Detentions of migrants at the US-Mexico border decreased by 50% in January compared to the previous month


Detentions for illegal border crossings at the United States-Mexico border decreased by 50% in January compared to the record highs of December, marking the third month with the lowest number of arrests during President Joe Biden's term, authorities reported on Tuesday.

Even if it turns out to be temporary, the significant decline is good news for the White House as migration becomes one of the most critical issues in this year's presidential elections. Polls show that it is the top concern among many Republican voters in the primaries.

The figures are released as the U.S. House of Representatives approved the initiation of an impeachment process against Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas for his management at the border.

Seasonal decline and intensified control measures by the United States and its allies have caused this sharp decrease, stated Troy Miller, Acting Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). U.S. authorities have repeatedly praised Mexico for the restrictions it implemented in late December.

In total, Border Patrol agents made 124,220 arrests in January, compared to 249,735 in December, the highest monthly figure on record. Arrests of Venezuelans decreased by 91%, from 46,920 in December to 4,422 in the first month of 2024.

Detention figures vary, and the decline in January could be temporary. Panama reported that 36,000 migrants crossed the Darien region in January, an increase of 46% from December. Most people crossing the Panamanian jungle are Venezuelans heading to the United States, with significant numbers of individuals from Haiti, China, Ecuador, and Colombia.

"We continue to have serious problems at our border that exceed the capacity of the migration system," said Miller.

Tucson, Arizona, once again had the highest activity in illegal crossings, with 50,565 detentions, a 37% decrease from December, followed by San Diego. Arrests in the Del Rio sector of the Border Patrol, which includes the city of Eagle Pass —a focal point for Texas Governor Greg Abbott's border control efforts—, fell 76% compared to December to 16,712, the lowest figure since December 2021. Detentions in the Rio Grande Valley, Texas, decreased by 60% to 7,340, the lowest since July 2020.

The only months in Biden's presidency with fewer arrests were June 2023, after asylum restrictions implemented due to the coronavirus pandemic were lifted, and February 2021, his first full month in office.

In an interview with The Associated Press in January, Mayorkas stated that Mexico's migration agency did not have the funds in December to implement measures to reduce migration. However, once that was corrected, there was an immediate and substantial drop in the number of migrants encountered at the southern border.

When including migrants allowed to enter the United States legally, the total encounters were 176,205 in January, after surpassing 300,000 for the first time in December. U.S. authorities admitted about 45,000 people at the Mexico border crossings in January through an online appointment system called CBP One, bringing the total to 459,118 since the app was adopted a year ago.