Originally Published in The Hill
Rafael Bernal - August 17, 2020
An uptick in illegal border crossings since April has been mostly driven by an increase in crossings by single adults from Mexico.
In July, 38,347 people were apprehended after crossing the southwest border illegally, 88 percent of whom were single adults, according to data provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
In July 2019, authorities apprehended 71,978 people crossing the border, 33 percent of whom were single adults.
Illegal border crossings started falling toward the end of summer 2019, driven mainly by a decrease in family units attempting to cross and apply for asylum within the United States.
Asylum requests within the United States essentially disappeared due to Trump administration policies like the so-called Migrant Protection Protocols, also known as Remain in Mexico, where asylum-seekers were forced to wait out their cases in Mexico, many of them converging in unsanitary refugee camps along the border.
Apprehensions of single adults remained relatively stable until they plummeted in April as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and have since risen to levels matching their peak in the summer of 2019.
As the number of people traveling in family units has decreased, so has the number of Central Americans attempting to enter the United States without prior authorization.
Several factors have made it more difficult for Central Americans to traverse Mexico, including the pandemic and more aggressive Mexican immigration enforcement.
At the same time, Mexico's faltering economy and rise in organized crime violence have motivated more of that country's nationals to seek out better conditions in the United States.
According to a report by The Wall Street Journal, Mexico's economy contracted 19 percent from April to June, while shedding 7.4 million jobs.
And Central American countries have closed their borders due to the pandemic, motivating professional smugglers to market their wares to Mexican nationals, for lack of Central American customers, reported the Journal.
U.S. border policies have also contributed to the increase in Mexican single adults attempting the crossing.
Since the pandemic started, border authorities have relied on what are known as Title 42 expulsions — summary repatriations of border-crossers under the cover of a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sanitary guideline.
The quick expulsions often leave no record and do little to deter people from attempting the crossing over and over again, according to a recent report from The Washington Post.