Illegal Border Crossings Break Record Again

It turns out there actually is a crisis on the US-Mexico border.

NYT (“Border at ‘Breaking Point’ as More than 76,000 Migrants Cross in a Month“):

For the fourth time in five months, the number of migrant families crossing the southwest border has broken records, border enforcement authorities said Tuesday, warning that government facilities are full and agents are overwhelmed.

More than 76,000 migrants crossed the border without authorization in February, more than double the levels from the same period last year and approaching the largest numbers seen in any February in the last 12 years.

“The system is well beyond capacity, and remains at the breaking point,” Kevin K. McAleenan, commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, told reporters in announcing the new data.

Kevin Drum quips,

Nice work, Donald! Whatever we were doing back in the Obama era seems to have been working OK. Whatever we’re doing now—mostly yelling and screaming, as near as I can tell—isn’t. Maybe it’s time to rethink the whole idea that Trump is the guy who can protect our borders?

And, indeed, it does appear that the flood is an unintended consequence of Trump’s attempted crackdown:

Diverted by new restrictions at many of the leading ports of entry, migrant families continue to arrive in ever-larger groups in remote parts of Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. At least 70 such groups of 100 or more people have turned themselves in at Border Patrol stations that typically are staffed by only a handful of agents, often hours away from civilization. By comparison, only 13 such groups arrived in the last fiscal year, and two in the year before.

[…]

The high number of families crossing the border suggest that President Trump’s policies aimed at deterring asylum seekers are not having their intended effect. Up to 2,000 migrants who traveled in a caravan from Central America last year and faced lengthy delays in Tijuana appeared to have given up their cause as of last month after being discouraged by months of delays at the border. But the families following behind them seem only to have adjusted their routes rather than turn back. Indeed, they are traveling in even larger numbers than before.

But it’s also a predictable consequence of attempts to create more humane conditions:

Border Patrol officials said that the biggest “pull factors” encouraging migrant families to make their way to the United States were federal laws and court settlements that prohibit the authorities from deporting Central Americans without lengthy processing, and from detaining migrant families for more than 20 days, after which they must be released into the country while they await immigration court proceedings. Others at the agency pointed to severe poverty and food insecurity in the Western highlands of Guatemala, where many of the families are from, as a primary motivation.

Additionally, it looks like the crossing efforts have become more professionalized:

More than 90 percent of the new arrivals were from Guatemala, officials said, with a significant change in the dynamics of the migration: While Central American migrants once took weeks to journey through Mexico to the United States, many Guatemalan families are now boarding buses and reaching the southwest border in as little as four to seven days “on a very consistent basis,” Mr. McAleenan said.

There’s no end in sight and, indeed, the report indicates that US officials expect the surge to continue for the foreseeable future. This will certainly add fuel to Trump’s claims of a “crisis” and an “emergency” at the border. But, even if it could somehow be erected instantaneously, Trump’s proposed wall would have little impact.

FILED UNDER: Borders and Immigration, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Perhaps it’s time we took a look at the reasons why so many people are risking their lives and separation from their families to get to the United States. There’s no attention being paid to the humanitarian crises enveloping many parts of Central America that are at the root of all this.

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  2. James Joyner says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Oh, I think most are vaguely aware. It’s not exactly clear what we’re supposed to do to fix it. Americans already think we spend far too much on foreign aid, even though it’s a pittance.

  3. @James Joyner:

    All fair points, but it seems as though as long as the conditions in those nations continue as they are people are going to continue trying to get here.

  4. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    No mention of people turned away at Asylum Centers, and essentially forced to cross illegally?
    Seems an obvious oversight.

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  5. Lynn says:

    @Doug Mataconis: “Perhaps it’s time we took a look at the reasons why so many people are risking their lives and separation from their families to get to the United States.”

    And at the ways in which US foreign policy has contributed to instability in some of those countries.

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  6. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Also…given that Secretary Nielsen is on record lying about policy…should we doubt her veracity on this?
    Certainly the boosted numbers are to Dennison’s benefit.

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  7. Kathy says:

    If one wanted to create a crisis on purpose to exploit it for political gain, chances are one would get busted.

    But if one blithering idiot manages through incompetence to create a crisis, he’s off the hook.

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  8. Bob@Youngstown says:

    I can’t help but be reminded of my grandmother who immigrated to the US. During her immigration the US immigration officers were admitting thousands of persons each day. In fact, immigration officers admitted over 11,700 persons on one day.

    The difference is that my grandmother was a white European.

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  9. Tyrell says:

    I have given my ideas before that the best “wall” would be one that uses various technical forms and devices. This would be cheaper, safer, and more effective.
    There should be a better, more efficient process of dealing with the asylum issue and people who are requesting it. One thing that could be done would be to identify and label countries that violate human rights and have bad conditions. People from those countries would be given higher priority. I would suggest a quick process where they would apply for asylum by sending the proper forms in by fax, mail, or internet. The state department could then look at these and then let them know when they can come in. There is no use in heading to the border and waiting around. We have seen the problems this can cause.
    “Obama officials rushed to explain photos from 2014 that went viral showing locked-up immigrant children — and Trump’s facilities look the same” (Michelle Mark, Business Insider 2018)

  10. Teve says:

    I give it maybe a week before the wingnuts start saying AOC is an illegal immigrant Mexican who deserves to be arrested and deported.

    Lock her up! Lock her up!

