PIEDRAS NEGRAS, COAHUILA.- Encounters of migrants along the U.S.-Mexico border exceeded 2.3 million last year, an all-time high.
Two decades ago, when Border Patrol apprehensions also hit records, the vast majority of migrants who crossed the southern border illegally were adult males from Mexico seeking jobs in the U.S.
But the migrants arriving at the border today include not just men from Mexico, but also men, women, and children, often entire families, from more than a dozen countries in the Western Hemisphere, notably Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, and more recently, Cuba, Venezuela, Haiti, Nicaragua, Ecuador, and Colombia.
Migrants also have been showing up at the southern border increasingly from countries on other continents, among them Russia, China, and India.
Instead of trying to evade the Border Patrol as in the past, many of the migrants arriving today turn themselves over to border agents as soon as they cross and request asylum on the grounds they are fleeing violence and persecution.
Why are so many migrants from so many countries arriving at the southern border? What has changed?
Republicans blame President Joe Biden’s border policies, which they say have encouraged migrants to come to the U.S. and ask for asylum, putting their lives into the hands of cartels and criminal smuggling organizations, who profit off their desperation.
Biden’s border policies have been more welcoming to asylum seekers than those of former President Donald Trump.
About 1 million asylum-seekers have been admitted under the Biden administration, the Migration Policy Institute and New York Times estimate. Mark Morgan, a former acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection under Trump, estimates 3 million to 4 million migrants, including unaccompanied minors, family members, and people who evaded the Border Patrol are now living in the U.S. since Biden took office.
In an effort to stem migration, the Trump administration separated families at the southern border. The Trump administration also implemented an emergency public health rule called Title 42 at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to quickly expel migrants to Mexico, including asylum seekers from other countries. The Biden administration kept the policy in place but is now trying to end it.