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Over 1 million illegal immigrants arrested at the US-Mexico border in 2021 so far

Oney Figueroa Asencio, 22, of Honduras, center, collapses from exhaustion after trying to run from Border Patrol agents in McAllen, Texas on June 2, 2021. (Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times/TNS)
July 16, 2021

On Friday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced that as of its June records, it has arrested or turned back more than a million people attempting to cross into the U.S. through the U.S.-Mexico border so far this fiscal year.

According to its latest enforcement numbers for the year to date, the CBP has apprehended or turned back 1,119,204 people at the border between the beginning of the fiscal year 2021 in October and the end of June. According to the Wall Street Journal, the numbers reflect a higher total of arrests than any full-year total since at least 2005.

In June alone, the CBP encountered 188,829 people attempting to cross the U.S. southern border.

CBP encounter statistics include apprehensions, instances in which people at the border are turned away inadmissible, and cases where people are directly expelled from the U.S. side of the border. 

The rise in border apprehensions in 2021 comes as President Joe Biden has ended several policies implemented by President Donald Trump to stop illegal border crossings, such as building barriers on the border and a “remain in Mexico” policy that requires asylum seekers to wait in Mexico while their asylum claim is considered. A day after taking office, Biden ordered a stop to Trump’s border wall. In June, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a memo describing an end to the “remain in Mexico” policy and begin processing asylum claimants back into the U.S.

In June, Guatemalan president Alejandro Giammattei directly blamed Biden’s policies for the surge in border crossing attempts. Giammattei said, “The message changed to ‘we’re going to reunite families and we’re going to reunite children.’ The very next day the coyotes were here organizing groups of children to take them to the United States.”

The CBP announced its new enforcement numbers with a warning about the dangers of border-crossing attempts.

“We are in the hottest part of the summer, and we are seeing a high number of distress calls to CBP from migrants abandoned in treacherous terrain by smugglers with no regard for human life,” said CBP Acting Commissioner Troy Miller. “Although CBP does everything it can to locate and rescue individuals who are lost or distressed, the bottom line is this: the terrain along the border is extreme, the summer heat is severe, and the miles of desert migrants must hike after crossing the border in many areas are unforgiving.”

In March, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said border agents are “on pace to encounter more individuals on the southwest border than we have in the last 20 years.”

While Mayorkas’ March remarks described a potential 20-year high in border encounters, at least one immigration analyst expressed doubt that might be the case.

“The reason I’m not convinced this is a huge milestone is that it’s being driven primarily by recidivist border crossings,” George W. Bush Institute immigration-policy consultant Cris Ramon told the Wall Street Journal.

34 percent of the border encounters in June 2021 were individuals who had at least one prior encounter in the previous 12 months, compared to an average one-year re-encounter rate of 14 percent for Fiscal Years 2014-2019, the CBP numbers state. The CBP further reported the number of unique individuals encountered so far for the 2021 fiscal year is 454,944 compared to 489,760 during the same time period in 2019.