Sep 22, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Border crossings by migrant families hits record high

Migrants waiting to be processed on the Ciudad Juarez side of the border on Sept. 21, 2023 in El Paso, Texas. Photo: Brandon Bell/Getty Images

August brought another overwhelming wave of migration at the U.S.-Mexico border — including a record number of family members crossing illegally, according to government data released Friday.

Why it matters: After initial optimism that President Biden's new policies were working, immigration officials are again scrambling.

  • Fellow Democrats are raising alarms as their cities struggle to provide shelter for the thousands of foreigners arriving from the border.

What's happening: 233,000 migrants and asylum seekers attempted to cross the U.S.-Mexico border last month without proper visas.

  • 181,000 people crossed the border illegally last month — the highest monthly number since before pandemic policies were replaced by new carrot-and-stick measures in May.
  • A record 93,000 family members crossed illegally.

Driving the news: Things haven't slowed down since August.

  • For the first time since a historic wave leading up to the end of restrictive COVID policies, border crossings surpassed 10,000 in a single day on Wednesday, according to internal data obtained by Axios.
  • The number includes migrants and asylum seekers crossing illegally as well as at legal entry points.
  • The daily average for the past three weeks is now nearing 9,000 a day, according to the data.

Customs and Border Protection "remains vigilant in the face of ruthless smugglers and transnational criminal organizations who exploit vulnerable migrants," Troy Miller, a senior official serving as CBP commissioner, said in a statement.

  • "Our operational tempo along the border has increased in response to increased encounters," he added.

Between the lines: The higher numbers have been driven in part by a surge in Venezuelan migrants and asylum seekers fleeing a severely unstable economy and government at home.

  • More than 31,000 Venezuelans crossed into the U.S. in August, with 70% choosing to do so illegally despite Biden's legal parole program specifically created for them.
  • Many are risking the dangerous jungles of the Darién Gap separating Colombia and Panama.
  • A startling 82,000 migrants took the often-deadly journey through the Darién last month. Nearly 63,000 of them were Venezuelans, according to Panamanian data.
  • Venezuelans have long been a particularly challenging demographic. The country's authoritarian regime doesn't cooperate with U.S. efforts to deport Venezuelans — leaving U.S. officials few options once migrants arrive.

What to watch: The administration on Wednesday extended and re-designated Venezuela for Temporary Protected Status.

  • That will allow Venezuelans who were already in the U.S. before the end of July to legally live and work in the U.S. for at least the next year and a half.
  • The Biden administration has already expanded a program nationwide that allows officials to more rapidly deport families who do not qualify for asylum.
  • It is also deploying 800 active duty military personnel to assist border officials — on top of the 2,500 National Guard troops already there.

The intrigue: For months, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) has blocked Biden from using funds to assist other countries in deporting Venezuelans before they reach the U.S.

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