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Data reveals record number of migrant encounters at the border in March

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Posted at 5:36 PM, Apr 06, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-06 17:33:02-04

Newly-leaked data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection reveals more than 170,000 migrants were encountered at the southwest border in March.

The data was first obtained by CNN, the New York Times, and the Washington Post.

A source tells ABC15 that the numbers “look pretty close” to CBP’s upcoming reports.

A breakdown of preliminary data from the month of March shows:

  • 99,300 Single Adults
  • 53,500 Family Units
  • 18,800 Unaccompanied Children

But what do those numbers really mean?

“It does appear that we’re going to be at a high that we haven’t seen in 15 years from 2006. The only number that does appear that it will not break a record is for family unit encounters. It is much lower than it was in 2019,” said ABC15 data analyst Garret Archer.

An analysis by ABC15 shows a consistent pattern that goes back as far as 20 years.

“There’s an established seasonality to encounters at the Southwest border. What we see is that consistently in the past 20 years, the number of encounters goes up from December to March. This plays out in almost all data formats, from the single adults to the unaccompanied minors to the family units. Essentially every sort of migration pattern does increase from December to March," Archer said.

The data also shows almost 100,000 encounters of single adults, which is about 58% of all encounters in March. Those encounters show a number that is “about three times higher than it typically is,” according to Archer.

However, it doesn’t necessarily mean 100,000 single adults crossed the border, and that’s because of a policy called Title 42.

“Border encounters have been rising since April when President Trump instituted the Title 42 expulsions at the border," said Aaron Reichlin-Melnick.

Reichlin-Melnick is the policy counsel at the American Immigration Council, an organization that advocates on behalf of immigrants.

“Because those expulsions led mostly single adults to be expelled back to Mexico within hours, that led people to return to the patterns we haven’t seen at the border in nearly 20 years. Many of those are the same people crossing multiple times and being turned back quickly,” stated Reichlin-Melnick.

His research matches with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s data.

Reichlin-Melnick says the trend we’re seeing now of single adults crossing was bound to happen regardless of who was the president in January.

“This practice of rapid expulsions of individuals back to Mexico basically replicates what the border patrol used to do in the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s with what were known as 'voluntary returns,' when people would cross the border and just be sent back to Mexico immediately.”

Going back to two years ago, if we look at 2019, family unit encounters were significantly high.

“The CBP operates in a fiscal year from October to September. If we look at October to March right now, family unit encounters are half of what it was in 2019,” said Archer.

He says there were 190,000 family unit encounters up to this point, and right now there have only been about 90,000.

Archer says something never seen before, is the increasing number of unaccompanied children, which were almost at 19,000 in March.

“That is higher than any number that’s ever been reported by the CBP. So unless something changes in the numbers going forward, 2021 will not only break a record for unaccompanied minors, but will exceed it by a pretty significant amount.”