Joe Biden gets respite from border crisis at the start of 2024

Authorities say migrant arrests fell by half in January from the all-time high set in December

Crisis migratoria Estados Unidos
A group of migrants crosses the Rio Grande near Eagle Pass in Texas.ADREES LATIF (REUTERS)
Luis Pablo Beauregard

January recorded the third-lowest number of illegal immigrant arrests of the Joe Biden era. The southern border is finally giving the president some respite as he heads into an election year. U.S. authorities say apprehensions fell by half in January compared to the all-time record set in December. Last month’s figures were announced just as the Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted to impeach Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, who is in charge of immigration matters.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) made 124,220 immigrant arrests during January. It is a fall of 50% from the 249,735 that were made in the last month of 2023. December saw the highest number of irregular crossings since records began. The border crisis has become one of the top issues for Republican voters ahead of the presidential elections in November. Some conservative politicians have used border counties to stage attacks against the Biden administration. Texas Governor Greg Abbott, for example, led a Christian convoy to Eagle Pass in a bid to show that faith leaders support his tough measures on immigration.

Although the Texas governor has been pressuring Washington, Texas was not the hottest spot on the border. The busiest sector for illegal crossings was Tucson, Arizona, which recorded 50,565 arrests, a 37% fall compared to December. The second-busiest point was the crossing between San Diego and Tijuana. In Eagle Pass, however, arrests fell by 76% compared to December. A total of 16,712 people were detained in the sector, the lowest number in two years. A similar drop was seen at the other end of Texas, in the Rio Grande Valley, which recorded its lowest number of illegal crossings since July 2020.

But the respite at the border may be brief. The government of Panama — one of Washington’s allies in its effort to reduce the number of migrants journeying to the U.S. — informed the Biden administration that 36,000 people had crossed the dangerous Darién jungle, which connects parts of North and South America. This is a 46% rise on the number who made the crossing in December.

The Darién jungle is a popular crossing for people from Venezuela, Haiti, Ecuador, Colombia and China, a country whose migratory flow has increased considerably in recent months. The number of Venezuelan migrants, on the other hand, has fallen. Last month, 4,422 were arrested at the U.S. border, down from nearly 47,000 in December.

The drop in illegal crossings in January is partly due to the efforts of the Mexican government. Mexican agents have tightened surveillance at major airports and on trains and buses in states near the borders with Guatemala and Belize. At the end of December, the Mexican Foreign Ministry announced an agreement with Caracas to repatriate Venezuelans. The first test flights were made on December 29 and 30. By the first days of January, the planes had returned 330 Venezuelans to the country.

Mexican authorities also increased the number of flights from airports in the north of the country to cities in the south. At least 22 trips were made in the last days of December, reducing the number of foreigners waiting for an opportunity near the border to cross. Most of these routes departed from Piedras Negras, the city in Coahuila that borders Eagle Pass. Several of these measures were implemented after Biden’s Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Mexican authorities in December.

Sign up for our weekly newsletter to get more English-language news coverage from EL PAÍS USA Edition

Tu suscripción se está usando en otro dispositivo

¿Quieres añadir otro usuario a tu suscripción?

Si continúas leyendo en este dispositivo, no se podrá leer en el otro.

¿Por qué estás viendo esto?


Tu suscripción se está usando en otro dispositivo y solo puedes acceder a EL PAÍS desde un dispositivo a la vez.

Si quieres compartir tu cuenta, cambia tu suscripción a la modalidad Premium, así podrás añadir otro usuario. Cada uno accederá con su propia cuenta de email, lo que os permitirá personalizar vuestra experiencia en EL PAÍS.

En el caso de no saber quién está usando tu cuenta, te recomendamos cambiar tu contraseña aquí.

Si decides continuar compartiendo tu cuenta, este mensaje se mostrará en tu dispositivo y en el de la otra persona que está usando tu cuenta de forma indefinida, afectando a tu experiencia de lectura. Puedes consultar aquí los términos y condiciones de la suscripción digital.

More information

Archived In

Recomendaciones EL PAÍS
Recomendaciones EL PAÍS