The inflow of undocumented immigrants to the U.S. from Central America has taken a jump up in the fiscal year of 2019 to the extent that non-Mexican immigrants detained at the South-Western U.S. border outnumbered those from Mexico 4:1.
Historically, immigrants from Mexico made up the largest share of undocumented arrivals to the United States. In the year 2000, Customs and Border Protection records show that more than 1.6 million Mexicans were arrested at the border. In FY2019, this number was down to 160,000, while the number of non-Mexicans exceeded 680,000. Out of these, 81 percent came from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.
While many arrivals from Mexico could be classified as work migration (men arriving without their families at least initially), Central American migrants leave their countries mostly because of fear of violence, taking their families with them. Because of this, the apprehensions of families crossing the border have also skyrocketed – from approximately 15,000 people in family units in FY2013 to more than 100,000 in FY2018 and almost 475,000 in FY2019. Subsequently, the detention of children separated from their parents over long periods of time has caused outrage in the U.S. and abroad, as has the practice of keeping those who apply for asylum in tent cities on the Mexico side of the border.
Immigration from Mexico started to decrease during the Great Recession as work was in short supply and has not increased again since. 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 than before.