Migrant Encounters at Border Surpasses 200,000 for First Time in 21 Years

A migrant from Central America is searched by a U.S. Border Patrol agent after crossing into the United States from Mexico in Sunland Park, N.M., July 22, 2021. (Jose Luis Gonzalez/Reuters)

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced Thursday that border patrol agents apprehended over 212,000 undocumented migrants in July, breaking the 200,000 threshold for the first time in 21 years, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data.

During a stop at the border in Texas, Mayorkas commented that 212,672 migrants were encountered in July, a 13 percent increase over the influx of 188,000 migrants encountered in June. He acknowledged that the rapidly deteriorating situation at the border constitutes a crisis, calling it “one of the toughest challenges we face.”

He added that 95,788 of those detainees, mostly single adults rather than families, were expelled under Trump-era Title 42 authorizing border officials to deport migrants suspected of positive COVID infection who could pose a public health risk. This, however, represented a 10,000 person decrease in the number of migrants who removed under that measure in June.

While conceding that the statistics are daunting, Mayorkas offered that the border emergency is not a black and white issue, adding, “It is complicated, changing and involves vulnerable people at a time of a global pandemic.”

The administration previously predicted that the number of migrant encounters would drop off during the hot summer months, as is typical.

The secretary confirmed that the crisis has particularly escalated in recent months, with skyrocketing border apprehensions over the summer. While he suggested that the upticks in border crossings originated under former President Trump’s leadership, starting in April 2020, he recognized that “the increase is most certainly sharper over the last several months and greater than in June.”

Mayorkas’ statement lends credence to the assertions of many Republican lawmakers  that Biden’s negligence on border enforcement and revocation of rules implemented under Trump have created an unprecedented border disaster.

Much like the rhetoric of Vice President Kamala Harris, who Biden tapped to manage the border crisis months ago, Mayorkas said the administration is still prioritizing addressing the “root causes” of migration, namely poverty, corruption and violence in Central America.

Despite the worsening, spiraling crisis, Mayorkas indicated that the administration does not intend to modify its border strategy. “We have a plan, we are executing our plan and that takes time,” he affirmed.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has repeatedly lambasted Biden for encouraging migrants to overwhelm the border via its policies, often bringing loads of illegal narcotics into the Texas interior. Despite resistance from Biden, Abbott has tried to take matters into his own hands to curb immigration. He recently signed an executive order prohibiting the transportation of migrants into Texas. However, Biden’s Department of Justice sued Texas shortly after and the legal dispute is ongoing.

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