Priscilla Alvarez, CNN, March 31, 2021
The US is on track to encounter more than 2 million migrants at the US-Mexico border by the end of the fiscal year, according to internal government estimates reviewed by CNN, marking a record high.
The projections could be subject to change in the event of policy modifications or other changes in Latin America. US Border Patrol encounters are also expected to be largely made up of single adults, who are being turned away at the US southern border as soon as they’re encountered under a public health order, and as a result, might also account for repeat crossers.
But combined, the data — based on preliminary reporting as of this month — illustrates the continuing challenge for the Biden administration, which has already faced a series of hurdles on the US-Mexico border, particularly with unaccompanied children and migrant families.
Data reviewed by CNN shows that up to 1.1 million single adults are expected through September, along with up to around 828,000 families and more than 200,000 unaccompanied children. Border Patrol encounters are expected to continue to rise month-by-month, according to the projections, which can vary.
The last time Border Patrol apprehensions surpassed 1 million was in fiscal year 2006, according to publicly available data from Customs and Border Protection. Border Patrol arrests also climbed during the 2019 border crisis, but fell short of 900,000.
Deputy Chief of the Border Patrol Raul Ortiz told reporters Tuesday that the agency expects to encounter more than a million migrants this fiscal year.
It’s difficult to compare today’s situation with those of recent years because of the drastically different circumstances, in part relating to the coronavirus pandemic. There are several factors at play — including deteriorating conditions in Latin America, pent-up demand to enter the US and a perceived relaxation of enforcement under President Joe Biden — that are driving migrants to the border at what appears to be an accelerated pace.
The administration is also relying on a public health law known as Title 42 that was invoked under former President Donald Trump and allows border authorities to turn back migrants encountered at the US-Mexico border, either to Mexico or their country of origin. Unaccompanied children are not subject to the policy.
These projections could also include a high number of people crossing the border twice or multiple times. In February, around 25% of people encountered at the border had crossed more than once, up from 7% for all fiscal year 2019, the most recent annual data available.
Biden also said his administration is in discussions with Mexico to have the country receive migrant families expelled by the US under the pandemic-related policy, indicating the pressure the US is placing on Mexico to help stem the flow of migration to the US.