For the first time since January, the number of border encounters in Arizona fell last month, federal data released Wednesday shows.
Border Patrol agents in the Tucson Sector reported about 19,900 encounters in May, down slightly from about 20,300 in April.
In the Yuma Sector, agents reported about 12,000 encounters in May, down from about 13,700 in April, according to Customs and Border Protection data.
A border encounter is a term recently adopted by CBP officials to include migrants apprehended while crossing the border clandestinely and migrants who seek out officials to ask for asylum.
As has been the case in recent months, the vast majority of encounters in the Tucson Sector involved adults traveling without children, mostly from Mexico and Guatemala.
In the Yuma Sector, agents were more likely to encounter family members traveling together, most often from Cuba, Brazil and Ecuador.
Until May, Border Patrol officials in Arizona reported a steady increase in encounters starting in April 2020 and then a dramatic acceleration in encounters since January.
Border Patrol officials reported a slight drop in encounters along the border as a whole in May, with encounters falling from about 173,700 in April to about 172,000 in May. The Border Patrol’s Rio Grande Valley Sector continued to be the busiest area of the border, with about 50,800 encounters, down from about 60,900 in April.
Customs officers at ports of entry, on the other hand, reported an increase in encounters from about 5,200 in April to about 8,000 in May. Much of that increase came at ports in Southern California and Texas. Ports of entry in Arizona saw a slight increase from about 470 in April to about 700 in May.
Most of the encounters in May led to quick expulsions to Mexico under Title 42, a public health order the Trump administration started using when the pandemic began.
The Biden administration continues to use the order, which allows officials to expel migrants within hours of encountering them, rather than process them under immigration laws.
Border Patrol officials reported 110,400 expulsions in May under Title 42, roughly the same as in April. Another 62,000 encounters in May led to migrants being processed under immigration laws.
Those expulsions often lead to repeated encounters with migrants who try multiple times to cross the border. The rate of repeat crossers encountered in May was 38%, compared with an average of 15% from 2014 to 2019, officials with the Department of Homeland Security said in a news release Wednesday.
“The large number of expulsions during the pandemic has contributed to a larger-than-usual number of noncitizens making multiple border crossing attempts,” DHS officials said. As a result, “total encounters somewhat overstate the number of unique individuals arriving at the border.”
Single adults in Tucson Sector
The vast majority of border encounters in the Tucson Sector continued to involve adults traveling without children, many of whom were expelled to Mexico.
In May, Tucson Sector officials reported about 17,000 encounters involving single adults, roughly the same as in April. Mexican citizens accounted for about 11,800 of those encounters, followed by about 4,000 encounters with Guatemalan citizens.
Agents in the Tucson Sector also encountered nearly 1,900 children traveling without their parents, about the same number as in April. About 1,250 of those encounters involved Guatemalan citizens, followed by about 460 Mexican citizens.
Tucson Sector officials reported about 1,000 encounters with members of families traveling together, down slightly from about 1,300 in April.
Officials in the Tucson Sector reported about 16,500 expulsions under Title 42 in May. Another 3,400 encounters led to migrants being processed under immigration laws. Both were roughly the same in April.
Families common in Yuma Sector
In the Yuma Sector, family members traveling together continued to be more common than single adults.
In May, Yuma Sector officials reported about 6,400 encounters with members of families traveling together, down slightly from about 6,800 in April.
Many of the families were processed under immigration laws and released by the Border Patrol.
The vast majority of those encounters, or about 5,800, involved families from countries categorized by CBP as “other.”
Yuma Sector agents also encountered about 5,000 adults traveling without children, down from about 6,200 in April. The May encounters included about 3,200 from “other” countries and about 1,300 from Mexico.
Agents in the Yuma Sector encountered about 600 children traveling without their parents, down slightly from about 700 in April. The May encounters included about 370 from Guatemala.
Officials in the Yuma Sector reported about 2,600 expulsions under Title 42 in May. Another 9,500 migrants were processed under immigration laws.
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