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Border apprehensions down by nearly half in July compared with last year amid pandemic

U.S. Border Patrol agents assigned to El Paso Sector, El Paso Station intercept a group of approximately 127 migrants. (U.S. Customs and Border Protection/Flickr)

Apprehensions at the U.S.-Mexico border dropped by roughly half in July, including in El Paso, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said Thursday.

Apprehensions and encounters at the U.S.-Mexico border fell year over year to 40,746 last month, down from 81,777 in July 2019, according to CBP.

In the Border Patrol’s El Paso Sector — which includes part of West Texas and all of New Mexico — apprehensions and encounters in July were about half of what they were a year ago. In the sector, the Border Patrol apprehended or encountered 5,081 people in July, down from 11,594 in July 2019.

CBP now reports “encounters” with unlawful migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border, terminology employed since March, when the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ordered border agencies to quickly return migrants to Mexico or to their home countries and not take them into custody.

The order, based on the country’s Title 42 public health law, forbids border agencies from holding people in “congregate settings,” such as Border Patrol holding cells, where COVID-19 could easily spread.

Despite the CDC order that facilitates quick returns and deportations, the number of migrants apprehended in the El Paso area has increased each month since March. The number rose from about 1,700 in April to 2,600 in May to about 3,800 in June.

Since fiscal 2020 began in October, CBP has apprehended or encountered about 350,00 people along the entire Southwest border, down sharply from the roughly 860,000 apprehended over the same 10-month period in fiscal 2019.

Last year was a record year for border apprehensions, the highest since Border Patrol apprehensions fell below 1 million annually in 2007. A deep recession and heightened border security depressed unauthorized migration to the United States for years, with apprehensions holding well under half a million through 2018.

Migratory flows intensified in 2018 and 2019 as families, largely from Central America, began fleeing a toxic mix of problems, including failed harvests — in part blamed on climate change — that devastated economies, as well as pervasive gang violence and extortion.

All told, CBP apprehended 977,509 people at the U.S.-Mexico border in fiscal 2019.

Many sought asylum. In fiscal 2019, some 146,660 migrants claimed a fear of persecution in their home country, up 58% from 92,959 the prior fiscal year.


© 2020 the El Paso Times