New Border Migration Trends Cast Doubt on Biden's Approach

Migrants from over 160 countries have arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border in recent months.


A growing number of people from far-flung nations are trying to cross into the U.S. from Mexico. That trend is challenging President Joe Biden's attempts at stemming migration at the border. 

Over the past few decades, border crossers have shifted from mostly Mexican nationals to mostly citizens of Central America's Northern Triangle region of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. In 2000, Mexican nationals comprised 98 percent of migration volume at the border, while Central Americans made up 1 percent. By May 2019, Northern Triangle nationals made up 78 percent of border crossers, and Mexicans 13 percent. 

That breakdown seems to be shifting once again, judging by the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Southwest border encounter data for April 2021. According to DHS, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) encountered 33,150 citizens of nations outside El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico at the border in April 2021. In January, that number was just 9,416. 

With 173,460 CBP encounters in April, migrants from nations outside Mexico and the Northern Triangle accounted for nearly 20 percent of border crossers. Most are single adults or members of family units. 

Miriam Jordan writes in The New York Times that these are largely "pandemic refugees" escaping COVID-addled economies. While agents in the past few months have encountered people from over 160 countries, numbers of migrating Ecuadorians, Brazilians, and Venezuelans have skyrocketed. 

Beyond the Americas, Jordan reports that migrants are going to great lengths to reach the border. Those from India have traveled to major hubs "like Mumbai, where they boarded planes to Dubai and then connected through Moscow, Paris, and Madrid, finally flying to Mexico City. From there, they embarked on the two-day bus ride to reach the Mexico-U.S. border." Over 2,000 Romanians have already made the journey in fiscal year 2021, compared to 266 in 2020. According to Reuters, these migrants often fly from Paris to Mexico City and are then smuggled by bus to the Rio Grande River, which they cross by raft into Texas.

Biden campaigned on a promise to help solve "the humanitarian crisis at our border." His proposed solution includes a four-year, $4 billion plan to invest in security and development in the Northern Triangle nations. That's in addition to the $310 million in aid he sent to those countries in April. All told, these sums are meant "to encourage would-be migrants to stay home" by alleviating the issues that might compel people to come to the U.S., writes Tana Ganeva for Reason

That approach yields mixed results. In a 2019 policy paper, Michael A. Clemens of the Center for Global Development, and Hannah M. Postel, a Princeton University Ph.D. student, reported that "the evidence suggests that the capacity of development assistance to deter migration is small at best." Further, they find that successful development in nearly all formerly poor countries has led to increased emigration. The Obama administration failed to effectively address root causes of Central American emigration with its aid-driven Alliance for Prosperity Plan, and by the end of the president's tenure, he had deported around 3 million people—many of whom were from the Northern Triangle

Those findings cast doubt on Biden's plan to send aid to nations to keep would-be migrants at home—an approach that would be costly and questionably effective, now that citizens of over 160 countries are arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border. 

In the long run, making immigration pathways easier to navigate could make streams of migration more predictable, which would help stem sudden influxes like the one currently challenging Biden. And given the changing face of immigration at the Southwest border, spot treatment via foreign aid cannot possibly be a solution. The Trump-era "zero tolerance" policy at the border is not the answer, but neither is Biden's deterrence through development scheme. 

NEXT: Biden's $6 Trillion Budget Plan Is Even More Expensive Than It Looks

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  1. If you don’t enforce laws they will get broken. Duh.

    1. The flip side to this is to look at your laws and see if they are effective. If the law is not addressing the real problem it will be broken even when you try to enforce the law.

      1. Then you change the law through the legislative process, you don’t just ignore the law.

        1. Fine and when we get the Republicans to vote on any bill we can start the process.

          1. What they call the Trump policy of zero toleration was enforcing the laws on the books Congress passed to control the influx of illegal aliens into the US. All that needs to be done is enforce the laws and find the loop holes and plug them. Congress already has passed a bill to build barriers along the border but have never allocated the money to do it. Republicans attempted to pass bills to secure the border but did not have a 60 vote majority in the Senate.

  2. Hey, don’t tell the world your kids get in if you send them accompanied by only their rapist smuggler and maybe people send fewer kids.


