In the absence of support from the AMLO government, 2021 could record the highest number of arrests of Mexicans in a decade.
More and more Mexicans are heading north to cross the border, fueled by deep economic collapse and lured by promises of a stimulus-fueled revival in the United States.
Since the middle of last year, the number of working-age Mexicans detained monthly at the southern border of the United States traveling without children has more than doubled to about 40,000, compared to less than 16,000 in the previous two years, in partly due to repeated attempts, according to US Customs and Border Protection. If the rate is maintained, 2021 could see the highest number of arrests of Mexicans in a decade.
The increase has been largely ignored as the Biden Administration is coping with the new arrival of unaccompanied children and families from Central America seeking asylum after the end of the Trump Administration. The influx increases the challenge for President Joe Biden, who seeks a solution to a political conundrum that has dragged on for decades, and heightens the economic crisis facing Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, whose government has done little to cushion the crisis. impact of COVID-19.
Detentions of Mexicans at the border with the United States declined sharply from the late 1990s and early 2000s, but began to rise in 2018. Then the coronavirus crisis hit Mexico, paralyzing the economy. Meanwhile, the United States approved Biden’s $ 1.9 trillion relief plan, and a new generation of Mexican residents began to weigh the painful decision to leave home and family behind.
“Every time there is an economic crisis in the United States, undocumented workers play a key role in recovery, because they are the cheapest to hire and are willing to work in the most adverse conditions,” said Jorge Santibáñez, president of the Mexa Institute. based in Washington, which studies Mexican communities in the neighboring northern nation.
Most of the Mexicans detained at the border are adults traveling without children, and the number of multiple crossing attempts has increased considerably over previous years. This is largely due to the US policy of sending people back to Mexico in just hours rather than officially deporting them.
While it is impossible to keep an accurate count of people crossing without authorization, the data suggests that migration is increasing, said Luis Calva, an expert at the Colegio de la Frontera Norte in Tijuana. “It may accelerate due to the economic crisis in Mexico if the demand for employment in the United States also increases,” he said.
In the last two decades, the rate of Mexican migration to the United States had declined amid better opportunities at home, financial support from people already established abroad, a change in trend towards smaller families, and increased danger. to cross the border. But the closures implemented by the coronavirus plunged Mexico last year into its deepest recession since the Great Depression.
López Obrador has refused to fund big fiscal stimulus, arguing that other bailouts during previous crises have failed, helping only the elite. For those who lost their jobs, there was no emergency unemployment program. The vast informal economy of street traders was curtailed, tourism weakened, and wage-earning jobs evaporated.
In the last 30 years, the Valle del Mezquital region in Hidalgo has been transformed by immigration, which divided families and formed new extensions of communities in the United States. Migrants began heading north in the 1980s, and there are now thousands concentrated around Clearwater, Florida, near Tampa. The region depends on the money they make, and remittances totaled $ 160 million last year.
Many low-wage American industries where immigrants work were affected by the pandemic. But construction, which relies heavily on unauthorized migrants, contracted less. While non-farm employment fell about 6 percent between February 2020 and February 2021, construction only fell 3.8 percent.
“What is driving migration is the relative conditions between Mexico and the United States,” said Brian Cadena, an economist at the University of Colorado, Boulder, who studies immigrant employment. “Not only do booms matter, it is also less affected by a similar shock. If the United States is weathering the pandemic relatively well in terms of what the job market looks like, that will continue to drive migration. “
That hunger for labor in America is growing even as Republicans have used immigration and asylum as weapons to use against Biden. Party members have said that Biden created a crisis by loosening Trump’s regulations and using a more welcoming speech, even though most of the previous administration’s policies remain in place. White House officials will travel to Mexico and Guatemala this week to discuss how to stop the influx.
Santibáñez, of the Mexa Institute, said that US employers are the ones that give the impulse, since they want a workforce that is “docile, cheap, very accessible.”
“Businesses that are trying to recover tell the cook, they tell the bricklayer, who is working in construction: ‘Get me a cousin, a brother,” Santibáñez said. “And then that attracts.”
In Mexico, Fabián Morales, head of the Guerrero State Secretariat for Migrants and International Affairs, said he was not sure whether migration was increasing. But in the past three months alone, at least five migrants from his state have died near the US-Mexico border and their bodies had to be sent home.
“The difference is that, in the United States, families have had financial support and subsidies from the governments, which is why the situation in Guerrero, in Mexico, is much more serious than in the United States,” Morales said. “They have looked for a way to continue supporting their relatives.”