EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – U.S. immigration agencies encountered a record number of migrants from across the globe in the fiscal year 2021. And though Mexicans made up the biggest group of those detained, migration from Venezuela, Nicaragua and Haiti saw the largest year-to-year growth.
According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data, migration from that South American country immersed in political and economic turmoil increased 11-fold between fiscal year 2020 and FY2022. The fiscal year runs from October 1 of any given year to Sept. 30 of the following year.
The agency reported coming across only 4,520 unauthorized Venezuelan migrants in FY2020 while the number jumped to 50,499 in FY2021. Already just in October, immigration agents have detained 13,504 Venezuelans.
An Oct. 25 report by the UN Refugee Agency blames the migration on the loss of formal jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the collapse of the informal economy that represents the last resort for many. Food and medication shortages have been a constant. Further, evictions resulting from an inability to pay rent left many homeless or facing the possibility of being homeless, the UN reported.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has further aggravated the already dire living conditions of refugees and migrants from Venezuela. […] The pandemic ha caused widespread economic disruptions and exacerbated protection concerns,” wrote Dr. Eduardo Stein, UN Refugee Agency and International Organization for Migration special representative for Venezuelan refugees and migrants.
International agencies estimate more than 5 million Venezuelans have left their country since 2014.
Nicaragua is also experiencing the largest exodus of citizens in decades. Border agencies came across just 3,164 Nicaraguans in FY2020, but detained 50,722 in FY2021, a 16-fold increase.
According to the IOM, an estimated 800,000 Nicaraguans are now living abroad. Low wages and heavy recruiting by migrant smuggling networks in Central America account for much of the displacement.
“There are strong pull factors, such as the need for labor […] in El Salvador and Panama with the potential for much higher salaries,” wrote Carmen Paola Zepeda, head of the IOM office in Nicaragua. Another factor “is the presence of organized criminal networks who are also involved in narcotics and human trafficking. This feeling of insecurity pushes many Central Americans to search for safer environments for their families, for instance, in Nicaragua.”
Haiti has experienced constant economic setbacks for more than a decade, exacerbated by the July assassination of President Jovenel Moise, an August 7.2-magnitude earthquake and a tropical storm days later.
But according to the Migration Policy Institute, the loss of jobs in countries such as Brazil and Chile — along with the perception that it would be easier for them to enter the United States after the election of President Joe Biden — has fueled Haitian migration to the United States.
The migration reached a crescendo in September when some 15,000 Haitians crossed the Rio Grande at Del Rio, Texas in the span of a few days. Camped under a bridge a short distance from the river, their arrival captured international attention, and the Border Patrol’s tactics to contain the migration drew outrage.
The number of Haitians apprehended by U.S. immigration agencies grew nine-fold in FY2021 compared to the previous 12-month period, CBP data shows.
Only 5,291 Haitians without proper documents were detained in the U.S. in FY2020 compared to 48,727 the following year. So far in October, just under 1,200 were taken into custody.
Although overall migrant apprehensions dropped in October in relation to September, Mexican migration is on pace to surpass 800,000 apprehensions in FY2022. A total of 67,631 Mexicans were taken into custody at the southern and northern borders, in airports and seaports in October alone.