CBP Border Numbers Released: December Was Officially the Worst Month in History

Nearly 250K apprehensions at the Southwest border — and 302K total encounters

By Andrew R. Arthur on January 28, 2024

CBP finally released its statistics on Southwest border encounters in December — 11 days late, and in a Friday, January 26, late-afternoon “news dump”, as I predicted on January 18. To say they’re bad is an understatement, given that those figures reveal that last month was the worst month at the U.S.-Mexico line in history.

“Encounters” in this context is a term of art coined by DHS following the initial implementation of Title 42 in March 2020. It’s defined as the total number of aliens apprehended by Border Patrol after entering illegally plus inadmissible aliens stopped by CBP officers in the agency’s Office of Field Operations (OFO) at the ports of entry.

Border Patrol Apprehensions. In December, Border Patrol agents apprehended nearly 250,000 illegal entrants at the Southwest border, a 23.5 percent increase over November, but more significantly a more than 10 percent increase over the prior monthly apprehension record, set in May 2022, of nearly 224,400.

Those numbers are actually even worse than they appear, because included in that total were 101,725 adult migrants travelling with children in “family units” (FMUs). That’s not quite a monthly record (agents apprehended just over 103,000 aliens in FMUs in September), but it’s close enough to one, and it is also a 18.7 percent increase over November (nearly 82,700).

FMUs and unaccompanied alien children (UACs) are the most difficult categories of migrants for agents to deal with, as they must be segregated from unrelated adult males during transport and processing, and agents must do their best to keep families together. That requires a lot of manpower, pulling agents off the line for hours at a time.

And, as I have previously explained, the migrant crises that are facing cities like New York and Chicago are really “family migrant” crises. A single adult male can usually make do for himself; that’s not an option for a migrant mother with dependent children.

Through the first three months of FY 2024, Border Patrol agents apprehended 629,500-plus illegal entrants at the Southwest border — well more than in any total fiscal year between FY 2009 and FY 2018. Agents broke that trend that FY 2019, when there were more than 851,500 total apprehensions. At this pace, apprehensions will exceed that figure by February.

Then-DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen declared a “border emergency” in 2019, as primarily family migrants rushed into the United States, and President Trump responded by implementing the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), better known as Remain in Mexico. MPP drove apprehensions down to fewer than 30,000 in the month of January 2020 — two months before the beginning of expulsions under Title 42.

The only statement I can find from Nielsen’s successor, current DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, the day that these historically bad border numbers were issued is a pronouncement that he’s extending and redesignating Syria for Temporary Protected Status until September 30, 2025. That won’t help the chaos at the U.S.-Mexico line.

Of course, Trump’s successor, President Biden, quickly ended MPP and has no plan or even intention to respond to the December surge. For him and Mayorkas, this is just business as usual — the new normal.

Southwest Border Port Encounters. CBP officers at the Southwest border ports set their own new dismal record in December, stopping nearly 52,250 inadmissible aliens. That’s a 42 percent increase over December 2022, and more than six times the number of port encounters as in December 2021.

That new flood at the ports is due nearly exclusively to a January 2023 White House policy that allows would-be migrants in central and northern Mexico to preschedule their illegal entries at the Southwest border ports using the CBP One app, a program I referred to as the “CBP One app interview scheme”.

The administration makes 1,450 appointments available per day at the ports under that scheme, and congressional releases reveal that 95.8 percent of those migrants have subsequently been paroled into the United States.

Do the math and you will see that nearly 45,000 aliens with no right to enter the United States took advantage of that scheme at the Southwest border ports last month, and 43,062 of them were likely waived into the country with a status that allows them to immediately obtain work authorization.

The illegality of this scheme is beside the point for the administration. Rather, the White House contends it was necessary to deter aliens from entering illegally.

As that record Border Patrol apprehension figure for December reveals, the CBP One app interview scheme isn’t working, but that’s not stopping Biden from continuing it.

Total Nationwide Encounters. Not surprisingly, total CBP nationwide encounters reached a new peak in December as well, topping 371,000 last month. That’s 15,000 more people than live in Cleveland, and 64,000 more than live in Cincinnati, all coming to the United States illegally in just one month.

It takes some math to see that 53,394 of them were stopped at the coastal ports of entry and at U.S. international airports. Some 30,000 of them — none of whom has status in the United States — came under yet another (illegal) Biden administration innovation, “CHNV parole”.

That program is exclusively available to nationals of Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela, allowing 360,000 of them per year to enter the country on two-year periods of parole. Of course, the White House has no plan to force them to leave at the end of that two-year period, meaning they’re really here indefinitely — if not forever.

Again, the idea behind Biden’s CHNV parole was to deter nationals of those four countries from crossing the border illegally. Despite those intentions, nearly 61,500 nationals of those countries were apprehended in December entering illegally — a 112 percent increase over November.

Among those apprehensions were nearly 47,000 nationals of Venezuela — the second-largest number of migrants from that country apprehended in a single month, after September (54,833).

The Political Timing of this Release. Every one of Biden’s border-number news dumps is politically motivated, intended to hide the scope of the border disaster until national news reporters have gone home for the weekend.

Even by that standard, the latest news dump is particularly unsavory, coming as it has after Senate negotiations over border reforms appear (with an emphasis on “appear”) to have reached an impasse. CBP had these numbers on New Years Day, and historically the agency releases them on the 15th of the month for the month before.

There’s no reason that the administration would wait an extra 11 days to drop these stats, aside from a fear that they’d simply make GOP negotiators dig in harder.

CBP record December encounter numbers reveal that the crisis at the Southwest border is just getting worse, despite — or possibly because of — the various illegal schemes the administration has implemented to drive illegal entries down. Expect the border to soon becoming to a city near you — assuming it’s not there already.