Homeland Security set a new monthly high in July for illegal immigrants caught and released during the southern border surge with nearly 60,000 people turned loose into communities, according to new numbers the department released last week.
The staggering figure is more than double the number of migrants Homeland Security actually detained. Meanwhile, the number of people put through expedited removal — an abbreviated deportation process — dropped in July, even as the border was seeing a 21-year record high in illegal crossings.
The detention and release numbers were tucked inside a grim border report Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas’ department delivered to the country on Thursday. Mr. Mayorkas called the surge “unprecedented.”
Overall, agents nabbed 199,777 people jumping the border, and Border Patrol figures suggest at least 35,000 more snuck in without getting caught.
Customs and Border Protection officers encountered another 12,895 people who tried to enter without permission through border crossings.
July set an all-time monthly record for unaccompanied juveniles at 18,962, topping the previous high, also set under President Biden, in March.
And the demographics are rapidly changing, too, with people increasingly coming from countries beyond the four — Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala — that have dominated the illegal flow for the past decade.
Of the 82,966 people caught in July that were traveling as families — at least one parent and one child — 30,592 were from countries outside of Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala. That is likely a record.
And 1,138 of the unaccompanied juveniles who jumped the border were also from elsewhere.
Biden administration officials sought to put a brighter face on the numbers.
Acting CBP Commissioner Troy Miller said legal cross-border commercial traffic is bouncing back from its pandemic low point.
CBP also said the surge of families still isn’t as bad as it was at this point in 2019, and that May 2019 is still the worst month on record, topping this July.
But when the unaccompanied juveniles are added to the families, July actually did set an all-time record.
The surge of children and families explains why July also set a new high for catch-and-release, said Brandon Judd, president of the National Border Patrol Council.
“What we were seeing in April, May we were seeing single adults. Now what we’re seeing is we’re seeing family units again,” Mr. Judd said.
Homeland Security is scrambling for new solutions — as long as they don’t appear to be a return to the policies that worked during the Trump era.
CBP said it’s begun a new operation, dubbed Repeat Offender, to bring criminal charges against migrants who have been previously deported and who try to sneak back in. CBP said it’s also looking to use expedited removal authority, a speedy deportation process, to oust people it can’t immediately expel under its pandemic border shutdown powers.
But even there, the use of expedited removal actually dropped 15% from June to July.
As for catch-and-release policy, the Border Patrol recorded 59,691 instances in July. That’s compared to just 27,366 migrants who were caught and detained.
During the same month in 2020, under the Trump administration, just seven migrants were caught and released.