Apprehensions of undocumented immigrants at the Southern U.S. border have surpassed 2019 full-year figures as of May 2021 - eight months into the current fiscal year.
The inflow of undocumented immigrants from Central America drove numbers up significantly in both years, but immigration from Mexico has also increased again for the fourth year in a row - together creating another exceptional year at the Southern border in 2021. The number of individuals apprehended with their families also rose again in 2021, as Central American migrants tend to leave their countries out of fear of violence, often taking their families with them.
In 2019, Trump era policies of separating migrant children from their parents as well as the practice of keeping those who apply for asylum in tent cities in Mexico caused international outrage. Both practices have been discontinued under the Biden Administration. Yet, both President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris have made it clear that they strongly discourage migrants from making the journey to the United States.
Historically, immigrants from Mexico made up the largest share of undocumented arrivals to the United States. The arrivals were mostly classified as work migrants, i.e. men arriving without their families at least initially. In the year 2000, Customs and Border Protection records show that more than 1.6 million Mexicans were arrested at the border. In FY 2019, this number was down to 190,000, while the number of non-Mexicans exceeded 680,000. Out of these, 81 percent came from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
Immigration from Mexico started to decrease during the Great Recession as work was in short supply. Reasons for this include the economy in Mexico doing better while the country shifts towards an aging population, which causes workers to be more sought after. The coronavirus pandemic seems to have countered this development as more single adults as well as minors attempt to leave Mexico for the United States. The number of single minors - mainly from Mexico - hit an new all-time record of almost 19,000 apprehended in March of this year.