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Number of migrants crossing border hits another record, with surges in migration by nationalities once rarely seen

The number from countries like India, Turkey and Russia is up, while the number from Central America, a traditional source of migrants, is down.
Immigrants wait in line to be processed by the U.S. Border Patrol after crossing through a gap in the U.S.-Mexico border barrier in Yuma, Ariz. on May 21, 2022.
Immigrants wait in line to be processed by the U.S. Border Patrol after crossing through a gap in the U.S.-Mexico border barrier in Yuma, Ariz., on May 21, 2022.Mario Tama / Getty Images file

The number of undocumented immigrant crossings at the southwest border once again broke records in May, prompted in large part by surges in migration by nationalities that were previously rarely found at the U.S.-Mexico border, according to Customs and Border Protection data obtained by NBC News. 

CBP stopped migrants at the southwest border of the U.S. more than 239,000 times in May, though this includes migrants who attempted to cross more than once. The number of individual migrants who attempted to cross the border was 157,555, still up by 2% over April’s previous record high. 

The number of border crossers from India, Turkey, Russia, Haiti, Brazil, Colombia and Nicaragua increased in part because it is harder for border agents to subject some of those nationalities to the Covid-19 border restrictions known as Title 42 that let the U.S. quickly send migrants back to their home countries. India, Russia and the other home countries of these migrants are reluctant to accept the migrants back. As a result, the data shows that most are allowed into the U.S. to pursue their immigration claims. 

Colombians, for example, accounted for nearly 20,000 border crossings in May, a sharp increase from the 821 Colombians who crossed in May 2021. Only 134 of the nearly 20,000 Colombians who crossed the border in May were subjected to Title 42. 

A Colombian woman who referred to herself as Jemena, but would not reveal her full name, told NBC News that she recently emigrated to Texas despite Title 42 being in place. She said she fled the country after gangs threatened her 11-year-old son and “disappeared” her husband. She said she was aware there was a possibility she could be expelled after her long journey, but that it was “worth the risk.”

The percentage of Haitian migrants expelled because of Title 42 was also low in May. However, U.S. flights returning Haitian nationals to their home country have increased in the first part of June, and U.S. officials at the border expect the flights to deter more Haitians from making the journey. 

Many of the Haitians are coming to the U.S. from third countries like Brazil, where they sought work after the 2010 earthquake only to lose their livelihood during the Covid pandemic, according to U.S. officials. When those people are deported to Haiti, they are landing in a country they have not known in over a decade. 

Meanwhile, migrants from the Central American countries that for the last decade fueled the majority of migration across the southern border have fallen because of Title 42. Sixty percent of migrants from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras were stopped from entering the U.S. under the Covid restrictions. 

A federal judge in Louisiana has placed a temporary block on the lifting of Title 42, saying the Biden administration did not properly allow states that would be affected by the change to weigh in before it tried to end the policy on May 23.