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Border Crisis Deepens: More Than 132K Arrested Last Month


Arrests in May increased by nearly a third from April. At this rate, illegal immigration levels will reach highs we haven’t seen since 2006.


U.S. Customs and Border Protections on Wednesday released its numbers for May, and they are shocking. Border Patrol apprehended or turned away more than 144,000 people last month on the southwest border, including more than 100,000 families and children.

That exceeds by 32 percent the total for April, which had represented the highest number of monthly apprehensions since 2007. Over the past eight months, CBP has detained more than 680,000 illegal immigrants—or, as acting CBP Commissioner John Sanders put it, “more than the population of Miami.”

Far from historically low levels of illegal immigration, we’re on pace now to reach the record-high levels that were common in the early 2000s, when annual apprehensions often exceeded 1 million. Border Patrol officials told reporters Wednesday that if the levels remain the same for the last four months of the fiscal year, the agency will surpass all apprehension totals since 2006. Arrests on the southwest border peaked at 1.6 million in 2000. In May of that year, there were 166,296 apprehensions.

Here’s what the CBP chart looks like now. The red line at the top is this fiscal year.

A chart from the Washington Post puts the latest figures in a broader context, comparing the May figures to monthly totals going back to 2000.

The May figures represent a dramatic increase from 2017 and 2018, when border arrests were at a half-century low. Apprehensions on the southwest border just for March, April, and May of this year, for example, far exceed the total for all of 2017.

There’s no sign that this surge is letting up. Last week, a group of more than 1,000 migrants—by far the largest single group Border Patrol has ever encountered—crossed the Rio Grande in El Paso and surrendered to U.S. authorities. On average, Border Patrol apprehended more than 4,200 people a day last month.

Federal immigration officials have been warning that the border is “at the breaking point” for months now. Federal facilities are at or beyond capacity, as are shelters run by private charities up and down the border.

President Trump, frustrated by the ongoing border crisis, has threatened to impose punitive tariffs on Mexican imports if Mexico doesn’t do more to stem the flow of illegal immigration. Vice President Mike Pence and other administration officials were set to meet with Mexico’s top diplomat Wednesday to discuss the crisis.

The initial headline on this story listed the number of total arrested plus those turned away from ports of entry, rather than solely those arrested, as the headline states. The error has been corrected.