A bit more clarification on these numbers as the media continues to report that the numbers of FAMILIES crossing the border is higher than ever…
See for example:
These reports seem to contradict what I reported yesterday in terms of the fact that much higher numbers of people came in the early 2000s than are coming now…
The keyword is FAMILIES. As I said before many more PEOPLE were apprehended in earlier years… in the early 2000’s there were more than 1 million for several years in a row. But by far, most of those were individuals and most were men. At that time, very few women with children or unaccompanied children came… When families (including children) cross together, they are counted separately as family units and also the total number of individuals. So the number of people crossing in these family groups is now higher than it ever has been on a monthly basis, at least according to the CBP numbers.
When families with children are arrested or detained at the border (whether they cross illegally and are caught or whether they cross at a POE and ask for asylum) they can only be detained for 20 days (mas o menos), according to law and a legal settlement (the Flores settlement)
from the 1990s that Trump is trying to get overturned. But for now, the government can hold only about 3000 family units in a few special detention centers. When more families keep coming, they have to release them because they do not have space to keep them in detention. They are not releasing them to be reasonable or kind. They are releasing them because they don’t currently have enough detention space. That is why I’ve been harping on the fact that we will be seeing a huge expansion of new detention facilities in the near future. [See: Prison camps for immigrant families
It is important to note that SINGLE men and women are still being detained. I worked recently with a boy from Guatemala who was 18 when he crossed the border. He applied for asylum and he has been detained since Dec 2017 in Otero. He lost his case last week and he is still detained and will soon be deported. He decided not to appeal his case because he could not stand being locked up any longer. It will probably be close to a year in the prison for him before he is deported back to the life-threatening situation he left. I know many people in detention here who spend more than a year detained. Some even win their cases and are released, sometimes after more than two years imprisoned.
While families and children get most of the media attention, there are still tens of thousands of adults detained for these long periods and many have horrific asylum claims and they still lose and get deported. I know another man who has been detained at Otero since September 2016–more than 2 years. He is from Venezuela and presented himself for asylum at the El Paso POE. He did not commit any crime or any kind of illegal crossing. He lost his asylum case, but he has kept fighting through appeals–after more than two years behind razor wire in the Otero County, New Mexico detention center.
There is certainly some truth to what is said that people come with their children because they think it will keep them from long term detention. At least for now, it is true. But this government will not allow the situation to continue. They will either try to keep the people from crossing, or they will drastically increase long-term detention capacity… or both. These things are already underway…
There was a good piece on NPR this week that at least mentioned this difference…a couple of excerpts are posted below.
BURNETT: Well, a Homeland Security spokesperson told me that they’re compiling the year-end figures right now, and she says the numbers of immigrant families arriving at the border will likely break records on a monthly basis. Now, it’s important to keep this in context, Mary Louise, because back in 2000, they were arresting 1 1/2 million undocumented immigrants a year. So far this year, it’s been under 400,000. But still the Trump administration is upset and frustrated. They continue to blame everything on Congress for allowing what they call catch and release loopholes in the law. The DHS spokesman told me that the agency is examining all options to secure the border.
But if they put it into practice, the question is, where would they detain all these families? Currently there are a little over 3,000 spots for family members in what are called special family residential centers. But you’re talking about thousands of these immigrant families that are arrested every week at the Southwest border these days. The government doesn’t have enough detention beds. So for the foreseeable future, you’ll see the continuation of families being arrested. They’re processed for a few days. And then most are released with ankle monitors with their kids to show up for immigration court. And that’s what’s been bedeviling the Trump administration all along.
I hope this explanation is helpful in terms of the hyperbolic Trump and media pronouncements about the “huge numbers” of people crossing our border.
Someone pointed out the contradiction between what I have said in previous postings on the Frontera List, that is, that the numbers of people crossing the border illegally now are actually much lower than in past years. This certainly seems out of whack with the border crossing hysteria coming from the White House. But it also seems to contradict what people here in the border region are experiencing in terms of large numbers of people being released by ICE and needing shelter. Much of the shelter is provided by a network of church groups in the region and they are struggling to receive more than 1,000 migrants and refugees each week–numbers that are much higher than in recent years.
So how to resolve this contradiction and what data am I citing? Here’s my attempt to answer this:
I’m using the data provided by CBP and posted online. Back in the early 2000’s many more people were apprehended, but most of them were Mexicans, most were single men crossing to work. Those apprehended were generally not detained for a long time, but were just sent back. They did not go to immigration court. They would often cross again and try to evade the Border Patrol and many of them succeeded after several tries. The numbers during those years were as high as 1.6 million apprehensions in 2000; 1.2 million in 2005; 723,000 in 2008; 463,000 in 2010; 486,000 in 2014; 310,000 in 2017…
Fewer of the people apprehended in the early 2000’s were going through a long term process to seek asylum and fewer people came as family units or came with children. In 2017, the total apprehensions were about 310,000 [compared to 1.6 million in 2000]. This decrease is often attributed to the “Trump effect” as people making the journey held off in reaction to the threats from the new POTUS. But, as we know, the conditions of violence and extreme poverty have continued to get worse in Central America and more people have been coming to the border to seek asylum since the beginning of 2018.
These days, more people who are apprehended are prosecuted criminally for crossing the border illegally and then they are detained before being deported. If the people are seeking asylum, and especially if they have children, they cannot be detained for long periods. The people now being released and being sheltered by volunteer groups in our region and in Arizona, the Rio Grande Valley, etc… are mostly family units who cannot (at least for now) be detained long term. And since many are seeking asylum, they must go through a lengthy court process before they can be deported. What is happening now is that many more family units are coming and ICE is releasing them because they do not have enough long-term detention space (YET). As I’ve written here and elsewhere…
…I think that the government is seeking to expand detention space as quickly as possible. But to continue to hold families and children long term, they will also have to change some law. And they are trying to do that also.
The monthly apprehensions (including a separate chart for FAMILY UNITS) are reported at this site.
The latest now online are from August 2018. But just yesterday the Washington Post reported a big increase in the family units in September. Those numbers should be updated online soon…
From the Washington Post:
In comparison to the 16,658 family members apprehended in September and reported yesterday, the number in August was 12,774. So the increase is big and getting bigger. But, still nowhere near the total apprehension numbers in the early 2000s. The difference is that most of the people coming now are claiming asylum, they are being detained for a short time and then released, many to shelters in the border region before they can join family members in the US. Of course, if they are single adults seeking asylum, they are likely to remain detained for the duration of the immigration court proceeding, sometimes more than a year.
The total SW border apprehensions as of August were 355,106. So that is already much higher than the 310,000+ in 2017.
I’ve probably missed something here, but this is my best explanation of the differences in the apprehension numbers, past and present. Corrections/comments welcome. molly molloy