Jul 16, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Border arrests top 1 million after setting 20-year record for June

A group of about 30 Brazilian migrants, who had just crossed the border, sit on the ground near US Border Patrol agents

A group of Brazilian migrants who just crossed the border in Sunland Park, New Mexico. Photo: Paul Ratje/AFP via Getty Images

U.S. Border Patrol has made more than 1 million arrests of migrants attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border since last October, after June set a 20-year record for that month, according to government data released on Friday.

Why it matters: The surge in migrants attempting to cross the border has continued — inciting Republicans to blame the Biden administration, while Democrats and immigration advocates pressure the president to undo strict Trump-era enforcement policies.

By the numbers: The last time Border Patrol made more than 1 million arrests was in 2006, according to agency data, and there are still three months left to report for this fiscal year. Agents made more than 178,000 arrests in June.

  • An uptick in people attempting to cross the border over and over again has contributed to the high numbers. Repeat crossings have been driven in part by the continued use of a Trump-era public health order, called Title 42, to immediately return border-crossers to Mexico, experts and officials have said.
    • Despite 1 million arrests, CBP officials said in a release that 455,000 unique individuals have been encountered by border officials this fiscal year — lower than at the same point in 2019. 34% of people encountered last month had tried to cross at least one other time in the past year.
  • The majority of crossings are still single adults, most of whom are subject to Title 42.
  • The Biden administration has been under pressure to end the use of the policy, and is considering doing so as soon as this month. The administration stopped applying the rule to unaccompanied kids and has allowed other vulnerable migrants to receive humanitarian exceptions.

The number of unaccompanied kids caught attempting to cross in June was down compared to March and April of this year, but the number remains higher than any other month recorded of any other year.

  • The government has struggled to handle the influx of kids, thousands of whom earlier this year were forced to wait in border patrol facilities unsuited for minors for longer than the legal 72 hours.
  • The agency in charge of their care has since set up multiple temporary shelters to hold more kids, and have picked up the pace of releasing them to family members or other sponsors in the U.S.
  • Still, the number of kids in Border Patrol custody has creeped back up to over 1,000 as of data released on Thursday. The administration managed to get the number down to a low of 421 in mid-May.

Migrants coming from nations other than Mexico, Guatemala, Hondura and El Salvador rose yet again last month.

  • More than 46,000 arrests of migrants were made from these more distant countries, up from 11,600 in February.

Between the lines: Natural disasters, economic devastation, gang violence, political oppression and perceptions that President Biden would be more welcoming than his predecessor have driven people to flee their homes for the U.S.

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