(CNSNews.com) – U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents recorded around 210,000 “encounters” with migrants along the southwest border in July, the highest monthly figure in two decades, a senior Department of Homeland Security (DHS) official said in a court filing on Monday.
Of those stopped at the border, more than 19,000 were unaccompanied minors – a record number – while another 80,000 were family units traveling together, according to David Shahoulian, assistant secretary for border and immigration policy at the DHS.
While in May and June there were more than 6,000 encounters a day; in July the daily average rose to 6,779 individuals a day, he said, describing the July figures – the highest since fiscal year 2000 – as “historic.”
The CBP has yet to release official data on numbers of migrants stopped on the southwest border for July, but Shahoulian provided the preliminary figures in papers filed in the D.C. District Court, in a case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and others, challenging the use of Title 42 public health authority to expel migrants without a court hearing due to concerns about the spread of COVID-19.
Shahoulian argued that stopping Title 42 now would carry serious risks.
“During this period and given the unique public health danger posed by the ongoing pandemic, implementation of the CDC Order is critical to preventing overcrowding and the spread of infection within DHS facilities,” he wrote.
On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention extended the Title 42 order issued under the Trump administration last October. It said the order would remain in place “until the CDC Director determines that the danger of further introduction of COVID-19 into the United States from covered noncitizens has ceased to be a serious danger to the public health, and the Order is no longer necessary to protect the public health.”
The number of migrants stopped at the border each month has been rising steadily since the start of 2021: 78,442 in January, climbing to 101,095 in February, then a sizeable jump to 173,265 in March, up to 178,850 in April, 180,641 in May, 188,829 recorded in June, and now the preliminary figure of 210,000 in July.
The 210,000 encounters for July reported by Shahoulian would mark a 413.08 percent increase over the same month one year earlier, when 40,929 were recorded. Going back another year – before the COVID-19 pandemic – the monthly number for July 2019 number of encounters was 81,777, still significantly lower than the month just ended.
The 210,000 figure takes the total number of encounters since fiscal year 2021 began on October 1 to around 1,329,204 – up 279.3 percent from the 350,400 recorded for the equivalent 10-month period in FY 2020 (an increase of 279.3 percent) and up from 862,256 for the 10-month period in FY 2019 (an increase of 54 percent).
The more than 19,000 unaccompanied minors picked up on the border in July, as provisionally reported by Shahoulian, compares to 2,509 in July 2020 (an increase of 657.2 percent), and to 5,846 in July 2019 (an increase of 225 percent).
Shahoulian in his court filing did not provide a nationality breakdown for the preliminary July figures, but the number of migrants stopped at the border who are not from either Mexico or the northern triangle countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, has also climbed sharply this year.
In June, 47,224 encounters related to people from countries “other” than Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, up from just 1,821 in June 2020 and 16,188 in June 2019.
The year-to-date total number of those from “other” countries in FY 2021 stood at 187,634 at the end of June, compared to 42,090 for the equivalent 9-month period in FY 2020 (an increase of 345.7 percent), and 82,304 for the 9-month period in FY 2019 (an increase of 127.9 percent).
Referring to the overall figures, Shahoulian in his filing offered some historical context, and indicated that the department’s facilities, operating with restrictions due to the pandemic, were struggling to cope with the border surge.
“These constitute the highest numbers of monthly encounters recorded by CBP in more than twenty years, including during previous surges when the Department was not constrained by COVID-19 capacity considerations,” he wrote.
“As noted above, due to COVID-19-related guidance, border facilities are currently expected to operate at only 25 to 50 percent capacity, depending on individual facility infrastructure and facility type. Due to this combination of factors, many CBP facilities are already over that capacity – many significantly so, even with the CDC Order in place.”