CBP March Numbers: Border Patrol Apprehensions Hit 22-Year Records

More migrants traveling from farther abroad, and the president has no one to blame but himself

By Andrew R. Arthur on April 20, 2022

On April 18, CBP released statistics on the number of aliens the agency encountered at the nation’s borders in March. In brief: Border Patrol apprehensions at the Southwest border reached 22-year records and more “long-distance” migrants are entering illegally from farther away. Things are about to get worse, and the only person whom the president can blame is himself.

Border Patrol Apprehensions at the Southwest Border. Last month, Border Patrol agents at the Southwest border apprehended 209,906 illegal migrants, topping the 200,000-mark for the second time under the Biden administration, and breaking monthly records going all the way back to March 2000, when agents apprehended just over 220,000 migrants.

Of course, in FY 2000, more than 98 percent of those migrants were from Mexico, and nearly all were single adults (mostly male). Last month, just 39 percent were Mexican nationals, and nearly 23 percent of apprehensions involved unaccompanied alien children or adults travelling with children in “family units”.

Beginning in FY 2014, illegal migrants from the “Northern Triangle” countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras made up a majority of Border Patrol apprehensions at the Southwest border. Not in March: Last month, just 21.4 percent of Border Patrol apprehensions at the U.S.-Mexico line were from the Northern Triangle.

The remaining 82,853 aliens arrested by Border Patrol at the Southwest border (39.5 percent of the total) were “other than Mexican” (OTMs) and “other than Northern Triangle” (ONTs); they were “long-distance migrants”, drawn by the lure of an open border and the likelihood of a quick release.

Before I break down the numbers further, let me first note that this is the largest number of OTM/ONT migrants apprehended at the Southwest border in a single month ever. In fact, in just the first six months of FY 2022, agents have caught more long-distance migrants between the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific than in any fiscal year ever.

Even when Border Patrol agents at the Southwest border set a new record for apprehensions in FY 2021, “just” 367,275 of the illegal migrants they caught were OTM/ONTs; that was the old yearly record. From October through March, agents have nabbed more than 376,600 long-distance migrants there.

Compare this to FY 2019, when things at the Southwest border were so bad that the DHS secretary declared a “border emergency”. Of the 977,509 Border Patrol apprehensions that year, 79 percent (774,232) were from Mexico or the Northern Triangle; the remaining 21 percent (203,277) were OTM/ONTs, and at the time even that number seemed like a problem. It’s now “the good old days”.

Where are those OTM/ONTs coming from? More than 15,000 Colombian nationals were apprehended last month at the Southwest border, as were just over 16,000 Nicaraguans, almost 32,100 Cubans, and nearly 2,000 Turkish nationals.

Our diplomatic relations with Nicaragua and Cuba are not good, and nationals of those countries know that even if they get caught, they are getting released. The Colombians and Turkish nationals may not be so confident, but they sense an opportunity and are taking it.

Most problematic, however, are the “Others”. CBP breaks encounters down by 20 specific nationalities, from Canadians to Burmese, and those Others are OTM/ONTs who don’t fit into any of them. Last month, Border Patrol agents apprehended more than 7,000 Others, proving news of the president’s lax border policies is spreading worldwide.

Again, March saw the largest number of monthly Southwest border apprehensions of “Others” in history. That means that there is no limit for how large the border disaster can grow.

Thus far, the Biden administration’s sole response to the human tsunami of migrants at the Southwest border has been to focus on the (endemic and intractable) “root causes” of migration (crime, poverty, corruption) in the Northern Triangle. When more than 39 percent of illegal migrants apprehended at the Southwest border are OTM/ONTs, the president needs to widen his diplomatic aperture when it comes to addressing illegal migration.

The Northern Border. CBP’s Southwest border numbers dwarfed the statistics for the Northern border, but things are not great there, either.

There were 7,813 CBP encounters at or near the Canadian border in March, and although statistics there are not as accessible as they are on the Southwest border, that is a new record for the Biden administration, and in the last three fiscal years for which numbers are available.

