Arrests for illegally crossing the U.S. border from Mexico soared 33% from June to July, according to U.S. government figures released Friday, reversing course after a plunge that followed the introduction of new asylum restrictions in May.
President Joe Biden’s administration insisted that its carrot-and-stick approach of expanding legal routes while imposing more punitive measures on those who enter illegally is working. It noted that illegal crossings were still down 27% from July 2022 and were well below the days that preceded the new immigrations rules.
The increase from June to July was driven by a larger presence of families traveling with children — nearly doubling to 60,161 arrests.
Traffic shifted to highly remote and insufferably hot parts of Arizona, which officials blamed on false advertising by smugglers that it was easier to cross there and be released in the United States. The Tucson area registered 39,215 arrests in July to become the busiest of nine geographic sectors along the border, up 60% from June and more than double from July 2022. John Modlin, the Border Patrol’s Tucson sector chief, has said several large groups were found the first weekend of August, including one of 533 people from 17 countries near the remote town of Lukeville.
“We remain vigilant and continue to adjust our operational plans to maximize enforcement efforts against those individuals who do not use lawful pathways or processes, knowing that smugglers continue to use disinformation to prey on vulnerable individuals,” Troy Miller, acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said Friday.
The Border Patrol stopped migrants 132,652 times in July along the southern border, up from 99,545 times in June but down from 181,834 times in July 2022. Crossings were widely expected to increase after pandemic-related asylum restrictions ended May 11 but they fell in June to the second-lowest of Biden’s presidency after new rules that make it extremely difficult to get asylum when crossing the border illegally.
The latest numbers also reflect a sharp increase in use of the government’s CBP One mobile app through which up to 1,450 migrants can day get appointments at land crossings with Mexico to seek asylum. During July, authorities admitted more than 50,000 migrants at official crossings, including more than 44,700 with CBP One appointments.
U.S. authorities also admitted large numbers of Cubans, Haitians, Nicaraguans and Venezuelans who have financial sponsors and arrived at an airport. Since the launch of humanitarian parole for those nationalities over the last year, more than 72,000 Haitians , 63,000 Venezuelans, 41,000 Cubans and 34,000 Nicaraguans had been vetted and authorized to come to the U.S. as of the end of July. Texas and other Republican-led states are challenging the program for those nationalities, with a trial scheduled next week in Victoria, Texas.
The U.S. faces heavy pressure from migration through South America, which had dropped slightly in May and June. Through July of this year, nearly 252,000 migrants crossed Panama’s Darien Gap, the jungle-clad mountains separating Panama and Colombia. That exceeded what had been a record-setting total for 2022.
Venezuelans made up most of the migrants though Darien, at about 55% the first seven months of the year. Ecuadorians and Haitians accounted for much of the rest, with some migrants from Asia and Africa as well. Representatives of nongovernmental organizations and some United Nations agencies say that many of those crossing are unaware of U.S. policy changes or are receiving misinformation from migrant smugglers.
Panama’s government recently expressed frustration with the rising number when it criticized neighboring Colombia for not doing more.
Associated Press writer Juan Zamorano in Panama City contributed.