A record number of migrants tried to illegally cross the United States’ southern border last month, despite Donald Trump’s promises of a crackdown.
The number of people who crossed the Mexican border illegally skyrocketed to 103,492 in March – hitting a 12-year-high.
Of those, 92,607 were apprehended by US Customs and Border Patrol, who have detained over 361,000 people at the southwest border this year, which is more than double the amount of migrants detained by April of last year – and all of 2017.
More than 53,000 families were among those apprehended along the US-Mexico border during March. That is the highest number for a single month since US Customs and Border Protection began keeping track of the figure in 2012.
For President Trump, who has profusely promised to curtail illegal immigration since the birth of his political career, the dramatic uptick in immigration numbers is said to have him rattled.
When Time asked if the increase in border crossings is driving the president crazy, a former senior aide texted ‘not crazy – insane.’
However, the swelled immigration numbers appear to have nothing to do with Trump. The geopolitical upheaval in Central America, namely Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, has convinced many families that their only hope is to make the perilous trek to the US to find both work and safety.
A 2018 study funded by the US Department of Homeland Security found that ‘wages for people migrating illegally to the United States tend to be about 13 to 14 times the wages available to them in their home countries.’
This opportunity has proved attractive enough to convince a record number of families to pack up and head for the US border. That has caused headaches for the Trump administration whose hands are tied by legal precedents.
‘These non-traditional illegal border crossers rely less on clandestine crossing of the border, and instead often request various forms of relief from removal and use the long adjudication process to secure entry into the United States for extended periods of time,’ the study found.
Due to a 1997 court settlement, children must be released from detention facilities after 20 days of custody. This often allows families to stay in the US while they wait for their asylum case to be heard by a judge because people held in detention are able to see a judge more quickly than if they were to apply for asylum remotely.
Trump has recently spoke of closing the border to all traffic. He also reportedly encouraged border agents to openly disregard asylum law at a meeting and claimed that the controversial child separation policy was encouraging more families to cross.
‘Once you have it,’ Trump said on Tuesday, referring to family separation, ‘That’s why you see many more people coming. They’re coming like it’s a picnic because “let’s go to Disney land.”
Despite his beliefs that separating families may deter immigration, Trump said he will not reinstate the policy.
‘We’re not going to do that,’ he said on Tuesday.
On March 19, Border Patrol began releasing families along the border with instructions to return later to appear before an immigration judge because the US does not have the space to detain them.
As of Tuesday, 11,000 families had been released, Buzzfeed reported.