Southern Border Crossings: Daily Count

how many illegal immigrants travel the southern border every day

The number of people crossing the US-Mexico border each day is difficult to determine as official statistics refer to encounters, not people, and some migrants are encountered more than once. In December 2023, the US Border Patrol had 250,000 encounters with migrants crossing into the US from Mexico, the highest monthly total on record. This figure included 56,236 arrests of Mexicans and 46,937 arrests of Venezuelans. The number of encounters has soared since 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic temporarily forced the US-Mexico border to close.

Characteristics Values
Number of illegal immigrants crossing the southern border 249,785 in December 2023
Percentage increase from November 2023 31%
Percentage increase from December 2022 13%
Top nationalities Mexican, Venezuelan, Guatemalan, Honduran, Colombian
Busiest corridor for illegal crossings Tucson, Arizona
Second busiest corridor for illegal crossings Del Rio, Texas
Third busiest corridor for illegal crossings San Diego


The number of illegal immigrants crossing the southern border daily

The number of people crossing the US-Mexico border each day is difficult to pinpoint, as data is typically recorded monthly or annually. However, by looking at the number of encounters recorded in a given month and dividing it by the number of days in that month, we can estimate the daily number of illegal immigrants crossing the southern border.

In December 2023, the US Border Patrol recorded nearly 250,000 encounters with migrants. This was the highest monthly total on record, with the previous peak being around 224,000 encounters in May 2022. Assuming 31 days in the month of December, this amounts to approximately 7,742 encounters per day.

It is important to note that encounters refer to events and not individuals, and some migrants may be encountered more than once. As such, the number of distinct individuals crossing the border daily may be lower than the estimates based on encounter data.

Additionally, the monthly number of encounters has fluctuated over the years. For example, in April 2020, the Border Patrol recorded around 16,000 encounters, one of the lowest monthly totals in decades. The number of encounters also dropped to around 124,000 in January 2024, according to the latest available statistics.

The data on illegal border crossings is further complicated by the fact that not all encounters result in apprehensions or expulsions. Some migrants may evade the authorities and successfully enter the country without being detected.

In summary, while the exact number of illegal immigrants crossing the southern border each day is challenging to determine, estimates based on encounter data provide a general sense of the scale and fluctuations in migration patterns over time.


The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on illegal immigration

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on illegal immigration, with border closures and travel restrictions put in place to curb the spread of the virus. Here are some key ways in which the pandemic has affected illegal immigration:

Impact on Migration Patterns

The pandemic has disrupted global migration patterns, with many countries imposing travel bans and border restrictions. The closure of the US-Mexico border in 2020, for instance, led to a sharp decline in migration flows. However, as the pandemic eased, encounters at the border surged, with the US Border Patrol reporting record highs in 2023.

Changes in Migration Routes

The pandemic has also led to changes in migration routes, with migrants opting for more dangerous paths to reach their destinations. The suspension of legal ports of entry has pushed migrants towards riskier crossings, increasing the potential for human rights abuses and exploitation by smugglers.

Impact on Asylum Seekers

The pandemic has severely impacted asylum seekers, with many countries suspending asylum processing and refugee resettlement programs. The "Migrant Protection Protocols" in the US, for example, forced asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for their court hearings, leaving them vulnerable and in dangerous conditions.

Increased Vulnerability and Health Risks

The pandemic has exacerbated the vulnerabilities of illegal immigrants, who often lack access to healthcare and live in crowded conditions, increasing their risk of infection. Language barriers and limited access to information have also hindered their ability to protect themselves and access testing and treatment.

Impact on Destination Countries

Destination countries have struggled to manage the influx of illegal immigrants, particularly during periods of increased migration. This has put a strain on border control, immigration detention facilities, and social services.

Policy Responses

Countries have implemented various policies to address the impact of the pandemic on illegal immigration. Some have focused on public health, such as testing and treatment for immigrants, while others have extended support measures like unemployment benefits and housing assistance. There have also been efforts to counter misinformation and discrimination against immigrants, who are often scapegoated for the spread of the virus.

The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly disrupted illegal immigration, highlighting the complex interplay between public health, border control, and migration policies. The long-term effects of the pandemic on migration patterns and the well-being of immigrants remain to be seen.


The political debate surrounding immigration in the US

Immigration has been a hot-button issue in U.S. political debate for decades, with policymakers trying to balance economic, security, and humanitarian concerns. The political debate surrounding immigration in the U.S. is a highly contentious and multifaceted issue that has evolved over time, with shifts in federal policy and varying enforcement approaches across states. Here is an overview of the debate:

Historical Context

The debate over immigration in the U.S. has deep historical roots. After World War II, President Harry S. Truman faced the challenge of addressing the influx of European immigrants fleeing war-torn countries, while also contending with agricultural labor shortages and public sentiment against illegal immigration from Mexico. This period saw the establishment of the Bracero Program, which facilitated the entry of Mexican contract workers to address labor demands. The debate intensified with the enactment of policies like the Public Law 78 Act, which allowed the transportation of contracted workers from Mexico, and the later operation by President Eisenhower to forcibly remove and relocate illegal Mexican immigrants.

Current Political Landscape

The immigration debate remains a polarizing issue in contemporary U.S. politics. The Biden administration has faced a historic influx of migrants and has worked to reverse many of former President Trump's restrictive policies. President Trump's immigration agenda was a signature issue, marked by efforts to curb both legal and illegal immigration, reshape asylum policies, and enhance border security, including the construction of a border wall.

