EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Unauthorized immigration is creeping up along the southwest border despite emergency measures to prevent the illegal entry of people, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The number of migrant apprehensions in September rose by more than 7,000 compared to August, which itself saw an increase of almost 9,100 arrests from the previous month. The Border Patrol and CBP detained a total of 57,674 unauthorized and inadmissible migrants this past September, the numbers show.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection Acting Commissioner Mark Morgan said those attempting to come into the country illegally are mostly single adult economic migrants from Mexico and other countries who’re disregarding the dangers of catching and spreading the coronavirus along the way.
“We’re apprehending them and we’re talking to them about COVID. They know they’re being returned because of the increased risk, and what do they do? They turn right around and come back, exposing every migrant they come in contact with, exposing every single CBP officer they come in contact with and, if they get away from us, which some of them do, exposing the American people,” Morgan said. “It’s outrageous. This shouldn’t be happening in the middle of a global pandemic and it’s happening.”
The recent increases run counter to a trend dating back to June 2019, when the Trump administration strong-armed Mexico into preventing migrant caravans originating in Central America from reaching the U.S. Border.
That, and CBP’s controversial “Remain in Mexico” policy were widely credited with bringing down apprehensions from a high of 144,116 in May of last year to just over 41,000 by October 2019. Arrests dropped to 17,016 last April as the world realized the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic.
But those that are coming now don’t seem too concerned about catching or spreading COVID-19, Morgan and other officials said Wednesday in a teleconference from Tucson, Arizona.
In some parts of the border, recidivism rates are up 50%, meaning those who are deported within a few hours after entry under the emergency Title 42 CDC order are making a second, third or fourth run at the border shortly after, Border Patrol Chief Rodney Scott said.
Federal officials said 2,300 CBP officers have come down with COVID-19 and 13 have died, 12 of them after contracting it in the line of duty.
Morgan said the coronavirus will play an even greater role in illegal immigration in coming months due to its devastating effect on the economy of Mexico and other Latin American countries. As in the United States, many businesses have closed and employees have been laid off during the pandemic. Unlike the United States, few have received stimulus checks from their governments.
“I’m telling you right now, as economic conditions worsen in Mexico and the entire Western Hemisphere due to COVID, get ready. We’re already seeing the numbers increase,” Morgan said.
The Congressional Research Service on October 7 published a report showing that COVID-19 has killed more than 279,000 people in Latin America and turned economic expectations in the region from a projected 1.6% growth rate to a contraction of 9.4%, with almost every country entering a recession and likely to experience deteriorating social conditions.
“Political factors include an increase in authoritarian practices, weak democratic institutions, corruption and high levels of crime and violence,” the report states. “Economic factors include stagnant or declining growth; high levels of inequality and poverty; and inadequate public services, social safety net programs, and advancement opportunities. The COVID-19 pandemic could exacerbate these factors, contribute to further deterioration in political conditions, and stoke social unrest.”
At least two new migrant caravans have formed in Honduras but were dispersed near the Mexico-Guatemala border.
Making the case for border wall and Title 42 ‘express’ deportations
Morgan used Wednesday’s conference to defend border wall construction and Trump administration policies he says brought last year’s migrant wave under control.
“This administration has been successful in closing loopholes that Congress has refused to address again and again. The Administration’s message is clear: illegal immigrants will not be released into the country. They will be quickly returned to their country of origin,” he said.
He cautioned that doing away with the Migrant Protection Protocols program (also known as MPP or “Remain in Mexico”) or stopping border wall construction would only lead to more illegal immigration.
“These policies and initiatives and these essential tools like the wall, if we were to remove them, we will see an influx that overwhelms even what we saw last year, when we had 150,000 illegal aliens reach our borders in a single month and 1 million in a single year,” Morgan said. “If we continue to provide protections under the umbrella of sanctuary cites and rewards like free health care, drivers licenses, jobs they’re not legally authorized to have, we will incentivize a new wave of illegal migration if they know no consequence will be applied.”
Migrant advocates have savaged the Trump administration for opting to send asylum seekers from third countries to wait a year or more in Mexico for a resolution to their claims. Many of those migrants — mostly families from Central America — have been victims of crimes in Mexico that include robbery and rape, according to international watchdog organizations.
However, Morgan said a large number of those claims were fraudulent and said most of those that came last year wanted economic gain.
“The real atrocity here is that the entire justice and immigration system are backed up because a lot of people – even in this country — are encouraging people to make statements that are not accurate and to make claims to try to get asylum, especially with a child […] because they know the maximum time we can hold a kid is 20 days and then they’re going to bet released into society and then they don’t show up to their court hearings,” he said. “That’s the abuse of the system, that’s the atrocity.”