Posted on August 2, 2023

Border Arrests Surged in July, a Blow to Biden Migration Plan

Nick Miroff and Maria Sacchetti, Washington Post, August 1, 2023

Illegal crossings along the U.S. southern border jumped more than 30 percent in July, according to preliminary U.S. Customs and Border Protection data obtained by The Washington Post, dealing a blow to President Biden’s new immigration enforcement strategy at a time when his policies are facing multiple legal challenges.

U.S. agents made more than 130,000 arrests along the Mexico border last month, preliminary figures show, up from 99,545 in June. Authorities allowed an additional 50,000 migrants to cross into the United States in July, primarily through Biden administration programs allowing asylum seekers to schedule appointments at U.S. ports of entry using the CBP One mobile application.

The spike in illegal crossings was most pronounced in the deserts of southern Arizona, despite daytime temperatures that often surpassed 110 degrees. U.S. agents there made about 40,000 arrests in July, the highest one-month total for the Tucson sector in 15 years, CBP data show.


The Biden administration’s new enforcement plan relies on a blend of incentives and deterrents at the border that allow many more migrants to enter the United States lawfully, with penalties and deportations for those who cross illegally. {snip}


Biden officials say the U.S. border will remain under strain at a time when international migration is at record levels. They expressed guarded optimism after seeing a sharp drop in illegal entries — roughly 70 percent — in the weeks after the new border measures took effect on May 12.

Border apprehensions dropped 42 percent in June, the first full month that Biden’s new measures were in effect.

But those gains were nearly erased last month. Large groups of migrants from Mexico, Central America and Africa have been crossing in recent weeks through the deserts west of Nogales, Ariz., to surrender to U.S. agents, straining CBP holding facilities and transportation capacity.

Smuggling organizations have shifted traffic to those areas because they know U.S. authorities have limited detention space and migrants who cross into Arizona are more likely to be quickly released, according to two CBP officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters.


The proportion of migrants arriving as part of a family group increased last month, creating another challenge for the administration. In 2021 the Biden administration shut down the detention centers for families that used to be run by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).


Border crossings have historically dipped during the hottest months of the summer. But that did not occur in 2021 nor this year, an indication that migration patterns are more attuned to smugglers’ operations and perceived changes in U.S. enforcement, rather than the weather, according to CBP officials.

Department of Homeland Security officials said in July court filings that the administration’s new asylum restrictions had been “remarkably effective” at steering migrants to enter the United States legally — such as by requesting an appointment to seek asylum through the CBP One app. The measures had led to a “swift and sustained decline” in apprehensions, officials told the court.

But U.S. District Judge Jon S. Tigar in California tossed out the asylum rule on July 25, saying the restrictions are unlawful because, among other reasons, federal law says anyone on U.S. soil may request humanitarian protection, no matter how they entered the country. Tigar’s ruling is scheduled to take effect on Aug. 8.


The Department of Homeland Security, which enforces immigration and border laws, estimated more than 100,000 migrants are in Northern Mexico, within eight hours of the U.S.-Mexico border. “Many more” are transiting to the border, officials said in court filings.