The border between the United States and Mexico is the second-largest border in the world, spanning about 2,000 miles long. The fences have made it harder to cross but Mexico has been the driving force of U.S. immigration control and has deterred hundreds of thousands of Central Americans from traveling north of the border. Despite the recent headlines surrounding the border dividing the U.S. and Mexico, many people do not have much knowledge about the topic. Here are 10 facts about the United State’s southern border.
10 Facts About the United State’s Southern Border
- Arrests at the Border: Arrests at the United State’s southern border are at their lowest in history. Though the number of apprehensions has more than doubled between 2018 and 2019, that number is still below the historical high. Statistics show that U.S. authorities made more than 1.6 million arrests at the southern border, a figure that has been steadily declining. In fact, the number of immigrants arrested at the southern border in 2018 was the fifth-lowest total since 1973, where apprehensions regularly exceeded 1 million each fiscal year during the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s.
- Reduced Asylum Seekers: Only a limited number of asylum seekers are passing through the United State’s southern border. The Trump Administration has implemented and proposed changes that have limited the number of asylum seekers seeking refuge in the U.S., causing them to wait weeks and even months along the southern border before legally crossing. One of the changes to stem from the Trump Administration is the metering and queueing process that allows U.S. officials to limit the daily number of individuals who can make asylum claims. Before these changes, most asylum seekers apprehended were able to live the U.S. while awaiting a decision on their immigration status.
- Families at the Border: Fact three of the 10 facts about the United State’s southern border is that the rate of families attempting to cross the border is at an all-time high. According to the Pew Research Center, people traveling in families accounted for the majority of apprehensions at the southern border in 2019, totaling 473,682 apprehensions of family units. The cause of family separation is simply because the U.S. does not have enough facilities licensed to detain them. President Trump’s zero tolerance policy has been the result of apprehended families and their separation at the southern border, separating over 4,000 immigrant families. However, a federal court has since blocked Trump’s Administration efforts for now.
- Overstays vs. Border Crossings: More people are overstaying their visas than those that authorities arrest at the border. Though the President claims that the issue of illegal crossing at the border stems from immigrants and bad people, the Department of Homeland Security reports otherwise. It reported having had a suspected 606,926 people in-country overstays in 2018 alone, thus, pressuring the President to suspend travel from countries with high rates of overstays.
- Illegal Drugs: Most illegal drugs are entering the U.S. through legal ports of entry. Illegal drugs are making their way into the U.S. but not in the way that President Trump suggests. According to a report from the Drug Enforcement Administration in 2018, most drugs entering the United States are not coming from the southern border, but through official border crossings that U.S. authorities safeguard. However, there are efforts to prevent drug trafficking into the U.S. at legal ports of entry. The Trump Administration is working toward providing more customs and border protection officers along the U.S.’s southern border.
- Central Americans: The majority of border crossers are Central Americans. Non-Mexicans have far outnumbered the Mexicans crossing at the United State’s southern border. In an attempt to flee extreme violence and poverty-stricken circumstances, Central Americans – those individuals from the Northern Triangle nations including Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador – have accounted for nearly half of the people crossing the southern border illegally today. According to the Pew Research Center, individuals from these three countries accounted for 71 percent of all apprehensions in fiscal 2019, totaling 607,774 combined.
- Spread of Disease: Border crossing has lead to increased health issues. A large number of people crossing the United State’s southern border, whether legally or illegally, has led to an increase in health issues, mainly the spread of diseases such as Hepatitis A, HIV, measles and tuberculosis. However, there have been efforts to treat or prevent the spread of disease across the United State’s southern border. Programs such as the Binational Border Infectious Disease Surveillance Program (BIDS) have emerged to detect, report and prevent infectious disease threats and outbreaks.
- History at the Border: What some may not know about the United State’s southern border is that the U.S. did not target Mexican immigrants until the early 1900s. Efforts to keep Mexicans out of the U.S. did not begin until the Mexican Revolution in 1910. Armed forces began monitoring the border to keep fighting from spilling over into the U.S. The Texas Rangers and other militias were among the first to form along the border to keep the Mexicans fleeing battle from immigrating to the states.
- The Most Crossed Border in the World: The U.S.’s southern border has the most frequent crossings in the world with more than 350 million legal crossings each year and more than 200,000 illegal crossings through Texas. Though the majority of those crossing are seeking refuge and fleeing to escape poverty and violence at home, others are crossing simply for the economic freedoms that the country promises.
- Barriers at the Border: Contrary to what most Americans believe, fact number 10 of the 10 facts about the United State’s southern border is that there are already barriers in place. The U.S. has been initiating fencing and other physical barriers with Mexico since the mid-1990s. President Bill Clinton is the first to advocate for a physical barrier between the U.S. and Mexico.
These 10 facts about the United State’s southern border have shown that cutting off aid to the countries of Central America, closing the U.S.-Mexico border and increasing family apprehensions and separations are not going to make the issues circling the border disappear. However, people are doing work on all sides, from Mexico’s government to the CDC and Customs Border Protection officers, in an effort to improve the structure, avoid chaos and move forward with the progress at the southern border.
– Na’Keevia Brown