September surges in migration from Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua brought the number of illegal border crossings to the highest level ever recorded in a fiscal year, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The numbers reflect deteriorating economic and political conditions in some countries, the relative strength of the U.S. economy, and uneven enforcement of Trump-era asylum restrictions, reports Associated Press. At the U.S. border with Mexico, migrants were stopped 227,547 times in September, the third-highest month of Joe Biden’s presidency. In the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, migrants were stopped 2.38 million times, up 37 percent from 1.73 million times the year before, according to figures released Friday. For the first time in August, the annual total surpassed 2 million and was more than twice the highest level during Donald Trump’s presidency in 2019. Nearly 78,000 migrants from Venezuela, Cuba, and Nicaragua were stopped in September, compared to about 58,000 from Mexico and three countries of northern Central America that have historically accounted for most of the flow.
Title 42, a public health rule that suspends rights to seek asylum under U.S. and international law on grounds of preventing the spread of COVID-19, is partly responsible for the geographic shift. Migrants are released in the United States because of strained diplomatic relations that prevent the U.S from expelling them to Venezuela, Cuba, or Nicaragua, leaving migrants to pursue their immigration cases while in the U.S. Since it was invoked in March 2020, Title 42 has been applied 2.4 million times but has fallen disproportionately on migrants from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. U.S. officials say Venezuelan migration to the United States has plunged significantly since Oct. 12, when the U.S. began expelling Venezuelans to Mexico under Title 42. At the same time, the Biden administration pledged to admit up to 24,000 Venezuelans to the United States on humanitarian parole if they apply online with a financial sponsor and enter through an airport, similar to how tens of thousands of Ukrainians have come since Russia invaded their country. The first four Venezuelans paroled into the United States arrived Saturday and hundreds more have been approved to fly, the Homeland Security Department said. “While this early data is not reflected in the (September) report, it confirms what we’ve said all along: When there is a lawful and orderly way to enter the country, individuals will be less likely to put their lives in the hands of smugglers and try to cross the border unlawfully,” said CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus.