Newly released data show that migrants were stopped 180,034 times along the U.S. southern border last month — nearly eight times the total during May 2020 and among the highest monthly totals in recent years.
That brought total apprehensions for the year to 711,784, nearly five times the total during the same period last year, though direct comparisons are difficult because of a policy implemented early in the pandemic that dramatically increased the number of people who have been caught multiple times.
Since March 2020, the government has summarily expelled migrants to Mexico using an obscure 1944 public health law; many immediately try crossing again.
The recent increase in crossings has come at a tragic price: Between October and the end of April, at least 148 migrants have died along the border, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
In the Rio Grande Valley, where there were 50,793 apprehensions last month — up from 3,698 in May 2020 — Border Patrol agents respond to about one fatality a week.
Most of the migrants drowned in the river and nearby canals or got lost on ranches and died of exposure and dehydration as they attempted to travel deeper into Texas, Border Patrol agents said.
Gary Coronado has been a staff photographer for the Los Angeles Times since 2016. He is a 2007 Pulitzer Prize finalist in feature photography for images of Central Americans risking life and limb as they jump aboard the trains from southern Mexico bound for the United States and a 2005 Pulitzer Prize finalist in breaking news photography for team coverage of hurricanes. He began freelancing for the Orange County Register and relocated to south Florida in 2001, when he was awarded a fellowship through the Freedom Forum. Coronado grew up in Southern California and graduated from USC.