What’s happening at the U.S.-Mexico border in 7 charts (2023)

What’s happening at the U.S.-Mexico border in 7 charts (1)

The U.S. Border Patrol reported more than 1.6 million encounters with migrants along the U.S.-Mexico border in the 2021 fiscal year, more than quadruple the number of the prior fiscal year and the highest annual total on record.

The number of encounters had fallen to just over 400,000 in fiscal 2020 as thecoronavirus outbreakslowed migrationacross much of the world.But encounters at the southwest border rebounded sharply in fiscal 2021 and ultimately eclipsed the previous annual high recorded in fiscal 2000, according to recently published data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the federal agency that encompasses the Border Patrol.

Migrant encounters refer to two distinct kinds of events: expulsions, in which migrants are immediately expelled to their home country or last country of transit, and apprehensions, in which migrants are detained in the United States, at least temporarily.

Since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, most encounters have resulted in expulsion from the U.S., unlike before the pandemic, when the vast majority ended in apprehension instead. The Trump administration began expelling migrants in March 2020 under a public health order aimed at limiting the spread of COVID-19. The Biden administration has continued to expel migrants under the same order.

Below is a closer look at the shifting dynamics at the southwest border, based on the recent CBP statistics. Most of these statistics refer to federal fiscal years, which run from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30, as opposed to calendar years. It’s also important to note that encounters refer to events, not people, and that some migrants are encountered more than once.

This Pew Research Center analysis examineschanging migration patterns at the U.S.-Mexico border, based on currentandhistoricaldata from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The analysis is based on migrant encounters – a common but only partial indicator of how many people enter the United States illegally in a given year.

Encounters refer to two distinct kinds of events: expulsions, in which migrants are immediately expelled to their home country or last country of transit, and apprehensions, in which migrants are detained in the U.S., at least temporarily. Since March 2020, encounter statistics have included expulsions carried out under Title 42, apublic health order aimed at limiting the spread of COVID-19. Encounter statistics prior to March 2020 include apprehensions only.

It is important to note that encounters refer to events, not people, and that some migrants are encountered more than once. In fact, repeat border crossers have accounted for a sizable proportion of total encounters in recent years. As a result, the number of encounters overstates the number of distinct individuals involved.

(Video) Over 2 million migrants apprehended at U.S. border since August 2021, officials say

Most of the findings in this analysis refer to federal fiscal years, which run from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30, as opposed to calendar years. Due to data limitations, not all findings in this analysis cover the same time period. CBP statistics on total southwest border encounters are available for the 1960-2021 period, for example, while statistics on the demographic profile of those being encountered are available only for the 2013-2021 period.

This analysis only includes encounters reported by the U.S. Border Patrol. It excludes encounters reported by the Office of Field Operations.

Southwest border encounters increased to their highest recorded level in fiscal 2021. The Border Patrol reported 1,659,206 encounters with migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border last fiscal year, narrowly exceeding the prior highs of 1,643,679 in 2000 and 1,615,844 in 1986.

The large number of encounters in fiscal 2021 dwarfed the total during the last major wave of migration at the southwest border, which occurred in fiscal 2019. The Border Patrol recorded 851,508 encounters that year.

While the number of encounters was the highest on record last fiscal year, the number of individuals encountered was considerably lower. That’s because more than a quarter of all migrant encounters at U.S. borders in both fiscal 2021 and fiscal 2020 (27% and 26%, respectively) involved repeat crossers, according to CBP statistics. By comparison, the proportion of repeat border crossers was much lower in the 2019 fiscal year (7%), before the Border Patrol began regularly expelling migrants during the coronavirus outbreak. (These recidivism statistics include encounters at all U.S. borders. While separate statistics for only the U.S.-Mexico border are not available, encounters at the southwest border have accounted for more than 97% of total encounters in recent years.)

A record number of encounters in fiscal 2021 involved people from countries other than Mexico. Mexico was the single most common origin country for migrants encountered at the border in fiscal 2021. The Border Patrol reported 608,037 encounters with Mexican nationals last year, accounting for 37% of the total. The remaining 1,051,169 encounters, or 63%, involved people from countries other than Mexico – by far the highest total for non-Mexican nationals in CBP records dating back to 2000.

Most of the encounters with non-Mexicans in fiscal 2021 involved people from the Northern Triangle countries of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. There were 308,931 encounters with people from Honduras last fiscal year (representing 19% of all encounters), 279,033 with people from Guatemala (17%) and 95,930 with people from El Salvador (6%). The Northern Triangle region has been a major source of migration at the U.S-Mexico border in recent years.

