Posted on February 22, 2021

Number of Immigrant Families Illegally Crossing U.S. Border Rises to Pre-Covid-19 Levels

Alicia A. Caldwell, Wall Street Journal, February 18, 2021

Throughout the pandemic, this border city’s Val Verde Border Humanitarian Coalition has typically assisted about 25 migrants a week who enter the U.S. illegally with their families and seek asylum.

In the last week of January, 341 migrants passed through its center, quickly overtaxing the organization’s resources and leaving it nearly out of supplies, said its director of operations, Tiffany Burrow. {snip}

Federal authorities and aid groups say the number of families illegally crossing into the U.S. and being rapidly released from immigration custody and dropped off in border towns is rising fast. Local officials and aid groups say they haven’t seen such large releases of migrants since 2019, when U.S. border officials were overwhelmed by migrant families seeking asylum.

In January, U.S. Border Patrol agents arrested 7,260 people traveling as families, compared with about 4,500 in December. The last time so many migrant families were arrested was in December 2019.

Some of the illegal border crossers say they are coming in anticipation of less harsh treatment by the Biden administration than under President Donald Trump.

Dennis Chaveco Velazquez and Diana Cruz Batan left Cuba in late 2019, while Ms. Cruz was pregnant. {snip}


“We came now in part because of the law change,” Mr. Chaveco said, describing the family’s decision to cross the border last week. “It seemed like there is more tolerance.”

U.S. immigration laws haven’t changed in recent weeks, though President Biden has pledged to reverse course from many of his predecessor’s policies and to provide a pathway to citizenship for immigrants already living in the country without legal authorization.

The Biden administration said last week it would begin letting some of the tens of thousands of asylum seekers waiting in Mexico into the U.S. as the first step in a phaseout of Mr. Trump’s Migrant Protection Protocols, which made most asylum seekers wait in Mexico for their claims to be decided.

Customs and Border Protection officials said the recent rise in crossing is filling up some of their facilities, which are operating at reduced capacity because of the pandemic. {snip}


In total, more than 75,000 people were arrested crossing the border illegally in January, the most in any January in more than a decade. The majority were single adults, who unlike families and unaccompanied children can be quickly returned to Mexico.

Many families can’t be sent back because a recently passed Mexican law mandates that returning migrant families be housed in government shelters. Rising numbers have filled many shelters in Mexico to capacity, prompting Mexican officials to not accept more families.