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Surge in Illegal Indian Migrants to the U.S


Over the past decade, the influx of illegal Indian migrants to the U.S. has witnessed a remarkable surge, escalating from a modest 1,500 a decade ago to a staggering 96,917 in 2023, according to data from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The most significant increase in illegal border crossings by Indians has been observed since 2020, deviating from historically lower numbers below 10,000. While traditionally concentrated in the U.S.-Mexico border, Indian migrants are now increasingly choosing the northern border, with numbers surging from under 100 in 2014 to over 30,000 in 2023.


GS II: International Relations

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Reasons for Surge in Illegal Indian Migrants to the USA
  2. Socio-Political and Geo-Political Implications for India Over Surge in Illegal Migrants

Reasons for Surge in Illegal Indian Migrants to the USA:

Push Factors:
  • Lack of Economic Opportunities:
    • Individuals seek better employment prospects abroad due to insufficient job opportunities and economic prospects in India.
  • Social Conflicts and Governance Concerns:
    • Social conflicts or lack of confidence in the governance structure in India prompt some to seek a more stable environment elsewhere.
Pull Factors:
  • Better Employment and Higher Wages:
    • The U.S.’s reputation for offering better employment, higher wages, and career advancement serves as a significant pull factor for migrants.
  • Quality Education:
    • The allure of quality education and prestigious academic institutions in the USA attracts students and families seeking educational opportunities.
  • Family Reunification:
    • Desire to reunite with family members or relatives already settled in the USA drives some migrants to seek illegal entry for proximity to loved ones.
Global Migration Trends:

Post-Pandemic Opportunities:

  • The overall rise in global migration post-pandemic contributes to the surge as individuals seek better opportunities and security in different countries.
Visa Backlogs and Alternative Routes:
  • Smuggler Strategies:
    • Smugglers offer sophisticated and in-demand services, facilitating illegal entry into America.
  • Driven by Visa Backlogs:
    • Extreme visa backlogs push individuals to explore alternative, albeit illegal, pathways due to prolonged waiting times and limited legal entry options.
  • Social Media Deception:
    • Misinformation spread through social media and deceptive travel agencies misguides desperate migrants.
  • Perilous Journeys:
    • Desperate migrants may undertake complex, multi-leg journeys, facing numerous risks and challenges guided by multiple facilitators across continents.

Socio-Political and Geo-Political Implications for India Over Surge in Illegal Migrants:

Bilateral Ties with the USA:
  • Impact on Relations: The surge in illegal migrants could strain bilateral ties between India and the USA.
  • Potential Consequences: Trade negotiations, security cooperation, and strategic partnerships might be adversely affected.
Economic Consequences:
  • Brain Drain Concerns: The potential brain drain resulting from skilled individuals seeking illegal entry may impact India’s economy.
  • Sectoral Impact: Sectors relying on skilled labor may face challenges due to the departure of skilled and educated individuals.
  • Talent and Expertise Depletion: Loss of skilled and educated individuals to illegal migration can negatively impact India’s economy by depleting the country of talent and expertise.
Labour Shortages and Economic Productivity:
  • Impact on Workforce: The departure of skilled or semi-skilled workers may create labour shortages in certain sectors.
  • Economic Productivity: This shortage could impact India’s workforce and economic productivity.
Need for Stringent Policies:
  • Policy Implementation: India might need to implement stringent policies to address the factors driving illegal migration.
  • Resource Diversion: Such policy implementation could potentially divert resources and attention from other developmental priorities.

-Source: The Hindu

February 2024