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Breaking down the record number of migrant encounters at the southern border

Posted at 6:53 PM, Oct 24, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-24 21:53:35-04

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection fiscal year ends in September and new data released by the agency gives a complete estimate for their 2023 Fiscal Year.

The department reported 2,475,669 migrant encounters in 2023. This is the highest number of encounters at the southern border since record-keeping began. It’s a 4% increase from last fiscal year, which at the time had the highest number of migrant encounters on record.

The top three years for migrant encounters are 2021 through 2023 with the next most number of encounters occurring in 2000 and 2001.

The month of September was also the highest number of monthly encounters since 2000.

In 2019, the USCBP began splitting migrant encounter data by demographic group. This past fiscal year had the highest number of family unit migrant encounters since then with about 821,000 recorded encounters. Single adults, the overall highest demographic group, ranked second with 1.5 million. Over 137,000 unaccompanied minors were also encountered this past fiscal year. The third most since 2019.

The rise in migrant encounters at the border is coming exclusively from those occurring at the nation’s ports of entry. While most encounters happen at illegal crossings between the ports, the number is down seven percent from FY2022 to 2.05 million. Encounters at the ports of entry rose 180% to about 430,000.

USCBP also provided data on the country of origin for many migrant encounters. ABC15 aggregated these numbers by region and found that 53% of encounters were migrants hailing from Central American countries. This is a 7% decline from the past fiscal year.

South American migrants now make up a third of all encounters and are up 190% annually. The biggest change in trend occurred with encounters with migrants from countries in Europe, Asia, and others not classified by the agency. While they collectively make up a little over 10% of encounters, both are up nearly ten-fold from last fiscal year.

For three consecutive months, the Tucson sector has been the area of the border with the highest number of migrant encounters. This is a big change from last October when border sectors in Texas were typically the area of the border with the highest number of encounters.