Not only are far fewer undocumented immigrants crossing the Mexico border into the U.S., but increasingly, those undertaking the ever-more-treacherous ordeal are not Mexican. This is one of the main findings of a new report, “The New Border: Illegal Immigration’s Shifting Frontier, by the investigative non-profit organization Pro-Publica. Young Central Americans fleeing gang violence and poverty, as well as migrants from China, India or Africa willing to pay tens of thousands of dollars, have become the latest groups who are increasingly falling prey to the profitable but ruthless human smuggling industry, increasingly associated with gangs and drug cartels in Central America and Mexico.
“I don’t know of any serious observer or analyst who thinks we (the U.S.) are going to revert to pre-2008 levels of Mexican immigration,” said former US immigration commissioner Doris Meissner when she was interviewed in the report. In 2007, for example, U.S. Border Patrol arrest about a million people on the border, mostly Mexican. This past fiscal year, the arrests had declined to about 355,000 and about 260,000 were Mexicans, the lowest in the past ten years.
“Profound shifts in economics, demographics and crime are transforming immigration patterns and causing upheaval in Central and North America,” the article states. While Mexico is seeing fewer births, an increased middle class and less economic incentive to migrate to the U.S., our southern neighbor is now dealing with its own rise in undocumented immigrants, mainly young people from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.
Mexican authorities are also seeing an increase in Cuban, African, and Asian migrants. Though the numbers are small, drug cartels and mafias have gotten into the business of human smuggling, charging over $60,000 for immigrants trying to reach the U.S., or in some cases just stay in Mexico.
While the number of undocumented immigrants coming to the U.S. has decreased, American authorities are worried about the increasing confluence of drugs, stolen goods and human smuggling, as well as the possibility of an extremist or terrorist presence in Central America, and its repercussions in the U.S. The report cites the case of an Iranian-American who pleaded guilty to traveling to Mexico to hire Mexican cartel hit men to assassinate a Saudi ambassador in Washington D.C.
Mexico’s newly-elected president, Enrique Peña Nieto, plans to add thousands of officers to the Guatemala-Mexico border, and countries have vowed to help foster increased security in Central America. A study by the Migration Policy Institute, “Border Insecurity in Central America’s Northern Triangle, says increasing safety in the borders is not enough; it is also helping establish the rule of law and safety within countries vulnerable to transnational gangs and cartels.