On July 16, I reported that CBP statistics on “encounters” at the Southwest border for June had just been released, and explained that they were indicative of a border in chaos. That post focused almost exclusively on Border Patrol apprehensions between the ports of entry, but a review of the statistics exposes another issue — a huge spike in inadmissible aliens at the ports of entry themselves. That’s bad by itself, but it suggests that there are even bigger problems at the border.
“Encounters” are the sum total of aliens apprehended by Border Patrol agents and inadmissible aliens stopped by CBP officers at the ports. All told, CBP encountered just short of 189,000 aliens at the Southwest border in June — a 4.5 percent increase over May, and the highest monthly total in the last 10 fiscal years (back to FY 2012, when CBP began releasing statistics in their current format).
To put those encounter numbers in even sharper context, at the height of the “border emergency” in May 2019, just over 114,100 migrants were apprehended by Border Patrol or deemed inadmissible at the Southwest border by CBP. June’s numbers are more than 31 percent higher than they were in May 2019.
The Trump administration responded to that border emergency with a number of initiatives to tamp down on illegal immigration — both at the border and at the ports. They worked, and encounters fell to a pre-pandemic low of 36,585 in February 2020 — just over a quarter of what they had been 10 months earlier.
Unfortunately, the Biden administration reversed those successful Trump policies shortly after the inauguration, as my colleague Rob Law explained in March.
The Biden administration and fellow Democrats have attempted to deflect blame for the border disaster by asserting that encounters at the Southwest border had begun to increase in June 2020 when there were 33,049 border encounters, up more than 9,000 from the month before.
It is true that the number of migrants encountered at the Southwest border was increasing months before the president took office, but the numbers were much lower during the end of the Trump administration, and career DHS officials had warned the incoming Biden team during the presidential transition that a crisis was likely.
Despite those warnings Biden tore down the “guard rails” that were discouraging illegal migrants from entering illegally, without erecting his own. It’s like having a spell of heavy rain with a new hurricane in the forecast and unplugging the sump pump to save energy.
Not to be overlooked in June’s numbers are the thousands of aliens who were deemed inadmissible at the Southwest ports of entry last month. The majority of them likely showed up without documents or with fraudulent ones, and requested entry (probably to apply for asylum, regardless of the validity of their claims).
Showing up at a port with fraudulent documents or none at all is a much safer alternative to entering illegally — ports are secure and controlled, while the border itself is anything but.
In June, more than 10,400 aliens were found to be inadmissible at the Southwest border, a 150 percent increase since March and an almost 30 percent jump over the month before.
While these are not historically high numbers — there were more than 12,000 inadmissible aliens at the Southwest border in September 2019 — the interesting thing is that more than half of those inadmissible aliens last month (5,467) were Mexican nationals.
By contrast, just over 33 percent of all aliens apprehended by Border Patrol last month were from Mexico, while more than 40 percent were from the “Northern Triangle” countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.
The question for the Biden administration is whether those Mexican nationals found to be inadmissible at the ports in June were simply being turned around (Mexico must accept the return of its own nationals), or whether they were paroled into the United States.
The large number of — and sharp spike in — inadmissible Mexican nationals suggests one of two things: Either that CBP may be allowing some, many, or all of them in (encouraging others) or that there is an increase in attempted fraudulent entries at the border ports.
The former does not make much sense, because traditionally there have been very few successful Mexican asylum claims. While crime rates in parts of Mexico are high, and a large minority of the Mexican population lives in poverty, neither crime nor poverty is supposed to make for a successful asylum claim — unless the president is tacitly changing the rules.
If the Biden administration is paroling large numbers of Mexican nationals in to make asylum claims, it could trigger an even larger disaster at the Southwest border as their fellow countrymen seek to follow suit. DHS should explain what it did with those thousands of Mexican nationals who were deemed inadmissible in June.
The latter possibility — an increase in attempted fraudulent entries — makes more sense, but points to an even bigger problem. We know that CBP resources are stretched beyond the breaking point due to the chaos at the border, and smugglers and foreign nationals may view that as an opportunity to engage in fraud, in the hopes that an overworked CBP officer will miss it.
Not every illegal migrant is “just looking for a better life”, and by law, aliens who attempt fraudulent entry are criminals (the penalty for using a fraudulent document for entry starts at 10 years in jail). Fraud traditionally has been the main avenue that foreign nationals with terrorist intent have used to gain access to the United States, and aliens with extensive criminal records may try to take advantage of CBP officers who don’t have the time to thoroughly inspect aliens seeking admission to sneak in.
CBP encounters at the Southwest border rose to their highest level in at least a decade in June. While Border Patrol apprehensions accounted for much of that increase (they rose 3.4 percent over the month before), the number of aliens deemed inadmissible at the border ports surged almost 30 percent over May’s totals. There could be various reasons for that increase — which the Biden administration should explain — but regardless, it spells even more trouble for a border already in turmoil.