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The number of migrants crossing the US-Mexico border is likely to keep growing. Here are 3 reasons why

By Catherine E. Shoichet, CNN

(CNN) — Migrant crossings are rising again at the US-Mexico border.

Why is this occurring, and what could happen next?

To better understand the situation, CNN spoke with Ariel Ruiz Soto, a senior policy analyst at the nonpartisan Migration Policy Institute in Washington.

Ruiz says there’s a key detail many debates about migration and the US-Mexico border frequently leave out.

“Oftentimes,” he says, “we’re not looking farther south.”

Ruiz says it’s likely the number of border crossings will continue to increase, and he says there are three reasons why this is happening right now:

1. There’s been a steep rise in Venezuelans crossing the Darien Gap

Data from the Panamanian government shows the number of migrants making the perilous crossing through the Darien Gap is on the rise, Ruiz says.

Many of those migrants are from Venezuela, where a socioeconomic crisis – fueled by President Nicolás Maduro’s authoritarian government and worsened by the global pandemic and US sanctions – has led one in four Venezuelans to flee the country since 2015.

Data from the Darien Gap, a treacherous crossing through the jungles of Panama and Colombia, has become an important tool in predicting what we can expect to see at the US-Mexico border. Ruiz describes it as “foreshadowing for the future.”

“No matter what the US does today, in five weeks or so, we’re likely going to see the number of migrants from Venezuela rising in the same or higher numbers,” Ruiz says, “unless Mexico increases enforcement or something else happens in the region.”

2. Many migrants have been waiting in Mexico for months

US policies at the border changed in May when authorities lifted pandemic-era public health restrictions and put in place new measures aimed at deterring illegal immigration. And data in the immediate aftermath seemed to suggest the deterrent effect was working.

But even though the number of apprehensions at the US-Mexico border decreased, Ruiz says data from officials in Mexico and Honduras told a different story. Yes, the number of migrants crossing into the US had decreased. But migrants were still making their way north across Central America and Mexico.

“People were migrating,” Ruiz says. “They were just spending more time in Mexico.”

Many migrants were waiting “to understand what the policies of the Biden administration post-Title 42” would be, Ruiz says.

Both migrants and smugglers keep a close eye on US policies, Ruiz says, and many adjust their plans accordingly.

“If smugglers figure out that families are making it through, then more families will come,” he says. And similarly, migrants are more likely to cross in areas along the border where they’ve heard more people have been successful.

3. The number of Mexican migrants has ‘increased notably’

Increases in violence in certain regions of Mexico have also fueled more migration.

“More Mexicans are trying to come,” Ruiz says.

US government data shows more Mexican families coming to the border, likely to seek asylum, he says. In July 2022, for example, CBP figures indicate 4,000 Mexican family encounters at the border. A year later, that number had more than quadrupled, reaching nearly 22,000.

It’s important to remember that a complicated mix of factors fuel migration in the Western Hemisphere, Ruiz says.

“These are the three levers that are in play right now. … And regardless of what the Biden administration does today or tomorrow,” he says, “the people that are on the way already are going to continue, unless something else happens in the region.”

CNN’s Nick Paton Walsh, Natalie Gallón, Brice Lainé and Carlos Villalón contributed to this report.

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