CBP Finally Releases June Apprehension Numbers — And They Are Dismally High

Illegal migration rose during a month it should be falling — which is a really bad sign

By Andrew R. Arthur on July 16, 2021

On July 14, I complained that CBP had failed to release its “encounter” numbers for June yet. Those statistics were finally released on Friday afternoon, but I would not have published them more quickly either — they are dismally high for a month when illegal migration usually goes down. Regrettably, there are worse signs on the horizon.

In June, CBP encountered almost 189,000 aliens at the Southwest border, the lion’s share (178,416) of which were Border Patrol apprehensions. That is larger than the population of Salem, Ore., and an increase of almost 6,000 Border Patrol apprehensions in one month. The numbers would have been even worse if May had not been a day longer.

As I explained on June 10 (when CBP’s statistics were released in a more timely manner), monthly apprehensions at the Southwest border in April and May were at their highest levels in 21 years; only the totals in April 2000 (180,050) were higher. June continues that grim trend.

When you look at different demographic groups, however, the numbers become even worse.

The number of aliens travelling in “family units” (FMUs, adults accompanied by children) increased in June by more than 9,000 over the month before, to 50,015. The numbers of FMUs had been in decline in April (48,292) and May (40,815) since they hit a yearly high of almost 53,400 in March.

By themselves, the number of FMU apprehensions in June is bad. That trendline makes them even worse.

The same is true of the trendline for unaccompanied alien children (UACs). From an all-time monthly peak (numbers go back to October 2009) of more than 18,700 UAC apprehensions in March, the numbers declined slightly in April (just over 16,900) and May (eight fewer than 13,900). They are back up again, to 15,018 in June.

The number of single adults who were apprehended in June actually declined, but only slightly. More than 117,900 were apprehended in May, a number that dipped to just fewer than 113,400 in June. That means that the increase in apprehensions last month was driven by families and children.

Of course, most families and all UACs are exempt from quick expulsion under Biden's interpretation of Trump-era Title 42 pandemic restrictions, while single adults aren’t supposed to be. I say “aren’t supposed to be”, because only 94,239 single adults were actually expelled under Title 42 last month.

That raises the specter of what happens when Title 42 is ended. Expect the number of single adults attempting to enter illegally to soar.

This is not the time of year that we usually see increases in illegal migration. In a March analysis piece in the Washington Post, three researchers from the University of California at San Diego graphed the cumulative number of apprehensions per month between FY 2012 and FY 2020.

I was critical of the conclusions in that piece (it was originally headlined “There's no migrant 'surge' at the U.S. southern border. Here's the data", a header that was subsequently amended to “The migrant ‘surge’ at the U.S. southern border is actually a predictable pattern”, likely because it turned out that there was a migrant ‘surge’), but not of that graph.

It reveals that over that nine-year period, apprehensions cratered in the month of January and increased until May, after which they dropped off sharply. If you have ever been at the Southwest border in the depths of summer, you know that it is sweltering and inhospitable. Simply put, illegal migration goes down then because the temperatures make illegal entry an even more dangerous endeavor.

Looking at the Border Patrol’s own statistics for monthly apprehensions between May and June from FY 2000 to FY 2019, that pattern held in every year except one: FY 2017, five months after the inauguration of President Donald Trump. That said, the increase was small (from just over 14,500 to just under 16,100, or 1,568 total apprehensions), and the baseline was much lower.

The 11,127 apprehensions in April 2017 were then the lowest monthly total in 18 years, and as Border Patrol’s monthly apprehension statistics only go back to October 1999, likely much longer than that. Even at the depths of the Covid pandemic in April 2020, Border Patrol still apprehended almost 16,200 illegal migrants.

Any objective observer would have to conclude that Trump’s own rhetoric dissuaded most would-be migrants from entering illegally in early 2017.

As smugglers and migrants realized that Trump could not close the loopholes that encourage illegal entry in U.S. law by himself (and that Congress, which could, was not going to be much help in doing so), however, the migrant flow naturally increased.

If Dan Quayle is no Jack Kennedy, it is safe to conclude that Joe Biden is no Donald Trump. Biden came into office and quickly reversed the Trump policies that had held illegal migration in check. Not surprisingly, Border Patrol apprehensions are now rising at the time of the year that, historically, they fall.

The Biden administration needs to change its policies — and rhetoric — quickly to avoid reaching a new monthly record. The president’s representatives can say “the border is not open” (or rather “La frontera no esta abierta,” as then-border czar Roberta Jacobson did in early March, before they gave Vice President Kamala Harris the job), but migrants and smugglers know that it’s not true.

As long as “catch, release, and disperse” migrants into the interior of the United States is the directive to CBP at the Southwest border, and as long as ICE agents in the interior are on “probation” as the Washington Post puts it (for the crime of being popular with Trump), the aliens will keep coming.

That said, there are even greater inducements to illegal entry in the planning stage. Politico reports that congressional Democrats are discussing the enactment of “meaningful immigration changes” (read: “amnesty”) through the arcane Senate maneuver known as “reconciliation”, which would require no Republican votes at all.

Any such amnesty would almost definitely contain some sort of arbitrary cut-off date, either the date of enactment or months before. That would allow its sponsors and promoters to claim that the amnesty does not encourage new migrants, but that claim would be as fallacious as it is ignorant of history.

Anything that the U.S. government does that shows that it is not serious about enforcing the immigration laws (like the entirety of the Biden administration’s agenda) sends a signal to foreign nationals who are considering illegal entry to start their journeys. “Amnesty” is, by definition, the truest form of non-enforcement.

And if the final product of their efforts looks anything like the amnesty proposal in H.R. 6, the “American Dream and Promise Act of 2021” (and there is no reason to believe that a purely Democratic-driven proposal wouldn’t), the evidentiary standards will be so low that fraud would be rampant, and therefore incentives for illegal entry high.

H.R. 6 would allow an applicant for legal status to prove that they have been in the United States since its cut-off date by offering two affidavits from unrelated individuals, neither of whom has to be here legally themselves. The fraud that would ensue from such a proposal is so obvious as to need no explanation.

Ask yourself: Do you trust an administration that pays ICE officers to (in theory) arrest and remove illegal aliens but does not allow those officers to even question the vast majority of illegal aliens (that’s barred under the current agency “guidance”) to be dogged in sorting out which aliens are recent arrivals for purposes of amnesty and which aren’t, or uncovering any other fraud for that matter?

I don’t, but more importantly, the smugglers don’t either. They will use the prospect of permanent residence in the United States to lure even more unwitting victims into giving them money for a promise of a “safe and easy” passage to the United States illegally, which turns out to be a hellish trek with threats of rape, kidnapping, and death.

Of course, it’s not just the migrants themselves who pay the price for a border that is out of control. Earlier today I noted that the massive surge of migrants at the border has degraded Border Patrol’s effectiveness to the point that 40 percent of agents are “off the line” and thus unable to stop the drugs flowing into the United States that killed a record number of Americans last year.

Even that does not touch the fiscal costs of illegal migration. Taxes will go up, services will be strained, and the local emergency room will be a little busier. Municipal planners cannot anticipate that a new Salem, Ore., will be entering the United States each month.

After her June 25 trip to El Paso, Harris stated that the administration has seen “extreme progress” at the border. The only ones who are really making “progress” there are the smugglers who are moving even more migrants illegally to the United States and the drug cartels that are ramping up their shipments of death. Each is likely preparing for more such perverse “progress” in the coming months.