Number of Migrant Families Encountered at U.S. Border Rises Despite Heat Wave

A family from Brazil waits to be processed by U.S. Border Patrol agents last month after passing through a gap in the border wall from Mexico. (Associated Press)

U.S. officials say the number of migrant families they encountered at the border in June increased by 25% from May, even as temperatures rise in the deserts and mountain terrain of the southwestern borderlands.

According to numbers released Friday, U.S. Customs and Border Protection tallied 55,805 members of families with children in June, compared with 44,746 in May. While a large increase, the figure is far below the high of 88,587, seen in May 2019.

Overall, officials say they saw 5% more encounters with migrants trying to cross the border into the U.S. in June than in May but attributed much of that increase to repeat attempts. Pandemic-related powers the U.S. government uses to rapidly expel most migrants from the country without allowing them to seek asylum has led to a larger-than-average number of migrants trying to cross multiple times, which means the numbers “somewhat overstate” how many are arriving at the border, Customs and Border Protection said in the monthly report. Being expelled carries no legal consequences, so many people try to cross multiple times.

The Trump administration issued the public health order in March 2020 to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, and President Biden has largely kept it in place.

The new numbers show that slightly more than a third of the 188,829 people encountered at the border in June had unsuccessfully tried to cross at least one other time in the previous 12 months.

Border Patrol last month expelled 104,907 people under the pandemic powers. The Centers for Disease Control and Protection since October has offered an exception to that order for children traveling alone and announced Friday that it would let the exception stand following a review, allowing those minors to avoid deportation. The CDC said it determined that there is sufficient infrastructure in place to protect the children, caregivers and local communities in the U.S. from the virus.

Encounters with children traveling alone increased last month by 8% to 15,253, compared with 14,137 in May. June’s figure is still well below the high of 18,663 unaccompanied children encountered in March by the Border Patrol, which began publishing numbers in 2009.

The number of children in CBP custody fell to 832 on June 30, from 5,767 at the peak on March 29.

The number of single adults encountered at the border fell in June, but they were the largest group of people trying to cross.

Although most border crossers have been from Mexico and Central America, authorities have been noting growing numbers of migrants from other countries, including Ecuador, Venezuela, Brazil and Cuba.

CBP officials in recent weeks have been expressing concerns about the dangers migrants face crossing through remote borderlands without water at the height of summer.

“We are in the hottest part of the summer, and we are seeing a high number of distress calls to CBP from migrants abandoned in treacherous terrain by smugglers with no regard for human life,” Troy Miller, the acting CBP commissioner, said in Friday’s report.

An unusually large number of migrants have died in Arizona’s borderlands; their bodies are being recovered amid record temperatures in the sun-scorched desert and rugged mountains. An increase in migrant deaths also has been noted in Texas, and rescues are up throughout the border with Mexico.

The nonprofit group Humane Borders, which maps the recoveries of bodies in Arizona using data from the Pima County Medical Examiner’s Office in Tucson, said 43 sets of human remains were found in the state’s border region last month — the hottest June on record for Phoenix. Forecasters say highs in Phoenix, where temperatures last month regularly soared above 110 degrees, tend to be similar to those in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert north of Mexico.

SOURCE: The Associated Press, Anita Snow