More than 170,000 migrants were detained at the United States’ southern border in March, the highest monthly total since 2006. That total is up 70 percent from February and includes almost 19,000 minors. Why is this surge of migrants to the U.S. happening now?

According to Ali Noorani, president and CEO of the U.S.-based National Immigration Forum, the number of migrants climbs every spring, when the trip becomes easier, but this year’s surge is unusually strong, driven by the economic turmoil of the pandemic and hurricane damage in Honduras. The underlying causes of the ongoing flow of migrants to the southern U.S. border, Noorani says, are the poverty, violence, and corruption rampant in the Central American countries where most migrants come from: Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua. That’s why the numbers of migrants kept rising steeply even during the Trump administration, which built new walls at the border as Trump continually appealed to voters by demonizing out-groups such as immigrants, Mexicans, and Chinese.

Michael Bluhm: How would you explain what’s happening at the Mexico-U.S. border?

Ali Noorani: The situation dates back a number of years. It’s important to start there because, while the numbers of young people seeking protection are significant today, it’s not something new. For years, every spring we see an increase of migrants to our U.S.-Mexico border, seeking asylum protection.

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