Record 170,000 Colombians apprehended at US border in 2023

Travelers pass through Bogotá's El Dorado airport.
Travelers pass through Bogotá's El Dorado airport.

The number of Colombians detained at the United States border has reached unprecedented levels, with 170,000 individuals apprehended in 2023, marking a concerning 30% surge compared to the previous year, according to data released by the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The alarming increase reveals the challenges faced by authorities in managing the escalating migratory crisis throughout the hemisphere.

The figures, detailed in the most recent report from the U.S. Border Protection department, shows the acceleration in the influx of Colombian nationals attempting to enter the U.S illegally. This surge has positioned Colombia as the sixth country with the highest number of undocumented individuals detained. Throughout 2023, the CBP made over 3.2 million detentions, representing also a significant 20% uptick from the previous year, and setting a new record in border security apprehensions.

The statistics encompass arrivals via air, land, and sea. The escalating situation prompted the Colombian Ombudsman and President of the Inter-American Ombudsperson Federation, Carlos Camargo Assis, to request a meeting with the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. The aim is to explore potential solutions and collaborative efforts to address the complex migratory crisis that not only affects the U.S. border but also places strain on the countries in the region serving as transit points for undocumented migrants.

The CBP data also positions Colombia in the fifth spot among neighboring countries in terms of detentions, with Mexico leading the list at 735,000 citizens arrested. Guatemala, Honduras, and Cuba follow suit with also high numbers. The impact of this surge, however, is not limited to the U.S’s southern border, but with international travel patterns involving Colombians. According to data from the Civil Aeronautics Authority, air routes connecting Colombia with Spain, Panama, United States, Mexico, Peru, Chile, and Ecuador, are experiencing high passenger load factors.  The Bogotá – Madrid route was most in demand, moving more than 1 million passengers between January and November this year, and 21% increase compared to the same period last year.

The second international route with the highest number of passengers was Bogotá – Panama, with 754,257 travelers. This direct route decreased by 1% compared to the 765,555 passengers over the previous year. The third most frequented destination for Colombians was Miami, with 730,013 travelers between January and December. Unlike stateside route saw an 11% increase in the number of passengers.