    1. But then how will Buffy and Chet pay less than minimum wage for their nannies and gardener, and feel woke about it?

      1. Don’t forget the food trucks.

  3. Migrants from over 160 countries have arrived at the U.S.-Mexico border in recent months.

    So, everyone except for Afghan interpreters.

    1. Those idiots just need to get themselves to Mexico.

  4. Who would have guessed?
    Answer: every commenter here (most of all Ken)

    1. Not EVERY commenter. But EVERY commenter knows who I mean.

  5. What the hell is this shit? I thought I was at Reason magazine, not Hitler Youth Today. How dare you question Biden’s Open Borders policy? And now look, you’ve probably triggered OBL into committing suicide.

    1. Question?

      The second sentence reads “[t]hat trend is challenging President Joe Biden’s attempts at stemming migration at the border.”


    2. What about the policy is open borders? Biden is proposing to increase ICE budget.

  6. One way to solve this problem is with work permits and remittances.

    People show up at the border, pass a simple background check and a simple health screening, and then they are given a work permit to legally work in the country. Individuals can then work here in the US and send remittances home to their families in their native countries.

    It would not be necessary for the whole family to move here in order to provide economic support for the family.

    It would obviate the need for “foreign aid” to help countries – the remittances themselves are a form of “foreign aid”, just not coercively extracted via taxes.

    It would permit most employers to associate with most employees of their choosing.

    And the government wouldn’t need to house large numbers of innocent people in camps, because there would be no point.

    1. Personally wouldn’t mind if the families came here too to spend their hard earned dollars. But if that isn’t in the cards, it definitely is better to give them a bitcoin wallet, and to get them into the system. I know many friends and family who dislike the idea of millions of cheap laborers coming in and depressing their wages (lots of family in the Construction industry) but getting these people into the system will do much to level the competitive labor advantages that working illegally can bring.

      Unfortunately, I have already seen on the socialist websites what will happen as soon as these people with work permits are here in the states. “How can we possibly live with this…this Apartheid. These second class citizens deserve to vote as full citizens of the united states. And they need to have their kids back here in the states to get schooling! To break the cycle of poverty!”

      Note that the last bit should not be a reason against opening the borders with a work permit program. I’m just pointing out that it isn’t a panacea.

      1. I expect Jeff to ignore other costs, but generally you’re good about accepting and acknowledging them.

        The USSC has ruled that every child is access to basic care and schooling, this includes illegal immigrants. Burdening the US systems with migrants has a cost. This is especially in light of the costs of English as a Second Language costs. Even in Arizona, the costs for ESL for spanish speaking foreign nationals often runs 40-60% higher per student than native English speaking children. now expand that to past spanish and have it be applicable to the various languages of the 160 countries posted. In some instances you may end up with 2 teachers per 1 student based on a language not widely used in the community.

        These are costs born by migration that people like Jeff ignore because he doesn’t think anything past first impressions. But these costs also extend beyond school when you look at uncompensated health care and even food stamps in many communities for illegal immigrants. California is even now giving free legal services to non citizens over citizens. In some cases various civil fines don’t apply to illegal immigrants, only to citizens.

        These are all costs that are never brought up by the ‘work permits for the world’ crowd.

    2. That simple background checks could take months, if not years to process, and in a post pandemic world, large scale migration from all over the world is not ideal for a country of America’s size and demographics.

      If everyone applied for work in their homeland, then maybe it works out. But chances are, they won’t sit at home and wait 2,3 years until America approves of their work visas. And make no mistake, the backlog will be huge. Right now USCIS runs lottery system to approve work visas and most of that work is in tech or specialized services. Before you say “farm work” realize that only 1% of immigrants currently work in farms.

      We can’t have 20,40 thousand outsiders trying to enter the country every year. It’s a logistical infeasibility and long term consequences will be undeniable, no matter how much talking point Reason quotes from “Immigrant contribution to economy 101”. If we legalized 20 thousand migrants who are 45 years old, they’ll be eligible for medicare within 20 years, guaranteeing that they’ll take more than they put in.

