Bloomberg — Undocumented crossings at the US southern border have long been dominated by people from Mexico and Central America -- but for the first time since at least the turn of the century, migrants from other nations made up the majority of those stopped by authorities.
Most of these other migrants are from farther flung countries within Latin America, like Venezuela and Colombia, a sign of how post-pandemic economic pain is being felt throughout just about every corner of that region.
A stark example of this broader Latin American migration is that both Brazilian and Venezuelan encounters at the US-Mexico border shot up 43% and 92%, respectively, since June. Their numbers had dropped significantly earlier this year after Mexico issued visa requirements for travelers from both countries, only to rebound as they found ways around those restrictions.
“People are feeling the heat. Prices are still very high and are not making it easy to get by,” said Eduardo Siqueira, a public health professor at the University of Massachusetts-Boston. The current migration trend involves different strata of society, not just the poor, he said: “It seems to be from top to bottom.”
While the number of migrants attempting to cross the US southern border from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador fell 43% in August from a year earlier, encounters with US authorities increased 51% among Latin Americans and Caribbeans not from those main emigre nations.
Total encounters at the border reached 203,597 in August and rose above 2 million over the past 11 months, the most on record.
Brazilian encounters with authorities have yet to reach last year’s peak, but there were more Venezuelans this August than during any month last year. Cubans and Colombians each surpassed 10,000.
Many people trekked through stretches of jungle that had once seemed too difficult to cross, said Adam Isacson, a researcher at the Washington Office on Latin America.
“The route exists now. There’s a way to get across the Darien Gap. You might be robbed, or beaten up, or raped, but there’s a way through that 1,000 people a day are managing to do,” he said.
Meanwhile, the pandemic-era US policy of expelling Mexican and northern Central American migrants across the border and eliminating their ability to request asylum led to a downturn among both groups of migrants, Isacson explained.
The trend toward expanded migration to the US from across the globe extends beyond Latin America, albeit on a smaller scale. Migrants at the US southern border identified by Customs and Border Protection from specific nations outside Latin America reached 5,026 in August, nearly three times the number from a year ago.
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