompanied minors and women making their way through checkpoints. The U.S. southern border had long struggled with implementing policies that aim to prevent immigration-related tragedies. With a decline in unlawful immigration from Mexico, the crisis predominantly concerned increased immigration from the Northern Triangle of Central America (NTCA), encompassing Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Academics claimed the immigration crisis was a result of American interventions in Central America during the Cold War, with high amounts of political instability, violent crime, and poverty stemming from the United States' support of authoritarian regimes.[14]

In several places, dangers including kidnapping, murder, and sexual assault threatened thousands of Central American migrants who had been clustered in Mexican border cities like Matamoros for months, blocked from seeking asylum in the United States because of new restriction policies. The American government and United Nations provided free transportation to return refugees to their homes in Central America, but many others who were stuck in Matamoros said that desperation had led them to consider treacherous and potentially life-threatening methods of illegal entry — crossing the river, climbing into tractor-trailers driven by human smugglers, or both. In 2019, as the Border Patrol reported, the number of migrants caught hiding in tractor-trailers along the border had risen by 40 percent that year.[15]

Trump administration[edit]

President Donald Trump examines border wall prototypes in Otay Mesa, California

In September 2019, the US Supreme Court allowed a new ruling to take effect that could curtail most asylum applications at the border. The ruling would demand that most asylum seekers who pass through another country first will be ineligible for asylum at the U.S.'s southern border. Mark A. Morgan, acting commissioner of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, stated the ruling was set to take effect on the week of October 8, 2019.[16] In an interview with Time, Donald Trump criticized the Obama administration for the separations immigration policy. As the Trump administration stated, the policy is necessary to decrease the "fraudulent" asylum claims among the entrance of Central American families coming to the border.[17]

The Trump administration tried to stop migrants from getting into the United States at all, asking them to take a number at the border and to wait until they are called for a chance to have their asylum cases heard. As a result, in September 2019, the US immigration court faced over 1 million waiting for their cases to be heard, matching the highest backlog seen in the US.[18]

Biden administration[edit]

President Joe Biden has named Vice President Kamala Harris in March 2021 to manage the U.S. response to the migrant crisis along the border.

In the fiscal year 2021, the US Border Patrol confirmed more than 1.6 million encounters with migrants along the US-Mexico border, more than quadruple the number in the previous fiscal year and the largest annual total on record.[19]

On January 13, just one week prior to Biden's inauguration, more than 3,000 people departed Honduras and El Salvador for the United States. That number grew to approximately 7,000-8,000 one week later.[20] On January 16, Guatemala and Mexico deployed the military to their borders, in an attempt to stop the migrant caravan from transiting through their countries on the way to the United States to no avail.[21][22] On January 20, 2021, soon after his inauguration, President Biden halted the construction of Trump's Mexican border wall,[23] ending the national emergency declared by the Trump administration in February 2019.[24]

Early during President Joe Biden's tenure, a surge in migrants at the U.S. border stirred controversy. According to a 2021 Politico report, Republicans expected prior to Joe Biden taking office that there would be a border surge at the start of 2021 (due to seasonal patterns and regional crises) and planned to make it a central issue in the lead-up to the 2022 mid-term elections.[25] The number of migrants arriving in the United States from Central America had been rising since February 2021.[26] The United States Border Patrol reported an increase in encounters with unaccompanied children from the month before. The reported 5,858 encounters in January to 9,457 in February constituted the largest one-month percentage increase in encounters with unaccompanied children since U.S. Customs and Border Protection began recording data in 2010.[27][28][29]

In February 2021, a group of migrants was found massacred in northern Mexico. A few months later, the US Customs and Border Patrol reported that various colored bracelets with writing on them being used as a method to track a migrant's payment status to their coyote (smuggler) and drug cartels that control various parts of Mexico. The bracelets reportedly are used for tracking status of protection from cartel actions such as death, kidnapping, and the right to be in cartel controlled territory or to cross the border into the US.[30][31]

In March 2021, amid a rise in migrants entering the U.S. from Mexico, Biden told migrants: "Don't come over." He said that the U.S. was arranging a plan for migrants to "apply for asylum in place", without leaving their original locations. In the meantime, migrant adults "are being sent back", Biden said, in reference to the continuation of the Trump administration's Title 42 policy for quick deportations but made no efforts to follow through and migrants continued to cross into the U.S.[32] Biden earlier announced that his administration would not deport unaccompanied migrant children; the rise in arrivals of such children exceeded the capacity of facilities meant to shelter them (before they were sent to sponsors), leading the Biden administration in March to direct the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help manage these children but facilities are being overwhelmed because of the numbers of adults and children coming into the country.[33]

