According to government data, the number of migrants who encountered border guards at the US southern border last year exceeded two million, setting a new record. Against the background of the surge in the number of crossings, there have been clear changes in the countries of origin of migrants.
US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) revealed on September 19 that there were more than 2.1 million encounters with migrants during the first 11 months of fiscal year 2022, ending September 30. This year’s 2.1 million encounters far surpassed 2021’s record 1.7 million encounters.
These encounters involve migrants crossing the border in search of asylum, the protection that people fleeing persecution in their own countries can legally claim. There was a shelter is provided to a greater number people in recent years under President Joe Biden’s administration, according to TRAC Immigration. The total number of encounters was also slightly overstated as a a growing number migrants are detained more than once by border guards.
In recent years, the majority of people crossing the US border have been from Mexico Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvadorthe trio, sometimes called the Northern Triangle, reported the Associated Press in 2019. Za two million people The Council on Foreign Relations estimates they have left the region since 2014, fleeing poverty and extreme levels of violence.
But the number of migrants from Mexico and northern Central America, including the Northern Triangle, has declined 43% from August 2021, according to CBP. In contrast, migrants from Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua accounted for more than a third of the encounters in August, a 175% increase from a year ago.
According to experts, internal conditions in Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, in addition to the policies of the US government and the perception of these policies, contributed to the sudden change of nationality of migrants traveling to the border.
Policy of the Biden administration
One of the main factors affecting immigration more broadly is the Biden administration’s efforts to scale back President Donald Trump’s programs that have tried to limit border crossings, including Protocols for the protection of migrants (MPP) and Title 42according to Michael Paarlberg, an assistant professor of political science at Virginia Commonwealth University who studies migration.
Name 42 is a a section of the US Code that has been around for decades which allows the government to ban immigration if it prevents the spread of infectious diseases. In what has been touted as an effort to reduce the transmission of COVID-19, the Trump administration, invoking Section 42, has allowed border officials turn away migrants. Biden tried to end the measure in May 2022, but a federal court is deadlocked termination, TIME reports.
Attempts to roll back those measures have convinced migrants that “the Biden administration is open to processing people seeking asylum,” Parlberg told McClatchy News.
An important factor influencing immigration, particularly with respect to Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, is the tense relationship the US government has with all three countries. They are believed to have and obeyed repressive, authoritarian regimes severe economic sanctions.
“In order to deport someone, you need to have an agreement with the country [of origin] to accept deportation,” Paarlberg said. “These are three countries that have hostile relations with the United States and do not have such a treaty with the United States”
“The US cannot force [migrants at the border] to get on a plane back to Cuba because Cuba won’t accept them,” Paarlberg explained, noting that the government allows citizens of those countries to remain in the U.S. while applying for asylum. “So that’s one of the main drivers of the numbers.”
Another factor characteristic of Cuba is the Biden administration warned the Cubans in July 2021 against attempts to travel to the United States by sea, repeating the cancellation in 2017″wet foot, dry foot policy,” which allowed Cuban migrants who reached the U.S. to seek asylum.
“So instead of coming by boat, they come by foot because they have a much better chance of getting parole in the U.S. [at the southern border]Daniel DiMartino, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute who studies immigration, told McClatchy News.
Their exodus was facilitated by Nicaragua lifting visa restrictions for Cubans in 2021, allowing them access to Central America to begin their trek north to the US border. US government officials have “accused the authoritarian president of NicaraguaDaniel Ortega, in pursuing a policy of pressuring the United States to drop sanctions against his country,” writes the New York Times.
After disincentivizing sea travel and new access to Central America in the form of visa-free travel to Nicaragua, large number of Cuban migrants chosen to embark on a long, treacherous, overland journey through Central America, the Washington Post reports.
Neither does the Mexican government introduced visa restrictions on visitors to Venezuela in late 2021 in an attempt to stop large numbers of people flying in and then crossing the U.S. border, Reuters reported. This lead more Venezuelan migrants travel overland through Central America.
“President Biden put pressure on the Mexican government to stop allowing Venezuelans to travel visa-free to Mexico, and that basically forced Venezuelans to walk to Mexico,” Di Martino said.
“It’s going to take them a long time to get up here,” Paarlberg said. “So it’s possible that large numbers of people have left Venezuela in the recent past and are starting to arrive now.”
Bad political and economic conditions
Government policies and economic conditions in all three countries are also major factors in the level of migration to the United States.
“The failure of communist regimes in Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba is driving a new wave of migration across the Western Hemisphere, including the recent increase in encounters at the U.S. southwest border,” CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus said in statement September 19.
“The reason people come in the first place is because they face persecution, terror or trauma in their own countries, or they can’t support their families in their own countries,” said Sarah Sherman-Stokes, a clinical Associate Professor, Boston University School. law, who studies immigration law, told McClatchy News. “So it’s not a choice that people make lightly.”
According to Human Rights Watch, authoritarian regimes in all three countries repress, harass, and/or detain critics. The Nicaraguan government “arbitrarily arrested and prosecuted critics of the government and political opponents, including presidential candidates, journalists, lawyers and community leaders;” the Cuban government “relies on long and short-term arbitrary detentions;” and the Venezuelan regime engaged in torture and extrajudicial killings, according to the non-profit organization.
Di Martino, who fled Venezuela in 2016, says the country was primarily “destroyed by Maduro’s socialist regime and there will continue to be an outflow of people until the internal situation changes.”
Sherman-Stokes says, “Our foreign policy, our trade agreements, our intervention abroad, especially in Latin America, and natural disasters, climate change, corruption and violence all contribute to migration.”
The route to the US through Central America is thousands of miles long, expensive and dangerous, often involving a trek through the infamous Darien Gapa trackless jungle connecting Central and South America.