CBP Southern Border Arrests Hit Record Levels in April; Number of Unaccompanied Minors Down

May 12, 2021 Updated: May 12, 2021

Arrests and detentions at the U.S.–Mexico border hit record levels in April, although fewer unaccompanied minors entered the United States illegally, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) data published on May 11.

Immigration arrests and detentions at the southern border last month rose by 3 percent from March, to 178,622—the highest one-month total in 20 years, CBP data show. In contrast, the number of teens and children arriving unaccompanied last month declined by about 9 percent from March, to 13,962.

“CBP continues to see a large influx of illegal migration along the southwest border,” CBP Senior Official Performing the Duties of Commissioner Troy Miller said in a statement.

“In order to disrupt criminal organizations that have little regard for human life, CBP is leading the way alongside external law enforcement partners through Operational Sentinel. Day after day, CBP rescues migrants abandoned in harsh terrain, left for dead with no food or water. CBP is committed to enhancing the security of the U.S. border and helping save the lives of vulnerable migrants.”

Last month’s figures mark the first month since President Joe Biden took office that the CBP didn’t record a major month-on-month jump in the number of border arrests and detentions, despite reaching record levels.

“The longer the president maintains his reckless immigration policies, the worse this crisis at our border will get,” Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said on Twitter in response to the latest CBP data.

Twenty Republican governors from states including South Dakota, Georgia, Iowa, Nebraska, and New Hampshire wrote a letter (pdf) to Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris on May 11, urging the administration to address the crisis at the border.

“The crisis is too big to ignore and is now spilling over the border states into all of our states,” the governors wrote.

“At a time when our country is trying to recover from a once-in-a-generation pandemic, the last thing we need is a self-created crisis that exploits families, undermines public safety, and threatens our national security. We urge you to take action to end the humanitarian crisis and secure our southern border immediately.”

While the Biden administration has called the unprecedented surge in numbers a “challenge,” neither the president nor the vice president has visited the border.

On April 25, when a reporter asked Harris why she hasn’t visited the southern border, she replied, “I’m not going to play political games.”

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on May 4, “After coming into office, our administration immediately jumped into action to address the influx of migrants at the border—something that began during and was exacerbated by the Trump administration.”

Charlotte Cuthbertson contributed to this report.