Nearly twice as many people were arrested in June for illegally crossing the southern border than in April despite initiatives by the Trump administration to deter unlawful crossings.
Border Patrol agents along the U.S.-Mexico border arrested 30,000 people last month for attempting to cross into the United States. In April, 16,045 people were arrested, and in May, 21,498 people were arrested.
“This increase is still extremely concerning as we continue to battle the invisible enemy: COVID-19,” said Mark Morgan, a senior official who is performing the duties of Customs and Border Protection commissioner. “Therefore, it is imperative that we continue to build the border wall system and enforce CDC policies aimed at protecting the health of Americans.”
The surge in arrests comes a year after the 2019 border crisis, when federal law enforcement officials at the southern border were seeing more than 100,000 people illegally cross into the country each month. Although those numbers have dropped in the last 12 months, the sudden spike indicates the Trump administration’s steps to deter illegal immigration are hitting a bump. CBP also expects a surge at the border in the coming months as economic peril in Mexico and Central America forces many to look for opportunities elsewhere.
In March, the Trump administration announced a ban on all nonessential travel at the U.S. borders with Canada and Mexico. The travel suspensions were at the recommendation of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which ordered the restrictions on the grounds that allowing nonessential travelers, such as tourists, to enter the U.S. poses a public safety risk. Among the exceptions to the travel limitations are U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents returning to the U.S.
As a result of the action, immigrants who illegally cross the border are returned immediately to Mexico instead of being taken into custody. CBP said the immediate returns prevent the spread of the virus that would occur if migrants were held in close quarters at its regional Border Patrol stations or if transferred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s longer-term detention facilities.
ICE facilities can hold more than 50,000 detainees, but since late February, when the first coronavirus cases emerged in the U.S., its facilities have seen fewer arrivals, resulting in a drop in the detained population from 38,000 to 23,000.
Asylum seekers from all countries who show up at land ports of entry are already sent back to Mexico while they await the adjudication of their cases as part of the administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols, which were rolled out in late 2018.
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