SAN DIEGO — According to figures released Saturday, Venezuelans were the largest nationality arrested for crossing the U.S. border illegally, replacing Mexicans for the first time on record. These show that September was the second highest month for arrests of all nationalities.
Venezuelans were apprehended by Border Patrol 54,833 times after entering Mexico in September, more than double the 22,090 apprehensions in August and significantly higher than the previous monthly peak of 33,749 apprehensions in September 2022.
According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, apprehensions of all nationalities entering from Mexico totaled 218,763 in September, a 21% increase from 181,084 in August and approaching an all-time high of 222,018 in December 2022. Arrests in the government’s fiscal year that ended Sept. 30 topped 2 million for the second straight day, down 7% from the all-time high of more than 2.2 million arrests in the same period last year .
Venezuela has been plunged into a political, economic and humanitarian crisis over the past decade, forcing more than 7 million people to flee their homes. They initially settled in surrounding Latin American countries, but in the last three years have increasingly come to the United States, settling in New York, Chicago and other major cities.
The Biden administration recently announced temporary legal status for nearly 500,000 Venezuelans already in the United States as of July 31, while promising to deport those who enter illegally after that date and do not receive asylum. Deportation flights to Venezuela were recently launched as part of a diplomatic thaw with the government of Nicolas Maduro, a long-time opponent.
The U.S. “deployed a significant amount of resources and personnel to the border” in September, said Troy Miller, acting commissioner of Customs and Border Protection.
“We are continually working with domestic and foreign partners to address and enforce historic hemispheric migration, including large groups of migrants traveling on freight trains, including by preparing direct repatriations to Venezuela,” Miller said.
For decades, Mexicans made up the vast majority of illegal border crossings, but in the last decade migration flows have shifted to Central Americans and, more recently, people from South America, Africa and Asia.
Mexicans were arrested 39,733 times while crossing the border in September, significantly fewer than Venezuelans. Guatemalans, Hondurans and Colombians rounded out the top five.
Republicans took advantage of the latest figures as their leading presidential candidates sought to portray the border as a major issue in next year’s election.
“This fiscal year may be over, but the historic crisis at our southwest border sparked by the policies of (Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro) Mayorkas continues to rage,” said Rep. Mark Green of Tennessee, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.
The Biden administration has proposed about $14 billion for the border in a $106 billion spending package announced Friday, stressing that any long-term solution requires help from Congress.
The government has taken a carrot-and-stick approach, introducing new legal routes to seeking asylum, with restrictions on those who do not comply.
About 43,000 migrants entered the country in September through land crossings with Mexico through a mobile app called CBP One, bringing the total to nearly 278,000 since the online appointment system was launched in January. Additionally, as of September, more than 265,000 people from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela entered airports after applying online to financial sponsors.
Including these legal routes, the number of crossings in September reached a new all-time monthly high of 269,735 and a new fiscal year high of almost 2.5 million.