Encounters soared in fiscal 2021 for some countries that have not historically been common sources of migration at the U.S.-Mexico border. The number of encounters involving people from Ecuador, for example, increased more than eightfold, from 11,861 in fiscal 2020 to 95,692 in fiscal 2021. There were also stark increases in encounters involving people from Brazil (from 6,946 to 56,735), Nicaragua (from 2,123 to 49,841), Venezuela (from 1,227 to 47,752), Haiti (from 4,395 to 45,532) and Cuba (from 9,822 to 38,139).

(Video) Record surge in migrants attempting to cross US-Mexico border - BBC News

Economic, social and political instability in some of these countries likely played a role in the spike in encounters at the U.S.-Mexico border last fiscal year. In Ecuador, widespread economic problems and the COVID-19 pandemic have led many migrants to make the journey north. Haiti, meanwhile, has faced a number of challenges in recent years, ranging from natural disasters to the assassination of its president in July.

Related: Biden administration widens scope of Temporary Protected Status for immigrants

The increase in encounters at the U.S.-Mexico border didn’t just involve people from Latin America or the Caribbean region. The number of encounters involving people from Romania rose from 266 in fiscal 2020 to 4,029 in fiscal 2021, while the number involving people from Turkey increased from 67 to 1,366.

Migrant encounters increased across demographic groups in fiscal 2021, but single adults continued to account for the large majority. Encounters with unaccompanied children rose from 30,557 in fiscal 2020 to 144,834 in fiscal 2021, while encounters with people traveling in families increased from 52,230 to 451,087.

By far the largest number and share of encounters involved single adults. There were 1,063,285 encounters with single adults in fiscal 2021, up from 317,864 the year before. More than six-in-ten encounters (64%) involved single adults, though that was down from 79% in fiscal 2020.

Migrant encounters more than doubled in every sector along the U.S.-Mexico border in fiscal 2021. The largest numerical increase occurred in the Rio Grande Valley sector, where there were 549,077 encounters last fiscal year, up from 90,206 the year before. But the largest proportional increase occurred in the Yuma sector, where encounters increased thirteenfold, from 8,804 in fiscal 2020 to 114,488 in fiscal 2021.

Since the coronavirus outbreak began, most migrant encounters have resulted in expulsion from the U.S., rather than apprehension within the country. In March 2020, the administration of former President Donald Trump invoked Title 42, a public health order allowing the Border Patrol to expel migrants immediately in an effort to control the domestic spread of the coronavirus. President Joe Biden’s administration has continued to expel migrants under Title 42, though to a lesser extent than the Trump administration.

(Video) Migrants Are Falling Prey To Social Media Misinformation About U.S.-Mexico Border

About two-thirds (66%) of all migrant encounters ended in expulsion between April 2020, the first full month after Title 42 was invoked, and September 2021, the end of the 2021 fiscal year. The remaining 34% resulted in apprehension. But the share of encounters resulting in expulsion has decreased under the Biden administration. In September 2021, 54% of encounters ended in expulsion, down from 74% in February 2021, the first full month after Biden took office.

Seasonal migration patterns have changed in recent years. Since 2000, border encounters have typically peaked in the spring – most often in March – before declining during the hot summer months, when migration journeys become more perilous. But the pattern has changed since 2013, with the annual peak occurring in months other than March. July was the peak month in fiscal 2021, with the number of encounters (200,658) far exceeding the total recorded in March (169,216), even though temperatures in July are typically much higher.

Note: This is an update of a post originally published on April 10, 2019.


Unauthorized ImmigrationImmigration TrendsImmigrant Populations

What’s happening at the U.S.-Mexico border in 7 charts (9)

John Gramlich is a senior writer/editor at Pew Research Center.


Alissa Scheller is an information graphics designer at Pew Research Center.


(Video) Exploring how and why so many migrants are crossing the southern border
(Video) Trump's Border Wall Has Left a Complicated Legacy


How many immigrants have come to the US in 2022? ›

More than 224,000 persons naturalized in FY 2022 Q2 (see Table 3), a 12 percent increase from FY 2021 Q2, when almost 200,000 persons naturalized. These 2022 data for Q2 represent a return to pre-COVID levels.

Where are most of the immigrants at the border coming from? ›

What we're seeing: There's a big change in who's coming to the US-Mexico border. A large number of migrants from Mexico and the Northern Triangle are still making the journey.

Can a US citizen cross the Mexican border? ›

U.S. citizens must present a valid U.S. passport book or card, in addition to an entry permit (Forma Migratoria Multiple or FMM) issued by Instituto Nacional de Migración (INM). Travelers should be sure to enter Mexico with valid proof of automobile registration, even if remaining in the border zone.

