Aug 18, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Families crossing U.S.-Mexico border in near-record numbers

Migrants try to cross the border between Piedras Negras and Eagle Pass. Photo: David Peinado Romero/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Family members attempted to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in July at the second-highest level on record — with 70% of them crossing illegally, according to new government data.

Why it matters: The number of migrants illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border ticked up overall in July after back-to-back months in which those numbers had started to fall.

By the numbers: The increase in July was particularly sharp among family members traveling together.

  • They made up 60,000 of the 130,000 migrants apprehended for crossing illegally.
  • Another 26,000 family members arrived at legal entry points, a growing trend after the government started promoting an app allowing migrants to schedule appointments to cross into the U.S. legally.
  • Nearly 40% of the total encounters with migrant families were with those from the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Mexican families also made up one quarter of those encounters.

What to watch: If the numbers continue to rise, it could strain border resources and cause another humanitarian crisis, as families arriving at the border pose unique challenges.

  • The administration has been responding in part by expanding a program for more quickly deporting migrant families who do not meet asylum requirements.
  • The administration is also asking Congress to approve a new temporary housing program for migrant families. That program would give them more freedom than traditional detention, but help officials keep track of them ahead of deportation, as Axios first reported.

State of play: Illegal border crossings remain significantly lower than at this time of year in 2022 and 2021 — and below the more than 10,000 people who crossed per day leading up to the end of Title 42.

  • The Biden administration has touted its carrot-and-stick approach to the border for finally driving illegal border crossings down in May and June.

Yes, but: Experts have warned that the impact from the government's new, harsh asylum restrictions, legal parole processes and scheduling app could be short lived once smugglers adjust to the new processes.

  • "We remain vigilant and continue to adjust our operational plans to maximize enforcement efforts," Troy Miller, who is performing the duties of the Customs and Border Protection commissioner, said in a statement.
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