Of those encounters, a mere 115 were Border Patrol apprehensions. That said, the Northern border is much longer (5,525 miles, compared to 1,954 miles of the Southwest border), and there are not as many Border Patrol agents there (just over 2,000, compared to 16,878 at the Southwest border sectors in FY 2020). There is no way of knowing how many aliens there evaded apprehension and got in.

Most CBP encounters at the 49th parallel in March were arriving aliens deemed inadmissible by CBP officers at the ports, most because they lacked entry documents. Last month, there were nearly 7,700 such aliens. Of those, 524 were Chinese nationals, 1,189 were from India, and — get this — 3,082 were Canadian nationals.

Canadians don’t need visas to get into the United States, raising the question of why so many of them were encountered by CBP at the Northern border last month. That said, certain criminal offenses render Canadians inadmissible, so it is possible that many of the ones barred from admission had records.

Again, however, it is the “Others” who are most problematic. CBP officers encountered nearly 2,100 nationals who were not from the 20 countries that CBP puts on its encounter list. That’s not a record, but in the last three years, March Northern border Other encounters run second only to February 2020 — the last month before the Covid-19 pandemic.

In February 2020, CBP officers tagged nearly 2,300 “Other” nationals at the Northern border. It is important to remember that although the Trump administration had a “Remain in Mexico” program, there was no cognate for our neighbor to the north. If you were an alien looking to get into the United States, and you had the ability to get to Canada, the Northern border was the way to go.

“If you had the ability to get to Canada” is a big “if”.

Unlike the United States under the Biden administration, Canada is serious about border security, and it is not an easy country to get to illegally. Airline employees at flight desks (many from Air Canada, the national flag carrier) peruse travel documents intensely. And good luck sailing there from outside the United States, so the best way to get into Canada illegally is across the U.S. border.

Of course, no one is going to enter Canada illegally by land just to cross back over. The Chinese, Indian, and “Other” CBP encounters at the Northern border mostly likely entered Canada legally with any eye toward coming here.

Things Are Going to Get Worse, Quickly. “Travel season” at the Southwest border is only just beginning, but already CBP encounters generally, and Border Patrol apprehensions in particular, there have exceeded one million for the fiscal year.

Even if Covid-19 pandemic-related CDC expulsion orders under Title 42 were to remain in effect, Border Patrol apprehensions at the Southwest border would set yet another all-time record of somewhere around 2.5 million (by my estimation) in FY 2022.

At the moment, however, Title 42 is set to end on May 23, at which point DHS anticipates up to 18,000 illegal entrants per day. The only thing that will keep Border Patrol apprehension numbers low at that point is the fact that agents would be so busy catching, transporting, processing, and caring for illegal migrants that other illegal migrants would simply skip the hassle of turning themselves in and abscond into the interior.

That would be equivalent to a Super Bowl for the cartels and the smugglers, an opportunity to show what they can really accomplish when they are given the chance on the world’s largest stage. It would also be the best advertisement for those smugglers.

Before March 2020, I had no idea what “Title 42” was. Now, the words are on the lips of every foreign national in the world who is looking for a chance to enter the United States. They are looking forward to May 23 with the same level of enthusiasm that congressional Democrats up for reelection in tight races in November are viewing that date with dread.

Back in March 2021, a New York Times “fact check” quoted one “expert” who stated: “It’s not like everyone in Central America is paying attention to the specific policy positions to the Biden administration”. That opinion likely was not correct then, but it definitely is not correct now.

Of course, in December 2020, Biden promised to erect “guardrails” to deter illegal migrants before he ditched Trump’s border policies, “to avoid winding up with ‘2 million people on our border’”. He broke that promise, and so as even he anticipated, two million-plus Southwest border apprehensions are not only well within reach, but a veritable likelihood.

If the president wonders why so many illegal migrants are showing up now, he need go no further than my last post, where I explained that his DHS has released — in violation of the detention mandates in the Immigration and Nationality Act — more than 836,000 illegal migrants since he was sworn in.

Border Patrol agents set a 22-year-old monthly record for apprehensions at the Southwest border in March and are about to demolish the annual record for apprehensions there in FY 2022. That’s before travel season at the Southwest border really heats up in the late spring, and before Title 42 restrictions are lifted. Joe Biden’s worst border fear is about to come true, and he has no one to blame but himself.