About 4,100 Russian nationals were stopped at the U.S. southern border in the 2021 fiscal year, up from fewer than 500 the year before in the 2020 fiscal year.
Those 4,100 Russian nationals were among 1.7 million people that U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) agents encountered at the border this past year, according to CBP data released last month and first reported by the Washington Examiner.
Of the 4,100 Russians stopped at the border, more than 1,400 were stopped in October alone.
Those Russian nationals came to the U.S. southern border amid a shifting balance in who is coming to the border.
In 2000, about 97 percent of all border crossing attempts originated from Mexico, directly south of the U.S. That balance has begun to shift from a predominantly Mexican migrant pattern. In 2014, more people apprehended at the southern border came from the three Northern Triangle — El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras — than from Mexico itself. By 2019, migrants from the three Northern Triangle countries made up about two-thirds of all border apprehensions.
Those people caught at the border in 2021 represent an increasingly international group still. 378,000, or about one out of the five people apprehended at the southern border in 2021, came from countries other than Mexico or the Northern Triangle.
Despite the more-than-eightfold increase in Russian nationals intercepted at the southern border, Russia did not represent the biggest demographic increase in border crossing attempts.
More than 48,000 Venezuelan nationals were apprehended at the southern border in 2021, up from just 2,200 the year before — an increase more than 21 times that of the previous year.
Border Patrol agents have, historically, encountered small numbers of migrants from more than 100 different countries, but those numbers are on the rise. Last week, the CBP reported agents had apprehended individuals from Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Lebanon, Sudan, Syria and Uzbekistan.
The U.S. set a record high number of border apprehensions in 2021.
“They seem to be coming primarily to take advantage of a better economic situation in the United States,” retired federal immigration judge Andrew Arthur told the Washington Examiner.
Arthur, who is a resident fellow in law and policy for the conservative Center for Immigration Studies, also said migrants are taking advantage of relaxed immigration policies since President Joe Biden took office.
“People view this as the time to come to the United States,” Arthur said. “The Biden administration undid many of the policies that President Trump had. … They really haven’t substituted those for any that would impede people from coming to the United States.”
Arthur further noted about half a million people who illegally crossed the border over the past year have been released into the country, adding to the perception of relaxed border enforcement.
The Biden administration recently restarted the “Remain in Mexico” policy, brought about under President Donald Trump, after being ordered to reinstate the policy by a federal judge. The Biden administration had previously fought to do away with the Trump-era policy, which required migrants apprehended at the U.S. southern border to remain in Mexico until U.S. immigration courts can review their cases.