The number of Venezuelans detained at the southern border of the United States soared in August, while migrants from Mexico and some Central American countries were detained less frequently, US officials reported Monday.
Venezuela overtook Guatemala and Honduras to become the second-highest nationality among migrants crossing the border illegally into the United States. Mexico occupies the first place in the statistics. Federal authorities made 25,349 arrests of Venezuelan citizens in August, a 43% increase from the 17,652 in July and four times the 6,301 arrests in August 2021.
At the same time, for the third month in a row, fewer apprehensions were made of migrants from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, countries that have led in apprehensions for decades.
In total, authorities made 203,598 migrant arrests in August, 1.8% more than the 199,976 arrests in July, but 4.7% less than the 213,593 in August 2021.
Migration from Cuba and Nicaragua remained high, according to data from the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP). There were 19,057 arrests of Cubans during August, compared to 20,096 in July and 4,496 in August 2021. Likewise, 11,742 arrests of Nicaraguans were recorded in August, compared to 12,075 in July and 9,979 in August 2021.
Although it is not possible to identify a single reason for the sudden change in migration flows, it is extremely complicated for the United States to expel migrants from Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba due to a pandemic-era rule known as Title 42, which the authorities Americans invoked to reject asylum applications on the grounds of preventing the spread of COVID-19.
US relations with these countries are deeply strained, making it difficult or impossible to repatriate migrants.
“The failure of communist regimes in Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba is fueling a new wave of migration across the Western Hemisphere, including the recent increase in encounters on the southwestern border of the United States,” said CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus.
Mexico accepts expelled migrants under Title 42 if they are from Guatemala, Honduras or El Salvador, in addition to Mexicans. Although in theory the standard for the pandemic applies to all nationalities, people from these four countries are the most affected.
The administration of President Joe Biden has leaned on other countries on the continent to take in more people fleeing their homes, including Mexico, Costa Rica — which is home to many Nicaraguans — and Colombia.
Some 6.8 million Venezuelans have left their country since an economic crisis deepened in early 2014. Most of them have migrated to Latin American and Caribbean nations, including more than 2.4 million to neighboring Colombia. .
Venezuelan migration to the United States plummeted earlier this year after Mexico imposed restrictions on air travel, but has risen in recent months as more of them arrive by land.
Nearly 7 out of 10 apprehensions of Venezuelans who crossed the U.S. border illegally during August occurred in the Border Patrol sector of Del Rio, Texas, the busiest of the agency's 9 sectors along the border with Mexico. There were more than 52,000 arrests in the Del Rio sector, many of them in the immediate vicinity of the city of Eagle Pass, while El Paso was a distant second with some 29,000 arrests.
The trend in the migration of Venezuelans is visible in the headlines of the newspapers. The approximately 50 migrants that the governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, transferred to the luxurious island of Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts were all Venezuelan, as were five of the six people that the US authorities found drowned in the Rio Grande - known as Rio Grande in the United States—near Eagle Pass on Labor Day weekend. The sixth was from Nicaragua.
The Title 42 measure encourages repeated attempts because there are no legal consequences for being stopped. In August, 157,921 migrants crossed the border on at least one occasion, of which 55,333 came from Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua, and 56,979 were from Mexico or the countries of the Northern Triangle of Central America.