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UAC and Family Apprehensions: Fiscal Year Ends in Surge

By Lazaro Zamora

Monday, November 9, 2015

Key takeaways:

  • Almost 4,500 unaccompanied children (UC) were apprehended in September—nearly double the amount apprehended September 2014. In an increase from August, 5,273 individuals in family units were also apprehended in September.
  • UC and family unit apprehensions increased by 25 percent since June. In 2014, apprehensions decreased between June and August. This delayed spike could be due to Mexican enforcement efforts.
  • Still, total apprehensions for FY 2015 represent a 42 percent decrease from last year.

Last week, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) released its monthly update on the number of unaccompanied children (UC) and family units apprehended at the United States-Mexico border, closing out the fiscal year (FY). While the total number of UC and family apprehensions are below last year’s total, CBP statistics have shown an increase in the number of monthly apprehensions since June.

Unaccompanied Children

About 4,476 UC were apprehended in September—nearly double the amount of apprehensions during the same month last year and the second highest monthly number of apprehensions this year. It’s only the second time FY 2015 UC apprehensions have been higher during any one-month period compared to the same period in 2014 (Figure 1), when a record number of children and families arrived at the United States-Mexico border, mostly from Central America. Monthly apprehensions this year have also surpassed FY 2013 levels since May. The number of UC apprehended has increased from 3,750 apprehensions in June.

Monthly apprehensions of unaccompanied children

Family Units

Similarly, monthly family unit apprehension numbers have increased since June, surpassing FY 2014 levels for August and September (Figure 2). Last month, about 5,273 individuals in family units were apprehended, up from about 4,000 in June. The September FY 2015 number is more than double the number apprehended during the same month in FY 2014.

Monthly apprehensions of individuals in family units.

Total Annual Apprehensions

Overall, however, total apprehensions for FY 2015 represent a 42 percent decrease from last year’s record surge. While slightly higher than FY 2013, UC apprehensions have declined from 68,541 in FY 2014 to 39,970 in FY 2015 (Figure 3). Overall family unit apprehensions this year are much higher than FY 2013 or FY 2012 levels, but below FY 2014. Apprehensions of individuals in family units decreased by 42 percent from over 68,445 to nearly 39,838.

Annual apprehensions for unaccompanied children and family units (FY2012-2015)

Monthly apprehension data (Figures 1 and 2) reveal that migration patterns in FY 2015 followed very different trends than they have in previous years. Last year, for example, UC and family unit apprehensions spiked in late spring and early summer but sharply decreased in July and August. This year, UC and family unit apprehensions have increased by 25 percent since June. After the August increase in apprehensions, the White House acknowledged that the increase was “surprising” and “concerning” for the administration, particularly because apprehensions usually begin to decrease in August. In fact, except for a small downturn between May and June this year for UC, apprehensions for both groups have been steadily increasing since January 2015.

It is still too soon to tell whether the uptick in the past months is a sign of further increases to come or an unseasonable fluke. One possible explanation could be the stepped up enforcement efforts that Mexico has undertaken, which likely diverted migrants from faster, more traditional routes north and will be further discussed in a future blog. However, the number of Central American children and families that continue to migrate north will remain a concern for both governments.

KEYWORDS: CENTRAL AMERICAN MIGRANTS, MEXICO, U.S. CUSTOMS AND BORDER PROTECTION, UNACCOMPANIED CHILDREN, WHITE HOUSE