This afternoon, U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported on its apprehensions of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border in August. While it was a slightly higher August than usual, it saw a jump in arrivals of children and families seeking asylum. The Trump Homeland Security Department lamented the increase in asylum-seekers, and blamed the rise on its inability to ratchet up the cruelty by detaining families indefinitely:
While the overall numbers are consistent with an expected seasonal increase, the number of family units along the Southwest border increased 38 percent – 3,500 more than July and the highest August on record. Smugglers and traffickers understand our broken immigration laws better than most and know that if a family unit illegally enters the U.S. they are likely to be released into the interior. Specifically, DHS is required to release families entering the country illegally within 20 days of apprehension.
Again, overall migration was slightly higher than, but not unusual for, the past seven Augusts. (August 2017, coming after a historic migration slowdown that followed Trump’s inauguration, is an outlier.)
In fact, of the 71 months since October 2012, August 2018 was 17th in overall migration. That puts it in the top 25 percent of the past six years, barely.
However, when you look at the percentage of migrants who came as unaccompanied children or members of family units, August 2018 ranks fourth, with nearly half. This is a remarkable shift: before fiscal year 2014, this proportion had never exceeded 20 percent.
As in the past several years, most protection-seeking kids and families are coming from Central America’s hyper-violent “Northern Triangle” countries. First is Guatemala, which has a higher population than the other two (Honduras and El Salvador) combined).
Migrants from Honduras, which suffered a disputed election in late November and has higher violent crime rates than Guatemala, are in a not-too-distant second place.
Migration from El Salvador has been curiously low this year, hardly recovering from the 2017 post-Trump slump. It could be that migration has been depressed by the Trump administration’s highly contested decision to end Temporary Protected Status for hundreds of thousands of Salvadorans living in the United States. However, apprehensions of Salvadoran kids and families have been slowly rising since February, as the country suffers yet another violent year.
What about Nicaragua, where Daniel Ortega’s authoritarian government has been carrying out a wave of repression since protests broke out in April? It’s hard to tell, exactly, because CBP only gives numbers for the Northern Triangle and Mexico. While the numbers remain low, though, Mexico’s apprehensions of Nicaraguans are up sharply as of July. And U.S. apprehensions of kids and families who aren’t from Mexico and the Northern Triangle—a category that probably includes many Nicaraguans—are also up sharply.