May 2021 on the Border—Numbers and Stories

Border wall mural, photo by Jonathan McIntosh, used under Creative Commons license

The latest official numbers are out, with details on numbers of migrants encountered on the southern border in May—admitted, arrested, detained, or turning themselves in to the Border Patrol to ask for asylum or rescue. The number of migrants encountered between border crossings dropped for the first time in a year. The number of migrants admitted at border crossings rose. That made for a combined total that rose slightly from April. A large percentage of migrants who were expelled had crossed multiple times, which inflates the total. (Arizona Republic)

“In all, U.S. officials encountered 180,034 migrants during the month of May, reaching a new peak under President Joe Biden, the newly published statistics from U.S. Customs and Border Protection show. That was a 1% increase compared to April’s numbers. 

“CBP expelled 112,302 migrants last month under an emergency public health rule known as Title 42 that the Biden administration has kept in place. To date, the U.S. has expelled 867,673 migrants under Title 42 since the rule took effect in March 2020.

“The decrease in the number of migrants that Border Patrol encountered last month, although small, is notable. Migrant arrivals at the border had been rising rapidly since they bottomed out last April because of COVID-19 restrictions at the border.”

While May was a busy month for border crossing, many of those apprehended were repeats. The Border Patrol reports each encounter, so one person who crosses multiple times will be counted each time.  This month’s numbers show several changes, including fewer unaccompanied minors, fewer families, and more single adults. (Washington Post)

“The latest CBP data show a major increase in the number of non-Mexican and non-Central American migrants encountered along the border, however. CBP detained 40,067 migrants from other nations last month, up from 9,671 in January, according to the latest figures. Those migrants included large numbers of Cubans, Haitians, Ecuadorans, Brazilians and citizens of African nations, officials said.” 

Higher numbers of border crossings mean more tragedies on the road and on the border. Deaths increased as summer heat rolled in last month, with about one death a week in the Rio Grande Valley reported by the Border Patrol. (Los Angeles Times)

“Most of the migrants drowned in the river and nearby canals or got lost on ranches and died of exposure and dehydration as they attempted to travel deeper into Texas, Border Patrol agents said….

“Honduran Antonio Herrera, 42, said it was his second time trying to cross the border. He had come with his 7-year-old daughter a few months earlier, hoping to get treatment for swelling in her brain. But they were both expelled to Mexico. This time, Herrera, a factory worker, said he left his daughter behind, hoping to send for her….

Later that morning, about 20 miles to the west, agents found about 100 migrants in several groups — families as well as children traveling without relatives. Most had turned themselves in. …

“A 4-year-old Salvadoran girl clutched a blond doll. A Guatemalan woman covered her 8-year-old son’s ears as she explained how she had been raped in Mexico.” 

Disasters and the aftermath of disasters continue to drive migration. A family of nine lives in a makeshift shelter they put together from tarps, old doors, and corrugated metal. All sleep on the dirt floor at night. (CNN)

“Twin Category 4 hurricanes made landfall in Central America within two weeks of each other in late 2020, decimating huge portions of Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Honduras. 

“In La Playita, or Little Beach — so-named because the community lies on the banks of the Chamelecón River — hurricane rainfall caused the river to surge more than 20 feet, pushing torrents of water up and over dirt levies. Hundreds of residents scrambled to safety with nothing more than the clothes on their backs, many seeking shelter underneath nearby bridges. 

“When the waters receded, colossal amounts of heavy mud remained, submerging entire structures in silt. There were no homes to return to….

“The family says they’ve lasted here as long as they can but without government support soon, there will be only one option.

“‘We would leave,’ said her son Joel Raul Arias Sánchez, 26, with a one-year-old daughter. “‘There are no jobs, there is nothing here. There is no future. Many neighbors are already in the US and many are planning on leaving soon.'” 

The Biden administration knows that Title 42 expulsions have nothing to do with public health, but some fear that lifting them would allow a politically damaging spike in immigration. For asylum seekers like Jasibi, the ongoing debate and political calculus carries a terrible, potentially deadly, price. (Reuters)

“Jasibi says she fled her hometown in Honduras after a gang killed her parents and gave her 24 hours to leave the country….

“In Mexico, with nowhere to go and few funds, she slept on the street and was kidnapped, according to a request to the U.S. government for a humanitarian exception to the order seen by Reuters. The kidnappers wanted to extort money from her family, Jasibi said.

“Jasibi – who asked Reuters not to publish her surname for fear of reprisals – called migrant advocate Ariana Sawyer at Human Rights Watch daily to check on her application for the exemption. But when Sawyer tried to call her last month with the good news that she would be allowed into the United States, she couldn’t reach her – Jasibi had been kidnapped again.”

Jasibi escaped again on June 1, and finally was allowed to enter the United States and ask for asylum. 

About Mary Turck

News Day, written by Mary Turck, analyzes, summarizes, links to, and comments on reports from news media around the world, with particular attention to immigration, education, and journalism. Fragments, also written by Mary Turck, has fiction, poetry and some creative non-fiction. Mary Turck edited TC Daily Planet, www.tcdailyplanet.net, from 2007-2014, and edited the award-winning Connection to the Americas and AMERICAS.ORG, in its pre-2008 version. She is also a recovering attorney and the author of many books for young people (and a few for adults), mostly focusing on historical and social issues.
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