A file photo of migrants. Photograph:( Reuters )
Authorities encountered 17,171 children travelling alone, down nine per cent from 18,960 in March, according to US Customs and Border Protection, but still well above the previous high of 11,475 reported in May 2019 by the Border Patrol, which began publishing numbers in 2009
The number of unaccompanied children encountered on the US border with Mexico in April eased from an all-time high a month earlier, while more adults were found coming without families, authorities said on Tuesday.
Authorities encountered 17,171 children traveling alone, down nine per cent from 18,960 in March, according to US Customs and Border Protection, but still well above the previous high of 11,475 reported in May 2019 by the Border Patrol, which began publishing numbers in 2009.
Overall, the Border Patrol's 173,460 encounters with migrants on the Mexican border in April were up three per cent from 169,213 in March, the highest level since April 2000. So, the number of illegal immigrants apprehended at the southern border hit a 21-year high last month.
The numbers aren't directly comparable because a solid majority of those stopped in April were quickly expelled from the country under federal pandemic-related powers that deny rights to seek asylum. Being expelled carries no legal consequences, so many people try to cross multiple times.
Border Patrol encounters with people coming in families fell in similar proportion to unaccompanied children, down 10 per cent to 48,226 from 53,406 in March. Slightly more than one of three family encounters resulted in pandemic-related expulsions.
The numbers offer the latest read on one of the most serious challenges to Joe Biden's young presidency. Despite some encouraging news in April on unaccompanied children and families, Biden has a lot riding on a new ‘humane’ asylum system that has yet to be unveiled. There don't appear to be quick, easy answers.
Single adults from Mexico and Central America drove the overall increase in activity in April. The Border Patrol had 108,301 encounters with adults traveling without children, up 12 per cent from 97,074 in March. Nearly nine of 10 adult encounters ended in expulsions under pandemic-related authority granted by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Biden has exempted unaccompanied children from expulsion, allowing them to stay in the US while pursuing asylum claims. Families with young children are also often released in the US while their cases wind through the bottlenecked immigration court system.
(With inputs from agencies)