Border Patrol makes approximately 1.66 million southern border arrests in fiscal year 2021 – .

Border Patrol makes approximately 1.66 million southern border arrests in fiscal year 2021 – .

WASHINGTON — Border Patrol made about 1.66 million arrests of migrants illegally crossing the US-Mexico border in fiscal 2021, the highest annual number on record, according to figures released Friday by Customs and the protection of US borders.

The pace of migrants crossing the border has become one of the most difficult issues for the Biden administration to tackle, posing a wide range of logistical challenges and providing fodder for Republicans who say President Biden’s immigration policies have caused the wave.

A confluence of events combined to cause the record flow of migrants. An economic collapse across Latin America driven by the Covid-19 pandemic pushed many people to move in search of work, just as the US economy grew stronger and at least 4.3 million jobs were vacant. Gang violence, autocratic repression in several countries, and extreme weather events (droughts in some areas, flooding in others) caused people to leave just as a new US president took office with what was widely perceived as a welcoming tone.
Laura Collins, an immigration expert at the George W. Bush Institute, said none of these factors were likely to abate in the coming months. She said the trend of displacement was accelerating around the world, with the UN refugee agency estimating that at least 82 million people had been displaced from their homes by the end of 2020, the highest number since World War II.

“I don’t think it’s going to slow down anytime soon,” she said.

Border crossings have exceeded 1.6 million per year at least twice recently, in 1986 and 2000. In 2019, when crossings peaked under the Trump administration, the border patrol made about 850,000 arrests.

The number of people who crossed the border is likely significantly lower than the total number of arrests, as the border has seen an unusually high rate of individuals repeatedly attempting to enter the country. About 27% of people who have crossed the border have tried at least once in the past 12 months, according to CBP data.

Mr. Biden’s early months saw a series of cascading crises. The number of unaccompanied children arriving at the border has started to increase, leaving the administration to scramble to establish a network of makeshift shelters at convention centers and sports arenas, to ensure children don’t languish. not in border patrol custody longer than the law allows. This year, nearly 145,000 children crossed the border to the United States without parents, nearly double the previous record of 2019.

The administration also struggled with Covid protocols, as the volume of migrants began to overwhelm border patrol facilities and local shelters. The government never came up with a plan to test or vaccinate migrants in its custody, leaving it to aid groups who were forced to improvise a system to administer tests and quarantines.

More recently, a wave of Haitian migration has engulfed the border, with a group of around 15,000 migrants, mostly Haitians, passing through the small town of Del Rio in western Texas. Border Patrol officers detained thousands of people under a bridge for more than a week as he worked to treat them. At least 7,500 were eventually deported to Haiti, a move that prompted a reaction from fellow Democrats and human rights defenders.

Crossings began to increase in the last few months of the Trump administration, but increased more rapidly after Mr. Biden took office and Mexico informed the new administration that it was no longer willing to accept any migrants the United States intended to return under Trump. – political era known as Title 42.

The Biden administration says the public health policy, which it has continued to use, allows it to quickly deport migrants who cross the border illegally without giving them the opportunity to seek asylum, either by returning them to the Mexico, or by transporting them by plane to Mexico. their countries of origin. U.S. land ports of entry have also been closed to non-essential travelers throughout the pandemic, leaving asylum-seeking migrants with no other option.

Border towns like Brownsville, Texas are seeing their resources depleted as they struggle to deal with the growing number of migrant families crossing the US-Mexico border. WSJ Michelle Hackman reports. Photo: Verónica G. Cardenas

The administration’s use of Title 42 and uneven application of this policy has resulted in an increase in level crossings. The administration was forced to allow some families seeking asylum to stay in the United States and continue with their immigration cases because Mexico did not want to take them back, prompting more families to come to the border and to try their luck. Many single adults, who most often try to sneak into the country undetected for work, have crossed the border multiple times because the policy has eliminated the consequences of illegal entry.

As a result, unlike his predecessors who saw large waves of single adults or families and children seeking asylum, Mr Biden’s administration sees large numbers of both populations.

Behind these high numbers is also a shift in migration patterns across the border. Until about seven years ago, almost everyone entering the United States was Mexicans looking for work. In 2014, for the first time, the majority of those crossing the southern border were children and families from the Central American countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador arriving to seek asylum, a dynamic around which the current administration has formed its response to migration policy. .

But over the past year, and especially the past six months, migrants from South America and the Caribbean have flocked north by the hundreds of thousands. They are being boosted by economies affected by the pandemic and the continuing political unrest in the region, including the July assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse.

“In Latin America you have half or more of the population in the informal labor sector – working as, say, street vendors – and during Covid that sector closed,” said Megan Lopez, regional vice president. for Latin America at the International Rescue Committee.

This has complicated the policy response of the Biden administration, as it is now eyeing countries in the region to help with increasing migration. The United States is in talks with Chile and Brazil – where many Haitian migrants lived and worked before traveling to the US border – to see if those countries would accept the return of some Haitian migrants, officials said.

Write to Michelle Hackman at [email protected]

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