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August marks highest number of illegal family crossings at US-Mexico border in four years

At least 91,000 immediate family members were detained last month, the highest figure since May 2019

Inmigración México EE UU
A group of migrants crosses the Rio Bravo in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, on their way to the United States.Nayeli Cruz
Luis Pablo Beauregard

August has just ended, but the month is a record-breaking one in terms of illegal immigration in the United States. The number of immigrant crossings skyrocketed in recent weeks, according to figures from the Department of Homeland Security. This bucks a downward trend that President Joe Biden’s administration had achieved through the end of Title 42, which allowed border authorities to impose tougher penalties for those who entered the country illegally. Figures from immigration authorities indicate that there is a significant upturn in the number of families making the treacherous journey north. The month that just ended yielded the highest number of detentions at the border with Mexico for this cohort since May 2019, at the height of the Donald Trump presidency.

At least 91,000 family members (one parent with at least one child) were detained at the U.S. southern border in August, according to preliminary figures from Customs and Border Protection (CBP), as reported by The Washington Post. The figures for August, although still awaiting official confirmation, represent an increase from the 86,200 detentions of families recorded in July. Previously, one needs to go back to December 2022 to find a month with more than 70,000 arrests in the area.

The number of families who have crossed the border illustrates only part of the problem facing the Biden administration. The White House is struggling to reduce illegal immigration in the lead-up to an election year when border security will be one of the most critical issues for Republican voters. Coupled with the number of unaccompanied minors and unaccompanied adults, the situation is even more complex.

If the figures reported by The Washington Post are true, 45,000 more people may have entered the country irregularly in August than in July. At that time, the Border Patrol detained 132,600 immigrants, of which 60,000 were family members. The treacherous journey of thousands of people, primarily from Central America’s Northern Triangle, was made in one of the hottest months of 2023. In the Tucson Sector (Arizona), more than 1,100 rescues were made of immigrants who could not endure the soaring July temperatures. “Unfortunately, mortal remains were also found,” says the CBP.

A Homeland Security spokeswoman told the U.S. capital’s daily newspaper that authorities increased the number of deportation flights of migrant families last month. The agency says that since May, 17,000 family members have been deported (out of a total of 200,000 expulsions).

The Biden administration said in 2021 that it does not detain or deport women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. This was one of the decisions intended to distance itself from the Trump years, when families were intentionally separated at the border as a means of discouraging illegal crossings. President Biden abolished this measure when he came to the White House and promised to restore humanity to immigration policy, but the spike in illegal crossings forced him to reinforce the measures.

Increase of Hondurans

In June, the number of Border Patrol detentions in the area remained below 100,000. A month later, illegal crossings increased to over 132,000. The main increase was with families from Honduras. In May and June, U.S. authorities detained between 4,000 and 5,000 Hondurans per month in the area. In July, the figure jumped to more than 16,000 citizens of the Central American nation. Something similar is happening with migrants from Guatemala. More than 13,600 nationals belonging to Guatemalan families were detained in July. This represents a monthly increase of more than 350% over June, when fewer than 4,000 arrests were made. From Mexico there were 10,324 detentions, up from the 6,000 averaged in the previous three months.

August will post record numbers, but despite this, there are some offices along the bustling border that have reported a decrease in the flow of migrants. This is the case in the El Paso sector, which processes approximately 800 immigrants every day under Title 8, which allows an immigrant to be detained, taken to a detention center for deportation and barred from entering the country for up to five years. In the first months of the year, when Title 42 was still in effect, agents in this Texas city processed some 2,700 people per day. Most of the arrests in that sector are of unaccompanied men (255,000 since October of last year). Family members detained in the region total 88,900. There have also been 20,000 unaccompanied minors registered in the last nine months.

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