CBP Releases Border Numbers for April

Revealing the futility of administration actions and the effectiveness of Mexican and Texan enforcement

By Andrew R. Arthur on May 17, 2024

On May 15, CBP issued statistics on the agency’s encounters of illegal aliens in April. On the one hand, they show Border Patrol apprehensions at the Southwest border declined slightly in March, but are still running much higher than historical, pre-Biden levels. On the other hand, they reveal the administration’s attempts to manage the migrant flow have been largely futile. Finally, they raise the question of where Biden’s CBP would be if Mexico — and Texas — weren’t doing the border enforcement the federal government should be doing.

The CBP figures relate to agency “encounters”, a term DHS has used since March 2020 to refer to both aliens apprehended by Border Patrol agents entering illegally and aliens deemed inadmissible at the ports of entry by CBP officers in the agency’s Office of Field Operations (OFO).

Border Patrol Southwest Border Apprehensions. In April, Border Patrol agents apprehended just fewer than 129,000 illegal migrants at the Southwest border, a 6.25 percent decline over March and 30 percent less than in April 2023.

The latter is an inapt comparison, however, because April 2023 was the month before Title 42 ended, and aliens were pouring over the border then to avoid the uncertainty that the administration’s post-Title 42 actions would bring (they didn’t do much).

A better comparison is to April 2019, the second-highest month for apprehensions in a year so bad at the U.S.-Mexico line that then-DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen had to declare a “border emergency”, as apprehensions rose to a level unseen in over a decade.

That April five years ago, agents apprehended 99,273 illegal migrants — roughly 28 percent fewer aliens than were apprehended last month. But as Nielsen stated on March 29, 2019, two days before that month began:

Today I report to the American people that we face a cascading crisis at our southern border. The system is in freefall. DHS is doing everything possible to respond to a growing humanitarian catastrophe while also securing our borders, but we have reached peak capacity and are now forced to pull from other missions to respond to the emergency.

How exactly is 28 percent worse than “freefall”? Good question, but that’s what agents are having to deal with at the Southwest border.

OFO Southwest Border Encounters and the “CBP One App Interview Scheme”. In April, OFO officers stopped nearly 51,000 inadmissible aliens at the Southwest border ports of entry, a 2 percent decline compared to March, but an 81 percent increase over April 2023.

Explaining that year-over-year port surge brings me to one of the Biden administration’s key initiatives to hide the crisis at the border by funneling would-be illegal migrants through the border ports instead: the “CBP One app interview scheme”.

Here’s how it works: instead of crossing the border illegally between the ports, this scheme allows aliens in northern and central Mexico with no visas and no right to enter the United States to pre-schedule interviews with CBP officers at the Southwest border using the CBP One mobile app. According to CBP’s Monthly Update for April, 41,400 of those nearly 51,000 encounters involved CBP One aliens.

The website for the app contends that this scheme “has increased CBP’s capacity to process migrants more efficiently and orderly while cutting out unscrupulous smugglers who endanger and profit from vulnerable migrants”, which is utter nonsense and an insult to the common sense and intelligence of the American people and the migrants themselves.

Again, to use the app and appear at the interview, migrants must be in Mexico in close proximity to the U.S. border. A Mexican national can likely achieve that feat without using a smuggler, I assume (I’ll discuss those aliens below), but the problem is that 73 percent of the aliens stopped at the Southwest border ports in April were “other than Mexican” nationals or “OTMs”.

The vast majority of those 37,141 OTMs not only had to pay “unscrupulous smugglers who endanger and profit from vulnerable migrants” to get to northern Mexico, but they also had to grease any number of corrupt cops and cartel members, as well.

And that doesn’t even count the dangers those aliens encounter while they wait for their appointments at the ports. Those perils were a big deal when then-candidate Joe Biden was railing against the Trump Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP, better known as “Remain in Mexico”), but apparently his now-administration views them as collateral damage and an “unseen” cost of illegal immigration.

That said, Remain in Mexico contained key protections for MPP migrants that the CBP One app interview scheme lacks: The Mexican government had “committed to provide aliens placed into MPP with appropriate humanitarian protections, including immigration documentation and access to education, healthcare and employment”. CBP One interviewees in the queue are on their own.

In case you’re wondering why there was a 2 percent decrease in Southwest border port encounters, by the way, the answer is simple: March has one more day than April, and there are 1,450 port interviews available per day.

In January 2023, when this scheme was first implemented, I explained that the “‘CBP One’ App Will Have Real Blood on Its Metaphorical Hands”. That’s now patently true, but I had no idea then how many potential victims this scheme would offer up.

Total CBP Encounters. Just to close the loop, CBP tallied more than 187,000 total encounters nationwide in April, a 4.3 percent increase over March. That includes a massive spike in apprehensions at the Northern (Canadian) border, where agents nabbed 1,940 illegal entrants, a 31 percent increase over March and nearly twice as many aliens as in April 2023 (977).

If all illegal migrants are “asylum seekers”, then why are so many of them entering from Canada? Their asylum system is more robust than ours, and — the current government in Ottawa aside — the “Canadian dream” isn’t that much different from the American version. In reality, they’re coming because they know they can.

The real CBP action, aside from the Southwest border, is at interior U.S. airports.

Combined, CBP officers at the Northern and Southwest border ports recorded 65,651 total encounters, leaving 51,120 other encounters that occurred somewhere else.

Some of those encounters were at the so-called “Coastal” border ports (San Juan, South Florida, Norfolk, Long Beach, etc.), but the vast majority were aliens who arrived at interior ports of entry, better known as “U.S. international airports”.

