Jul 20, 2021 - Politics & Policy

By the numbers: More migrants from farther away

Citizenship of migrants crossing U.S.-Mexico border
Data: U.S. Customs and Border Protection; Chart: Connor Rothschild/Axios. Note: South American nations included are Venezuela, Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador

Border officials are encountering migrants from more distant countries, rather than just Mexico or the Northern Triangle, according to the latest public figures from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency.

Why it matters: These longer journeys to the U.S.-Mexico border underscore the desperate situation many migrants face in their home countries, as well as the multi-dimensional diplomatic, economic and moral challenge the United States faces trying to control their flow north.

  • There tends to be an uptick in migrants from further-flung nations during border surges.
  • But the number of encounters with migrants from countries other than Mexico or the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador have surpassed the peak of the 2019 crisis now for four months in a row.
  • The far-flung journeys increase the dangers faced by the migrants as well as their risk of exploitation by smugglers.

By the numbers: At the start of the year, migrants from Nicaragua and a handful of South American nations made up just 6% of people encountered by border officials. Last month, they accounted for 18% — three times more.

  • There's been a rise in migrants traveling from South America through the treacherous Darién Gap into Panama, as Axios previously reported.
  • While the percentage of encounters with migrants who are Haitian or Cuban has hovered around 4% recently, the number is 2.5 times the figure from January.
  • Border officials had nearly 9,000 encounters with Haitians and Cubans last month.
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