Annual US border arrests top 2 million, fueled by record migration from Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua
The number of arrests of migrants conducted along the U.S.-Mexico border in fiscal 2022 surpassed 2 million in August, an all-time high driven in part by unprecedented migration rates from Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, according to government data released on Sept were published on Monday.
Migrant encounters along the US southern border edged up to 203,598 last month and reversed downward trend recorded in the previous two months, shows data from Customs and Border Protection (CBP).
The number included 181,160 arrests of migrants who entered the US illegally by border police, practically the same level as in July, and 22,437 migrants and asylum-seekers cleared at official ports of entry, a slight increase from the previous month.
With a month remaining, CBP officers stationed along the Mexico border processed migrants over 2.1 million times in fiscal 2022, a tally well above the previous record set in fiscal 2021 when the agency’s 1.7 million encounters with migrants.
However, one million of the encounters recorded by the CBP this fiscal year have resulted in migrants being swiftly deported to northern Mexico or their home country under Title 42, a coronavirus-era order blocking access to the U.S. asylum system, like the Show CBP Statistics.
The unprecedented number of encounters was also inflated by a significant number of migrants who attempted to enter the US multiple times — and were counted multiple times — following their deportation to Mexico under Title 42, which, unlike traditional deportations, carries no criminal or immigration penalties pulls.
In August, nearly a quarter of all encounters with migrants involved people previously detained by US border officials over the past year, CBP said on Monday.
One of the main reasons for the numerous arrests of migrants over the past year under President Biden is the arrival of tens of thousands of migrants from Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua who have traveled to the US border in record numbers in recent months.
In August, migrants from Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua accounted for over a third of all arrests at the border. Their arrival is part of a broader, unprecedented increase in migration from outside Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, whose citizens made up the vast majority of migrants processed by US border officials before the COVID-19 pandemic.
More than 25,000 Venezuelans arrived in US border custody in August, a monthly record that makes Venezuela the second largest source of migrants on the southern border after Mexico.
According to the United Nations, nearly 7 million Venezuelans have fled their homes amid the largest displacement crisis in the western hemisphere. While many settled in other South American countries like Colombia, Venezuelans hoping to reach the US crossed the Darien Gap, Panama’s roadless jungle, in record numbers last month, Panamanian government data shows.
CBP officials along the US-Mexico border also treated more than 19,000 Cubans and nearly 12,000 Nicaraguans in August.
Unlike Mexicans and most Central Americans, the US cannot generally deport Venezuelans, Cubans and Nicaraguans to Mexico or their home countries due to the borders set by Mexico and strained diplomatic relations with the authoritarian governments in Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua. Because of this, most migrants from these countries are processed and then released to continue their asylum procedures in the US
The Biden administration attributes the mass exodus from Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua to the policies of their left-wing regimes and the dire economic conditions of many people there.
“Failing communist regimes in Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba are driving a new wave of migration across the Western Hemisphere, including the recent surge in encounters at the southwestern US border,” CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus said in a statement Monday.
This year’s unprecedented wave of migration has presented daunting operational and humanitarian challenges for the Biden administration, which took office with a promise to create a more humane immigration system, including by reversing several tough Trump-era border policies.
In El Paso, Texas, for example, US border officials were recently forced to release hundreds of migrants into the city because their facilities were overflowing.
The record level of border arrests has also become a political strain on the Biden administration, with Republicans in Congress and in governor’s mansions across the country accusing it of being too lenient towards migrants entering the country illegally.
The political showdown over border policy has intensified this month due to efforts by Republican governors in Texas and Florida transport migrants into certain Democrat-run jurisdictions, including Washington, DC, New York, Chicago and Martha’s Vineyard.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Florida Gov. Rob DeSantis, both Republicans, have argued that jurisdictions with so-called “sanctuary” policies that restrict working with federal deportation agents are better equipped to accept migrants. They have also said the tactic is designed to pressure the government to enact stricter border policies.
But the Biden administration and Democrats have denounced the migrant transportation system as inhumane, saying that Republican-led states are dehumanizing asylum seekers for political gain.
One of the reasons for the increase in border encounters in August was the Biden administration’s ongoing efforts to step up processing of asylum seekers at ports of entry, which experts say is deterring some migrants from entering the country illegally.
In August, US officials admitted 15,906 asylum seekers classified as vulnerable under Title 42 humanitarian exceptions at ports of entry along the southern border, a 37% increase from July, according to government data shared with a federal court.
Just over 130,000 arrests by border police in August were of single adult migrants, half of whom were deported; 39,221 affected parents and children traveling as families, most of whom will be released by court order; and 11,013 affected unaccompanied minors being placed in government shelters, according to CBP data.
While migrant arrests have reached record levels under Biden, illegal border crossings are occurring overall were higher in the early 2000s, when border police had fewer agents and technology to detain people, including those trying to evade detection.