Border Arrests Reach New High, as Biden Pick Pledges ‘Humane’ Policies

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U.S.-Mexican border. Photo by longIslandwinds via Flickr

U.S. authorities detained more than 1.7 million migrants along the Mexico border during the 2021 fiscal year that ended in September, and arrests by the Border Patrol soared to the highest levels since 1986, reports the Washington Post. The busiest months came during the sweltering heat of July and August, when more than 200,000 migrants were taken into custody. Mexico was the single largest source of illegal migration during the 2021 fiscal year, as the Border Patrol arrested more than 608,000 Mexican nationals.

Chris Magnus

The data was released as the administration’s nominee to head the border patrol, Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus, promised at Senate confirmation hearings to conduct a “humane” enforcement policy. Magnusa said he would enforce U.S. immigration laws in a manner that seeks to better balance border security with humane treatment of migrants in federal custody, reports the Washington Post. Magnus also said he would support coronavirus testing and vaccination for migrants arrested by CBP, and that he is open to closing gaps in the border wall created by the Biden administration’s construction freeze.

Magnus told the Senate Finance Committee that if confirmed, he would improve training to raise the sensitivity of CBP personnel. His reform efforts would be directed primarily at CBP’s best-known component, the U.S. Border Patrol, which is responsible for securing border areas between ports of entry. Magnus, who developed a reputation as a savvy reformer capable of navigating tensions between police and community activists during his tenure as chief in Tucson and in Richmond, California, said he would take a nonpartisan approach to enforcement.

.According to the data released Wednesday, the second-largest grouping of border arrests was composed of migrants from outside Mexico and Central America whom CBP categorized as “other,” including Haitians, Venezuelans, Ecuadorans, Cubans, Brazilians and migrants from dozens of other nations. They accounted for 367,000 arrests.

They were followed by migrants from Honduras (309,000), Guatemala (279,000) and El Salvador (96,000). More than 1.3 million migrants have been taken into custody along the southern border in the nine months since President Joe Biden took office, including 192,000 last month. In the fiscal years between 2012 and 2020, border arrests averaged about 540,000. The 2021 figure was more than three times that amount and the second-highest annual total ever recorded.

The Biden administration has responded to criticism of the arrest numbers by noting that it continues to use the Title 42 public health policy to rapidly “expel” most adult border crossers to Mexico or their home countries. Of the 1.7 million detained during the 2021 fiscal year, 61 percent were expelled under Title 42.

The expulsions have led to a significant increase in repeat crossing attempts by migrants who are turned back, with recidivism rates exceeding 25 percent in recent months, twice as high as in previous years. During the 2021 fiscal year, agents apprehended 1.66 million along the Mexico border.

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