US authorities detained more than 1.7 million migrants along the Mexican border in fiscal 2021, which ended in September, and arrests by border patrol reached highest levels on record , according to unpublished U.S. Customs and Border Protection data obtained by the Washington Post. .
Illegal crossings started to increase last year, but have skyrocketed in the months since President Joe Biden took office. As CBP arrests increased last spring, Biden described the increase as consistent with historic seasonal norms. But the busiest months were during the sweltering heat of July and August, when more than 200,000 migrants were taken into custody.
At a confirmation hearing Tuesday for Chris Magnus, Tucson Biden police chief appointed to lead CBP, Republican senators urged him to call the skyrocketing “crisis.”
Magnus called this a “significant challenge”, echoing the Biden administration’s preferred term, adding that “the numbers are very high”. CBP is expected to release FY2021 data later this week.
Border enforcement has become a major political responsibility for Biden, and the president’s handling of immigration remains his worst poll problem. He vowed during the election campaign to make the United States more welcoming to immigrants, unlike former President Donald Trump, whose zero-tolerance family separations sparked widespread outrage in 2018.
During the transition, Biden said he wanted to move cautiously on immigration policy and avoid ending up “with 2 million people on our border.”
Once in power, Biden quickly halted construction of the border wall, ended the “stay in Mexico” policy, lifted major asylum restrictions, and announced a 100-day hiatus on most deportations and law enforcement by US immigration and customs.
Biden officials initially blamed the policies of the previous administration for the increase in border crossings and said migratory pressures had intensified due to the economic fallout from the pandemic. Many migrants told reporters they chose to make the risky journey north, at high cost and considerable danger, with the belief that Biden would allow them to stay. A tight US job market has become another draw.
Earlier this year, Biden called on Vice President Kamala Harris to tackle the “root causes” of migration from countries in the northern triangle of Central America – Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. But the strategy had little to no measurable effect, and Harris distanced himself from border and immigration issues in general.
The latest data from CBP indicates that the administration’s challenges extend far beyond Central America. Mexico was the main source of illegal migration in fiscal 2021, with border patrol arresting more than 608,000 Mexican nationals. This leaves the Biden administration in a delicate position as it increasingly relies on Mexico to strengthen law enforcement and block northbound caravan groups.
Biden officials are negotiating with Mexico to comply with federal court orders to restart the “Stay in Mexico” policy requiring asylum seekers to wait outside of U.S. territory while their cases are processed.
The second largest group was made up of migrants from outside Mexico and Central America who were categorized by CBP as “other”, including Haitians, Venezuelans, Ecuadorians, Cubans, Brazilians and migrants. from dozens of other countries. They represented 367,000 arrests.
They were followed by migrants from Honduras (309,000), Guatemala (279,000) and El Salvador (96,000).
“Migration to the US-Mexico border is now truly global,” said Cris Ramón, independent immigration consultant in Washington. “The implications for immigration policy require a much more comprehensive approach because it is not enough to say that migration from Mexico or Central America should be discouraged. It has become a much more complex problem for the administration to manage.
More than 1.3 million migrants have been detained along the southern border in the nine months since Biden took office, including 192,000 last month, according to the latest figures from CBP.
In fiscal years between 2012 and 2020, border arrests averaged around 540,000. The 2021 figure was more than three times that amount.
The extraordinary influx produced a series of crises for the administration, starting this spring with a record number of unaccompanied minors crossing without parents who were crammed side by side in border patrol tents.
Crossings by family groups from Central America overwhelmed U.S. agents this summer, and in September the sudden arrival of 15,000 migrants, mostly Haitians, at a crass camp in Del Rio, Texas, produced politically damaging scenes of chaos and harsh enforcement tactics by border patrol officers on horseback.
Immigrant advocates who backed Biden’s candidacy have deteriorated over his presidency in recent times, with several staging a virtual walkout last weekend in a meeting with White House political advisers. Biden’s proposals for a major immigration overhaul are stalled in Congress, and Republicans plan to use his border record as a stick in next year’s midterm election.
The Biden administration has responded to criticism of the number of arrests by noting that it continues to use the Title 42 public health policy to promptly “deport” most adult border workers to Mexico or their home country. .
Of the 1.7 million inmates in fiscal year 2021, 61% were deported under Title 42, according to CBP data.
Deportations have led to a significant increase in repeated attempts to cross returned migrants, so that the number of separate individuals in police custody is lower than the number of recorded arrests. Recidivism rates have exceeded 25% in recent months, twice as high as in previous years, according to CBP figures.
“You couldn’t reach the numbers we’ve achieved this year without the repeat border crossings,” Ramón said.
The 1.7 million figure includes migrants arrested between ports of entry by border patrol as well as those who attempted to enter the United States without authorization through official ports of entry who were detained by officers. of CBP in blue uniform.
In fiscal 2021, officers apprehended 1.66 million along the Mexican border alone, according to the latest figures. This exceeds the 1.64 million people arrested in 2000 along the Mexican border, according to historical data.
These figures do not include the unknown number of migrants who managed to escape capture after making an illegal entry that was detected by sensors, video cameras or CBP agents.
Border Patrol calls these entries “leakage” incidents, and although the agency does not release leak estimates, officials have reported averages of more than 1,000 per day in recent months.
CBP’s Rio Grande Valley area was the busiest in fiscal 2021, with 549,000 border patrol arrests, followed by the Del Rio area, with 259,000, which eclipsed the historically busiest areas. such as El Paso and Tucson.
CBP figures show a drop in seizures of cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine. Analysts attribute the decrease to reduced vehicle traffic at points of entry due to travel restrictions linked to the pandemic, as well as lower bans by overwhelmed border officials.
Copyright: (c) 2021, The Washington Post