SAN DIEGO– A rise in migration from Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua in September brought the number of illegal crossings to the highest level on record in a fiscal year, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
The year-end numbers reflect deteriorating economic and political conditions in some countries, the relative strength of the U.S. economy and the uneven enforcement of Trump-era asylum restrictions.
Migrants were stopped 227,547 times in September at the US border with Mexico, the third highest month of Joe Biden’s presidency. It increased by 11.5% compared to 204,087 times in August and by 18.5% compared to 192,001 times in September 2021.
In the financial year that ended September 30, migrants were arrested 2.38 million times, up 37% from 1.73 million times the previous year, according to published figures late Friday evening. The annual total topped 2 million for the first time in August and is more than double the highest level of Donald Trump’s presidency in 2019.
Nearly 78,000 migrants from Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua were arrested in September, compared to around 58,000 from Mexico and three northern Central American countries that have historically accounted for most of the flow.
The remarkable geographic shift is at least in part the result of Title 42, a public health rule that suspends the right to see asylum under U.S. and international law on the grounds of preventing the spread of COVID-19.
Due to strained diplomatic relations, the United States cannot deport migrants to Venezuela, Cuba or Nicaragua. As a result, they are largely released to the United States to continue their immigration cases.
Title 42’s authority has been applied 2.4 million times since its launch in March 2020, but it has fallen disproportionately on migrants from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
U.S. officials say Venezuelan migration to the United States has dropped more than 85% since October 12, when the United States began deporting Venezuelans to Mexico under Title 42. At the same time, the Biden administration has pledged to admit up to 24,000 Venezuelans to the United States. States on humanitarian parole if they apply online with a financial sponsor and enter through an airport, the same way tens of thousands of Ukrainians have come since Russia invaded their country.
The first four Venezuelans paroled in the United States arrived on Saturday — two from Mexico, one from Guatemala, one from Peru — and hundreds more were cleared to fly, the Department of Homeland Security said.
“While this early data is not reflected in the (September) report, it confirms what we have been saying all along: when there is a legal and orderly way to enter the country, individuals will be less likely to put their lives at the hands of smugglers and attempt to cross the border illegally,” said CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus.
The extension of Title 42 for Venezuelans to be deported to Mexico came despite the administration’s attempt to end the public health authority in May, which was blocked by a federal judge.
Venezuelans were the second highest nationality at the border after Mexicans for the second month in a row, having been stopped 33,804 times in September, up 33% from 25,361 times in August.
Cubans, who are part of the largest exodus from the Caribbean island to the United States since 1980, were stopped 26,178 times at the border in September, up 37% from 19,060 in August.
Nicaraguans were checked 18,199 times in September, up 55% from 7,298 times in August.
The report is the latest monthly reading of migration flows ahead of the U.S. midterm elections, an issue that many Republicans have highlighted during campaigns to take control of the House and Senate. Republicans on the House Homeland Security Committee released a one-sentence statement Saturday in response to the numbers: “You must be kidding.”
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