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SAN DIEGO (AP) – The number of children traveling alone apprehended by U.S. immigration authorities at the Mexican border likely hit an all-time high in July, and the number of people who came into families likely hit its second highest Protocol, a US official said Monday, citing preliminary government figures.
The sharp climbs from June onwards were noticeable as crossings usually slowed down during the stifling – and sometimes deadly – summer heat.
US authorities likely admitted more than 19,000 unaccompanied children in July, surpassing the previous high of 18,877 in March, according to David Shahoulian, assistant secretary of border and immigration policy for the Department of Homeland Security. The June total was 15,253.
The number of people encountered in families in July is estimated at around 80,000, Shahoulian said. That’s less than the all-time high of 88,857 in May 2019, but up from 55,805 in June.
In total, US authorities stopped migrants at the border about 210,000 times in July, up from 188,829 in June and the highest level in more than 20 years. But the figures are not directly comparable, because many people repeatedly come under a pandemic-related ban, which immediately expels people from the country without giving them the opportunity to apply for asylum, but has no legal consequences.
Activities focused primarily on the Del Rio and Rio Grande Valley sectors of the Border Patrol in South Texas.
The government’s revelations were filed in court hours after immigrant advocacy groups resumed litigation to end the government’s authority to evict families at the border for preventing the coronavirus from spreading.
On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention renewed these emergency powers, known as Title 42, named after a 1944 Public Health Act. The Homeland Security Department said it will continue to enforce the asylum ban for single adults and families despite mounting pressure from immigrant-friendly groups that it is not justified on public health grounds. Children traveling alone are excluded.
“Title 42 is not an immigration agency, but a public health agency, and its continued use is dictated by the CDC and regulated through the CDC’s analysis of public health factors,” the department said in a statement.
The final number of July border arrests is not expected for a few days, but the preliminary numbers are usually pretty close. In the first 29 days of July, authorities met an average of 6,779 people a day, including 616 unaccompanied children and 2,583 coming into families, Shahoulian said.
The American Civil Liberties Union and other advocacy groups announced Monday that they are ending settlement talks with the Biden administration over their calls for the pandemic-related ban on asylum seekers to be lifted.
The impasse continues a lawsuit before US District Judge Emmet Sullivan in Washington.
“We are deeply disappointed that the Biden government has given up its promise of fair and humane treatment for families looking for safety and leaves us with no choice but to reopen the litigation,” said Neela Chakravartula, executive attorney for the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies.
Since the end of March, the ACLU has been working with lawyers to select vulnerable migrants stuck in Mexico so that the US government can apply for asylum. ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt said the exemptions would continue for a week.
“Seven months of waiting for the Biden government to finish Title 42 is more than enough,” said Gelernt.
The breakdown reflects growing tensions between supporters and the administration over the use of expulsions and the government’s decision last week to resume accelerated family deportation flights to Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras.
Last week, the International Rescue Committee and HIAS also announced that they are ceasing efforts to help the administration select asylum seekers to be exempted from the pandemic ban. The groups of asylum seekers had worked in parallel with the ACLU to identify vulnerable migrants stuck in Mexico.
The CDC said Monday that the ban would remain in place until its director “determines that the threat of further introduction of COVID-19 into the United States by covered non-nationals no longer poses a serious public health hazard.”
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