EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Unauthorized migration reached a 28-year high in the El Paso Sector during the recently concluded 2021 fiscal year, government figures show.

U.S. Border Patrol agents “encountered” or apprehended 193,918 foreign nationals during the 12-month period ending Sept. 30. That’s a 256.5 percent increase over the previous 12 months.

The El Paso Sector had previously seen higher numbers in 1993 when the border agents apprehended 281,781 unauthorized migrants. The all-time record for apprehensions in the region that stretches from East El Paso County to the New Mexico-Arizona state line is 312,892. That happened in 1986 – the year Congress passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act that would end up legalizing more than 3 million undocumented immigrants.

Graphic courtesy U.S. Customs and Border Protection

As in 1986 and 1993, Mexicans comprised the largest nationality when it comes to migrant encounters. However, the number of people not coming from Mexico or Central America rose considerably. Ecuadorians were the second most apprehended nationality in the region in FY 2021, federal officials said.

Nationwide, unauthorized migration reached an all-time high, with more than 1.7 million migrants apprehended at the Southwest border and 1.9 million nationwide. The Rio Grande Valley Sector of South Texas led the nation in migrant apprehensions, with 549,077 – a 508.7 percent increase over FY 2020. The Del Rio, Texas, Sector was second with 259,294 migrants and a 542.7 percent increase over 2020.

Graphic courtesy CBP

“These apprehension numbers at the Southwest border are as bad as they have ever been. Ever,” wrote Andrew R. Arthur, resident fellow in law and policy for the conservative Center for Immigration Studies. “These apprehension statistics should be a wake-up call to the Biden administration that border policy changes are needed, stat.”

The former immigration judge and assistant general counsel with the old Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) quipped that his comment assumes operational control of the Southwest border was ever a Biden administration priority. Many conservative critics blame the Biden administration for the surge, saying his immigration policies were seen as an open-borders invitation.

But U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, said the current situation at the U.S.-Mexico border has been years in the making. And it won’t be easily or immediately solved.

“Those numbers are going to continue to increase in the years to come because of the climate crisis,” she told Border Report. “I have increasingly seen and heard from migrants that they’re fleeing their homeland not just because of the traditional reasons which include persecution and violence and crime and the instability that comes with that, but there’s instability now that comes with poverty and famine that’s directly linked to the climate crisis.”

She said unauthorized migration would continue “regardless of who’s in office” if the nations of the world don’t address climate change.

Escobar also said data reported by immigration enforcement agencies shouldn’t be taken literally because repeat crossers skew the numbers. She said the migrants expelled to Mexico under public health order Title 42 try to cross again and are often caught, becoming part of the stats again.

“In El Paso, for example, about 40 percent of the numbers are the same individual trying multiple times,” she said. “Not to diminish the numbers that we’re seeing, but I think it’s important that instead of talking about 1.9 million, it’s really closer to 1.1 million because of those repeats.”