How many illegal immigrants cross the southern border every day? ›

Statistics on the Crisis at the Southern Border:

There have been 18 consecutive months of over 150,000 illegal border crossings. Over 10,000 pounds of deadly fentanyl has been seized at the border this year. This month, CBP is encountering up to 8,000 illegal immigrants each day.

What are the 4 types of immigrants? ›

In U.S. immigration, there are four main categories of immigration status, including U.S. citizens, permanent or conditional residents, non-immigrants, and undocumented immigrants.

How many legal immigrants Does the US accept each year? ›

The body of law governing U.S. immigration policy is called the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). The INA allows the United States to grant up to 675,000 permanent immigrant visas each year across various visa categories.

What happens if you get caught crossing the border twice? ›

Second Punishment for Crossing Border Illegally

The legal penalties of subsequent reentry include: A civil penalty fine. Imprisonment for up to two years. Both fines and imprisonment.

What happens if you get turned away at the border? ›

After the denial of entry, the American border will often contact the RCMP and let them know the whereabouts of the wanted person. If the warrant is stateside, instead of receiving a refusal of entry the individual will likely be arrested on the spot.

How many Mexicans immigrate to the US? ›

Emigration from Mexico
Regions with significant populations
United States31,798,258
45 more rows

Can I use Real ID to cross Mexico border? ›

Q: Can I use my REAL ID card to cross the border into Canada and Mexico and for international travel? No. REAL ID cards cannot be used for border crossings into Canada, Mexico or other international travel.

What do US immigration officers see on their screen? ›

Any criminal history. Your citizenship status. Family members and relatives. Various types of tax information such as any Delinquent Tax payments.

Is it safe to go to Mexico? ›

Mexico has a high risk of violent crime, such as murder, armed robbery, sexual assault and kidnapping. Don't travel at night outside major cities. Kidnapping and extortion are serious risks. Don't draw attention to your money or business affairs.

How many illegals are in Texas? ›

Profile of the Unauthorized Population: Texas
DemographicsEstimate% of Total
Less than 5358,00021%
5 to 9268,00015%
10 to 14325,00019%
15 to 19387,00022%
97 more rows

Where do most immigrants move to? ›

Which U.S. states have the largest numbers of immigrants? The U.S. states with the most immigrants in 2019 were California (10.6 million), Texas (5 million), Florida (4.5 million), New York (4.4 million), and New Jersey (2.1 million).

Where do most of the immigrants in the United States come from? ›

Origins of the U.S. immigrant population, 1960–2016
South and East Asia4%27%
Other Latin America4%25%

Am I an immigrant if I was born here? ›

Simply put, an immigrant is a person living in a country other than that of his or her birth.

What is considered an illegal immigrant? ›

Legal immigrants are foreign-born people legally admitted to the U.S. Undocumented immigrants, also called illegal aliens, are foreign-born people who do not possess a valid visa or other immigration documentation, because they entered the U.S. without inspection, stayed longer than their temporary visa permitted, or ...

What is E21 in green card? ›

E21 – Member of the Professions holding an Advanced Degree or an Alien of Exceptional Ability (Not seeking a National Interest Waiver) ▪ NIW – An alien applying for a National Interest Waiver who is a Member of the Professions holding an Advanced Degree or an Alien of Exceptional Ability.

Do undocumented people pay taxes? ›

Namely, that undocumented immigrants do not pay taxes, or otherwise abuse government safety nets such as Medicaid and Social Security.

Which country takes the most immigrants? ›

The United States is home to the largest number of immigrants—over 50 million—which now make up 15% of the country's population. Since 1990, the proportion of immigrants in the country has continued to rise.

How can I get green card in USA without marriage? ›

Even without marriage, you may be able to get a green card if: You are an unmarried child of a United States citizen under the age of 21. You are a parent of a citizen over the age of 21 years old. You are a widow or a widower of a United States citizen.

Can border check your phone? ›

Unlike other law enforcement, border authorities don't need a warrant to search your device. They may conduct a basic search — in which they scroll through your device inspecting texts, photos or anything else they can easily access — even if they don't suspect you of wrongdoing.

Can I get a green card if I entered illegally? ›

Illegal Entry

If you entered the United States illegally (as opposed to overstaying), you cannot apply for a green card from inside the United States.

Do they check your record at the border? ›

Yes. Every single person. Border crossing agents have instant access to the FBI criminal database and can run criminal background checks whenever they feel that a person trying to cross may be a security risk.

