CBP has released its latest numbers on alien encounters at the Southwest border in June. Consistent with seasonal patterns in recent years, Border Patrol apprehensions dropped slightly from May, but still the nearly 192,000 illegal entrants nabbed at the U.S.-Mexico line last month represent the highest number of apprehensions there of any June in history. Just 47 percent were expelled under Title 42 and nearly 80,000 migrants were released into the United States last month. Welcome to the “new normal” under a Biden administration that has abandoned deterrence as a border strategy.
Seasonal Patterns of Illegal Migration at the Southwest Border. Anyone familiar with illegal entries at the Southwest border knows that, historically, they have followed predictable patterns, rising during the milder months of February through the spring, peaking in May, and gradually declining into January, when the cycle begins anew.
In fact, that pattern was the subject of a Washington Post article published in late March 2021 by three researchers from the University of California at San Diego.
Captioned “The migrant ‘surge’ at the U.S. southern border is actually a predictable pattern”, it argued that there was, in fact, no surge in illegal entries under the nascent Biden administration. Rather, it contended increases in apprehensions simply reflected normal patterns, bolstered by the number of foreign nationals who had waited to come here during the first months of the Covid-19 pandemic.
I contested that argument at the time of publication (before the headline, which originally read, “There's no migrant 'surge' at the U.S. southern border. Here's the data.”, was amended), but the historical seasonal analysis figures therein were valid.
That seasonal surge is logical. In the depths of summer, the Southwest border is almost uniformly blistering hot, while the early winter is freezing cold. At either time, traversing the border is dangerous, and so migrants usually wait until the weather is more clement to come.
Biden Changes the Game. The problem is that Biden’s border policies changed the illegal migration game at the Southwest border, at least during his first year in office.
Border Patrol apprehensions began rising under Trump, beginning in May 2020 (the depths of the early days of the pandemic), but Biden’s inauguration gave them a big boost.
Border Patrol apprehensions at the Southwest border jumped nearly 30 percent between January and February 2021 (to 97,643, at the time the highest level for February apprehensions since 2006), and then leapt another 73 percent between February and March (to 169,216), eventually exceeding 200,000 by July 2021 (the first time that barrier had been broken since March 2000).
While there were slight declines in August and September, monthly apprehensions didn’t drop below 160,000 until October, and then only barely as agents caught more than 159,000 illegal entrants at the Southwest border that month. That surge is the reason why FY 2021 set new yearly records for apprehensions at the Southwest border.
Once again, however, apprehensions continued to buck historical trends, hitting 171,601 in December before dropping to just fewer than 148,000 in January.
Returning to a more normal pattern, illegal entries exceeded 159,000 in February, reaching nearly 211,000 in March before falling — slightly — to more than 203,400 in April. That decline did not last, and the 224,220 entrants caught in May set a record for monthly apprehensions at the Southwest border — not just for the month of May, but for any prior month in history.
Somewhat predictably, there was a decline in apprehensions between May and June, as Border Patrol stopped 191,898 illegal entrants in June. As noted, however, that is more apprehensions than in any prior month of June, meaning that while the pattern appears to have returned, it is at much higher levels than ever before.
Biden’s Policies to Blame. Why are so many aliens entering the United States illegally across the Southwest border? The answer is simple: In a break from every one of his predecessors, the 46th president has no inclination — let alone plan — to deter would-be illegal entrants. Instead, DHS now believes its duty is to facilitate the asylum applications of any foreign national in the world who can make it to U.S. soil.
In conjunction and accordance with those plans, the Biden administration released 79,652 arriving aliens (including illegal migrants) who were encountered by CBP at the Southwest border into the United States in June — at an average rate of more than 2,569 releases per day last month.
That brings the total number of arriving aliens encountered at the Southwest border and released under the Biden administration to 1,129,184 (not counting “got-aways” and unaccompanied alien children) — more people than reside in the eight smallest U.S. states and the District of Columbia. If all those aliens resided in their own city, it would be the 10th largest in the country, just behind Dallas’ population of 1.349 million.
Because Biden has no deterrence strategy, more aliens are entering the United States illegally, which strains DHS’ detention resources, resulting in tens of thousands of releases each month, which encourages more aliens to enter illegally — a vicious circle with dire consequences for border security.
Simply put: Foreign nationals enter this country illegally to live and work in the United States, a goal that Biden’s tens of thousands of monthly releases facilitates.
Consequently, expect CBP’s Southwest border encounter numbers to remain high indefinitely — either until Biden leaves office or changes his border strategy. There are no signs that the latter is going to occur, and the president has the job until noon on January 20, 2025, at the earliest. Welcome to the new normal.
Changing the Biden Border Calculus — For Better or Worse. Two external factors, however, could change this calculus, one for the better and one for the much, much worse.
If Republicans — or more border-security-minded Democrats — take control of Congress, they can attempt to change the immigration laws to bring more control to the situation at the Southwest border.
Biden could, of course, veto any such changes, but note that Bill Clinton — who had a hands-off border policy when he took office — acceded to Congress’ demands for immigration reforms in 1996.
Nothing suggests that Biden is the shrewdly calculating pol Clinton was, but to quote Bob Dylan, “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.”
Of course, if Biden either truly believes in his failing border strategy or is in thrall to the more extremist elements in his party, nothing would stop him from vetoing a GOP-penned border security bill, which Republicans would likely be unable to override with a two-thirds vote in the House and Senate.
Republicans and security-minded Democrats in Congress, however, would have another option: The “power of the purse”, that is, the legislature’s appropriations authority. Biden can’t spend a dollar without Congress’ say-so. Funding bills pass both houses of Congress by simple majorities, and the only way that the White House could block such a bill is by shutting down the government — normally a political loss.
If it were to fund higher detention levels and place spending restrictions on alien releases, Congress could force the president to adopt a deterrence strategy, or alternatively revive the Trump-era “Remain in Mexico”, under which illegal entrants were sent back across the border to await their asylum hearings.
As an aside, note that the border release numbers above were filed by DOJ in response to a district court judge’s injunction in Biden v. Texas, a challenge by plaintiff states to force the president to respond to the disaster at the border by continuing “Remain in Mexico”.
That filing alleviates (for now) my concerns that a recent Supreme Court opinion in Texas, reversing a Fifth Circuit decision that had dismissed the administration’s appeal of that district court injunction, would mean an end to those court-ordered disclosures. DOJ’s disclosures for June, however, may well be its last.
Those are the potential changes in border security for the better. One big factor that would change border security for the worse would be a stay or reversal of a district court injunction in a different case, captioned Texas v. Biden. That injunction bars the administration from lifting Covid-19 pandemic-related expulsion orders issued by the CDC under Title 42 of the U.S. Code.
Of the nearly 192,000 illegal migrants Border Patrol agents apprehended at the Southwest border in June, 47 percent (just over 90,000 aliens) were expelled under Title 42. When and if the administration is allowed to lift those orders, DHS expects up to 18,000 illegal migrants per day to come pouring over the Southwest border, nearly three times as many as arrived daily on average in June.
For now, CBP encounters at the Southwest border are settling into a new normal, following historical monthly patterns in significantly larger numbers. To understand why, look no further than the decreasing number of Title 42 expulsions and the 1.129 million-plus aliens the Biden administration has released into the United States. Depending on the mid-term elections and the end of Title 42, that new normal could get significantly better — or much, much worse.