Federal law enforcement blocked fewer than 458,000 immigrants from illegally entering the United States from Mexico over the past fiscal year, less than half the 1 million people who attempted to cross the border illegally last year, the Trump administration announced Wednesday afternoon.
“We saw our overall encounters along the southwestern border drop from almost 1 million last fiscal year to less than 458,000 this fiscal year,” Mark Morgan, the senior official performing the duties of U.S. Customs and Border Protection commissioner, said in a press conference Wednesday on the fiscal year 2020 numbers. “That’s a 53% reduction.”
CBP tracks people arrested for illegally entering the country between border crossings and people turned away at border crossings. Those figures combined made up less than 485,000 people. Encounters at the border with law enforcement reflect the total number of people trying to enter illegally, including those not caught.
Families from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras were the driving force behind the humanitarian crisis at the border in 2019. The number of family members arrested at the southern border dropped from 530,000 in fiscal year 2019 to less than 80,000 this fiscal year, which started on Oct. 1, 2019, and ended on Sept. 30, 2020.
Last year marked the highest number of arrests since 2007. Morgan credited various efforts by the White House and the Department of Homeland Security for deterring migrants from traveling to the U.S. Many of those actions have been targeted by left-leaning organizations that have sued and tied up several initiatives in the courts.
About 400,000 of the 458,000 illegal immigrants that CBP encountered were people who sneaked over the border from Mexico into Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, or California. The remaining 58,000 people were turned away at a border crossing and may have sought to claim asylum. CBP officials did not reveal how many people sought asylum.
Arrests at the southern border have increased amid the coronavirus pandemic. In September, Border Patrol agents arrested more than 47,000 illegal immigrants. That figure rose from 14,000 in April.
Earlier this year, CBP announced it would begin immediately returning most illegal immigrants to Mexico within hours of being arrested. The new practice was at the recommendation of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in an effort to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus at Border Patrol stations, where people in custody normally would be detained for hours to days before being turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.