Border Chaos Gets Worse, and Will Get Worse Yet

Apprehensions exceed 204,000 in October, not counting about 64,000 “got aways”, while a judge blocks Title 42 expulsions

By Andrew R. Arthur on November 16, 2022

The humanitarian and national-security disaster at the Southwest border is just getting worse. CBP released its encounter numbers for October this week, and they reveal that Border Patrol agents apprehended more than 204,000 illegal entrants at the U.S.-Mexico line last month, the largest total there for the month in history (records go back to October 1999) and a 28 percent increase over October 2021 — the first month in a fiscal year that shattered previous annual records for apprehensions. And that doesn’t include roughly 64,000 got aways. Expect it to get worse, as a federal judge just blocked DHS from expelling illegal entrants under Title 42 (though that order is stayed until December).

October’s Apprehension Numbers in Context. To put CBP’s numbers into context, last month’s migrant apprehensions exceeded the totals for the month of October in FY 2016, FY 2017, FY 2018, FY 2019, and FY 2020 — combined.

And FY 2019 was not a banner year at the Southwest border; things were so bad there that then-DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen felt pressed to declare a “border emergency” in response to the then-wave of illegal entries.

The one bright spot (such as it was) in CBP’s October numbers was that Border Patrol apprehensions fell by just over 3,000 from September. Still, illegal entries are running high during a period of the year — between May and February — when they should be dropping, significantly. They’re not.

Mayorkas on the Hot Seat. Those numbers were released at about the same time that DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas was appearing with FBI Director Christopher Wray before the House Committee on Homeland Security, at a hearing on “Worldwide Threats to the Homeland”.

During that hearing, Rep. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.) asked Mayorkas whether he continued “to maintain that the border is secure”. Mayorkas responded: “Yes, and we are working day in and day out to enhance security”.

I have no idea who “we” refers to, but if Mayorkas is talking about the line agents at the Southwest border who are “working day in and day out” to manage the chaos, that answer is only partially true and nonresponsive — the Southwest border is not secure, not by any metric or any commonly understood sense of the term “secure”.

Mayorkas is doing little to “enhance security” at the Southwest border, aside from forcing out his CBP commissioner, Chris Magnus (whose lack of experience should have precluded him from the position in the first place) and facilitating the removal of some migrants from Cuba and Venezuela.

Wray: Border “Contributes to the Violent Crime Crisis Here”. Wray, whose 10-year term should insulate him from mundane political pressures, was more forthright. When Bishop asked the director for his opinion on the border, Wray responded:

Well, I can only speak to border security from our narrow lane . . . . What I would say is that we see significant criminal threats coming from south of the border — whether it's guns, drugs, money, violence . . . . We see transnational criminal organizations that are sending their drugs here and that are using street gangs here to distribute it. And that contributes to the violent crime crisis here.

I would like to know what the director says about the border fiasco in his more unguarded moments, but that excerpt should give you some insight. We have enough home-grown crime in the United States, and don’t need to be importing any more.

Not Counting 64,000 “Got Aways”. As bad as October’s numbers were, those 204,000-plus migrants are just the ones that we know about. According to Fox News, “multiple CBP sources” told the outlet that about 64,000 other illegal entrants successfully evaded apprehension and made their way into the United States in October — a rate of more than 2,050 “got aways” per day.

That brings the total up to 268,000 migrants — an overwhelming number, and many times more than the roughly 17,000 Border Patrol agents at the U.S.-Mexico line can deal with.

About to Get a Whole Lot Worse. That said, a couple of hundred thousand apprehensions per month will soon look like the good old days. On November 15, Judge Emmet Sullivan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued an order barring DHS from expelling illegal entrants at the Southwest border under CDC orders issued pursuant to Title 42 of the U.S. Code in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

While not a border policy per se (those CDC orders are public-health related), Title 42 is the only quasi-border policy issued under the Trump administration that Biden saw fit to keep. Even then, Biden attempted to end Title 42 on May 23, only to be enjoined in that effort by Judge Robert R. Summerhays of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana on May 20.

DOJ can seek a stay of Judge Sullivan’s order from the U.S. Circuit Court for the District of Columbia (he denied a request to stay the order himself pending appeal), and it is not clear how that order jibes with Judge Summerhays’. If Title 42 ends, however, DHS expects up to 18,000 illegal entrants per day to pour over the Southwest border.

That would be a 173 percent increase over October’s dismal numbers, and would effectively end any hope of controlling the border. In fact, it would end the border as any sort of boundary at all.

A Wake-Up Call. Many who are concerned about the state of the border likely hoped that the midterm elections would have been a wake-up call to the administration about what is transpiring at the Southwest border. Plenty of Americans cast votes for the GOP based on the issue, but with fewer than expected Democratic losses in the House and the party retaining control of the Senate, Biden asserted that he wasn’t planning on doing anything differently in the next two years.

Here are Biden’s actual statements in response to a question from Zeke Miller from the Associated Press at his November 9 press conference:

Miller: What in the next two years do you intend to do differently to change people’s opinion of the direction of the country, particularly as you contemplate a run for President in 2024?

Biden: Nothing, because they’re just finding out what we’re doing. The more they know about what we’re doing, the more support there is.

Miller’s question was not specific to the Southwest border, but I seriously doubt that the more that Americans find out about the chaos there the more that they will support it.

Biden and Congress now have to make a choice: Do they want the catastrophe unfolding at the Southwest border — which in the words of the FBI director is “contribut[ing] to the violent crime crisis here” — to continue, or do they want to enforce the law and make it stop? I’m not advising either the executive or legislative branches, but I know what my answer would be.