That brings me to yet another Biden administration initiative, known as “CHNV parole”. It allows up to 30,000 nationals of Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela monthly to apply from abroad for two-year periods of “parole” — which allows them to live and work here even though the administration was recently forced to admit to Congress that they are all “by definition, inadmissible”.

Once they’re approved, the vast majority of CHNV parolees skip the border and fly directly into domestic airports. Because they “are, by definition, inadmissible”, however, they count as CBP encounters.

That Congress has never sanctioned CHNV parole seems beside the point to an administration cranking out work permits for inadmissible beneficiaries as fast as possible (to the detriment of legal immigrants, whose applicants are allowed to languish), but it’s important to note that it’s likely not working, either.

The justification for CHNV parole is that nationals of those four countries, if provided “lawful pathways” (a misnomer) to enter on parole, won’t cross illegally. The problem is that, in April, Border Patrol agents at the Southwest border apprehended 11,244 nationals of those four countries, more than a third as many in one month as agents apprehended in all 12 months of that “border emergency” year, FY 2019.

If CHNV parole is the stunning success that the administration claims, I’d hate to see what failure looks like.

The Mexican Tradeoff. To the degree that illegal entries at the Southwest border have declined, it’s not thanks to anything the U.S. federal government is doing — it’s thanks to the individual efforts of the governments in Mexico City and Austin.

My colleague Todd Bensman has detailed, the “ruthless crackdown” the Mexican government has implemented in recent months on OTM migrants attempting to traverse that country on their way to the U.S. Southwest border. As he explained:

After Biden and his chief lieutenants returned from mysterious diplomatic missions to Mexico City in late December with a still-secret deal in hand, Mexico’s central government mounted one of the most epic domestic anti-illegal-immigration operations in recent memory. Some of the operations done at Biden’s behest have proven ruthless.

At Biden’s apparent urging, the Mexican army, national guard, and Mexican immigration officers rushed into the northern borderlands just after Christmas and, with state police, began rounding up tens of thousands of migrants in Piedras Negras and many other cities. They force-fed these thousands into a conveyor belt of government buses and airplanes delivering them to Mexico’s farthest southern states along the border with Guatemala, especially to the cities of Villahermosa and Tapachula, and blocked them there with bureaucracy and new road checkpoints that filter for migrant riders.

It’s unclear what, exactly, Biden has offered Mexico in exchange for that crackdown, but I believe the answer is self-evident — the trade-off is allowing tens of thousands of inadmissible Mexican nationals to pour into the United States using the CBP One app interview scheme, to live and work here.

Take a look at the CBP numbers: In April, OFO encountered 13,700 inadmissible Mexican nationals at the Southwest border ports of entry, an 84.5 percent increase over April 2023 but, more importantly, more than twice as many as in April 2022, before this scheme was concocted.

Already, through the first seven months of FY 2024, CBP officers have encountered nearly 95,000 Mexican nationals at those ports and are on track for 162,000 Mexican encounters this year — a 17 percent increase over the FY 2023 total and more than twice as many as in FY 2022.

The premise for the CBP One app interview scheme is that aliens receiving interviews can “initiate a protection claim”, but DOJ statistics show that only 3 percent of Mexican asylum claims are ultimately granted. Given that, “initiating protection claims” is a poor excuse for the scheme with respect to Mexican nationals.

Nearly 96 percent of aliens who use the scheme are paroled into the United States — regardless of whether they have “protection claims” or not, which again allows them to live and work here indefinitely.

In the case of the Mexican applicants, that means they can earn money in this country they can then send south in the form of remittances to bolster the local economy there.

Such transfers are a key support for the Mexican economy, which received $63 billion in remittances last year — 3.5 percent of Mexico’s total GDP. In other words, for those tens of thousands of Mexican CBP One aliens, the scheme is little more than a metaphorical guernsey that grazes on this side of the border and gets milked on the other. No wonder Mexico’s willing to play ball with Biden on OTMs.

The “Lone Star” Assistance. In April, agents at the Border Patrol’s five Texas sectors (Rio Grande Valley, Laredo, Del Rio, Big Bend, and El Paso) apprehended 53,326 illegal migrants — less than half the April 2023 total. Those Texas sectors are on track to account for just over 881,000 encounters this year, which would be a 28 percent decrease compared to FY 2023.

By comparison, agents in the four western sectors (Tucson, Yuma, El Centro, and San Diego) made 75,558 apprehensions in April, roughly equivalent to their April 2023 total (76,104), and are on track to make 1.109 million apprehensions this fiscal year, a nearly 34 percent increase compared to FY 2023.

Smugglers generally prefer to bring OTM migrants into south Texas, which is much closer to Mexico’s own southern border than southern Arizona and California and a shorter travel route. So there must be a reason why they’ve shifted their criminal efforts west.

The most logical reason is the effectiveness of “Operation Lone Star”, a border security initiative launched by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) in March 2021, when the state sent National Guard troops and state troopers to the Rio Grande to support increasingly overwhelmed Border Patrol agents.

In the lead-up to the end of Title 42, the state began erecting barriers (primarily concertina wire fencing) along the banks of the river, backed up with additional troops and troopers.

The Biden administration sued (thus far successfully) for the right to dismantle those barriers in and around Maverick County, Texas, but the barriers have been so effective in deterring entrants that CBP has left them untouched since the Supreme Court ruled on the matter.

From “Absolutely Catastrophic” to Just “Catastrophic”. Despite these points, the administration is crowing over the CBP numbers. A more realistic view was offered by House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mark Green (R-Tenn.): The border has gone from “absolutely catastrophic” to just “catastrophic”. And it’s still a disaster.