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  11. Stormy Dragon says:

    Your title is inaccurate:

    US law permits crossing the border between designated border crossings for the purposes of applying for asylum, and since your own article indicates most of the new unauthorized crossings are a result of the new created hurdles to applying for asylum by presenting oneself at the checkpoints, most of these border crossings are then not actually illegal.

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  12. Michael Reynolds says:

    You know, for a tenth of what a wall would cost we could bribe Mexican police to start strict enforcement on their southern border. Much smaller border, much cheaper cops. Just sayin’.

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  13. Stormy Dragon says:

    More than 300,000 babies are born in the US each month. Are we facing a crisis of child birth as well?

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  14. PJ says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    More than 300,000 babies are born in the US each month. Are we facing a crisis of child birth as well?

    Ask a Fox News host or viewer and it would depend on the ethnicity and religion of their parents.

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  15. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Why would Donald Trump and the 89% of Republicans who approve of his performance as President care about what is happening in “shithole countries” like Guatemala?

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  16. An Interested Party says:

    And at the ways in which US foreign policy has contributed to instability in some of those countries.

    Indeed, this can’t bs stressed enough…our country bears a lot of responsibility for this…from US foreign policy in Central America in the 1980s to the disastrous War on Drugs…

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  17. Teve says:

    and the 89% of Republicans who approve of his performance as President

    I haven’t looked at this number in several months, but I remember reading last year at least at one point, the number of people identifying as Republicans had gone down by a noticeable amount.

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  18. James Joyner says:

    @Bob@Youngstown:

    I can’t help but be reminded of my grandmother who immigrated to the US. During her immigration the US immigration officers were admitting thousands of persons each day. In fact, immigration officers admitted over 11,700 persons on one day.

    The difference is that my grandmother was a white European.

    @Stormy Dragon:

    More than 300,000 babies are born in the US each month. Are we facing a crisis of child birth as well?

    There’s no doubt that part of the angst over illegal immigration is racial/cultural. People aren’t nearly as upset over illegal immigration from Canada or Irishmen who overstay their visas as they are Mexicans and other Latin Americans crossing illegally. But we do have a right as a sovereign nation to control who crosses our borders and gets to live here.

    It’s true that we’re a “nation of immigrants.” But the demand for massive amounts of new workers for our factories, fields, mines, and such is markedly less than it was a hundred-odd years ago. The fact that we were once upon a time taking in thousands of European immigrants a day in no way requires us to take in thousands of Latin immigrants today. Again, we have every right as a society to set policy for immigration and to enforce those policies.

    Our birth rates are rather a different issue altogether. They’re not something that’s subject to control in a free society. And they’re actually well below replacement level for most demographics.

  19. Bob@Youngstown says:

    @James Joyner: As to your first point:

    demand for massive amounts of new workers for our factories

    Do you really believe that our “society” had petitioned the government for more and more nannies, cooks, and domestics? (I don’t say that lightly as that is exactly what almost half of the immigrant influx became).
    On your second point:

    we have every right as a society to set policy for immigration and to enforce those policies.

    I assuredly would not dispute that, however I would ask if our society has actually chosen a policy of child kidnapping to deter the flow of people who may legitimately seeking refuge?

    My original point was intended to show that the US was willing and able to process thousands per day, not necessarily that they were willing to admit thousands per day. Today, the official policy seems to be that we no longer have that ability to process.

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  20. Kathy says:

    Here’s a thought:

    Trump, and his base, very likely view asylum seekers who present themselves lawfully at entry points as illegal immigrants anyway. It may not matter to them if they’re caught at a border crossing or elsewhere.

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  21. the Q says:

    Our system is broken and a joke….we need much tighter border control, an amnesty pathway to citizenship and a work permit program to allow guest/seasonal workers to legally work and be protected by labor laws and to be allowed to freely move across borders.

    We have a backlog of 830,000 cases waiting to be heard by immigration judges. This will literally take decades to adjudicate.

    We have the racist wingnuts vs. the open border wackos.

  22. Bob@Youngstown says:

    @the Q:

    open border wackos

    Actually can you identify (by name) ANY politician that advocates for “open borders”.

    My interpretation of “open borders” is unrestricted, unregulated, unguarded, borders. But perhaps that is not what you term “open borders”

  23. Tyrell says:

    Maybe Q can’t, but I will. Representative Keith Ellison: “I don’t believe in borders”
    “Yes, the Democrats Are for Open Borders” (Mike Krikorian, National Review, Nov. 2018)
    Some may not state it directly or mask their verbage, but when they oppose deportation, it amounts to the same thing in practicallity. There’s no doubt about it.

  24. An Interested Party says:

    @Tyrell: Umm, not quite…but even if that were true, using your logic, we could say that Republicans are racists based on the views of Steve King

  25. Bob@Youngstown says:

    @Tyrell:

    Representative Keith Ellison

    Wearing a tee-shirt ??? Is that what you call full-throated endorsement of abolishing border controls? The same Ellison who has voted to appropriate money for more border controls.

    Opposition of deportation when done without due process, ought to be opposed. Not because of deportation but because of the denial of due process.

    DHS hearing

  26. Bob@Youngstown says:

    @Tyrell:

    Representative Keith Ellison

    Wearing a tee-shirt ??? Is that what you call full-throated endorsement of abolishing border controls? The same Ellison who has voted to appropriate money for more border controls.

    Opposition of deportation when done without due process, ought to be opposed. Not because of deportation but because of the denial of due process. See DHS Nielson hearing