U.S. officials saw a slight increase in encounters at the southwest border in June, U.S. Customs and Border Protection announced Friday, but more than one-third were people who had already tried to cross the border at least once before.
Agents encountered nearly 189,000 people last month, according to new numbers posted on the CBP website, but about 65,000 — or 34% — were repeat attempts, a “larger-than-usual” number, the agency said. June’s figure was a slight increase from May, when more than 180,000 people tried to cross.
The June number was the highest yet this year and the highest since President Joe Biden took office, since encounters began to tick up significantly in February.
The spike in repeat attempts is a direct result of the fact that U.S. officials continue to expel the majority of migrants who reach the border under a pandemic health order.
In June, more than 104,000 people were expelled under the order, while the administration has continued to allow unaccompanied minors, families with young children and some vulnerable migrants to enter the U.S.
The CBP’s Acting Commissioner Troy Miller also warned Friday that the high number of people trying to reach the United States was becoming dangerous because of the intense heat in recent months.
“We are in the hottest part of the summer, and we are seeing a high number of distress calls to CBP from migrants abandoned in treacherous terrain by smugglers with no regard for human life,” Miller said in a statement.
“Although CBP does everything it can to locate and rescue individuals who are lost or distressed, the bottom line is this: the terrain along the border is extreme, the summer heat is severe, and the miles of desert migrants must hike after crossing the border in many areas are unforgiving,” he added.
The Biden administration has received criticism on both sides for its response at the border, both by Republicans who say they aren’t doing enough to enforce pandemic restrictions and by Democrats and advocates who call the border closure illegal and urge the U.S. to welcome more people under asylum.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas issued a warning this week to the people of Cuba and Haiti, telling them they would not be allowed to enter the U.S. if they tried to travel by boat, a move that drew the direct ire of immigrant advocates.
“Allow me to be clear: If you take to the sea, you will not come to the United States,” he said Tuesday.
The Biden administration has attempted to send the message that people should not make the dangerous journey to the U.S., but it hasn’t prevented large numbers at the border, especially as officials continue to admit some migrants and gradually relax public health restrictions.