Can a US citizen be denied entry into the United States? ›

Can a US citizen be denied entry back into the USA? No. A US citizen has an absolute right to enter the US as far as immigration inspection is concerned.

Can a US citizen be stopped from entering the US? ›

U.S. citizens cannot be denied entry to the United States for refusing to provide passwords or unlocking devices. Refusal to do so might lead to delay, additional questioning, and/or officers seizing your device for further inspection.

Can you refuse to answer Border Patrol questions? ›

You always have the right to remain silent. However, if you don't answer questions to establish your citizenship, officials may detain you longer in order to verify your immigration status.

Which US state has the most Mexicans? ›

The state with the largest percentage of Hispanics and Latinos is New Mexico at 47.7%. The state with the largest Hispanic and Latino population overall is California with 15.6 million Hispanics and Latinos.

What US city has the most Mexicans? ›

1. New York, N.Y.
  • Hispanic Population: 2.27 million.
  • Total Population: 8.3 million.
  • Hispanic Percentage: 27.4%

Why are Americans moving to Mexico? ›

People are moving to places like Mexico where their fixed incomes stretch further because they're not paying as much for the basic necessities and their incomes are not being hit by rising costs that they cannot avoid, especially property taxes.

Can I cross the US border without a passport? ›

In the past, American and Canadian citizens were exempt from the requirement of presenting passports to enter the United States. Effective June 1, 2009, both American and Canadian citizens are required to present a WHTI-compliant document for entry into the United States.

Can I get back into the US from Mexico with an ID? ›

U.S. citizens may present a valid U.S. passport; Passport Card; enhanced driver's license; Trusted Traveler Program card (SENTRI or Global Entry); U.S. military identification card when traveling on official orders; U.S. Merchant Mariner document when traveling in conjunction with official maritime business; or Form I- ...

What is the safest route to drive through Mexico? ›

Cuota Roads Vs Libre Roads

I always recommend taking the cuota roads, but especially if you need to drive after dark. In general, these are considered the safest option when traveling around the country and often there is no other option to get to your destination.

What should you not do in an immigration interview? ›

DON'T joke around with the USCIS officer. In particular, avoid joking or sarcasm related to drug dealing, communicable diseases, bigamy, or smuggling people into the country. DON'T argue with your spouse or other family members in the middle of an interview.

Do immigration officers check Facebook? ›

They're definitely looking at social media. If you're applying for an immigration benefit, you want to make sure that your social media profile is locked up. You want to make sure that your not saying anything on there that's inconsistent with the benefit that you're asking for.

Do I have to answer border Force questions? ›

Technically no, you don't have to answer any of their questions. Of course then they don't have to let you in the country, Customs officers have a huge amount of power when you meet them at the border.

How much does a dollar cost in Mexico? ›

1 USD = 19.85 MXN - Today's Best US Dollar to Mexican Peso Exchange Rates.

Is Mexico safe right now 2022? ›

Staying safe in Mexico

“In general, travelers should avoid travel to areas unlikely to be visited by tourists. When transiting, avoid public transport and hailing taxis on the street, and use app-based services or regulated taxi stands. For drivers, Ruuska says it's best to avoid traveling overnight.

What is the safest place in Mexico? ›

Seven of the safest cities in Mexico
  1. Merida. Widely acknowledged as the safest city in Mexico (and even Latin America), your biggest safety concern in Mérida will probably be the busy traffic. ...
  2. Playa del Carmen. ...
  3. Mexico City. ...
  4. Puerto Vallarta. ...
  5. San Miguel de Allende. ...
  6. Sayulita. ...
  7. Huatulco.
15 Sept 2022

Which state has the most immigrants? ›

Foreign born population
StateTotal foreign born populationForeign born population (%)
New Jersey2,033,29222.8
New Mexico198,5229.5
New York4,447,16522.8
North Carolina824,1777.9
47 more rows

Can I hire illegals in Texas? ›

The IRCA prohibits employers from knowingly hiring undocumented workers and requires them to verify the work-authorization status of all employees at the time of hire. To verify work-authorization status, the employer uses a form called the I-9 Employment Eligibility and Verification Form (“I-9”).

What city in Texas has the most immigrants? ›

Houston is the most diverse, rapidly growing major U.S. metropolitan area, and immigration has contributed greatly to its growth and diversity.

What countries dont accept immigrants? ›

Countries With the Toughest Immigration Laws
  • The Hardest Countries to Immigrate To.
  • Saudi Arabia.
  • Kuwait.
  • Bhutan.
  • China.
  • Japan.
  • Switzerland.
  • Denmark.

