On April 17, CBP released its latest border encounter numbers, for the month of March. Border Patrol apprehensions at the Southwest border rose, just as I said they would back when President Biden was crowing about his latest border “enforcement” efforts during his February State of the Union (SOTU) address. The important number now, however, is total CBP’s “encounters” — which really jumped. Those numbers reveal what the administration’s actually up to.
Border Patrol Apprehensions Rise. In March, Border Patrol agents apprehended more than 162,000 illegal migrants at the Southwest border, up from just over 130,000 in February, and an increase of more than 33,000 over January.
That’s an almost 25 percent increase over the month before, and a greater than 25 percent increase over January. More saliently, however, there were on average 5,236 migrants apprehended daily in March, compared to 4,644 in February and 4,159 in January — a trendline not trending in the administration’s favor.
The reason why I cite January’s numbers is because those are the ones that DHS trumpeted after the president issued his January 5 “New Border Enforcement Actions”.
For example, as CBP Acting Commissioner Troy Miller stated in a February 10 press release: “The January monthly operational update clearly illustrates that new border enforcement measures are working, with the lowest level of Border Patrol encounters between Ports of Entry since February of 2021.”
That was all true, except: (1) the Biden administration was only doing better at the border compared to its own, dire prior performance there; and (2) illegal entries traditionally reach their yearly low in the month of January, as I explained shortly after those numbers were released when I posited that the apprehension numbers were sure to increase.
And, as these figures reveal, I was right. In fact, Border Patrol made more Southwest border apprehensions last month than they had in any March between FY 2001 (before Congress beefed up border security following the September 11th terrorist attacks) and Biden’s own second month in office.
Still, CBP fell all over itself in its latest monthly operational update in explaining how great it did in March (while channeling my observations in that February post):
This increase in encounters from February to March is typical, as winter temperatures rise with the approaching spring, but less compared to prior years. Border Patrol’s 162,317 encounters along the southwest border in March 2023, however, were down 23% from March 2022 (211,181) and down 4% from March 2021 (169,216). Additionally, the rate of increase from February to March 2023 (25%) for Border Patrol’s southwest encounters was less than the rate of increase from February to March 2022 (33%) and February to March 2021 (73%).
Don’t let the cherrypicked stats and fancy math fool you. Biden’s only doing better than he had been at the Southwest border (and it’s questionable he could have done worse), and even then, not by much.
A Spike in Encounters. That said, the stats are worse than they appear, because CBP’s total Southwest border encounters are extremely troubling.
In this context, “encounters” are the total of Border Patrol apprehensions and inadmissible aliens stopped by CBP officers at the border ports of entry.
In March, CBP encountered nearly 192,000 illegal migrants at the Southwest border, an increase of more than 18,000 compared to March 2021, and a higher monthly rate of encounters than in half of the 26 months of the Biden administration — all during a period of the year when illegal migration should still be relatively low.
Pulling away from the Southwest border and taking a broader view, the March encounter numbers are even worse yet. Nationwide, CBP encountered nearly 258,000 inadmissible aliens last month, the sixth worst monthly showing for a president who has overseen the worst migrant crisis — by far — in American history, and a nearly 21 percent increase compared to February.
Part of that spike in CBP’s nationwide encounter numbers has to do with the brewing — but still smaller — migrant crisis at the Northern border with Canada.
Total encounters there last month (15,774) as well as Border Patrol Northern border apprehensions for March (974) set monthly records for the last four fiscal years. In fact, agents apprehended more Northern border illegal entrants in March than in all of FY 2021 (916).
What really moved the needle in March on CBP encounters, however, were various extra-legal efforts by the Biden administration to hide the true scope of the disaster at the Southwest border.
One of those efforts is a program to provide 30,000 would-be illegal migrants from Venezuela, Nicaragua, Haiti, and Cuba monthly with two-year grants of “parole”, in essence periods those aliens could live and work here without any statutory right to do so.
That it’s illegal is beside the point (20 states are suing the Biden administration in Texas v. U.S. to shut down the program on various grounds, not least of which is the lack of a plan to force those aliens out when the two-year period ends) as the administration promotes its efficiency in deterring nationals of those countries from crossing the border illegally.
The problem is that they are still “crossing the border illegally”, albeit with a sheet of paper through a port of entry, and CBP thus must still count them as encounters.
While Border Patrol agents at the Southwest border apprehended “just” 3,811 nationals of those four countries in March (down from more than 54,000 in March 2022), almost 39,000 others were deemed inadmissible by CBP officers at the ports of entry: 10,698 at the Southwest border ports; 155 at the Northern border ports; and the rest at various international airports around the United States.
Many if not the vast majority of those aliens were given parole under this Biden policy (just 667 nationals of those countries were stopped at the ports last March), and note that the only reason why they are getting paroled (and included in the “encounter” totals) is because they’re not legally allowed to be admitted, and are therefore “inadmissible”.
Feel like you’re getting snookered yet? It gets worse.
That’s because another aspect of the Biden administration’s plan to hide its border disaster is allowing would-be illegal entrants to schedule interviews at the ports of entry seeking “exceptions” to expulsion under Title 42, using the CBP One app.
As I recently explained, more than 99 percent of the illegal migrants scheduling port appointments with the app at the Southwest border are allowed to enter, nearly all with either a Notice to Appear (“NTA”, the charging document in removal proceedings) or on parole. Don’t expect any of them to leave.
The administration has no power — whatsoever — to run this scheme, but again that hasn’t stopped it from doing so. In March, more than 29,500 aliens were deemed inadmissible at the Southwest ports of entry, the second highest monthly total in the last four fiscal years (in December, CBP officers clocked 30,302 encounters there).
Given that those March figures represent a 160 percent increase over CBP Southwest border port encounters in March 2022 (and a 628 percent increase compared to March 2021), be assured that more than half of those encounters involved would-be illegal migrants who scheduled appointments with the CBP One app.
What’s Worse? It’s hard to decide which is worse — the fact that the Biden administration is allowing millions of illegal aliens to live and work the United States despite Congress’ statutory limits, or the lengths to which it’s going to hide that fact. Americans don’t like having their humanitarian instincts abused, but they really hate being gaslighted.