Illegal border crossings hit annual record: government data

AP Photo/Christian Chavez, File
FILE – Venezuelan migrants walk across the Rio Bravo towards the United States border to surrender to the border patrol, from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, Oct. 13, 2022. A surge in migration from Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua in September brought the number of illegal crossings to the highest level ever recorded in a fiscal year, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Authorities encountered more than 2.76 million migrants crossing the border illegally last fiscal year, the largest number ever recorded, according to newly released U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) data.

The record number of crossings during the fiscal year, which ended on Sept. 30, topped the 1.96 million migrant encounters the previous year, a sharp rise CBP attributed to an increased number of migrants fleeing authoritarian regimes in Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba.

The record figure marks the latest headache for President Biden, who for months has grappled with mass waves of migration from Central America and attacks on his administration’s immigration and border security policies from Republicans.

Officials encountered 182,704 unique migrants in September, CBP said, a 15 percent increase over the prior month. 

About 42 percent of those encounters were migrants from Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba, more than double the level in September, 2021. Encounters with migrants from Mexico and northern Central America, meanwhile, declined.

CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus in a statement said the U.S. launched additional joint actions with Mexico to create a more orderly process, and the number of Venezuelans attempting to enter the U.S. fell more than 80 percent as a result.

“While this early data is not reflected in the latest report, it confirms what we’ve said all along: when there is a lawful and orderly way to enter the country, individuals will be less likely to put their lives in the hands of smugglers and try to cross the border unlawfully,” said Magnus.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) last week announced it would use Title 42 to turn away Venezuelans that present at the border.

The policy, originally crafted by the Trump administration, allows border officials to turn away migrants and asylum seekers due to concerns over the pandemic. 

The Biden administration has extensively used the policy, but rescinded it in April in a decision now held up in the courts following a suit by GOP-led states.

“CBP and DHS will continue to work with our partners in the region to address the root causes of migration, expand legal pathways, facilitate removals and take thousands of smugglers off the streets,” Magnus said. “No matter what smugglers say, those who do not have a legal basis to remain in the country will be removed and people should not make the dangerous journey.”

CBP noted that the increased expulsion figures include a higher-than-usual number of migrants making multiple border crossing attempts. 

Nineteen percent of migrants encountered in September had at least one previous encounter in the last 12 months, up from 14 percent the year prior.

Republicans have slammed the Biden administration’s border security policies, with many GOP candidates running advertisements on the issue in the lead-up to next month’s midterm elections.

Three southern Republican governors — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey — have also looked to bring attention to the issue by busing and flying migrants to northern cities run by Democrats.

Tags Chris Magnus immigration Joe Biden migrants US-Mexico border

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