U.S. authorities detained more than 1.7 million illegal immigrants at the southern border during the 2021 fiscal year that ended in September as arrests by Border Patrol surged to the highest levels ever recorded, according to a new report.
According to unpublished U.S. Customs and Border Protection data obtained by the Washington Post, agents made 1.66 million arrests along the Mexico border only, topping the previous high of 1.64 million taken into custody in 2000 along the Mexico border, the report says.
The new data show Mexico was the single largest source of illegal migration during the fiscal year, with more than 608,000 Mexican nationals arrested at the border. The second-largest grouping included migrants from outside Mexico and Central American, such as Haitians, Venezuelans, Ecuadorans, Cubans, Brazilians and migrants from dozens of other nations whom CBP included in an “other” category. This grouping accounted for 367,000 arrests.
Meanwhile, Border Patrol arrested 309,000 Honduran migrants, 279,000 Guatemalan migrants and 96,000 migrants from El Salvador.
The data raise questions about the efficacy of Vice President Kamala Harris’s work to address the “root causes” of migration from Central America’s Northern Triangle nations — Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
The figures show a spike in immigration after Biden took office, with more than 1.3 million migrants taken into custody along the U.S.-Mexico border in the nine months since the president took office. Last month alone, 192,000 migrants were taken into custody, according to the report.
While border arrests averaged roughly 540,000 in the fiscal years between 2012 and 2020, arrests in 2021 jumped to three times that amount, hitting the second-highest annual total ever recorded.
While Republicans have blamed Biden’s decision to rollback several Trump-era immigration policies for the surge, Biden administration officials have argued the number of arrest numbers are high because the use of the Title 42 public health policy, which allows officials to quickly expel most migrants to Mexico or their home countries, has led to an increase in repeat crossing attempts.
Sixty-one percent of the 1.7 million migrants detained were expelled under Title 42, the data show. Meanwhile, recidivism rates have topped 25 percent in recent months – twice as high as in previous years, the Washington Post reports.
The data also show a decline in seizures of cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine last year, which experts have said could be caused by fewer vehicles traveling through ports of entry amid pandemic-related travel restrictions, as well as overstretched Border Patrol resources.
The agency is expected to release the 2021 fiscal year data later this week, the report says.
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article cited reporting from the Washington Post that Border Patrol arrests along the Mexico border reached their highest levels since 1986 in fiscal year 2021. The Washington Post has since issued a correction noting that arrests reached their highest levels ever recorded in 2021. This article has been updated to reflect that.