Crossings at the U.S. Southern Border Are Higher Than Ever

Migrants were caught crossing the southern border of the United States more times in the past year than in any other year since at least 1960, when the government started keeping track of the data.

It is the third record-setting year in a row, during a time when migration around the world is at historic highs.

There were more than 2.4 million apprehensions in the 2023 fiscal year, which ended in September. That tops the previous record, set a year earlier, of more than 2.3 million, according to government data released on Saturday. During the 2021 fiscal year, there were more than 1.7 million apprehensions.

The subject of immigration is a major political vulnerability for President Biden going into the 2024 presidential election. Republicans say Mr. Biden’s border policies are weak. But administration officials point out that the number of displaced people around the world hit an all-time high over the past three years.

“This moment, when it comes to migration, is something totally aberrational in terms of the historic import that it has,” Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said this month during remarks at the Baker Institute at Rice University in Texas.

“It used to be that when there was a migration crisis, it tended to be one — maybe one source country at a time,” Mr. Blinken added. “Maybe it was Haiti. Maybe it was Cuba. Maybe it was Guatemala, Honduras or El Salvador, the so-called Northern Triangle countries. Now it’s all of the above, plus Venezuela, plus Nicaragua, plus Ecuador.”

Over the past year, the Biden administration has rolled out new enforcement policies and legal pathways designed to drive down the number of illegal crossings on the southern border.

The number of migrant arrests outside ports of entry, however, was down by about two million compared with a year ago. This is most likely a result of federal efforts to direct migrants to make an appointment on a government smartphone app and enter the United States through an official port.

This path is much more orderly and safe than swimming across the Rio Grande, for example. But the demand is far greater than the number of appointments available, and some migrants have been waiting months to get one.

Over the past year, Venezuelans made up the largest group of illegal border crossers after Mexicans. The United States recently agreed to ease some sanctions on Venezuela in the oil and gas sector, which some hope will stabilize the country and deter people from leaving. Recently, the United States also sent its first deportation flight to Caracas in years. Nearly eight million Venezuelans have left their country since 2014.

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