Illegal Indian Migration to the U.S. | 15 Dec 2023

For Prelims: Rise in Illegal Indian Migration to the U.S., Global Migration, Minority Communities, Discrimination.

For Mains: Rise in Illegal Indian Migration to the U.S., Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.

Source: TH

Why in News?

Over the past decade, the influx of illegal Indian Migrants to the U.S. has seen a remarkable increase, rising from a modest 1,500 a decade ago to a staggering 96,917 in 2023, as per the data from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

  • The most significant surge in illegal border crossings by Indians has been witnessed since 2020, marking a departure from historically lower numbers under 10,000.
  • Traditionally, the majority of illegal crossings occurred in the U.S.-Mexico border. However, Indian migrants are increasingly opting for the northern border, with numbers rising from under 100 in 2014 to over 30,000 in 2023.


  • The International Organization for Migration defines a migrant as any person who is moving or has moved across an international border or within a state away from his/her habitual place of residence.
    • Migration is the movement of people from one place to another, either permanently or temporarily.

What are the Reasons for Surge in Illegal Indian Migrants in the USA?

  • Push Factors:
    • There are several push factors such as the lack of sufficient job opportunities and economic prospects in India prompt individuals to seek better employment prospects abroad.
      • Social conflicts or lack of confidence in the governance structure in India may drive some individuals to seek a more stable environment elsewhere.
  • Pull Factors:
    • The US's reputation for offering better employment, higher wages, and career advancement acts as a significant pull factor for migrants.
    • The enticement of quality education and prestigious academic institutions in the USA attracts students and families seeking educational opportunities.
      • 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:
    • The overall rise in Global Migration after the pandemic has contributed to this surge, as individuals seek better opportunities and security in different countries.
  • Visa Backlogs and Alternative Routes:
    • Smugglers have evolved their methods, offering sophisticated and in-demand services to facilitate illegal entry into America.
    • Extreme visa backlogs have driven individuals to explore alternative, albeit illegal, pathways to enter the USA due to the prolonged waiting times and limited options for legal entry.
  • Misinformation:
    • Misinformation spread through social media and deceptive travel agencies often misguide desperate migrants, enticing them to undertake perilous journeys guided by multiple facilitators across continents.
    • Desperate migrants might undertake complex, multi-leg journeys passing through various continents and countries, facing numerous risks and challenges along the way.

What are the Socio-Political and Geo-Political Implications for India Over Surge in Illegal Migrants?

  • Bilateral Relations:
    • The issue could impact bilateral ties between India and the USA, potentially affecting trade negotiations, security cooperation, and strategic partnerships.
  • Economic Factors:
    • The potential brain drain resulting from skilled individuals seeking illegal entry might impact India's economy, particularly in sectors where skilled labour is in demand.
  • Brain Drain:
    • The loss of skilled and educated individuals to illegal migration can negatively impact India's economy, depleting the country of talent and expertise.
  • Labor Market Challenges:
    • The departure of skilled or semi-skilled workers might create labour shortages in certain sectors, impacting India's workforce and economic productivity.
  • Policy Repercussions:
    • India might need to implement stringent policies to address the factors driving illegal migration, potentially diverting resources and attention from other developmental priorities.

Way Forward

  • Focusing on economic stability, job creation, and social welfare programs to alleviate distress and provide better opportunities within India.
  • Engaging in diplomatic dialogues to understand and address concerns leading to migration, collaborating with other nations to ensure the protection of migrants' rights.