The surge in illegal immigration across the southern U.S. border is shaping up to be the biggest in 20 years. Unlike migrant surges in 2019 and 2014, which were predominantly made up of Central American families and unaccompanied children, so far this one is being driven by individual adults.
Most of the migrants are Mexicans, often men in search of work with the pandemic easing and the U.S. economy set to boom. Apprehensions at the southern border totaled 382,000 from the beginning of the fiscal year in October through February, up 42% compared to the same period of 2019—a year that saw the highest number of apprehensions since 2007. In 2020, the influx of migrants plummeted due to the pandemic.
Single adults account for 82% of the apprehensions so far this fiscal year, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data. Some 60% of all single adults apprehended were Mexicans. Border patrol agents say the majority of single adults they catch are men, entering to look for work such as picking fruits and vegetables, roofing and dishwashing.
The influx of children arriving alone at the border has captured broad attention. While apprehensions of mostly Central American families and unaccompanied minors have grown in the past few months, their numbers overall are still much smaller than those of adults.
The number of families caught trying to cross the border rose to 39,000 during the first five months of this fiscal year, from just over 37,000 during the same period in 2020. During the same period in 2019, more than 136,000 families were arrested at the border.