The number of undocumented migrants crossing the U.S. southwest border has surged after a period of stagnation, as economic hardship, made worse by the pandemic, has driven thousands northward seeking work, the New York Times reports. After plunging in the spring, when nations went into lockdown and shut down borders to curb the virus spread, the number of migrants arrested along the border with Mexico more than doubled between April and July. As the numbers rise, immigration is once again a rallying cry for President Donald Trump, who is trailing in the polls in his re-election bid amid an electorate unhappy with his handling of the pandemic and the economy. “Despite the dangers posed by COVID-19, illegal immigration — it continues,” said Mark Morgan, acting commissioner of Customs and Border Protection.
Undocumented migrants were “putting American lives at risk,” he added, although the U.S. leads the world in the number of deaths from the coronavirus. Morgan touted the necessity of continuing to build the border wall, to forestall illegal migration and the further spread of the coronavirus by infected undocumented immigrants. The numbers still are far below the peak of the migration crisis in 2019, and also far lower than the record highs set in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s, when annual tallies of migrants apprehended at the border often topped 1,000,000. While undocumented migration is rebounding from a brief lull, who is coming — and why — has changed significantly. Many have been inspired to migrate now because of a new Trump administration policy that returns them to Mexico quickly, but has the unintended effect of giving them more chances to cross the border illegally. Instead of Central Americans, the vast majority of those caught trying to cross into the U.S. in recent months are Mexican.