Encounters at the U.S. border drop 9 percent in May, before asylum restrictions kicked in

Migrants and asylum seekers wait to be processed by the Border Patrol between fences at the US-Mexico border seen from Tijuana, Baja California state, Mexico, on June 5.
Guillermo Arias | AFP

The number of encounters with migrants attempting to cross into the U.S. with no authorization dropped 9 percent in May, compared to April.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection also reported a 17 percent decrease in the number of encounters with migrants, compared to the same month a year ago.

Border Patrol made 117,900 arrests of people attempting to enter between official border crossing points in May. CBP had reported 128,900 encounters in April, a 6 percent decrease from March.

This is the fifth month showing a decrease in encounters, after an all-time spike in December, when 301,983 migrants were stopped at the border.

CBP also reported a 25 percent decrease in daily encounters between ports of entry since the May 5th asylum restrictions were announced. However, the agency said these are preliminary numbers from the first two weeks of implementation, and noted that migration patterns often change through the summer months.

“Our enforcement efforts are continuing to reduce southwest border encounters. But the fact remains that our immigration system is not resourced for what we are seeing,” Troy A. Miller, the acting head of CBP, said in a statement.

For May, the Tucson, Ariz. sector reported the highest number of encounters (33,226) closely followed by San Diego, Calif. (32,504) and El Paso, Texas (23,470). About 68 percent of all people intercepted were single adults, and most were Mexican nationals.

These reports come in a month in which President Joe Biden issued executive actions restricting asylum for most people attempting to cross the border undocumented, and expediting deportations.

The president is facing election year pressure from the public to show that his policies are curtailing undocumented immigration.

In an NPR/PBS News/Marist National Poll released earlier this week, more voters (54 percent) said they view former president and Republican candidate Donald Trump as stronger on the issues of immigration than Biden (44 percent.)

“This action will help us to gain control of our border, restore order to the process,” said President Biden during his May 5th announcement.

One week later, the ACLU filed a lawsuitin federal court, challenging the legality of the executive actions.

Civil rights and immigrant defense groups have criticized Biden’s actions, saying these restrictions will push migrants to try to cross the border through more remote and dangerous areas, prompting another humanitarian crisis.

Earlier this week, Biden issued additional executive actions to provide parole and a possible path for legal status to about 500,000 undocumented spouses of U.S. citizens.

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