2019 was a year that changed the face of migration on the U.S. Southwestern border. Not only did many more immigrants try to cross it, but a majority – almost 56 percent – arrived together with their families, fleeing violence in Central America. As a result of this fundamental change in who is seeking to immigrate to the United States, Non-Mexicans outnumbered Mexicans 4:1 at the Southern border in the fiscal year of 2019. These numbers are inferred from arrest records of Customs and Border Protection.
The number of undocumented immigrants reached its peak in May 2019, when more than 132,000 people were apprehended. In November 2019 (FY2020) this figure was back down to approximately 33,500.
Because many of the new arrivals are applying for asylum, the Trump administration has overhauled its application process, making many asylum seekers wait in camps on the Mexican side without much assistance. These changes were implemented after another system overhaul – the separation of families in U.S. custody and the tendency to release fewer immigration detainees on bail – had caused chaotic scenes at detention centers and an international outcry.
Historically, Mexicans made up the largest share of undocumented immigrants to the U.S. but have been more successful at finding work in Mexico, where the economy is improving and workers are more sought after as the country’s population ages. As more asylum seekers and less work migrants arrive, the U.S. has also slashed the number of refugees it accepts annually to the historic low of 18,000 for 2020.