Brief #120 – Immigration

By Kathryn Baron

Southern Border Mass Migration at Highest Level in Decades

April 13,2021

Policy Summary

In March 2021, CBP apprehended at least 170,000 migrants at the US Southwest Border – the highest in 15 years and a 70% increase from February 2021. Nearly 19,000 unaccompanied children were taken into custody after crossing the border – including at port entries – quadrupling figures for the same month in 2020. Many are meeting relatives in the US and/or they are economic migrants looking for work.

Due to a change in legislation in Mexico, conditions for accepting Central American families expelled by the US have been further restricted. The US can no longer send most families with children under the age of 7 back across the border and must instead find lodging for the influx of migrants. Biden has deployed the Federal Emergency Management Agency to find additional shelter space for minors in a program  called “Operation Apollo.”



Republicans in Congress have accused the Biden Administration of encouraging such an increase due to Biden’s pledge to hold more compassionate policies towards migrants than the Trump Administration. It is vital to understand the root causes of mass migration and apply country contexts in analysis and policymaking processes. The lack of economic opportunity within the Northern Triangle is the main driving force behind mass migration.

Many migrants remain undocumented but  become productive members of US communities and contribute greatly to the national economy. The US should find ways to  normalize the legal status of undocumented migrants who currently are underrepresented and undervalued politically. We will address this issue in our next USRENEW NEWS Immigration Brief.

The US also should find ways to work  with countries in the Northern Triangle, e.g. El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and  fight corruption, support justice reform, and  provide youth in these countries  with education, training and job opportunities. 

Engagement Resources

  • The National Immigration Law Center: an organization that exclusively dedicates itself to defending and furthering the rights of low income immigrants and strives to educate decision makers on the impacts and effects of their policies on this overlooked part of the population.
  • The ACLU: a non-profit with a longstanding commitment to preserving and protecting the individual rights and liberties the Constitution and US laws guarantee all its citizens. You can also donate monthly to counter Trump’s attacks on people’s rights. Recently, the ACLU has filed a lawsuit challenging the separation of families at the border.
  • Center for Disease Control: the CDC provides updated information surrounding COVID-19 and the US responses
  • Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA): Through the Department of Homeland Security’s website, this link provides additional information regarding the Obama era program.
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