EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Border agents are seeing the first consistent uptick in unauthorized migration since the number of encounters plummeted in early January in West Texas and New Mexico.

January closed with an average of 930 daily encounters in the El Paso Sector compared to 1,798 for the month of December. That was when tens of thousands of migrants from Latin America and elsewhere approached the border in anticipation of the end of Title 42 expulsions.

Encounters dropped dramatically first after the Supreme Court put the Dec. 27 termination of Title 42 on hold possibly through June. On Jan. 5, the Biden administration placed Haitians, Cubans and Nicaraguans on a fast track for expulsion if they did not apply for asylum remotely, an action that further discouraged unauthorized crossings.

But as of Tuesday, daily migrant apprehensions in the El Paso Sector are up to 1,100 – a nearly 20 percent increase. The number of migrants in U.S. Customs and Border Protection custody was up to 2,352 on Tuesday when exactly a month ago CBP processing facilities only held 978 people, according to the City of El Paso’s Migrant Dashboard.

“This increase in daily migrant encounters has led to an increase in migrants held in custody at the Central Processing Center. Within the last seven days, the sector has averaged 1,799 migrants in custody daily,” the Border Patrol said in an email to Border Report.

City of El Paso’s migrant dashboard total on Jan. 7, 2023 (City of El Paso)
The numbers as of Feb. 7, 2023

Sources said border agents are seeing more Mexican nationals coming across the border illegally and trying to evade apprehension.

That would be in line with the cyclical traffic of Mexican and Central American citizens coming to look for jobs in the agriculture and construction industry, said Victor M. Manjarrez Jr., director of the University of Texas at El Paso’s Center for Law and Human Behavior.

“If it’s trending up, what are the nationalities? If there’s an increase and it’s Mexican nationals, I would say that is more of a seasonal increase. If it’s the same mix we saw before, then it’s not,” Manjarrez said. “If it’s Mexicans, that really follows the trend of seasonal (migration) you begin to see in late January and early February for certain industries” in the United States.

The agricultural industry generates 21.1 million jobs, many of them seasonal in nature, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That includes hundreds of thousands of jobs on farms. The U.S. government has a program called H-2A which helps employers fill jobs nobody else wants by bringing in foreign seasonal workers for planting, cultivating and harvesting crops. The Department of Labor in 2021 certified 317,000 farm jobs under the H-2A visa program.

Construction also tends to be a seasonal industry in northern states where the weather does not allow year-round construction.

The Border Patrol said it continues its “decompression” efforts to reduce the number of foreign nationals in custody in the El Paso Sector. This includes flights taking migrants apprehended here to other sectors for processing and working with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Enforcement and Removal Operations (ERO) to ensure there is no overcrowding.

Migrant apprehensions in December 2022, by sector. (CBP graphic)

ICE supervises migrant detention facilities; ERO removes non-citizens who are subject to a final order of removal or have chosen to voluntarily depart the country.

The Border Patrol said it continues to expel migrants under the Title 42 public health order and is using Title 8 proceedings to also remove apprehended migrants deemed to have no legal basis to remain in the United States.