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The number of migrant encounters at the southern border rose to over 200,000 in August, as the border faced an increase in migrants coming from Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba, which officials said was driving a “new wave of migration” across the Hemisphere.
There were 203,598 encounters on the border, a slight increase from the 199,976 encountered in July and lower than the 209,840 encountered in August last year.
Of the 203,598, officials said 157, 921 were unique migrant encounters, with the rest attributed to those who had multiple encounters with officials and had been expelled or deported.
According to the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) data, encounters with migrants from Mexico and Central America were down for the third month in a row, accounting for just 36% of unique encounters, while 55,333 unique encounters were from the totalitarian regimes of Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua, a 175% increase over last year.
“Failing communist regimes in Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba are driving a new wave of migration across the Western Hemisphere, including the recent increase in encounters at the southwest U.S. border,” said CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus in a statement.
The Biden administration has been fending off significant criticism from Republicans over its handling of the raging crisis at the southern border. There have now been over two million encounters this fiscal year, in addition to the more than 1.7 million encounters last fiscal year.
The administration has claimed that it is both reconstructing legal asylum pathways that were broken down during the Trump administration, while also touting a strategy that targets “root causes” of the crisis like poverty, violence and climate change in Central America.
Officials told reporters that they are also working to cut asylum times from years to months with a new asylum rule, and noted increased DHS funding it had secured.
“That means we have 23,000 agents and officers and more than 1200 additional support personnel working around the clock to secure our nation’s borders, we’re hardening ports of entry and deploying innovative technologies to catch more drugs and more traffickers,” a senior administration official said on Monday.
Republican critics have instead pointed to a greater use of catch-and-release, the halt to most border wall construction, the end of the “Remain-in-Mexico” policy and narrowed interior enforcement as policies implemented by the administration that have driven more migrants to make the journey to the border.
The ongoing crisis at the border hit the headlines last week when Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis sent 50 migrants to Martha’s Vineyard, while Texas Gov. Greg Abbott sent buses of migrants to Vice President Kamala Harris’ D.C. residence.
Abbott has also been sending migrants to New York City and Chicago as part of an effort to relieve the stress on border communities and highlight the extent of the crisis that the state is facing.
“The Biden-Harris administration continues ignoring and denying the historic crisis at our southern border, which has endangered and overwhelmed Texas communities for almost two years,” Abbott said in a statement last week.
DeSantis, meanwhile, said his state “take[s] what’s happening at the southern border very seriously, unlike some, and unlike the president of the United States, who has refused to lift a finger to secure that border.”
The White House, along with Democratic lawmakers in those cities, have condemned the transportation of migrants as cruel. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Friday called on Republican governors to “stop playing that political game and causing confusion and chaos, and come work with us on a solution.”
Meanwhile, administration officials have been pushing back against Republican criticism more broadly, pointing to increased DHS funding it had secured, as well as international cooperation with Western Hemisphere countries on migration issues — and an anti-smuggling operation which made 3,000 arrests in its first few months.
“Of course, more needs to be done to rebuild our immigration system, which the prior administration worked very hard to gut,” an official said on Monday. “But that that means that Republican elected officials need to stop blocking comprehensive immigration reform legislation and stop obstructing the work the Biden-Harris administration is doing to build a safe, orderly and humane border processing system.”
Vice President Harris recently said the border is “secure,” but said there was still more work to be done — and renewed administration calls for a pathway to citizenship for millions of illegal immigrants already in the country.
“We have a secure border in that that is a priority for any nation, including ours and our administration,” Harris said on “Meet the Press.” “But there are still a lot of problems that we are trying to fix given the deterioration that happened over the last four years. We also have to put into place a law and a plan for a pathway for citizenship for the millions of people who are here and are prepared to do what is legally required to gain citizenship.”