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Immigrants walk toward the Rio Grande to cross into Del Rio, Texas, on Sept. 23, 2021, from Ciudad Acuna, Mexico. (John Moore/Getty Images)

The U.S. Border Patrol reported more than 1.6 million encounters with migrants along the U.S.-Mexico border in the 2021 fiscal year, more than quadruple the number of the prior fiscal year and the highest annual total on record.

The number of encounters had fallen to just over 400,000 in fiscal 2020 as the coronavirus outbreak slowed migration across much of the world. But encounters at the southwest border rebounded sharply in fiscal 2021 and ultimately eclipsed the previous annual high recorded in fiscal 2000, according to recently published data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the federal agency that encompasses the Border Patrol.

Migrant encounters refer to two distinct kinds of events: expulsions, in which migrants are immediately expelled to their home country or last country of transit, and apprehensions, in…

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