On March 24, 2021, Biden tasked Vice President Kamala Harris to reduce the number of unaccompanied minors and adult asylum seekers. She is also tasked with leading the negotiations with Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.[34] In June 2021, Vice President Harris visited Guatemala and Mexico in an attempt to address the root causes of migration from Central America to the United States.[35] During her visit, in a joint press conference with Guatemalan President Alejandro Giammattei, Harris issued an appeal to potential migrants, stating "I want to be clear to folks in the region who are thinking about making that dangerous trek to the United States-Mexico border: Do not come. Do not come."[36]

In September of 2021, over 30,000 Haitian migrants crossed the border in the Del Rio sector. At one point, a migrant camp beneath the Del Río–Ciudad Acuña International Bridge contained over 15,000 temporary residents. The squalid conditions in the camp attracted widespread international attention.[24] Photos of horse-mounted Border Patrol agents allegedly mistreating migrants led to an incident conservative media referred to as Whip Gate.

The U.S. Border Patrol made more than 1.7 million arrests of migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border illegally in the 2021 fiscal year, the highest number ever recorded.[37][38] In November 2021, only 31% of Americans approved the president's handling of immigration.[39]

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at eight South Texas ports of entry seized a significant amount of narcotics, unreported currency, weapons and uncovered numerous immigration violations during Fiscal Year 2021, most notably a 1,066 percent increase in fentanyl and a 98 percent increase in cocaine seized. Fiscal Year 2021 began October 1, 2020 and ended Sept. 30, 2021. Fentanyl overdoses is the number 1 cause of death of US adults ages 18-45. [40][41]

Progressives have pressed the Biden administration to impede the expulsions and provide asylum to migrants who have legitimate claims of persecution in their homelands. It stated in April that the order would be lifted on May 23, with new plans in place to deal with the influx.[42]

