Migrant crossings, rescues and deaths along the southern border have hit record levels under the leadership of President Joe Biden.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is on pace to record more than 2 million arrests this year as hundreds of thousands of migrants seeking to enter the U.S. travel from South and Central America up through Mexico.
Migrant crossing levels have been on the rise since Biden took office with Border Patrol having tallied a record 1.73 million arrests at the border in 2021.
Death incidents have also skyrocketed with the number of migrants fatalities reported in 2021 more than doubling those recorded in 2020.
Biden argued Tuesday that authorities need to take action against the ‘multi-billion dollar criminal smuggling industry’ that he claims preys on migrants and causes ‘far too many innocent deaths.’
The president’s push to tackle the border crisis came after authorities found at least 51 migrants dead in an abandoned tractor-trailer in San Antonio, Texas on Monday.
The incident marks the deadliest human smuggling on American soil since 2003 when 19 migrants died after riding inside the rear compartment of sweltering 18-wheeler while they traveled from South Texas to Houston.
Migrant crossing levels have been on the rise since Biden took office with Border Patrol having tallied a record 1.73 million arrests at the border in 2021
CBP data published earlier this month revealed immigration arrests rose to the highest levels ever recorded in May 2022.
Agents made 239,416 arrests along the border last month, a two percent increase from the number reported in April. The agency claims it is preparing for a potential increase in migration levels.
Death incidents at the southern border more than doubled last year, compared to the numbers recorded in previous years.
The agency recorded 557 migrant deaths along the southwest border in 2021. There were 254 recorded deaths in 2020 and 300 in 2019. CBP has not published a death tally for 2022.
The International Organization for Migration, which documents migrant deaths, alleges that the number of people who died attempting to cross the border in 2021 was actually more than 650.
Additionally, CBP revealed the number of rescues across the southern border to date for 2022 also outpaces the number recorded in 2021.
Since October agents have performed 14,278 ‘search-and-rescue missions’ in a seven-month period through May.
These numbers already exceeding the 12,833 missions performed during the previous 12-month period and up from 5,071 the year before.
The latest CBP data showed a large number of migrants are coming from Mexico, Central America, Cuba and Haiti. There is also a growing number of migrants arriving from Turkey, India, Russia and other countries outside of the Western Hemisphere.
Death incidents at the southern border more than doubled last year, compared to the numbers recorded in previous years
CBP revealed the number of rescues across the southern border to date for 2022 also outpaces the number recorded in 2021
Border agents attribute the higher-than-usual number of repeat crossings in May due to the fact that migrants expelled under Title 42, a pandemic-era restriction currently tied up in court, face no legal repercussions if they try to cross again.
The number of unique individuals attempted to cross in May was 177,793, and 25 percent of those stopped by agents had attempted to cross at least once before in the prior 12 months, according to CBP. The average re-encounter rate prior to Title 42 was 15 percent.
Most migrants attempting to cross in May were not families but single adults – 69 percent.
And unlike previous months, Title 42 is no longer the main authority under which migrants are expelled, only 42 percent of migrants were removed under the CDC’s health order.
Most of the migrants expelled under Title 42 were single adults – only about one in six who came in families with children under 18 were subject to Title 42. Unaccompanied children are exempt from the rule.
Fifty-eight percent were expelled under Title 8. Under Title 8, a U.S. immigration policy used when migrants who try to cross unlawfully cannot establish any ‘credible fear’ basis for being in the country. DHS has said it will expand use of Title 8 once Title 42 is gone.
The Biden administration planned to end Title 42 on May 23 but a federal judge in Louisiana blocked the move three days before.
Border agents attribute the higher-than-usual number of repeat crossings in May due to the fact that migrants expelled under Title 42, a pandemic-era restriction currently tied up in court, face no legal repercussions if they try to cross again
What are the deadliest migrant tragedies in the US?
June 27, 2022: At least 51 migrants were found dead Monday in and around a large trailer truck that was abandoned on the roadside on the outskirts of of San Antonio, Texas.
The tractor-trailer was found on a road near I-35 amid 103-degree heat.
August 4, 2021: Ten people were killed and at 20 others injured after a van transporting migrants crashed near the border in Encino, Texas. The driver had attempted to make a right turn at an intersection before veering off the road and hitting both a utility pole and stop sign.
March 2, 2021: Thirteen migrants were killed and several including children injured after Ford SUV ‘with 25 immigrants crammed inside’ crashed into a gravel truck near the Mexican border in California. Witnesses recalled the sounds of crunching metal and glass, and how bodies flung dozens of feet across the pavement.
