Accuracy in Media

The mainstream media has been pushing hard to find a reason, any reason, why the ongoing crisis at the U.S.-Mexican border is not president Joe Biden’s fault. 

This week, Vox came up with a unique take on how the Biden administration has stumbled into an immigration crisis. 

In a piece headlined, “Migrants are heading north because Central America never recovered from last year’s hurricanes,” Vox reports that the crisis is the fault of hurricanes. 

Vox immigration reporter Nicole Narea writes:

“Hurricanes Eta and Iota, both super-powerful Category 4 hurricanes, made landfall in November 2020 within a two-week span, ripping through Nicaragua, Honduras, and Guatemala. The storms brought torrential rain and resulting flash flooding and landslides. They left more than 200 people dead and another 5.3 million people in need of assistance, including more than 1.8 million children, according to Unicef’s estimates. Many families lost their homes, their belongings, and access to water and livelihoods.

“The hurricanes delivered yet another shock to a region that already experienced the highest levels of violence and poverty in the world and was facing an economic downturn from the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Subsequently, according to Vox, people from Central America decided to pick up sticks and leave their home for a United States that is still teaming with COVID. 

 

But data from Customs and Border Protection shows that hurricanes, which happen between October and November on the chart, are not the cause of the suddenly accelerated rate of illegal immigration at the border. 

As the chart from the CBP above clearly shows, illegal immigration contacts by the CBP in the Southwest region of the U.S. ticked upward in January of 2021. Illegal immigration saw a similar trend in 2019, despite relatively light tropical storm activity in late 2018 for Central America. 

The 2019 illegal immigration wave was part of the “caravan” phenomenon whereby Central American immigrants were given passes to travel through countries on their way to the U.S. border.

Scientific American reported in 2019 that illegal immigration in the U.S. from Central America was due to droughts. The publication at the time specifically blamed the lack of tropical storms in the Central American region for illegal immigration.   

“Part of the reason for the disruptive drought conditions the past two years in Central America was from the lack of landfalling Atlantic tropical cyclones (the catch-all term to describe tropical depressions, tropical storms, and hurricanes),” according to Scientific American.

Obviously, in 2020 illegal immigration was impacted by the COVID outbreak in the U.S. that saw both sides of the U.S. border sealed shut. 

Given that hurricanes happen in the fall, the CBP data makes it more likely that undocumented immigrants are much more opportunistic, seeing Biden’s election and swearing-in in January as making it easier to get across the U.S. border. 




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