Border Bounce: Illegal Crossings Rise Ahead of Election

One year after massive caravans of migrants from Central America were streaming through Mexico and swarming the U.S. border, things have changed a lot. Illegal crossings at the southern border remain far below last year, despite an uptick in recent months. Figures from Customs and Border Protection show the numbers bottomed out last spring at the start of the coronavirus pandemic, but have been slowly rising every month since.

While the pandemic itself likely discouraged many border crossers, the biggest reason for the decline is a new federal policy adopted due to the pandemic, which allows the immediate return of most migrants caught at the border. "That ruling that we can send people back to Mexico regardless of their nationality slowed things down (at the border) considerably," says Chris Cabrera with the National Border Patrol Council. "It's been pretty quiet, all things considered, much slower than it was a year ago."

While human border crossings are down this year, drug activity at the border has risen. "Our drug apprehension numbers came up," says Cabrera. "That doesn't mean more drugs are coming across, it just means that now we're able to concentrate on the contraband coming in, because we're not saddled down with catch-and-release nonsense."

"Hard drugs---like cocaine, heroin, meth---have really increased as far as apprehensions," continues Cabrera. "So it has gotten a little busier in one aspect, but slower in another."

The recent rise in illegal border crossings comes as weather is cooling down from the sweltering summer conditions typical at the border, but also ahead of the U.S. presidential election, which could have major implications for border policy. "If Biden wins, will they allow more people to come in...If Trump wins, will things get harder," says Cabrera. "So, every election cycle seems to mobilize people into moving across the border, because of the unknown."

Photo: Getty Images

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