During President Joe Biden’s tenure, migrant arrivals at the border have surged to unprecedented levels, posing a significant political challenge as the election approaches. Polls indicate widespread disapproval of Biden’s handling of the issue, with criticism not only from Republicans but also from Democratic mayors in cities grappling with the influx. Under the administrations of Trump, Obama, and George W. Bush, over 6.3 million migrants have been detained for crossing into the US illegally under Biden’s leadership.
The spike in arrivals stems from a multitude of factors, some predating Biden’s administration and beyond US control. The rise began towards the end of Trump’s presidency, primarily driven by Central Americans fleeing various crises, including gang violence, poverty, and political oppression. However, pandemic-induced restrictions in early 2020 led to a significant drop in numbers, only to rise steadily after their removal in early 2021, culminating in a record high of over 302,000 arrivals in December 2023.
This surge marked a shift in migration patterns, with diverse flows originating from countries as distant as West Africa, India, and the Middle East. Notably, the number of Chinese nationals detained at the US-Mexico border skyrocketed, increasing fiftyfold compared to two years prior.
Globally, migration to wealthy nations has reached historic levels, mirroring the trend witnessed at the US-Mexico border. OECD statistics reveal a 26% increase in permanent migrants to member states in 2022 compared to the previous year, with the US experiencing a doubling in asylum grants, mainly driven by migrants from Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba.
Jorge Loweree, managing director of programmes at the American Immigration Council, underscores the unprecedented displacement worldwide, leading people to seek refuge at the US southern border for various reasons. With the last significant reform of the immigration system occurring over 30 years ago under Ronald Reagan, the current administration faces mounting pressure to address the escalating crisis.