Sep 20, 2022 - Politics & Policy

U.S. sets record with more than 2 million encounters at Mexico border

Photo of the border wall at the southern border
A section of the U.S.-Mexico border fence in Eagle Pass, Texas, as seen on July 26. Photo: Paul Ratje/Bloomberg via Getty Images

American border officials have had over 2 million encounters with migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border so far this fiscal year — setting a new record after sustained surges in migration, according to the latest Customs and Border Protection data.

Why it matters: The large numbers of migrants at the southern border continues to be a logistical, humanitarian and political challenge for the Biden administration. Republicans have pounced on the issue, with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis recently flying migrants and asylum seekers to Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts.

By the numbers: In 2020, the pandemic slowed traffic at the border. Border officials took migrants into custody roughly 460,000 times that fiscal year. That number jumped to 1.7 million in fiscal year 2021. With one month left in fiscal year 2022, the number has already surpassed 2 million for the first time ever.

  • In August, CBP reported more than 200,000 encounters at the U.S. southwest border.
  • 55,333 unique encounters last month were with Venezuelans, Nicaraguans and Cubans. They accounted for more than one-third of the total unique individuals taken into custody by border officials in August — a 175% increase from August 2021.

Driving the news: "Failing communist regimes in Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba are driving a new wave of migration across the Western Hemisphere, including the recent increase in encounters at the southwest U.S. border," said CBP commissioner Chris Magnus in a statement.

  • The large border numbers over the past two years have been aided by more people attempting to cross the border multiple times after being sent back under a public health policy known as Title 42, which was implemented at the start of the pandemic.

The big picture: The U.S. has seen growing numbers of migrants from more distant countries, including Cuba, Colombia, Haiti and Peru as well as traditional centers of Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Mexico, as per Axios' Stef Kight.

  • Republican governors have sought to challenge President Biden's immigration policies by transporting migrants and asylum seekers by bus and plane to predominantly Democratic-run cities.

What we're watching: Cabinet heads and White House officials were set to discuss potential "litigation options" as a response.

Go deeper: Biden reinvents migrant detention

Go deeper