Taking a Look at Illegal Immigration in 2021; What’s Going on at the U.S.-Mexico Border?

2021 was a year of many changes politically, socially, and economically. The United States shifted into a new presidential administration, experienced social upheaval, and witnessed economic inflation. Our nation also saw illegal immigration rise at an unprecedented rate.

In 2020, due to Covid-19 and the restrictions that accompanied it, immigration numbers dropped to about half of what they were in 2019. Since coronavirus, we have also seen a rise in expulsions and a decrease in apprehensions within the country. In March 2020, President Trump passed Title 42, which gave Border Patrol the ability to expel migrants in an attempt to curb the virus outbreak. However, since February 2021, the Biden administration has decreased the number of expulsions by roughly 20%.

The 2021 fiscal year broke records in several ways. Most surprisingly, it witnessed record-breaking statistics in the number of southwest border encounters. The Border Patrol recorded 1,659,206 encounters compared to the previous high record of 1,643,679 in 2000. Although the number of encounters increased, the number of individuals encountered decreased compared to earlier years. This is because around 27% of encounters were repeated migrants. The rise in repeat crossers is mainly due to Title 42 and its enabling of continuous expulsion rather than apprehension. With this Covid plan in place, migrants can repeatedly attempt to cross the border and if caught, are turned back around with no charges. Many of these migrants have tried to cross the border multiple times illegally. This increases the percentage of border encounters but not necessarily the number of individuals encountered.

The 2021 fiscal year also broke records with the numbers of new migrants from nations other than Mexico including historically unlikely countries such as Ecuador, which increased more than eightfold. Nations other than Mexico accounted for roughly 63% of total encounters. These nations include Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador, which accounted for 19%, 17% and 6%, respectively. The rates of migration from Brazil, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Haiti and Cuba also soared compared to previous records. The increase in migration from these countries is likely due to political turmoil, economic instability and unsatisfactory pandemic response.

One of the most shocking statistics from the 2021 fiscal year is the increase in unaccompanied children arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border. Although single adults were still the majority, unaccompanied children increased from 30,557 in fiscal 2020 to 144,834 in fiscal 2021. This is a significant increase in the number of individual children, not encounters. The increase is due to a few factors but primarily due to Biden’s policy of releasing children and families into the country within 72 hours. This has only encouraged the trafficking of children to help single adults enter the US. After being used as bait for entry, these children often end up in sex trafficking and prostitution. This policy replaced Trump’s previous plan, which kept families and children in their country until their case was settled. This increase in unaccompanied migrant children is no small matter. The country is dealing with young lives, not products to distribute as it pleases. If this doesn’t exemplify the effects of political policy on human life, what does?

Immigration is a complex national issue that affects numerous groups, including migrants, border security, and US citizens. In an attempt to simplify a nuanced topic, the media has caused confusion and division over a matter that this nation should be united on. The U.S. needs a sound immigration policy now more than ever before. A policy that will primarily protect the country from those with ill intentions while also enabling immigration for those pursuing it for the sake of liberty.

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