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US apprehensions in FT19 approach 1 million, double FY14 levels

January 16, 2020

CBP agents apprehended 977,500 foreigners just inside the US border with Mexico in FY19, including 126,999 foreigners who were found to be inadmissible at ports of entry. The peak month for apprehensions and inadmissibles was May 2019, wham there were 145,000. Apprehensions and inadmissibles in FY20 are about 25 percent lower than in the same months of FY19, and involve two-thirds single adults.

Apprehensions peaked at 1.6 million in FY86 and FY00 before falling to a half-century low of less than 500,000 after the 2008-09 recession. Mexicans were over 95 percent of foreigners apprehended until the 2008-09 recession, when the share of non-Mexicans began to rise. Since FY14, more non-Mexicans have been apprehended than Mexicans.

Single adults were most likely to be apprehended until FY14, typically a rural Mexican seeking a farm or construction job in the US. The share of adults with children (family units) and unaccompanied children under 18 began rising in FY15, and family units and solo children were the majority of apprehensions in FY19. In many cases family units and solo children from Central America arrive in the US in groups and seek out CBP agents to apply for asylum.

The changing nature of foreigners apprehended on the Mexican border has challenged CBP. Non-Mexican families and children who apply for asylum require more resources than solo Mexican men. Overcrowded conditions for families and children in custody along the border in summer 2019 led to protests.

DHS took several steps to slow the influx of unauthorized foreigners and asylum seekers. First, President Trump declared a national emergency in February 2019 and moved $6 billion from the Department of Defense to fund construction of fences and barriers on the border.

The Mexican Protection Protocols allow CBP agents to return to Mexico asylum seekers who cross the border and apply for asylum. Some 55,000 foreigners were waiting in Mexico for hearings before an immigration judge at the end of 2019. In July 2019, the US announced that foreigners who passed through El Salvador, Guatemala, or Honduras could be returned to these countries to apply for asylum there rather than being allowed to apply in the US.

977,500 foreigners were apprehended just inside the US border with Mexico in FY19

U.S. Border Patrol Southwest Border Apprehensions FY 2020
USBP Demographic October November December Total
Southwest Border Unaccompanied Alien Child 2,843 3,310 3,250 9,403
Family Units 9,724 8,998 8,602 27,324
Single Adult 22,838 21,203 21,006 65,047
Southwest Border Total Apprehension 35,405 33,511 32,858 101,774


Apprehensions peaked at 1.6 million in FY86 and FY00; there were 850,000 in FY19

Since FY14, more non-Mexicans than Mexicans have been apprehended

Adults with children and solo children were the majority of those apprehended in FY19