In its latest operational update, covering the final month of 2022, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) figures showed a mix of figures, with overall encounters along the border increasing even as unlawful crossings fell and migration patterns shifted overall.
Large numbers of people continued to flee Nicaragua and Cuba in December, contributing substantially to the number of migrants attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border. At the same time, the CBP reported that people from Venezuela, who had been at the core of some previous surges, arrived at far fewer numbers due to enforcement crackdowns and adjustments, which included expulsions to Mexico and more lawful pathways for their entry. Attempted Venezuelan crossings dropped from around 1,100 per day before the new processes were announced to approximately 100 per day throughout December.
“The December update shows our new border enforcement measures are working,” CBP Acting Commissioner Troy Miller said. “Even as overall encounters rose because of smugglers spreading misinformation around the court-ordered lifting of the Title 42 public health order, we continued to see a sharp decline in the number of Venezuelans unlawfully crossing our southwest border, down 82 percent from September 2022. Early data suggests the expanded measures for Cubans, Haitians, and Nicaraguans are having a similar impact, and we look forward to sharing the additional data in the next update.”
Overall, the number of unique individuals – those not encountered previously over the past year – encountered on the southwest land border reached more than 216,000, an 11 percent increase over the prior month. Of these, more than 77,000 were from Cuba or Nicaragua. Individuals encountered from Mexico and northern Central America dropped about 6 percent compared to the same time the previous year, to more than 52,700 people.
That, according to Miller, highlights a shifting pattern of migration since it means that people of Mexican and northern Central American backgrounds accounted for about 24 percent of unique encounters in December, compared to 42 percent in 2021. Patterns have shifted throughout the hemisphere, with Colombia and Peru hosting millions of Venezuelans, Brazil and Chili taking on more than 35,000 Haitians, and more.
At the U.S.-Mexico border, most encountered were single adults – about 64 percent of the total in December. Most expulsions overall (202,082) were still processed under Title 8, but 49,405 were expelled using the Title 42 public health order.
Travel, in general, was also up, by and large, over the month, be it by air or vehicle. Only commercial truck usage was down, falling about 0.7 percent compared to the same time in 2021. On a related note, in terms of trade, CBP reported processing more than $260 billion in valued goods over the month, with ocean-based trade accounting for more than 40 percent of the total import value. Of these, 310 entries valued at $59 million were pulled for further examination for violation of forced labor restrictions, while 1,501 shipments of counterfeit goods valued at more than $178 million were seized.
In terms of drugs, CBP also reported increases in seizures of cocaine by about 32, heroin by 1 percent, and fentanyl by 52 percent. Methamphetamine seizures dropped, though, by about 4 percent.
The Department of Homeland Security that oversees CBP noted that it continues to pursue a border strategy based on three concepts: surging resources; increasing efficiency; employing aggressive consequences; bolstering the capacity of NGOs while partnering with state and local partners; pursuing cartels and smugglers; and working with regional partners.