U.S. border authorities stopped migrants more often on the southern border for a fourth straight month in May, apparently unaffected by expectations that pandemic-era limits on asylum may be lifted.
Migrants were stopped 239,416 times in May, up 2% from 235,478 in April and up 33% from 180,597 in May 2021, U.S. Customs and Border Protection said Wednesday.
Recent months are the busiest in decades, but comparisons to pre-pandemic levels are complicated because migrants expelled under a public health authority known as Title 42 face no legal consequences, encouraging repeat attempts. Authorities said 25% of encounters were with people who had been stopped at least once in the previous year, compared with 15% in the five years before COVID-19.
The Biden administration planned to end Title 42 on May 23 but a federal judge in Louisiana blocked the move three days before. Migrants have been expelled more than 2 million times without a chance to seek asylum since the rule took effect in March 2020.
More than four of 10 encounters in May were subject to the pandemic rule, nearly all single adults. Only about one of six who came in families with children under 18 were subject to Title 42. Unaccompanied children are exempt.
The increased arrivals encompassed many nationalities, even as Ukrainians all but vanished after more than 20,000 came through Mexico in April. The administration said in late April that Ukrainians who traveled through Mexico would no longer be admitted at the U.S. border.
In addition to Mexicans, Mexico takes back people from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador who are expelled under Title 42. Costs, strained diplomatic relations and other considerations make it more difficult for the U.S. to expel migrants from other countries.
Cubans, who are rarely processed under Title 42, were the second-largest nationality encountered at the border after Mexicans. There were also many arrivals from Colombia, Haiti and Nicaragua.