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‘Unprecedented number’: Migrant encounters at southern border topped 200,000 in July

Diana Salamanca, 25, of El Salvador, and daughter Tatiana Vazquez, 4, wait with others to board a bus to be processed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Texas' Rio Grande Valley. (Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

 More than 200,000 migrants were encountered at the U.S.-Mexico border in July, the highest in roughly two decades, according to statistics released by Customs and Border Protection.

Customs and Border Patrol officials encountered 212,672 people at the U.S.-Mexico border last month, up from 188,829 in June.

“We are encountering an unprecedented number of migrants in between the ports of entry at our southern border,” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said at a press briefing Thursday in Brownsville, Texas. “It is critical that intending migrants understand clearly that they will be turned back if they enter the United States illegally and do not have a basis for relief under our laws.”

President Joe Biden’s administration has grappled with an increased number of migrants coming to the border. The Biden administration has undone many of former President Donald Trump’s immigration policies but has kept Title 42, a policy that allows border agents to expel undocumented migrants to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in holding facilities.

In recent weeks, the Biden administration has taken measures to mitigate migration at the United States’ southern border, such as extending Title 42.

In addition, the administration renewed an expedited removal process that allows immigration authorities to remove families without a hearing. The families that are part of the expedited process are those who could not be expelled by Title 42, but “do not have a legal basis to stay in the United States.” The administration is also flying certain families that have been expelled into the interior of Mexico to cut down on recidivism.

The Biden administration has been seeing high numbers of migrants coming to the United States border all year long, drawing criticism from Republicans and Democrats alike. Encounters typically begin declining in the summer, because it’s hotter and more dangerous for migrants to travel. But this year, the numbers have continued to increase.

“We are facing a serious challenge at our southern border, and the challenges of course made more acute and more difficult because of the COVID 19 pandemic,” Mayorkas said. “It has also been made more difficult because of the fact that the prior administration dismantled our asylum system.”

Mayorkas attributed the increases to the rise of violence, poverty and corruption in countries like Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, as well as international assistance to those countries being slashed under the Trump administration.

Customs and Border Patrol said 154,288 of the people coming to the border were “unique encounters,” meaning the agency has not encountered them in the past. According to the agency, 27% of the people encountered at the U.S.-Mexico border were from people who had at least one prior encounter in the previous 12 months. The average one-year re-encounter rate between 2014 and 2019 was 14%.

While 52% of people encountered at the border were single adults, that number decreased by 6% from June.

In July, Customs and Border Patrol began an initiative to mitigate repeat migration that refers single adults to prosecution if they have been apprehended and deported under Title 8 in the past.

While the number of single adults coming to the United States is decreasing, the number of unaccompanied children saw a nearly 25% increase from June. According to border agency, 18,962 unaccompanied children were encountered at the border, a 24% increase from the 15,234 in June. There was also an increase of family units encountered at the border: 82,966 in July compared with 55,839 in June.

The agency “continues to take necessary measures to safely manage the Southwest Border and protect the health of communities, personnel, and migrants themselves,” Acting Commissioner Troy Miller said in a statement.


(c) 2021 USA Today

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