TIJUANA, BAJA CALIFORNIA.- A policy introduced by former President Donald Trump that has blocked thousands of people from crossing the US-Mexico border is set to expire next week, with attempted crossings expected to spike if it does.
The policy, known as Title 42, gives the government the power to automatically expel undocumented migrants seeking entry and was designed to stop the spread of Covid-19,
It is due to expire on 21 December, but this is subject to a legal battle as some Republican-led states have asked for the policy to remain in place beyond this date.
It creates a political headache for the Biden administration, which has come under withering criticism from its opponents over its handling of border issues.
Hundreds of thousands of people have been detained at the border in recent months, while more than two million migrants were detained at the border in the 2022 fiscal year that ended on 30 September. That’s a 24% jump from the year before.
The statistics show that the number of migrants from Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba rose dramatically over the last year, while the number from Mexico and Central America’s Northern Triangle of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras fell.
Why the recent spike?
The number of migrants arriving at the border rose dramatically after Mr. Biden took office in late January 2021.
Experts point to a number of reasons for the increase, including environmental disasters and economic woes in El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala. In other cases – such as Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela – economic problems have been compounded by political repression.
There are also large numbers of repeat crossings and lingering pandemic-related economic issues across Latin America, experts say.
“There’s a level of desperation we hadn’t quite seen before,” said Adam Isacson, a migration and border expert from the Washington Office on Latin America.
“And you’ve got people coming from countries that had not sent migrants in significant numbers before now becoming top senders of migrants, due largely to a lack of economic opportunities. Smugglers take advantage of that.”
Many of the migrants are now seeking asylum, a process which was severely restricted by the previous US administration of Donald Trump.
President Biden’s proposal to provide a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented Americans has also been blamed for spurring the record influx at the southern border.