The latest figures from Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) show that agents detained 27.754 unaccompanied minors from Central America in the first six months of the fiscal year, almost double last year’s total of 15,616 and just shy of the 2014 record of 28,579. The numbers for immigrants traveling as families is even higher, with 32,117 apprehended, almost triple last year’s total of 13,913 and well above the 2014 figure of 19,830. When combined, this mass exodus from Central America represents the largest mass immigration to the U.S. since the Mariel boatlift out of Cuba in 1980.
Agents and Immigration experts point to several drivers of the Mass Exodus. Because of a lack of detention space and the backlog created in the courts, immigrants claiming asylum often may wait years to see a Judge. This delay allows them to stay in the country and avoid deportation, which is seen by many to be an incentive for the continuing immigration surge. With the violence and poverty in Central America, many families hope for better lives in the USA and know that deportation isn’t likely to occur for at least several years, if at all, in most cases. The upcoming election cycle may also be playing a key role in the surging number of illegal crossings, as immigrants want to “beat the election”. Immigrants fear if Trump is elected he will impose a hard line stance on immigration and may even build a Wall along the US-Mexican border. And even if Hilary Clinton is elected, there will likely be significant immigration reforms which could make it tougher than the current situation under President Obama.
According to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), almost 500,000 immigrants who entered the U.S. legally last year overstayed their visa. Yet, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the agency removed fewer than 3,000 overstays, or less than 1 percent. These numbers show that Visa Overstays represent roughly 40 percent of all illegal “crossings”, according to the recent CBP data.