      1. I rejected the notion that my freedom to move about could be subordinate to “Pandemic Response” and I reject the notion that freedom of movement across our border should be subordinate to some sort of Pandemic fear mongering. Test someone crossing the border, sure. But to say the threat of a pandemic alone is enough to shut the border is to give in to a terrible argument that was used to shut down our country the last year.

        1. Simple economics should be the barrier. Infrastructure creation should be another.

      2. Then what is your plan? More walls? Bigger camps?

        1. Everything you are given an answer you ignore it dumbass.

    3. Tell us again why you were against the 2006 bush plan.

    4. Like the Bracero program?

      This could work but only for narrowly targeted job categories. Like agriculture work.

      Most crossing the border have little or no education. These folks will compete for jobs with our home-grown unskilled labor, making their lives even more miserable. (Studies claim that this is the one native demographic negatively affected by undocumented immigration.)

      But it’s wishful thinking to believe that most border-crossers want only to be ag workers. A lot of those “jobs that Americans [sic] won’t do” are jobs that most of the undocumented don’t want to do, either. Which is to say that even with a bracero-like progam to bring in for the really hard, crummy jobs, undocumented folks will continue to come across hoping to find work in other fields.

      Here in SoCal, that includes roofing, handing drywall, tile-laying, car-washing, painting, lawn maintenance, and childcare and house cleaning. And, of course, food service.

      1. You are probably referring to the research of George Borjas right? Bryan Caplan pointed out that even in studies where there was some evidence that a sudden migrant influx depressed low skilled wages, eg in Miami after the Mariel boat lift, that difference was wiped out after a few years. That’s because the productivity gains from increased division of labor soon outweigh any short term shock from suddenly increasing labor pool.

        1. Apples and oranges. A one-time shock like the Mariel boat lift is totally different from a constant, year after year influx of low-skill undocumented folks, which is what Southern California experienced for decades. (That’s changed now. The high cost of living is driving these folks to other states.) But for years, the latest crop of incoming undocumented young men were undercutting the wages not only of native low-skill workers but also the undocumented who had been here for years.

    5. When illegal alien women arrive in the US the have 50% more children then they would have in their country of origin. Even legal migrant women have 30% more. Every child born on US soil is a citizen. That citizen gives the right to the parents to be here. It is a way for Democrats to give all amnesty followed by citizenship and retain power for centuries turning the US into The United States of South America. Living in Mexico really isn’t that bad as long as you don’t get on the wrong side of the cartels. Why would Americans complain?

  7. A growing number of people from far-flung nations are trying to cross into the U.S. from Mexico. That trend is challenging President Joe Biden’s attempts at stemming migration at the border.

    By Biden’s attempt to “stem migration at the border” you mean “come one, come all, and enjoy free healthcare”? That “stemming”?

    1. Considering the astronomical increase in “refugees” crossing the border that oddly coincides with Biden’s presidency and EOs, It wasn’t clear to me that he was attempting to stem immigration. Thanks Reason! I learned something today! There is only one possible reason that Joe’s effort have been stymied. Refugees from 160 countries would rather endure poverty, torture, political repression, imprisonment and even death than live in a nation that allows mean tweets. Thank god we’ve put that all behind us.

    2. All these ‘assistant editors’ may be cheap, but they sure are reliable, no?

  8. Announcing open borders didn’t keep people in their home countries? WOW! Who could have seen that coming? (sarc)

  9. Biden’s approach has been an unmitigated disaster. Profoundly, and utterly incompetent. The immorality of it all is breathtaking.

    This country should immediately implement a program where only the best and brightest in STEM are allowed in. Frankly, I’d prefer young single people; they’ll assimilate easier. I would exclude Chinese, North Koreans, Iranians, and a few others on security grounds. Everyone wants ‘in’ to this country and that has intrinsic value. We should use that to our nation’s advantage.

    We do not need more landscapers, dishwashers, or lawyers. We do need STEM, programmers, physicians.

    1. STEM is racist now, haven’t you heard?

      1. Oh well. Tough shit. 🙂

    2. Canada allows foreigners to buy VISAs. That is a market place centered plan.

      1. No purchase was required, if you brought in enough assets – deposited them in a Canadian bank, bought real estate, started a business – you qualified for permanent residency.

