The number of migrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border reached a record high in August, surpassing the number in May 2019.
Preliminary data indicates that around 91,000 migrants crossed the border as part of family groups, overtaking the previous record of 84,486 families in May 2019.
For the first time since President Joe Biden’s tenure began, migrant families outnumbered single adults crossing the border. This month’s data brought the annual total of “family member units” to over half a million, setting another record. Officials also observed an increase in unaccompanied minors.
Arrests at the border have also increased by over 30% from July to August, following significant declines in May and June.
In August, the Border Patrol’s arrests at the Mexico border exceeded 177,000, an increase from 132,652 in July and 99,539 in June. Around 230,000 migrants were encountered by CBP agents in August, marking the highest figure for 2023.
Erin Heeter, a Department of Homeland Security spokesperson, attributes the migration patterns to various factors, including seasonal trends and smugglers enticing vulnerable migrants.
Heeter stated that the Biden administration is working to reduce illegal crossings by broadening legal avenues and enhancing penalties.
She noted that the government intensified family deportation flights in August and has sent back over 17,000 parents and children who had entered as family units since May.
To curb illegal entries, the Biden administration has been encouraging legal immigration and toughening penalties for illegal border crossings.
An initiative called “parole” accepts migrants from nations like Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, granting them two-year stays if they meet certain criteria.
This program has seen over 541,000 migrants entering the U.S. legally, causing illegal crossings from these countries to drop. However, migration from countries like Guatemala, Honduras, Ecuador, Peru, and some Asian and African nations has surged.
To address the migrant crisis, the Biden administration introduced the Family Expedited Removal Management Program, aiming to monitor some migrant family heads and fast-track their deportation.
Yet, most migrants are released in the U.S. while their claims are processed, which can take years due to immigration court backlogs. In 2021, a special court docket was introduced in 11 cities to expedite family cases.