Extra-Continentals Rising at America’s Southern Border

Illegal migration across America’s southern border isn’t what it used to be. It’s increasingly “extra-continental.”

While nationals from Mexico and the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras remain in the majority, more Africans, Asians and Middle Easterners are in the mix.

U.S. Border Patrol apprehensions of illegal aliens from countries outside the Americas jumped from 2,526 in July to 5,752 through the end of November, according to the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS). Many more are lining up to come.

“Thousands of extra-continentals are backed up in heavily transited Panama, which has long served as a … throughway for U.S.-bound migrants who initially landed in South America,” CIS reported.

CIS cited a just-released Mexican government report showing 8,992 Africans reaching Mexico between January and October 2020. A category of “unspecified” migrants not from the Americas numbered 17,043. Another 21,280 hailed from Oceania. All of the numbers were up significantly from previous years.

Mexico’s national guard has blocked some extra-continental migrants from proceeding north since June 2019. But well-paid smugglers are still circumventing the guard’s network of roadblocks, which helps explain how Middle Easterners and Africans wind up at the U.S. border.

The Migration Policy Institute (MPI) found that most extra-continental migrants enter South and Central America through legal means — either because visas are not needed, or because of lax visa requirements in countries such as Ecuador, Brazil and Guyana.

Beyond that there’s laxity on deportation in the transit countries. “Of approximately 34,000 extra-continental migrants apprehended in Mexico between 2013 and 2018, just 3.3 percent were deported,” MPI stated. That percentage may have increased since Mexico strengthened its immigration enforcement, but there’s a long way to go. 

Anticipating that illegal traffic across the southern border will “climb significantly” after COVID-19 restrictions ease, a U.S. Department of Homeland Security “threat assessment” warned of “the potential for another [migrant]surge as those who were previously prevented from seeking entry into the United States arrive.” Extra-continentals will surely be among them.

About Author


Bob Dane, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR)'s Executive Director, has been with FAIR since 2006. His deep belief is that immigration is the most transformational determinant of where we are heading as a nation and that our policies must be reformed in the public interest. Over many years on thousands of radio, TV and print interviews, Bob has made the case that unless immigration is regulated and sensibly reduced, it will be difficult for America to reduce unemployment, increase wages, improve health care and education and heighten national security. Prior to joining FAIR, Bob spent twenty years in network radio, marketing and communications after an earlier career in policy and budgeting within the Reagan Administration. Bob has a degree from George Mason University in Public Administration and Management.

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