What’s Behind the Spike in Immigrants at the Border

(CNN) Apprehensions of migrants on the southern border have reached levels not seen in more than a decade. The sharp uptick has spurred a mix of finger pointing in Washington.Trump administration officials say the skyrocketing numbers are more proof for the case they’ve been making for months: Loopholes in the US immigration system, they say, are incentivizing a growing number of migrants to come and sparking a dramatic change in who’s making the journey.Democrats argue the administration itself is to blame and that its policies have exacerbated the crisis.

Meanwhile, there’s a significant shift in who officials are taking into custody. Overcrowded Border Patrol facilities are packed not with the single men from Mexico who once made up the majority of border-crossers — but primarily with Central American families and unaccompanied children.North of the US-Mexico border, the political sparring continues. South of the border, the reality on the ground is more complicated.

But policy experts and officials have found some common ground. A confluence of events, they say — including harsh conditions in Central America, US policies, lack of political will in the US and more sophisticated smuggling efforts — led to the highest number of apprehensions on the US-Mexico border in 13 years.

How government policies fuel migration

A complex “cauldron” of factors are coming together, says Andrew Selee, president of the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute. And US policies have played a notable role in influencing what’s happening at the border.”This crisis is the creation, yes, of bad conditions that have been there for a long time, but also policymakers who have been unable or unwilling to make policy choices,” he says.

“That, I think, is at the heart of this.”Selee says two major factors have fueled the increasing numbers: 1) A growing awareness in Central America that immigrant families who make it to the U.S. aren’t being detained in large numbers — or deported and 2) A major push from smugglers in the region to offer more options to would-be migrants.”The smuggling business became quite sophisticated as a result of competition from the caravans,” Selee says. “They started offering different price models. They started offering different bus trips. They started offering financing.”

By Catherine E. Shoichet and Geneva Sands for CNN POLITICS

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