The number of Venezuelans taken into custody at the U.S. border with Mexico soared in August, while fewer migrants from Mexico and some Central American countries were stopped, officials said Monday.
Venezuelans surpassed Guatemalans and Hondurans to become the second-largest nationality after Mexicans among migrants crossing the U.S. border illegally. U.S. authorities stopped Venezuelans 25,349 times in August, up 43% from 17,652 times in July and four times the 6,301 stops recorded in August 2021.
At the same time, it was the third straight month that fewer immigrants from Mexico and Central America’s Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. Those nationalities have dominated the mix for decades.
Overall, U.S. authorities stopped migrants 203,598 times in August, up 1.8% from 199,976 times in July but down 4.7% from 213,593 times in August 2021.
Authorities stopped migrants 2.15 million times from October through August, the first time that measure topped 2 million during the government’s fiscal year beginning Oct. 1. It was a 39% increase from 1.54 million stops the same period a year earlier.
Border crossings have been fueled partly by repeat crossers because there are no legal consequences for getting expelled under a pandemic-era rule that denies a right to seek asylum. Even so, the numbers are extraordinarily high.
Migration from Cuba and Nicaragua remained high, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data. Cubans were stopped 19,057 times in August, down from 20,096 times in July but up from 4,496 in August 2021. Nicaraguans were stopped 11,742 times, down from 12,075 in July but up from 9,979 in August 2021.
It’s the latest sign of rapidly changing migration flows as U.S. authorities wrestle with unusually large influxes overall.
While no single reason can be pinpointed, it is extremely challenging for the U.S. to expel migrants from Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba under the pandemic rule known as Title 42, which U.S. officials invoke to deny people a chance at seeking asylum on grounds of preventing the spread of COVID-19. U.S. relations with all three countries are strained, making it difficult to send them home.