Mexican and Central American migrants crossing the U.S. border to their north used to come because of rampant gang violence and abject poverty in their homelands. But now it’s Donald Trump, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, whose proposals to erect a wall along the border and ramp up deportations in the U.S. are driving illegal immigration.
Trump’s promise of tighter policing and measures to halt illegal immigration has not gone unnoticed in Central America or U.S. cities where undocumented immigrants reside, Reuters reports. In fact, the number of unauthorized migrants caught at the U.S.-Mexico border has spiked in recent months, according to government data.
"If Trump wins, we're all screwed, and all Latinos are screwed," Isaias Franco, 46, of El Salvador, told Reuters. He said he was deported from the U.S. last year and was trying to get back through Texas before the Nov. 8 presidential election.
Approximately 150,300 migrants were detained trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border between last October and February, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data. Apprehensions are up 24 percent from the same period last year.
Child migrants, or “unaccompanied minors,” crossing the border have also increased in number. While figures have not been released for February, 20,455 children were apprehended by Border Patrol agents between last October and January. That’s a 100 percent increase from a year ago.
Trump’s campaign said the spike in migrant crossings is proof that the candidate’s messaging has been effective. Sparking intense backlash and allegations of racism and anti-immigrant sentiments last year, Trump introduced the world to his immigration policy by saying Mexico is deliberately sending “criminals” and “rapists” across the border. He promised to build a huge border wall and make Mexico pay for it.
“It seems [migrants] agree Mr. Trump will be tough, build the wall and stop illegal immigration,” said Hope Hicks, a spokeswoman for Trump.