Venezuelans have surpassed Mexicans as the largest nationality arrested for illegally crossing the U.S. border, according to new figures released on Saturday. September marked the second-highest month for arrests of all nationalities.
Border Patrol arrested Venezuelans 54,833 times in September after they entered from Mexico. This number is more than double the 22,090 arrests in August and significantly higher than the previous monthly record of 33,749 arrests in September 2022.
Overall, arrests of all nationalities entering from Mexico totaled 218,763 in September, a 21% increase from 181,084 in August, and close to the all-time high of 222,018 in December 2022, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. For the government’s budget year that ended on September 30, arrests exceeded 2 million for the second consecutive year, slightly lower than the all-time high of over 2.2 million arrests in the same period the previous year.
Venezuela has been in a political, economic, and humanitarian crisis for the past decade, leading to over 7 million people leaving the country. Initially, they settled in nearby Latin American countries but have increasingly entered the United States over the past three years, particularly in cities like New York and Chicago.
The Biden administration recently granted temporary legal status to nearly 500,000 Venezuelans already in the United States as of July 31, while vowing to deport those who enter illegally after that date and fail to obtain asylum. Deportation flights to Venezuela have begun as part of a diplomatic thaw with the government of Nicolás Maduro.
“We are continually engaging with domestic and foreign partners to address historic hemispheric migration, including large migrant groups traveling on freight trains, and to enforce consequences including by preparing for direct repatriations to Venezuela,” said Troy Miller, acting commissioner of Customs and Border Protection.
The demographics of illegal border crossings have shifted over the years. Mexicans used to account for the majority, but in the past decade, the flows have shifted to Central Americans, and more recently, to people from South America, Africa, and Asia.
In September, Mexicans were arrested crossing the border 39,733 times, significantly fewer than Venezuelans. The top five nationalities arrested included Guatemalans, Hondurans, and Colombians.
Republicans are capitalizing on these numbers, with their leading presidential candidates trying to frame the border as a major issue in next year’s elections.
“This fiscal year may have ended, but the historic crisis at our Southwest border sparked by (Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro) Mayorkas’ policies rages on,” said Rep. Mark Green of Tennessee, chair of the House Homeland Security Committee.
The Biden administration has proposed allocating around $14 billion for border security in a $106 billion spending package announced on Friday, emphasizing the need for help from Congress in finding a long-term solution.