CBP Encounters at the Southwest Border Rose in February

Nearly 2.2 million migrants caught in the first 12 full months of the Biden administration — not counting 500,000 ‘got-aways’

By Andrew R. Arthur on March 16, 2022

CBP has released its latest statistics on illegal migrants it “encountered” in February at the Southwest border. Regrettably — but not surprisingly — CBP encounters there rose last month from January, as “travel season” for illegal migration shifts into gear. Most significantly, however, those numbers portend worse news in the future, as the Biden administration appears poised to break its own horrendous illegal immigration record.

Cyclical Migration Patterns. As I have explained in the past, illegal migration at the Southwest border usually follows a fairly dependable yearly cycle: The number of aliens who enter illegally at that border hits a low point in the month of January, climbs through the more temperate late winter and early spring months, and reaches a peak in May, before the summer heat sets in.

Apprehensions usually decline significantly through the summer, and then remain more or less constant into the fall, plummeting around the holiday season.

No Regular Pattern in FY 2021. That summer decline in illegal migration did not actually occur in FY 2021, although there was a slight monthly decrease in apprehensions from July (200,658) through August (196,514), September (185,515), and October (159,616). Then, however, apprehensions ticked up again in November (167,039) and — unusual for the month — December (170,603).

Most notably, Border Patrol apprehensions at the Southwest border set new monthly records for every month between May and December. It was only in January 2022 (when Border Patrol apprehended 147,748 aliens) that there was any real decline, but even that was the second-highest number of apprehensions at the Southwest border for the month of January in history (records go back to October 1999).

February’s Numbers. Last month’s apprehension totals did not break the previous monthly record for February, either, set in February 2000 (211,328), but that does not make the numbers much better.

In February, Border Patrol agents apprehended 158,152 illegal migrants at the Southwest border, a 7 percent increase over January (and, again, the second-highest monthly total for the month), and a 357 percent increase over February 2020 — the last month before the Covid-19 pandemic shut down most international travel, legal and otherwise.

Interestingly, the increase in apprehensions was almost exclusively among Mexican nationals: 66,544 in February, the highest monthly total for that cohort in any month in the last four fiscal years, and an increase of nearly 11,000 apprehensions over January.

There was a smaller (but still significant) month-over-month increase in the number of Salvadoran, Guatemalan, and Honduran nationals apprehended by Border Patrol at the Southwest border in February, but in a rare bit of good news, a 15 percent decline in the number of illegal migrants from all “other” countries between January (61,005) and February (53,079).

That said, in just the first six months of FY 2022, Border Patrol has apprehended more “other than Mexican” (OTM) migrants (511,537) at the Southwest border than it did in every fiscal year total between FY 2000 (the first year for which records were kept) and FY 2018. In all of FY 2019, agents apprehended 685,050 OTMs, a record that Border Patrol is on track to exceed by April.

Comparing Biden to Biden. The main driver of illegal immigration to the United States is President Biden’s immigration policies, or more specifically, his undoing of border policies implemented by Donald Trump that had successfully brought control to the Southwest border. As Bloomberg Opinion explained in January: “Biden’s rush to undo any immigration policies associated with his predecessor has contributed to upheaval at the border and encouraged more people to risk their lives trying to reach the U.S.”

Last month was the first opportunity to compare Biden’s border policies year-over-year, as February 2021 was the first full month of the Biden administration.

Apprehensions increased nearly 62 percent last month compared to February 2021 (97,643). That is particularly bad news because FY 2021 saw a record number of Border Patrol apprehensions at the Southwest border (records go back to FY 1960, when there were just over 21,000 apprehensions there).

Adding in February’s totals, Border Patrol has apprehended more than 802,000 illegal migrants at the Southwest border in FY 2022. That is more apprehensions than Border Patrol made in a full 12 months in any given fiscal year between FY 2008 and FY 2018.

By the end of March, Border Patrol apprehensions at the Southwest border in just half a fiscal year will exceed totals for any full fiscal year between FY 2007 (858,638) and FY 2019 (851,508).

Notably, it was in response to the surge in illegal migrants in FY 2019 that Trump implemented most of his border policies, in response to what then-DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen described as a “border emergency”. No similar policy shift from the Biden White House appears to be in the offing.

Biden Should Act Now. There should be such a shift. In the first full 12 months of the Biden administration, Border Patrol has apprehended more than 2.177 million illegal migrants, a number that does not even account for an estimated half-million-plus aliens who eluded Border Patrol and successfully made it into the United States.

This is simply not sustainable. Those 2.6 million aliens would constitute the 37th largest state in the Union, between New Mexico (2.1 million) and Kansas (2.9 million). Were it not for expulsion orders issued by CDC under Title 42 of the U.S. Code in response to the pandemic, DHS would be powerless to respond to even a fraction of that population, let alone fulfill its other duties to stop drugs, terrorists, and contraband from entering the United States.

Those Title 42 orders cannot remain in place forever, however, and once they are lifted, the full scale of the catastrophe at the Southwest border will be felt in communities, schools, hospitals, and morgues across the United States.

Biden would be wise to act now, before the only solution to illegal migration is a total shutdown of the Southwest border. CBP encounters there in February are already high, and alien apprehensions are likely to get much, much worse as travel season gets into full swing.