Which is the hardest country to immigrate to? ›

Top 14 Hardest Countries to Immigrate To:
  • Vatican City.
  • China.
  • Japan.
  • Qatar.
  • Liechtenstein.
  • United Arab Emirates.
  • Kuwait.
  • Saudi Arabia.

What city in the US has the most immigrants? ›

The city of Hialeah comprises the highest immigrant population in the entire country. The immigrant percentage of this city is around 74.4 percent of the total population.

Who are the most educated immigrants in the US? ›

Nigerians constitute most educated group in US

There are an estimated 15 million Nigerians in all parts of the world, and according to the World Bank, the average of them holds at least a bachelor's degree with an annual median income of about $65,000.

How many immigrants does the US allow per year? ›

The INA allows the United States to grant up to 675,000 permanent immigrant visas each year across various visa categories. On top of those 675,000 visas, the INA sets no limit on the annual admission of U.S. citizens' spouses, parents, and children under the age of 21.

How many non US citizens live in the US? ›

Share this chart:
YearForeign-born population, in millions
19 more rows
20 Aug 2020

How many immigrants are coming into the US? ›

In 2019, 44.9 million immigrants (foreign-born individuals) comprised 14 percent of the national population. The United States was home to 22.0 million women, 20.4 million men, and 2.5 million children who were immigrants.
IndustryNumber of Immigrant Workers
Retail Trade2,886,515
5 more rows
21 Sept 2021

How many immigrants came to the US in July 2022? ›

The number of unique individuals encountered nationwide in July 2022 was 162,792, a one percent increase in the number of unique enforcement encounters than the prior month. In total, there were 199,976 encounters along the southwest land border in July, a four percent decrease compared to June.

Where do most of the immigrants in the United States come from 2022? ›

Mexico is the top origin country of the U.S. immigrant population. In 2018, roughly 11.2 million immigrants living in the U.S. were from there, accounting for 25% of all U.S. immigrants. The next largest origin groups were those from China (6%), India (6%), the Philippines (4%) and El Salvador (3%).

How many immigrants are in the USA? ›

How many U.S. residents are from immigrant families? Immigrants and their U.S.-born children number approximately 84.8 million people, or 26 percent of the U.S. population in the 2021 CPS, a decline of approximately 950,000 from 2020.

Which us States have the most immigrants? ›

As of 2021, 26.6 percent of California's population were born in a country other than the United States. New Jersey, New York, Florida, and Hawaii rounded out the top five states with the largest population of foreign born residents in that year. For the country as a whole, 13.6 percent of residents were foreign born.

Which country takes the most immigrants? ›

The United States is home to the largest number of immigrants—over 50 million—which now make up 15% of the country's population. Since 1990, the proportion of immigrants in the country has continued to rise.

Do undocumented people pay taxes? ›

Namely, that undocumented immigrants do not pay taxes, or otherwise abuse government safety nets such as Medicaid and Social Security.

How many immigrants came to the US in 2022 from Mexico? ›

CBP's migrant encounters hit 2 million during the first 11 months of the 2022 fiscal year. While this is a record, it includes an unusually high number of repeat crossers and migrants expelled under Title 42.

What year did most immigrants come to the US? ›

The peak year for admission of new immigrants was 1907, when approximately 1.3 million people entered the country legally. Within a decade, the outbreak of World War I (1914-1918) caused a decline in immigration.

When was the biggest immigration to the US? ›

The peak year of European immigration was in 1907, when 1,285,349 persons entered the country. By 1910, 13.5 million immigrants were living in the United States.

How many Indians stay in USA? ›

5 more rows

Is Title 42 still in effect? ›

The Biden administration set the Title 42 policy to end in May 2022, but it remains in place today under court order after litigation by state attorneys general to block the termination.

Why do many U.S. immigrants learn English? ›

Immigrants who learn English improve both their earnings and their acceptance by other Americans. Most immigrants want to learn English, and immigration advocates think it should be easier for them to do so.

Which country has the most American immigrants? ›

However, it only has the top 13 countries with the most U.S. expats.
Countries With Most American Expats.
CountryNumber of Americans (estimated)
United Kingdom171,000
10 more rows
12 Oct 2022

How many Mexicans live in the US? ›

37.24 million people

How many people have been deported from the US? ›

Bush, about 2.0 million people were deported, while between 2009 and 2016, during the Presidency of Barack Obama, about 3.2 million people were deported.
Country of originNumber of deported immigrants
1. Mexico176,968
2. Guatemala54,423
3. Honduras40,695
4. El Salvador27,180
6 more rows


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