Record Number of Indian Migrants Illegally Entering US Through Mexico and Canada

Over 96,000 undocumented Indians apprehended at borders in 2022, a fivefold jump since 2020

Matthew Thomas

In recent years, the number of Indian nationals illegally immigrating to the United States has reached unprecedented levels, with over 96,000 detained while crossing borders in 2022 alone.

This marks a dramatic 500% increase compared to just two years prior, revealing a growing trend of Indians risking their lives to unlawfully enter the US in search of better opportunities.

Driven by an assortment of factors – from religious persecution to overwhelming backlogs for legal migration pathways – droves of desperate Indians are paying smugglers exorbitant fees to help them trespass into America using extraordinarily dangerous methods.

And the official border patrol statistics likely underrepresent the true scale of the crisis, as an unknown number evade detection completely.

Behind the Surge in Unauthorized Indian Migrants

While the US remains home to an estimated 10.5 million undocumented immigrants in 2021, the overall population has declined from its 2007 peak. However, specific source countries like India have seen massive spikes recently.

Several key reasons underpin the swell in Indian migration:

  • Oppression of religious minorities: Violence and discrimination targeting Muslims, Christians, and lower-caste Hindus motivate many to escape India.
  • Attractive smugglers: Sophisticated transnational smuggling networks expertly advertise their services to prospective migrants in India while charging $30,000 or more per person.
  • Choked legal pathways: Despite Indians often being highly skilled and employable, the wait time for an employment-based US green card can exceed 10-15 years due to strict quotas. As hopes for legal migration dim, many consider illegal options.
  • Overall global displacement: The COVID-19 pandemic and other world events have accelerated broader migration patterns from the Global South to developed Western nations.

Most Treacherous Routes Into the US

The vast majority of recently apprehended Indian migrants attempted to infiltrate the US by land through Mexico or Canada using three especially hazardous passages:

  • Crossing the US-Mexico border: 41,770 Indians were caught entering from Mexico in 2022, with many traversing deserts or riding in overpacked tractor-trailers. Extreme heat, deadly terrain, robberies, and sexual assault pose constant dangers.
  • Northern border with Canada: 30,010 Indians tried illegally crossing in 2022 from Canada, where freezing weather and remote, rural terrain claim lives every year. In January 2023, a family of four Indians tragically died from exposure near the Manitoba border.
  • Sea routes via Caribbean: Smugglers transport groups of Indian migrants by boat to Central America or islands like Cuba or Haiti, from which they try to surreptitiously enter the US. Drownings are common; a boat packed with Indian migrants capsized en route to Puerto Rico in 2022, with only 11 of original 85 passengers surviving.

Dwindling Overall Illegal Immigration to the US

While Indian unauthorized migration has exploded higher, the US has witnessed an overall decline in illegal immigration for years. The Pew Research Center estimates America housed 10.5 million undocumented people in 2021 – still an immense population, but lower than the peak of 12.2 million back in 2007.

The unauthorized immigrant population in the United States reached 10.5 million in 2021
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Mexico has traditionally been the predominant source of unauthorized immigrants to America. But even Mexico has sent fewer migrants recently, with 6.4 million Mexican illegal immigrants in the US in 2021 compared to a high of 7 million in 2007.

Instead, the spotlight has shifted to several emergent source regions. Aside from India’s spike, Central American countries like Guatemala and Honduras have substantially elevated their unauthorized expat communities in the US over the past decade. Venezuela, Brazil, former Soviet states, the Dominican Republic, and other nations have also grown their illegal US immigrant populations.

In total, nearly every global region has seen expansions, although Mexico’s decline means overall illegal immigration remains below early 2000s peaks. Going forward, managing mass migration flows presents complex humanitarian, security, and diplomacy challenges for the US and sending states like India.

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Immigration attorney Matthew Thomas has 10+ years of expertise. He helps people and families navigate the complicated immigration procedure and achieve their goals. Matthew Thomas has helped customers get visas, green cards, and citizenship through comprehending U.S. immigration regulations. Matthew Thomas volunteers in community events to educate immigrants and promote awareness of immigration issues in addition to his legal practice. Matthew Thomas is a trusted immigration attorney that provides tailored and effective counsel.