Illegal immigration is actually rising now, thanks to Donald Trump
Illegal immigration to the United States from Mexico is up 24 percent over last year. Some say Donald Trump's vow to build a wall is prompting the surge.
(Los Angeles Herald Examiner Collection/Los Angeles Public Library via AP)
There's been a surge in illegal immigration to the United States in recent months. And it may be thanks to Donald Trump's vow to build a humongous wall on the US-Mexico border.
With Mr. Trump's success in the Republican primaries, those considering migrating from Mexico or Central America may feel that it's now or never.
"They think they need to take advantage while they can," Blanca Rivera, who manages a migrant shelter in Ciudad Juarez, just across the border from El Paso, Texas, told Reuters. She said she had noticed may more migrants coming through the shelter recently.
According to US Customs and Border Protection records, 150,304 people were detained at the US-Mexico border from October to February for trying to come into the United States illegally. That's an increase of 24 percent from the same window in 2014 to 2015.
Trump has referred to Mexican and Central American migrants as criminals, rapists and drug dealers – and he's won three out of the four Republican primary or caucus races to date.
If Trump wins the presidency in November and builds his proposed wall, it could become much more difficult for people to escape the gang violence and poverty plaguing Mexico and Central America. That's why some people are choosing to migrate to the US as soon as possible.
Among those urging such immigration are smugglers, called "coyotes," who charge fees of thousands of dollars to help smuggle people across the border. They're taking advantage of Trump's comments and telling people to go now.
But family members are also using the same rhetoric. Brenda Barrios, who crossed into the United States illegally in 2003, is urging her parents to return now after being deported back to Guatemala.
"He's one of the reasons why people are crossing the border. They think he looks like a dictator," she told Reuters. "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."
She said that although Trump's administration would make life in the US significantly worse for her, her family and others, it would still be better than the conditions they fled.
Trump launched his campaign in June promising to build "a great, great wall on our southern border" and has continued using that as a rallying call throughout his campaign.
Although he has been at the front of the Republican pack, Trump's harsh stance on immigration has alienated many Hispanic voters. A Washington Post-Univision News poll in February revealed that that 8 in 10 Hispanic voters find Trump "unfavorable." Just as his rhetoric is strong, those numbers include 7 in 10 Hispanic voters that have a "very unfavorable" view of the leading Republican candidate.
"If Trump wins, we're all [in big trouble]...," Isaias Franco, a migrant from El Salvador who was deported last year and is now trying to get back to the United States, told Reuters at the Ciudad Juarez migrant shelter. "You watch the news ... There's a lot of fear among Latinos."
This report contains material from Reuters.