As fiscal year 2019 draws to a close and 2020 officially begins, border statistics indicate that approximately 851,000 individuals were apprehended between ports of entry along the southwestern border during this past fiscal year.
Although border statistics for September have not officially been released, a report obtained by the Washington Examiner indicates that FY2019 saw the highest number of border apprehensions since 2007.
These statistics revealing apprehension levels not seen in more than a decade also reveal a notable increase in the number of family apprehensions when compared to previous fiscal years.
The term “family unit” is used by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to represent the number of individuals, either a child less than 18 years of age, parent, or legal guardian, who is apprehended with a family member.
As of August 2019, more than 457,000 individuals who arrived and were taken into custody were classified as family units.
By comparison, in 2018, approximately 107,000 of the nearly 397,000 individuals apprehended throughout the entire fiscal year were classified as family units.
In recent months, the Trump administration has issued a replacement of the Flores Settlement agreement – a judicial decree instituted in 1997 and then expanded in 2015 under the Obama administration that requires unaccompanied children and families to be held in detention for 20 days.
According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director Ken Cuccinelli, analysis of immigration statistics after the Flores expansion in 2015 reveals a sharp increase in the number of individuals seeking entry, fraudulent asylum claims, and an increase in human trafficking and child exploitation cases.
The modified Flores Settlement Rule removes the 20-day limitation on detention for families, does not make exceptions for children, and aims to end the practice of “catch and release” by holding families indefinitely throughout the course of their immigration proceedings.
Since taking office in 2016, President Trump has also issued a number of other policy initiatives aimed at curbing illegal immigration, like the Migration Protection Protocols which requires individuals seeking entry to the U.S. to remain in Mexico while their cases are adjudicated, as well as the signing of an asylum cooperation agreement with Guatemala.
Additionally, the administration has issued a new third-country asylum rule that requires individuals seeking to enter the U.S. to first apply for asylum in a country through which they initially passed while en route to the U.S., and a public charge rule that authorizes the government to deny green cards and permanent residency to individuals deemed likely to depend on federally funded welfare programs.
When analyzing these border statistics on a smaller scale, the month of September saw at least 40,000 apprehensions (not including inadmissibles), marking the fourth month in a row total border apprehensions have decreased as the administration touts these new policies.
Though it is common for border apprehensions to drop during the warmer summer months, September’s apprehension statistics mark a notable decline when compared to August which saw over 50,000 total apprehensions and May which saw a staggering total of 133,000, hitting a 13-year-high for a single month tally.
These numbers exclude individuals who were turned away after seeking entrance at a port of entry, apprehensions at the U.S.-Canada border, or arrests that occurred along the Pacific and Atlantic coasts.
They also do not include the total number of individuals who illegally crossed the border as not everyone is apprehended.
Sarah McConnell is a reporter for The Texan. Previously, she worked as a Cyber Security Consultant after serving as a Pathways Intern at the Department of Homeland Security – Citizenship and Immigration Services. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Texas A&M as well as her Master of Public Service and Administration degree from the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M. In her free time, Sarah is an avid runner, jazz enthusiast, and lover of all things culinary.