The number of immigrants caught crossing the southern border illegally surged 40% in June, rebounding from a coronavirus lull that had pushed traffic to its lowest level in years.
The resurgence was chiefly powered by adult migrants from Mexico, who made up nearly 80% of the flow. The number of children and parents — who made up last year’s record surge — remained relatively low, at about 10% of the number.
Mark Morgan, the acting chief of Customs and Border Protection, said the numbers weren’t a surprise, but are still “extremely concerning.”
“Therefore, it is imperative that we continue to build the border wall system and enforce CDC policies aimed at protecting the health of Americans,” he said.
The vast majority of border jumpers were quickly returned to their countries, thanks to the coronavirus public health emergency, which allows the government to expel people.
Drug seizures also rose, with cocaine up 50% in June and marijuana and fentanyl up even more. Methamphetamine seizures dropped 15%.
Illegal activity at the border has been one of the heavily watched areas as the country deals with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mr. Morgan said that some of the most troubling tactics, such as smugglers piling migrants into truck trailers, are on the increase. That’s particularly troubling as the summer months bring hotter temperatures.
In one smuggling attempt in late June, Border Patrol agents at a highway checkpoint near Laredo, Texas, rescued two undocumented immigrants who’d been sealed inside a steel compartment on a Dodge Ram pickup truck.
The migrants said they’d been inside the compartment for 40 minutes and were unable to move the whole time. One told agents he’d started to hyperventilate and began to fear he would die before he was rescued.
Both migrants said they were paying $6,000 — $1,500 up front and another $4,500 once they reached their destinations of Houston and North Carolina — to be smuggled in.
The driver in that case didn’t tell agents what he was getting paid, according to court documents. But other smugglers driving through that Laredo-area checkpoint reported getting between $1,000 and $5,000 to make the trip.
In another case at the checkpoint near Sarita, Texas, agents rescued four undocumented immigrants from the trunk of a Nissan Altima and measured the temperature at 104.9 degrees.
That driver was found with an AR-15 rifle, according to court documents, and he told agents he was stunned they bothered to arrest him.
“Well, I know of a lot of people that smuggle and get caught, and you guys just let them go like nothing,” Jahziel Trevino-Cantu told agents, according to an affidavit filed to justify smuggling charges against him.
Illegal border crossings had been artificially low, due to the coronavirus crisis. April saw the fewest people nabbed since just after President Trump took office. But the numbers shot up 36% in May and another 40% last month.
They’re still far below last year at this point, when the surge of migrant families was setting records.
In May and June of 2019, Border Patrol agents caught more than 160,000 undocumented immigrant children and parents. This year, those two months saw about 5,050 — a drop of 97%.