    3. Wouldn’t that result in immigrants taking high paying jobs as well as low paying jobs? That’s what seems to happen in the tech industry.

  10. What about the drug war? Is anyone attempting to fix (abolish) one of the main reasons they are fleeing their countries!

    1. Well considering that the person in charge of looking at the “root causes” is Kamala?

  11. With 173,460 CBP encounters in April, migrants from nations outside Mexico and the Northern Triangle accounted for nearly 20 percent of border crossers.

    Trump’s mean tweets had devastating effects across the globe. Now those refugees must travel through the smoldering ruins of countries that are closer but unable to help them in order to come here and be healed by our generous new commander in chief. They say just one of his hair sniffs can cure any disease.

  12. “His proposed solution includes a four-year, $4 billion plan to invest in security and development in the Northern Triangle nations. That’s in addition to the $310 million in aid he sent to those countries in April.”
    Giving huge wads of cash to foreign bureaucracies. What could possibly go wrong?

    1. Right we could sent that money to corrupt regimes in the middle east instead.

      This is the right idea but maybe the wrong approach. I would focus on charities that have been effective in the area and work through them. Also look at business to business support. How can businesses on our country help support business development in these countries.

      I would also note that some of this is pandemic driven. We need to stop worrying about the knuckle dragger in this country that don’t want to be vaccinated and ship the extra vaccines to these countries ASAP.

  13. Immigration is a complex problem and until this country and the Congress decide to approach it like that these problems will continue. Again it requires hard work on multiple fronts and the Republicans don’t seem to want to work hard. Easier to just pick on transgenders and shout about CRT.

    1. Nah because the GOP has tried in vain for decades to get dems to the table on immigration. The last time it happened Reagan was promised action if he agreed to immunity, and dem congress lied.

      The previous GOP was fine with normal amounts of immigration, the previous dem labor party was not. The current dem party of insane jackals is just do whatever is opposite Trump. The current GOP is still ok with limited immigration.

      1. Early on the Republicans were complicit in this. They loved the cheap labor for their rich benefactors. They thought family values and abortion would bring the illegals to support the GOP as they tended to be mostly Catholics. The illegals went for the “free stuff” the Democrats offered. That changed the politics, the rich benefactors went to the Democrats with the illegals.
        i.e. Koch Brothers changed parties.

      2. You seem to be rewriting history. How many times have the party come to a bipartisan agreement only to have the Republican sink it at the last minute. What happened in 2013 when Republicans sank a bill brokered by their Senators.

        1. “Republicans sank a bill brokered by their Senators.”

          You are talking about the Gang of Eight. Four of whom were Democrats. The four Rs were Flake, McCain, Graham, and Rubio.


  14. Make E-verify the law of the land and give it real teeth, meaning the perp walk and jail time for employers of undocumented workers.

    But that won’t happen. There’s unacknowledged bipartisan support for cheap, exploitable workers, and too many of the powerful enjoy their “inexpensive” undocumented nannies, housekeepers and landscapers.

  15. I think that REASON should open its offices as migrant shelters and way points.

    Surely REASON would not deny migrants the right to cross the border from the public sidewalk and into its own offices, right?

  16. One thing that is never mentioned is the fact illegal alien women that get into the US have 50% more children then they would have had in their home country. Even legal migrant women have 30% more. Once they have a child that is a citizen they have it made. Two or more and they are set for life. And Democrats gain a bunch of voters.
    When the country becomes majority Hispanic there will be millions of Black Americans proclaiming Trump was right. If you don’t understand that you need to pay attention and be better informed. Always remember that Mexico and the Northern Triangle countries imported more African slaves then the US. Where are they?

    1. Question for REASON: are all these “migrants” joining the Libertarian Party?

      Another question: are they at least subscribing to Reason magazine?

      If the mission of REASON is to recruit for the Democratic Party and ensure the USA ends up as a one party state, it’s doing a pretty good job.

  17. So the ultra liberal left-wing “woke” reason sees Biden’s unmitigated disastrous Border policy as “casting doubt”? LOL! Talk about sugar coated softball journalism!

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