Four Month Border Spike

June 10, 2021

Historic Pace Enters Third Month

A record number of people, the highest in modern data-keeping, attempted to cross the U.S. southern border last month.
Here are the latest numbers.

The Numbers: May 2021

  • Overall, 180,034 people attempted entry along the SW border – highest single-month number in approx. two decades.
  • May’s overall figures are a slight increase (less than 1%) compared to April (178,000+).
  • May’s figures reflect a 78% increase compared to February when the higher trend started, a 675% increase vs. May 2020 (w/borders closed due to COVID-19), and a 25% increase compared to May 2019 (the last record number of 144,000+ before the surge began this February).

What Happens At The Border:

When someone is “encountered” and apprehended by U.S. Customs & Border Patrol:

  • Majority Expelled: 62% of the 180,000+, or roughly 111,000 people, were expelled.
  • Some Remain: Some remain in U.S. govt. custody (such as unaccompanied minors or those wanted for crimes).
  • Released: Others are processed (information taken by the U.S. govt.) and later released on bond or parole in the U.S. (e.g., those applying for asylum).

A Notable Increase:

“The large number of expulsions during the pandemic has contributed to a larger-than-usual number of noncitizens making multiple border crossing attempts, and means total encounters somewhat overstate the number of unique individuals arriving at the border.”

CBP says 38% (roughly 4 out of 10) people apprehended at the U.S. border had *at least one* previous encounter within the past year. This is *more than double* the average number of people attempting to cross the border after a previous attempt compared to 2014 to 2019.

A Notable Decline:

The number of unaccompanied minors (those 17 and younger traveling without a parent or legal guardian) declined compared to previous months, but is still a 19% increase from the last record number in May 2019.

“CBP Announces May 2021 Operational Update” –

“Southwest Land Border Encounters” –

Southwest Border Migration Fiscal Year 2019 –

April Border Data –

March Border Data –

by Jenna Lee,