Turn Around: Border Crossings Plunge in 2020

What a difference a year makes at the southern border. After a 2019 marked by a sharp increase in migrant families and unaccompanied children---sometimes as part of large caravans---streaming to the U.S. from Central America, 2020 has brought a far different picture. During the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, the U.S. Border Patrol reported about 400,000 apprehensions at the southern border---less than half the number caught in 2019.

Border apprehensions did show an uptick in September, but that is still far different from what was happening a year ago. "What we're seeing with this latest spike is a return to a more normal flow, without these huge numbers of bogus asylum seekers just being let go into the U.S.," says Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies.

In particular, Krikorian points out the majority of current apprehensions are single males who are being turned away, then being caught a second or third time. Thus, while the number of total apprehensions is up, they represent fewer people trying to cross. "The fact that the flow is now back to a more traditional flow of people---Mexican single men getting arrested, getting dumped back, getting arrested again---is, in a sense, kind of a good sign," says Krikorian.

The coronavirus pandemic and the Trump administration's subsequent policy of "immediate expulsion" for anyone caught illegally crossing the border has contributed to the declining numbers of illegal crossers this year. At that same time, the administration is touting 450 miles of new border walls or fencing by the end of the year. Nevertheless, immigration is not nearly as big an issue in this year's campaign as it was four years ago. "Part of that is the administration has succeeded to a degree in calming the border down, so that it's less alarming and less salient an issue to voters," says Krikorian.

"The bigger question is why isn't the Trump administration talking about immigration more," he continues. "Because the positions (on immigration) that the Biden campaign is taking are not popular, which is why Biden won't talk about it."

Photo: AFP

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