Act now, and avoid the fall rush. That seems to be the message (albeit most likely in Spanish) circulating among citizens south of the border in reaction to GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump’s announced plan to build an impenetrable wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
From the slums of Central America to close-knit migrant communities in U.S. cities, Trump’s rise to the front of the Republican pack has not gone unnoticed and is partly behind a spike in the numbers of migrants trying to enter the country, including children traveling without guardians.
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.
According to data culled from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), 150,304 migrants were detained trying at the U.S.-Mexico border between October and February, which represents a 24% increase over 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.
If in fact the data accurately reflects a trend among illegals who planned to sneak across the border at some point but have sped up plans, they are giving Trump too much credit. Building a wall along the entire 2,000-mile length of the southwestern border, according to CBP estimates, would take many years — likely decades — to complete. Then there would be the ongoing cost and manpower required to maintain it. In 2010 alone, the CBP repaired 4,037 breaches in the existing fences.
The government would also need to expropriate private land, which would be both expensive and unpopular. And the border would still need policing, as illegal immigrants will try to breach, tunnel under, or climb over any fence.