In August, the number of families crossing the US border illegally reached a record level - ForumDaily
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In August, the number of families who illegally crossed the US border reached an all-time high.

According to preliminary data obtained The Washington Post, a record number of immigrant families poured across the U.S.-Mexico border in August. The influx has upended US President Joe Biden's administration's efforts to prevent parents with children from entering illegally and could put immigration back in the spotlight during the presidential race.

Photo: IStock

In August, U.S. Border Patrol apprehended at least 91 migrants crossing the border as part of a family group, surpassing the previous single-month record of 84 set in May 486 under President Donald Trump's administration. For the first time since Biden took office, families were the largest demographic group to cross the border in August, surpassing single adults.

Overall, border apprehensions have increased by more than 30% for two months in a row, data show, after sharply declining in May and June as the Biden administration introduced new restrictions and entry options. In August, the Border Patrol made more than 177 arrests along the Mexico border, up from 000 in July and 132 in June.

Erin Heather, a spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security, said the Biden administration is trying to slow down the process of illegal entry by expanding opportunities for legal entry and tougher penalties. The government stepped up family deportation flights in August, she said, and since May has repatriated more than 17 parents and children who recently crossed the border as part of a family group.

“But as every year, the U.S. is experiencing surges and flows of migrant arrivals, fueled by seasonal trends and the efforts of smugglers who use misinformation to prey on vulnerable migrants and encourage migration,” Heather said.

Family groups have been the Achilles' heel of US immigration services for more than a decade. Most migrants in this category, detained by border patrol officers, are quickly released and given the opportunity to live and work in the United States while their humanitarian applications are pending. According to federal courts, US immigration courts typically reach a decision within a few years, and the process rarely ends in deportation.

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The latest surge, which comes at the height of the summer heat wave, underscores how much immigration enforcement in the US has changed since the Trump administration, when the Department of Homeland Security faced an influx of families crossing the border from Mexico and spent months trying to remove children from their parents in as a deterrent.

Trump officials ultimately reduced the number of families crossing the border through an aggressive expansion of the Remain in Mexico program, which sent thousands of asylum seekers back across the border to wait, many in squalid conditions, while their claims were processed in U.S. courts.

When the COCID-2020 pandemic hit in early 19, Trump took advantage of Tittle 42, the U.S. public health code, to quickly deport those crossing the border to their home countries or Mexico without being able to claim asylum. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection, according to data, from March 2020 to May 2023 made 3 million deportations, including families.

President Biden, who ran for office on a promise of more humane treatment of migrants, has suspended the Remain in Mexico program and closed three family detention centers run by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Biden has replaced the "pandemic" policy with new measures that allow tens of thousands of migrants to enter the U.S. legally each month but make it more difficult to release those who cross the border illegally after claiming asylum.

In August, more than 50 migrants were processed at U.S. border facilities, where up to 1450 people a day can sign up to legally enter the country using a mobile app, according to the latest data from Customs and Border Protection (CBP). That brings the total number of migrants encountered by U.S. Border Patrol agents at the southern border in August - at legal or other crossings - to about 230, the highest single-month total this year.

Biden's separate program accepts about 30 applicants each month from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela, who are allowed to live and work in the United States for two years if they have a financial sponsor and pass a background check. The program, known as humanitarian password, allows recipients to fly to the U.S. rather than cross the border.

Both programs are being challenged in federal court by Republican-led state officials.

The number of illegal border crossings by migrants from countries eligible for humanitarian parole has dropped sharply. However, according to CBP, the number of migrants from Guatemala, Honduras, Ecuador, Peru and several countries in Asia and Africa has increased significantly this summer. The arrival of thousands of parents and children in remote areas in hot weather poses a significant humanitarian, linguistic and logistical challenge.

The Biden administration has expanded a network of climate-controlled tent cities staffed by health and social workers to help care for children. But many families still face traditional CBP stations, which feature dingy, windowless cells with concrete benches that were designed as short-term detention facilities for adults.

Blas Nunez-Neto, the Biden administration's chief border policy official, said last week that bipartisan border control efforts have helped reduce illegal crossings from more than 1 million a year a decade ago to less than 400 a year on average since 000. th to 2011.

However, partisan gridlock has intensified and the demographic composition of migrants has changed. Officials are seeing a noticeable increase in the number of families and unaccompanied minors arriving at the southern border. Some have been victims of violence in their home countries, which may make them eligible for humanitarian programs. Others rely on promises from smugglers who tell them that families are much less likely to be deported.

August brings the total number of “family members” surrendered at the southern border so far this fiscal year to more than half a million, a record high, with one more month left in the year.

The Biden administration has given mixed signals about targeting families for deportation.

In his first year in office, Biden promised to reunite families separated by Trump and protect undocumented families already living in the United States. In 2021, Biden administration officials ended the practice of detaining families and declared schools and “places where children congregate” off-limits to immigration authorities. Officials said they would not detain or deport pregnant or breastfeeding women.

However, officials have assured that they will continue to deport families who have recently crossed the border, as they fear that otherwise their influx will overload border services. In recent months, Biden administration officials have held press conferences with Spanish-language media outlets and released footage of deportation flights carrying children to discourage families from trying to cross the border.

The Biden administration has also created family-focused law enforcement programs. In 2021, officials from the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice created "specialized" immigration courts in 11 cities that will rule on family cases within 300 days of the initial hearing. This expedited system is not for all families and is much faster than the usual processing times in overcrowded immigration courts.

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The program operates in Boston, Denver, Detroit, El Paso, Los Angeles, Miami, Newark, New York, San Diego, San Francisco and Seattle. Immigrant advocates say the system is unfair because thousands of migrants can't find lawyers and it's unclear how families end up on the fast-track list.

In May, Biden launched the Family Expedited Removal Management (FERM) program, in which some heads of families are taken under GPS monitoring and they are subject to an expedited deportation process. For such families, a mandatory curfew is established from 23:00 to 05:00. Less than 100 family members were deported under this program.

“The FERM program is part of the Department of the Interior's efforts to enforce U.S. immigration laws and remove individuals and families who have no lawful reason to be in the country,” said Department of the Interior spokeswoman Erin Heater.

Since May, the Department of Homeland Security has expelled more than 200 recently arrived migrants, including 17 people who arrived in the US as part of families, she said.

In fiscal year 2019, Immigration and Customs Enforcement deported more than 5 people who came to the U.S. as part of a family group, more than double the number from the previous year, a federal report found.

In 2020, the number of official family deportations rose to almost 14 and then declined during the pandemic, when the government's usual policy was replaced by a swift removal under Title 500, which does not carry legal sanctions such as deportation.

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