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