Border surge's cause is more complicated than COVID-19

Source: UC Riverside News

The United States border has seen an increase in families — primarily men with their children — and most recently a surge in unaccompanied minors traveling north from Central America through Mexico. They are fleeing gang violence, high homicide rates, and lack of economic opportunities. In some cases, such as in Guatemala, even hunger. According to the Pew Research Center, the U.S. Border Patrol apprehended nearly 100,000 migrants in February; this after apprehensions had fallen to about 16,000 in April 2020.

The Coronavirus pandemic contributed to the slow down, but the recent surge has caused politicians to visit the border and bring the issue to the forefront. Some blame the surge in migration on President Joe Biden’s reversal of Donald Trump’s immigration restrictions. Experts, though, attribute the increase in migration to the lack of economic prosperity due to the COVID-19 shutdown, as well as natural disasters such as November’s Hurricane Eta and Hurricane Iota. According to the American Red Cross, the hurricanes affected over six million people, displaced more than a half-million residents from Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua, and have left about 250,000 still living in emergency shelters.

UC Riverside experts provide insight to the current situation at the U.S.-Mexico border:

Q: Is the United States less willing to take Central Americans as refugees because they come with less education? Less wealth? Is it a racial issue rather than a political issue? Or what should (or not) be the U.S.’s role in helping Central America?

A: Central American migrants — including asylum seekers and refugees — are indeed generally coming from economies with higher indices of poverty and lower levels of education than say, Mexico. But this is not the reason why the United States is less willing to take in refugees from Central America. The United States was granting less than 3% of Central American asylum applications under most of the Obama administration and these practices continued under the Trump administration. This will likely continue under the Biden administration, despite his efforts to appear to be taking a more humane approach on the issue.  



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