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US: Encounters with migrants increase despite increased heat

In this June 10, 2021, file photo, a migrant family from Brazil awaits prosecution by Border Patrol agents after crossing into the United States from Mexico through a gap in the border wall in Yuma, Arizona. Photo: La Hora / AP / Eugene García.


The number of migrant families found on the southern border of the United States in June increased 25% from the previous month, even as temperatures have risen in the desert and mountainous terrain of the region, federal authorities said on Friday.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) counted 55,805 family members with children in June, compared with 44,746 in May. Although the increase is large, the number is well below the 88,587 in May 2019.

Overall, authorities say they saw a 5% increase in encounters with migrants who crossed the border in June compared to May, but attributed much of the increase to repeated attempts by people to cross into the United States.

The pandemic-related authority that the government uses to swiftly expel most migrants without allowing them to apply for asylum has caused more than average people to try to cross multiple times, resulting in ‘a little bloat’ the numbers of those who cross the border, said CBP in its monthly report.

As expulsion carries no legal consequences, many people try to cross multiple times. The government of President Donald Trump issued the public health order in March 2020 to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, and President Joe Biden has largely kept it in effect.

The new figures show that just over a third of the 188,829 people found at the border in June tried to cross without success at least one more time in the past 12 months.

CBP expelled 104,907 people last month pursuant to the pandemic-related measure.

Since October, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has offered an exception to that order for children traveling without an adult, and on Friday announced that they would allow the exception to become permanent after a review, whereby those minors could avoid deportation. The CDC said it has determined that sufficient infrastructure exists to protect children, caregivers and local communities in the United States from coronavirus.

The number of lone adults found at the border declined in June, but they remain the largest group of people crossing into the United States. Encounters with children traveling alone increased 8% last month to 15,253, compared with 14,137 in May. The June figure remains well below the 18,663 unaccompanied children found in March by the Border Patrol, which began releasing its figures in 2009.

The number of children in CBP custody dropped to 832 on June 30 from its peak of 5,767 on March 29.

Although most of those who cross the border regularly arrive from Mexico and Central America, authorities have warned an increase in migrants from other countries, such as Ecuador, Venezuela, Brazil and Cuba.

CBP officials have expressed concern in recent weeks about the dangers migrants face when crossing remote areas without water and during the most intense period of summer.

“We are in the hottest part of the summer and we are seeing a high number of calls for help to CBP from migrants abandoned on dangerous ground by smugglers with no regard for human life,” said the acting CBP commissioner, Troy Miller, in Friday’s report.

The bodies of an unusually large number of immigrants who died in the Arizona border territory are being recovered amid record temperatures in the sunny desert and rugged mountains. An increase in migrant deaths has also been noted in Texas, and rescues have increased along the border with Mexico.

The nonprofit group Humane Borders, which makes maps related to body recovery in Arizona using figures from the Pima County Coroner in Tucson, said 43 sets of human remains were found in the state’s border region the previous month, which was the hottest June on record in Phoenix. Meteorologists say that high temperatures in Phoenix, where they regularly exceeded 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43 degrees Celsius) last month, tend to be similar to those in the Sonoran desert.

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