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A Close Look at the Geography of Border Patrol Arrests: TRAC

August 15, 2023 (1 min read)

TRAC, Aug. 15, 2023

"The Southwest Border is often represented as a single, uniform line separating the United States and Mexico. But at nearly 2,000 miles, touching four U.S. states and six Mexican states, and crossing multiple terrains and ecosystems, this representation of the border can obscure the geographically-specific trends in the number and nationality of migrants arrested by Border Patrol in each of the agency’s nine sectors.

This report examines nearly fifteen years of data on Border Patrol arrests to emphasize two significant trends that shape how the public understands the border and border enforcement. First, whereas the San Diego and Tucson sectors fifteen years ago were the busiest sectors for Border Patrol arrests, these two sectors have been largely supplanted by sectors in Texas as well as the relatively narrow Yuma sector in terms of percent of arrests—suggesting, in part, a significant shift in where migrants are crossing. Second, although the historical framework for immigration enforcement along the Southwest Border was geared towards Mexican nationals, the past decade has seen considerable diversification of who Border Patrol is encountering, beginning with Central American migrants and expanding recently to even more nationalities throughout Latin America, the Caribbean, and beyond.

Due to CBP’s delays in processing TRAC’s FOIA requests for records, the data in this report are complete through the end of July 2022. However, the historical trends presented in this report provide a data-driven perspective that reinforces on-the-ground reporting and lays the groundwork for further analysis when CBP eventually responds with updated records."