U.S.-Mexico border arrests dip in August, remain near 20-year highs

·2-min read
FILE PHOTO: Migrant families seeking asylum walk down a dirt road after illegally crossing into the U.S. from Mexico in Penitas, Texas

By Alexandra Ulmer and Mica Rosenberg

INTERNATIONAL BRIDGE, Del Río, Texas (Reuters) - U.S. authorities arrested more than 195,000 migrants at the Mexican border in August, according to government data released on Wednesday, deepening the humanitarian and political challenge confronting President Joe Biden to curb the high numbers.

While the numbers of arrests dipped slightly compared to July, they represent an increase from August 2019 when numbers had spiked before the coronavirus pandemic reduced migration around the world. Border arrests have hovered around 20-year highs in recent months.

Rising border crossings have created a political headache for Biden, a Democrat, with critics arguing his reversal of the hardline policies of former Republican President Donald Trump policies are fueling migration. Migration experts say poverty, violence and food insecurity are factors driving migrants to leave Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

U.S. border agents are still rapidly expelling almost all single adults and some families encountered at the border under a COVID-19 related order implemented by Trump and kept largely in place by Biden. Agents have also encountered more repeat crossers in the past year compared with recent years.

The total includes 18,534 unaccompanied migrant children and 79,754 family members traveling together, the figures show. Single adults made up about half of the total.

Hundreds of migrants waited under the International Bridge between Del Rio, Texas, and Ciudad Acuña in Mexico on Wednesday afternoon. They hung clothes to dry along fences and protected themselves under bushes from 97 degree Fahrenheit (36 degrees Celsius) heat. Two Customs and Border Protection officials said the people included Haitians, Venezuelans, Cubans and Africans, including Congolese.

"We want water, we haven't eaten," said a Haitian man under the bridge who identified himself as Archalge, 40. He said he had been there three days.

(Reporting by Alexandra Ulmer, Kristina Cooke and Mica Rosenberg; Editing by Ross Colvin and Karishma Singh)

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