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US border patrol officials taking a migrant into custody U.S. authorities intercepted 2.15 million illegal crossings in FY 2022. It was first fiscal year in which Border Patrol encountered more than 2 million attempts. CBP

US has detained record 2.1 million migrants at the US-Mexico border this year

US border policy during pandemic's height pushed up numbers artificially, CBP officials say

United States authorities made over 2 million arrests of migrants near the U.S.-Mexico border in the 11 months to the end of August, the highest number ever recorded during a U.S. fiscal year (which doesn’t end until September 30).

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) data shows that just over 2.15 million migrants were detained along the United States southern land border between October 1, 2021 – the beginning of fiscal year 2022 (FY2022) – and August 31.

It is the first time that more than 2 million migrants have been apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border during a fiscal year. The FY 2022 figure includes repeat crossers, meaning that the total number of migrants who have been arrested is somewhat lower.

“The large number of expulsions [to Mexico rather than repatriation to countries further afield] during the pandemic has contributed to a higher-than-usual number of migrants making multiple border crossing attempts, which means that total encounters somewhat overstate the number of unique individuals arriving at the border,” CBP said.

Migrants at the US border in Tijuana
Migrants near the Mexico-U.S. border in Tijuana. The pandemic meant U.S. authorities deported some migrants to Mexico rather than their home country, leading to repeat crossing attempts. Barbara Sandoval/Unsplash

The Title 42 emergency public health policy put into place in the U.S. at the start of the pandemic allowed border authorities to send some migrants immediately back to Mexico, rather than to their home countries, which appeared to contribute to high numbers in FY 2022 and FY 2021 because migrants dumped near the U.S. border in Mexico then tried to cross into the U.S. again.

CBP is on track to make some 2.3 million arrests of migrants at the United States’ southern border by the end of September, exceeding the previous record set in FY 2021 by about 35%.

Another reason the U.S. has cited for the increased numbers in FY 2022 is a surge in migrants from Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba.

“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,” CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus said in a statement Monday.

“… At the same time, the number of migrants entering from Mexico and northern Central America has decreased for the third consecutive month, as the Biden-Harris Administration works with our partners in the region to address the root causes of migration, facilitate repatriation, and take thousands of smugglers off the streets. More individuals encountered at the border without a legal basis to remain will be expelled or removed this year than any prior year,” Magnus added.

A record high of more than 1.3 million migrants has already been expelled from the United States during FY 2022 after being detained shortly after crossing into the country.

CBP data shows that more than 200,000 arrests have been made at the United States’ southwest border every month since March. The total for last month was 203,597, a 1.8% increase compared to July but a 4.7% decline compared to August 2021.

CBP said that the number of unique individuals encountered in August 2022 was 157,921 and that 35% of the total – 55,333 – were migrants from Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba.

“Individuals from Mexico and northern Central America [mainly Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador] were down for the third month in a row and accounted for just 36% of unique encounters, marking a decline of 43% in unique encounters from those countries compared to August 2021,” CBP said.

Mexican migrants were arrested near the U.S.-Mexico border over 700,000 times in the past 11 months, meaning that they have accounted for about one-third of all CBP detentions so far in FY22.

While Mexico and the United States have cooperated on efforts to stem irregular migration, push factors including poverty and insecurity remain strong here and in many other Western Hemisphere countries, including those mentioned by the CBP.

With reports from Animal Político and The Washington Post 

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