“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 Troy Miller, acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. “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.”
The government’s tally of individual people stopped at the border, as opposed to total apprehensions, shows 455,000 have been taken into custody so far this fiscal year, compared with nearly 490,000 at this time in 2019.
Border apprehensions have risen every month since President Biden took office and are at a 20-year high, presenting political and logistical concerns for the new administration as Democrats seek to pass legislation that would allow the 11 million undocumented immigrants already living in the United States to apply for citizenship.
Republicans have expressed frustration with the increased border crossings, while Democrats say migrants are fleeing turmoil and poverty in their homelands and should be allowed to seek asylum.
CBP said this year’s numbers “somewhat overstate” the actual crossings because so many have been expelled into Mexico under a public-health order the Trump administration put in place during the coronavirus pandemic, only to try to enter again.
The Biden administration has kept that public-health order in place, though the president has exempted unaccompanied minors and increasingly, migrant families.
Thirty-four percent of those caught crossing the border illegally in June had tried to enter the United States at least once before in the past year, officials said. In fiscal years 2014 to 2019, repeat attempts were much lower, averaging about 14 percent.
Single adults are the largest group of those apprehended while attempting to cross, though their numbers dipped 3 percent in June, to just over 117,600 people. Eighty-two percent of them were expelled. Apprehensions of unaccompanied minors and migrant families — groups that provoked a border crisis in fiscal 2019 — increased in June, the agency said.
Apprehensions of unaccompanied children rose to 15,253 in June, an 8 percent increase over May. The number of migrant families taken into custody at the border jumped 25 percent, to 55,805, still “well below” the peak of 88,587 in May 2019, officials said.
Approximately 14 percent of families were expelled in June, down from 20 percent in May.
“By any measure, we have the worst crisis at our southern border than we’ve had in at least two decades,” Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) said Thursday at a confirmation hearing for Harris County, Tex., Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, who Biden has nominated to direct Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which detains and deports immigrants after they enter the United States. “The numbers are overwhelming.”
Officials are on track to make at least 1.5 million apprehensions this fiscal year, which runs from Oct. 1, 2020, to Sept. 30. Apprehensions surpassed 1.6 million in 2000, an all-time high.
A Washington Post/ABC poll found that 33 percent of Americans approve of how Biden is handling the border influx, while a slim majority (51 percent) disapprove, including 90 percent of Republicans.