June 5, 2019: A SUV packed with more than a dozen undocumented migrants from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Mexico, crashed after a chase with police in rural South Texas. The vehicle had veered into a ditch in rainy weather.
July 23, 2017: Eight immigrants were found dead in a sweltering trailer at a San Antonio Walmart parking lot. Two others died later in hospitals. The driver was sentenced to life in prison.
July 22, 2012: A Ford pick-up truck carrying 23 migrants from Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico crashed into two trees in a rural South Texas town. Fifteen people were killed in the incident.
May 14, 2003: 19 migrants died inside a sweltering tractor-trailer while they traveled from South Texas to Houston.
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As crossings became exponentially more difficult after the 2001 terror attacks, migrants are often led through more dangerous terrain and pay thousands of dollars more to smugglers.
The U.S. saw the deadliest incident of illegal smuggling of people across the southern border in recent history on Monday. At least 51 people died after being left in the back of a tractor-trailer in San Antonio, Texas.
Firefighters found ‘stacks of bodies’ in the truck which was cast off close to Interstate 35, which runs to the Mexican border. The migrants had been sprinkled with steak seasoning in apparent bid to cover up their smell as they were being transported, The Texas Tribune reported.
Sixteen survivors, including four children were rushed to nearby hospitals for heat stroke and exhaustion.
At least three bodies were found scattered along the road, with the furthest one located about 75 yards from the truck, law enforcement sources confirmed to The New York Times.
Police suspect migrants may have jumped or fallen from the trailer before smugglers abandoned it next to railroad tracks in San Antonio’s southern outskirts on Monday. Officials also said it was possible that those found along the road had died inside the truck, but fallen out when its doors opened.
Authorities are not confident they have accounted for everyone from the truck and do not know what the total number is. Crews are searching nearby fields for bodies and are trying to determine if anyone escaped the trailer alive.
Temperatures had reached a high of 103 degrees Monday and officials claim there were no signs of water in the semi. Heat poses a serious danger for migrants crossing the border and temperatures can rise severely inside vehicles.
Ten migrants died in 2017 after being trapped inside a truck that was parked at a Walmart in San Antonio. In 2003, 19 migrants were found in a sweltering truck southeast of San Antonio.
Big rigs emerged as a popular smuggling method in the early 1990s amid a surge in U.S. border enforcement in San Diego and El Paso, Texas, which were then the busiest corridors for illegal crossings. Prior to that, people paid small fees to mom-and-pop operators to get them across a largely unguarded border.
On Monday, the U.S. saw the deadliest incident of illegal smuggling of people across the southern border in recent history. At least 51 people died after being left in the back of a tractor-trailer in San Antonio, Texas
Law enforcement officers carry a body at the scene where people were found dead inside a trailer truck in San Antonio
Local priests from the San Antonio Archdiocese stand near the scene where a tractor-trailer was discovered with migrants inside outside San Antonio
Police and officials man a roadblock near a tractor-trailer on the side of the road leading to the location where at least 51 immigrants were found dead
Biden said Tuesday that the deaths of migrants who were in the back of a tractor-trailer in Texas was ‘horrifying and heartbreaking.’
‘While we are still learning all the facts about what happened and the Department of Homeland Security has the lead for the investigation, initial reports are that this tragedy was caused by smugglers or human traffickers who have no regard for the lives they endanger and exploit to make a profit,’ he said in a statement.
He said the tragedy ‘underscores’ the need to combat human smuggling at the border.
‘Exploiting vulnerable individuals for profit is shameful, as is political grandstanding around tragedy, and my administration will continue to do everything possible to stop human smugglers and traffickers from taking advantage of people who are seeking to enter the United States between ports of entry,’ he said.
‘My Administration will continue to do everything possible to stop human smugglers and traffickers from taking advantage of people who are seeking to enter the United States between ports of entry.’
The tragedy swiftly became a vehicle for political attacks on the Biden administration.
‘These deaths are on Biden. They are a result of his deadly open border policies,’ Abbott tweeted Monday night, hours after the bodies were discovered. ‘They show the deadly consequences of his refusal to enforce the law.’
‘Horrific. This..is..WRONG’ Sen. Ted Cruz tweeted. ‘How many more people have to die before Dems give a damn?’
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters aboard Air Force One – where Biden was flying between summits in Germany and Spain – that the administration was focused on the victims and holding human smugglers accountable.
‘The fact of the matter is, the border is closed, which is in part why you see people trying to make this dangerous journey using smuggling networks,’ she said. ‘Our prayers are with those who tragically lost their lives, their loved ones as well as those still fighting for their lives. We’re also grateful for the swift work of federal, state and local first responders.’