Gabriel Stargardter and Julia Edwards, Reuters, March 1, 2016
Gang violence and poverty have for years pushed Mexicans and Central Americans north to the United States, but recently a new driver has emerged: the anti-immigrant tone of leading Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.
Interviews with migrants, people smugglers and officials show many migrants are trying to cross now instead of facing tighter policing and new policies to halt illegal immigration if Trump or another Republican wins the Nov. 8 election.
“If Trump wins, we’re all screwed and all Latinos are screwed,” Isaias Franco, a 46-year-old from El Salvador who was deported from the United States late last year and is now trying to get back, said at a migrant shelter in Ciudad Juarez, just across the border from El Paso, Texas.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) data shows 150,304 migrants were detained trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border between October and February, up 24 percent from the same period last year.
Similar data for “unaccompanied” child migrants–those traveling without a guardian–is not yet available, but between October and January, 20,455 kids were apprehended on the southwest border, up over 100 percent from a year ago.
Like other migrants, Franco is aware of the U.S. presidential race and Trump’s vow, matched by fellow Republican candidate Ted Cruz, to deport all the illegal immigrants in the United States, estimated at more than 11 million.
“You watch the news . . . There’s a lot of fear among Latinos,” Franco said, adding that a Republican victory would spell the end for proposed reforms to give many immigrants greater legal security.
Blanca Rivera, who manages the Ciudad Juarez migrant shelter, said she had noticed a recent surge in the numbers of migrants and also blamed the inflammatory rhetoric.
“They think they need to take advantage while they can.”
Brenda Barrios, a 30-year-old Guatemalan based in Silver Spring, Maryland, crossed illegally into the United States in 2003 with her parents and two sisters.
Her parents were later deported back to Guatemala, and they think it is too dangerous to return but Brenda is encouraging them to come before the end of the year in case Trump wins.
“He’s one of the reasons why people are crossing the border. They think he looks like a dictator,” she said. “It’s very dangerous for them to cross. But it will be worse if Trump is president . . . Life will be very difficult for us. He doesn’t want us here.”