On June 2022, 53 migrants were found asphyxiated in and around a tractor-trailer near Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas, the deadliest smuggling incident in United States history.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ U.S. Border Patrol, [1] Archived 2019-01-09 at the Wayback Machine, accessed 13 December 2017.
  2. ^ Debusmann Jr, Bernd (30 June 2022). "Smuggling 'a big business' along US-Mexico border, says trucker". BBC News. Retrieved 1 July 2022.
  3. ^ Alvarez, Priscilla. "Record-breaking surge of migrants anticipated at the US-Mexico border, Border Patrol chief says". CNN. Retrieved 30 June 2022.
  4. ^ a b "The US border crisis - in four graphs". BBC News. 29 June 2022. Retrieved 30 June 2022.
  5. ^ a b Cheatham, Amelia; Roy, Diana. "U.S. Detention of Child Migrants". Council on Foreign Relations. Retrieved 29 June 2022.
  6. ^ Fernandez, Manny; Jordan, Miriam; Kanno-Youngs, Zolan; Dickerson, Caitlin; Brinson, Kendrick (15 September 2019). "People Actively Hate Us': Inside the Border Patrol's Morale Crisis". New York Times. Retrieved 15 September 2019.
  7. ^ "The deaths of 51 people in Texas highlight the perils of migration". The Economist. Retrieved 4 July 2022.
  8. ^ United States Government Accounting Office. GAO-06-770, August 2006.
  9. ^ Eschbach, K., J. Hagan and N. Rodriguez (2001): Causes and Trends in Migrant Deaths Along the U.S.–Mexico Border 1985–1998. Center for Immigration Research, University of Houston (Executive Summary).
  10. ^ "About Us – Border Angels".
  11. ^ "Unauthorized Border Crosser Death along the Arizona/ Sonora border" (PDF). Arizona Department of Health Services. June 2007. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-12-28.
  12. ^ Eschbach, Karl; Hagan, Jacqueline; Rodriguez, Nestor; Hernandez-Leon, Ruben; Bailey, Stanley (1999). "Death at the Border". The International Migration Review. 33 (2): 430–454. doi:10.2307/2547703. JSTOR 2547703. PMID 12319738. Retrieved 4 July 2022.
  13. ^ U.S. Border Patrol, [2] Archived 2019-01-09 at the Wayback Machine, accessed 13 December 2017.
  14. ^ Willman, Nubia B. (2017), "Reaping Whirlwind: How U.S. Interventionist Foreign Policies Created Our Immigration Crisis", Public Interest Law Reporter, 23 (1), OCLC 935202665
  15. ^ Dickerson, Caitlin. "Desperate Migrants on the Border: 'I Should Just Swim Across'". New York Times. Retrieved 27 September 2019.
  16. ^ "US-Mexico border apprehensions fall in September but remain high". aljazeera. Retrieved 8 October 2019.
  17. ^ Silva, Daniella. "ACLU files complaint against government returning pregnant asylum-seekers to Mexico". nbcnews. Retrieved 27 September 2019.
  18. ^ Mindock, Clark (18 September 2019). "Trump visits US-Mexico border wall amid protests". independent. Archived from the original on 2022-05-12. Retrieved 18 September 2019.
  19. ^ Gramlich, John; Scheller, Alissa. "What's happening at the U.S.-Mexico border in 7 charts". Pew Research Center. Retrieved 29 June 2022.
  20. ^ "Migrant caravan departs for U.S., clash with Central American forces". KGTV. Retrieved 19 January 2020.
  21. ^ "Guatemalan troops forcibly clear migrant caravan from highway". The Guardian. January 26, 2021. Retrieved May 16, 2020.
  22. ^ "The caravan hoped for change. But it's not all up to Biden". Sandra Cuffe and Whitney Eulich. January 18, 2021. Retrieved May 16, 2020.
  23. ^ Bradner, Eric; Klein, Betsy (January 20, 2021). "Biden targets Trump's legacy with first-day executive actions". CNN. Retrieved January 20, 2021.
  24. ^ a b Maxouris, Christina; Almasy, Steve; Gallón, Natalie (June 26, 2019). "A woman watched her husband and daughter drown at the Mexican border, report says - CNN Politics". CNN.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  25. ^ "The border turned out to be a better attack on Biden than even Republicans thought". POLITICO. Retrieved April 23, 2021.
  26. ^ Romo, Vanessa (March 11, 2021). "Number Of Unaccompanied Minors Entering U.S. Soared In February".
  27. ^ SPAGAT, ELLIOT (March 17, 2021). "EXPLAINER: Is the US border with Mexico in crisis?". AP NEWS.
  28. ^ Mulder, Brandon. "Fact-check: Is the surge of migrant children arriving at border a result of Biden policies?". Austin American-Statesman. No. March 29, 2021.
  29. ^ Morin, Rebecca (March 15, 2021). "As Biden faces ongoing surge of migrant children, Republicans criticize White House for border crisis". USA TODAY.
  30. ^ Reuters (March 13, 2021). "Mexico: smugglers use bracelets to track migrants as they cross US border". the Guardian. Retrieved March 13, 2021.
  31. ^ Arroyo, Lorena; Ferri, Pablo; Guerrero, Hector; González, Monica (February 22, 2021). "The Tamaulipas massacre: how the American Dream dies in Mexico". EL PAÍS. Retrieved March 13, 2021.
  32. ^ "Biden administration faces pressure on immigration amid influx". Al Jazeera. March 17, 2021. Retrieved March 20, 2021.
  33. ^ Miroff, Nick (March 14, 2021). "Biden will deploy FEMA to care for teenagers and children crossing border in record numbers". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 23, 2021.
  34. ^ "Biden is giving Kamala Harris the thorniest issue to oversee as VP: immigration". Business Insider. Retrieved March 27, 2021.
  35. ^ Egan, Lauren (7 June 2021). "Harris takes first steps onto world stage, into migration spotlight". NBC News.
  36. ^ Rodriguez, Sabrina (7 June 2021). "Harris' blunt message in Guatemala: 'Do not come' to U.S." POLITICO.
  37. ^ "Record high migrant detentions at US-Mexico border". BBC News. October 23, 2021.
  38. ^ "Situation at the southern border worse that you probably realize". The Hill. November 15, 2021.
  39. ^ "Biden Approval Ratings Mostly Underwater". Gallup. November 18, 2021.
  40. ^ "CBP Officers at South Texas Ports of Entry Post Significant Increases in Fentanyl, Cocaine Seized in FY 2021". U.S. Customs and Border Protection. January 5, 2022.
  41. ^ "CDC: Fentanyl leading cause of death for ages 18 to 45". Yahoo News. January 5, 2022.
  42. ^ Jordan, Miriam (19 May 2022). "Thousands of Migrants Have Been Waiting for Months to Enter U.S." The New York Times. Retrieved 30 June 2022.

Further reading[edit]