The U.S. Migratory Crisis Reaches New Levels
In December 2023, the US-Mexico border witnessed a surge in unauthorized crossings, approaching a new monthly record with over 300,000 individuals processed by American immigration officials, averaging approximately 8,400 apprehensions per day, according to government figures obtained by CBS News. This influx comes at a crucial time for President Joe Biden, whose administration faces mounting pressure to address the complex issue of immigration as he seeks re-election in 2024.
The first 28 days of December saw nearly 235,000 people entering the US without authorization between ports of entry, accompanied by an additional 50,000 individuals admitted through an appointment system. Among them were almost 96,000 parents traveling with their children. This surpasses the previous monthly high recorded in September when around 270,000 individuals were processed at the US-Mexico border.
Current trends show a shift in demographics. In previous years, the most common demographic group crossing the border were men that traveled alone. However, according to a PBS report, as humanitarian conditions across the world, especially in the Americas, have gotten more complex, the proportion of families and children in the migrant population has grown drastically. Franc Contreras, a freelance journalist, corroborated this in an interview with SDMN. Contreras has been covering the increase in migrants in southern Mexico with the intention of crossing to the United States and commented: “Most were families. We saw many children, pregnant mothers, young children, and you could really feel the uncertainty.”
Government figures reveal that most unauthorized entrants are released with court notices, often without undergoing asylum screenings. The immigration court system, grappling with a backlog of 3 million pending cases, faces a daunting task, with each of its fewer than 800 immigration judges burdened by an average of 4,500 cases, potentially resulting in a three-year timeline for clearance, reports CBS News.
This issue is becoming central to U.S political discourse. A CBS poll highlighted that immigration is the second most pressing concern for the country, following inflation but preceding worries about the stability of the democratic system. In efforts to curb the surge, the US, in collaboration with Mexico, has implemented a series of enforcement actions, leading to a significant decline in illegal border crossings. Migrants are being redirected, with Mexico utilizing methods such as flying and busing individuals to its southern regions and even repatriating some to Venezuela. Contreras also commented that several migrants were even beginning to consider staying in Mexico.
Moreover, the Biden administration is currently engaged in negotiations with Congressional leaders, with critical decisions on asylum restrictions and a $110 billion aid package for Ukraine and Israel hanging in the balance. Nevertheless, policies at the state level are also having an impact in the complexity of the current migration crisis. In recent years, states like Texas and Arizona started busing migrants to Democrat-led cities across the country like Chicago, Washington D.C. or Denver as a way to protest the Biden administration’s border policies. Despite the relatively small numbers involved, this orchestrated effort has disrupted the traditional dispersal pattern of migrants across the US, further straining resources in cities that are not used to receiving a large number of migrants. For instance, according to the Associated Press, the city of Chicago was struggling to find housing for the newly arrived migrants as this past winter started to arrive.
As the Biden administration grapples with the ongoing border situation, the need for comprehensive immigration reform becomes increasingly evident. The delicate balance between securing the border, upholding humanitarian values, and addressing the concerns of the American people remains a complex challenge that requires nuanced solutions and that deserves our attention this year.