Despite a decline of more than 60% over the last four months, the number of unauthorized migrants stopped at the southern border reached nearly 1 million in the 2019 fiscal year — the most recorded since at least 2014.
“These are numbers that no immigration system in the world is designed to handle — including ours,” Mark Morgan, the acting head of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, told reporters in the White House briefing room on Tuesday.
More than 52,000 migrants were stopped at the U.S. southern border in September, Morgan added. That pushed the 2019 total to more than 975,000, according to CBP data. The numbers include migrants and asylum seekers denied entry after attempting to cross legally through ports of entry.
It’s important to note though, previous administrations focused their CBP data on those apprehended at the border between points of entry, not those who were denied entry at legal points of entry based on missing or inaccurate documentation.
The Trump administration has attempted a variety of tactics to put a hard stop on unauthorized crossings while also restricting options for legal entry. Court challenges from advocacy groups have disrupted many of these policy changes, but the executive branch maintains far-reaching powers at the border because the Justice Department is responsible for running the asylum adjudication process.
The Trump administration’s ban on asylum seekers from countries other than Mexico has been partially blocked and reinstated multiple times by federal courts. The vast majority of arrivals over the past year came from Central American countries that lack robust systems for processing asylum seekers — Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, the data shows.