border patrol san diego
A Border Patrol agent monitors an area of the U.S.-Mexico border. Photo by Adriana Heldiz

When a lot of people try to cross the U.S.-Mexico border, it attracts a lot of attention. The current migration from Central America to the U.S. is one of the biggest national stories right now.

Tom Wong, UC San Diego professor and director of the U.S. Immigration Policy Center, is working to explain what’s really happening, particularly now that it’s being routinely referred to as a “surge.”

It’s the season-to-season migration data, Wong says, that’s most telling. In this VOSD Podcast bonus episode, Wong lays out the current increase in migration happening now and how it fits within longstanding patterns.

Think of it like Christmas at Target, he says.

It’s pretty certain that sales are going to go up in December because of the holiday rush. But if you compare this Christmas to last Christmas, that’s where you’ll get the really useful info. Are sales truly higher between comparable periods in a meaningful way? Wong says it’s the same idea for migration data. And right now, it’s migration season; we can expect month-to-month increases until May.

Changes in weather are one factor to help predict when migration will happen, for example. Hot summer months deter travel. Tepid spring weather encourages it.

Wong and VOSD host Andrew Keatts discuss the data, how it’s captured, how pent-up demand from the 2020 pandemic is catching up to us and what the Biden administration is up against.

Keep up with VOSD’s border coverage and updates from the binational region with The Border Report

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Nate John is the digital manager at Voice of San Diego. He oversees Voice's website, newsletters, podcasts and product team. You can reach him at

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