Views of Immigrants

The perspectives of immigrants themselves are often overlooked in the political discourse on immigration. A majority of immigrants are naturalized citizens (58%) and eligible to vote. However, many noncitizen immigrants face language barriers and immigration-related fears that hinder their political engagement. Surveys indicate that immigrants generally lean towards the Democratic Party, perceiving it as more representative of their interests. Nonetheless, a significant portion feels that neither major party adequately represents their views.

Policy Perspectives

The immigration debate encompasses a range of policy questions, including pathways to citizenship, access to benefits for undocumented immigrants, border security, and immigration enforcement. While there is broad support among immigrants for allowing undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children to apply for citizenship, opinions diverge on other issues. For instance, while most immigrants support allowing undocumented immigrants to access government-sponsored health insurance, naturalized citizens are split on this matter.

State and Local Dynamics

The federal government primarily enforces immigration laws, but state and local authorities also play a role. The level of cooperation between local officials and federal immigration authorities varies across states, with some states providing undocumented immigrants with benefits like driver's licenses, while others, like Texas, mandate cooperation with federal immigration officers.

Public Opinion

Public opinion on immigration is mixed. While a 2022 Gallup poll found that 70% of Americans viewed immigration as beneficial to the U.S., a majority also considered illegal immigration a "critical" threat to national security. The management of the southern border and the increasing encounters with migrants have been a source of dissatisfaction for many Americans.


The process of encountering and apprehending illegal immigrants

Detection and Apprehension

The first step in encountering illegal immigrants is detection and apprehension by the US Border Patrol. This involves patrolling the border areas and identifying individuals or groups attempting to cross into the US illegally. Apprehensions refer to migrants being taken into temporary custody by Border Patrol agents. This process can occur at designated ports of entry or between ports of entry, where migrants may cross the border and wait to be apprehended, intending to seek asylum.

Processing and Identification

Once apprehended, migrants are typically transported to processing centers or temporary holding facilities. At these centers, migrants are processed, which includes collecting biometric information, conducting interviews, and performing criminal record checks, including screening for prior immigration charges and watchlist checks. This process can take anywhere from 24 to 72 hours, depending on the volume of migrants being processed and the available resources.

Determination of Status and Disposition

After the initial processing, the next step is to determine the appropriate disposition for each migrant. This decision is made based on various factors, including the migrant's country of origin, the availability of detention spaces and repatriation flights, and the migrant's legal status. Migrants may be released with a notice to appear in immigration court, processed for expedited removal, granted parole or humanitarian relief, or transferred to other agencies, such as the Department of Health and Human Services for unaccompanied minors.

Long-Term Case Management

For migrants who are released pending further immigration proceedings or granted some form of relief, there is a long-term case management process. This includes monitoring compliance with release conditions, attending court hearings, and potentially enrolling in alternative detention programs that utilize technological monitoring and case management options. This process can take years due to backlogs in the immigration court system.

Removal or Repatriation

For migrants who are not granted relief and are subject to removal or repatriation, the process involves coordinating with the relevant foreign governments and arranging transportation back to their country of origin. This can be a complex and time-consuming process, especially when dealing with countries that do not regularly accept the repatriation of their citizens.

It is important to note that the process of encountering and apprehending illegal immigrants at the southern border is dynamic and dependent on various factors, including the volume of migrants, the availability of resources, and the policies in place at a given time. The numbers of encounters and apprehensions can fluctuate, and the disposition of each case may vary based on the specific circumstances.


The demographics of those crossing the southern border

In December 2023, 54% of encounters at the US-Mexico border involved migrants travelling as single adults, while 41% were people travelling as families, and 5% were unaccompanied minors. This represents a notable increase in the number of encounters involving families, with nearly 102,000 encounters in December 2023, compared to around 61,000 a year earlier.

There has also been a shift in the countries of origin of migrants. While historically, most migrants came from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, in December 2023, 54% of encounters involved citizens from other countries. Venezuelans made up the second-largest group, with nearly 47,000 encounters in December 2023, a significant increase from about 6,000 a year earlier. There has also been a sharp rise in encounters with Chinese citizens, with nearly 6,000 encounters in December 2023, up from around 900 the previous year.

The primary motivation for current migrants is to turn themselves in to the authorities and apply for asylum, rather than trying to evade border control as was more common in the past. This shift presents serious challenges to the capacity of the US migration system, with almost 2 million cases pending in the immigration court system as of April 2023, resulting in an average four-year waiting period for asylum seekers before their first hearing.

Frequently asked questions

It is difficult to give an exact number as encounters refer to events, not people, and some migrants are encountered more than once. However, in December 2023, the U.S. Border Patrol had nearly 250,000 encounters with migrants crossing into the United States from Mexico.

Migrant encounters refer to two distinct kinds of events: expulsions, in which migrants are immediately expelled to their home country or last country of transit, and apprehensions, in which migrants are detained in the United States, at least temporarily.

The number of encounters has soared since 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic temporarily forced the U.S.-Mexico border to close. In April 2020, the Border Patrol recorded around 16,000 encounters, one of the lowest monthly totals in decades. In December 2023, the monthly number of encounters hit a record high of nearly 250,000.

The topic of immigration in the U.S. is one of the country's longest-standing political debates. Support among Republicans for restrictive immigration has grown alongside Democratic support for open immigration, deepening the polarization between the two major political parties.

In December 2023, most encounters at the U.S.-Mexico border (54%) involved migrants travelling as single adults, while 41% involved people travelling in families and 5% involved unaccompanied minors.

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