On October 21, I questioned why CBP’s September statistics on alien encounters at the Southwest border were delayed, particularly given that immigration is on the ballot in this year’s congressional midterms and that early voting for many of those races had already begun. It was only after 11 PM that night that the agency finally released those numbers, captioned “Nationwide Encounters”. It’s unfortunately common in D.C. to hide bad news by dropping it after close of business on Friday (a maneuver termed a “news dump”), and those numbers contained some very bad news, indeed: The border is in freefall, spurred by the Biden administration’s immigration policies.
The Release. At 11:15 PM on October 21, CBP tweeted:
CBP released operational statistics for September 2022, which can be viewed on our website.
— CBP (@CBP) October 22, 2022
Bill Melugin, Fox News’ omnipresent Southwest border correspondent, was quick to respond:
BREAKING: In a blatant Friday late night news dump, CBP has released the September border numbers, revealing there were 227,547 migrant encounters, the highest Sept. in DHS history.
FY’22 ended with 2,378,944 encounters, also the highest ever, & doesn’t include gotaways. @FoxNews
— Bill Melugin (@BillFOXLA) October 22, 2022
Border Patrol Apprehensions at the Southwest Border Hit New Records. Note that the CBP Nationwide Encounters statistics include both illegal entrants apprehended by Border Patrol and arriving aliens deemed inadmissible at the ports of entry. Further, in addition to the Southwest border and its ports, they also include the northern and coastal borders, and all U.S. ports.
In my analyses, I usually focus on the largest figure, and the one for which the oldest historical information exists: Border Patrol apprehensions at the Southwest border, which separates the United States and Mexico.
In September, Border Patrol agents apprehended nearly 207,600 illegal migrants at the Southwest border. September is the last month of the federal fiscal year, and in FY 2022, Border Patrol apprehensions at the U.S.-Mexico line totaled more than 2.2 million.
Border Patrol apprehension statistics for all U.S. borders date to FY 1925, and in that 97-year period, agents had never apprehended more than 1.677 million illegal migrants. In FY 2000 — more than a year before Congress beefed up border security in response to the September 11 attacks — agents stopped just over 1.676 million illegal entrants, the prior record.
During the first partial fiscal year of the Biden administration in FY 2021, Border Patrol’s nationwide apprehensions (again Southwest, northern, and coastal borders combined) totaled just over 1.662 million. The Southwest border accounted for the lion’s share of those apprehensions: 1,659,206.
I am a pessimist when it comes to what’s occurring at the Southwest border under Biden, but even I estimated that there would only be around 2.1 million apprehensions there for FY 2021. I was off by more than 100,000 — a bad sign for what’s to come.
As Melugin notes, Border Patrol also hit a new monthly record for apprehensions for the month of September at the Southwest border. The old record was set in September 2021, when agents stopped fewer than 186,000 illegal entrants there.
Before Biden took office, agents at the Southwest border had never apprehended more than 98,000 illegal migrants in the month of September (they stopped 97,744 in September 2000).
More saliently, however, agents apprehended more aliens last month at the Southwest border than in every September between FY 2009 and FY 2015 combined, and more than 47,000 more than in all four Septembers of the Trump administration.
Why does this matter? As the Washington Post explained in a March 2021 analysis captioned “The migrant ‘surge’ at the U.S. southern border is actually a predictable pattern” (that otherwise didn’t age well), illegal entries typically peak in the month of May, when the weather is its most clement, and decrease through September before ticking slightly up in October and dropping through the winter until February.
While apprehensions hit their peak for FY 2022 in May, and declined slightly between June and August, they shot up again last month. Agents apprehended 25,000-plus more aliens in the 30 days of September than in the 31 days of August. That’s a leading indicator, one that’s heading in the wrong direction for border security.
To put Border Patrol’s FY 2022 Southwest border apprehension total into context, if all the aliens that agents stopped there were concentrated in one U.S. city, it would be the nation’s fifth largest, nipping at the heels of the current number four, Houston, Texas, with a population of just fewer than 2.346 million.
Biden’s Policies to Blame. The president’s immigration policies are to blame for the dumpster fire unfolding at the Southwest border.
Biden was the lucky recipient of what Rodney Scott, his first Border Patrol chief, described as “arguably the most effective border security in” U.S. history. And at first, Biden promised to keep it that way.
In late December 2020, just before taking office, the president-elect vowed to “keep his pledge to roll back” what he derided as “the Trump administration's restrictive asylum policies”, but asserted that he would do so “at a slower pace than he initially promised, to avoid winding up with '2 million people on our border’”.
He quickly changed course, rapidly ditching Trump’s successful border policies without implementing any promised “guardrails” to deter illegal entrants. Rather, in a departure from all his predecessors, Biden rejected all measures — like detention and prosecution — that would deter foreign nationals from entering illegally.
Instead, as DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas explained on May 1, “the objective of the Biden administration is to make sure that we have safe, orderly, and legal pathways for individuals to be able to access our legal system.”
Stated in the vernacular, that means Biden doesn’t view it as his responsibility to stop foreign nationals from entering the United States illegally. Instead, he believes his job is to ensure that every alien able to get here — legally or otherwise — can apply for asylum, regardless of the strength of their claims, or even whether they come seeking asylum at all.
That’s why Biden is now faced with that which he originally wanted to avoid: “2 million people on our border”. Actually 2.2 million, and headed straight up.
The Decline in Title 42 Expulsions. The only policy that has heretofore provided even a semblance of order at the Southwest border under Biden isn’t a “border policy” per se. It’s a public-health policy, enshrined in a series of orders issued by the CDC pursuant to Title 42 of the U.S. Code in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Those CDC orders require CBP to expel every illegal migrant at the Southwest border.
Under Trump, more than 87 percent of all those who entered illegally at the Southwest border were expelled pursuant to Title 42. That has steadily declined under Biden, who tried to end Title 42 on May 23, only to be stymied in that effort by a federal district court judge who enjoined the policy’s end on May 20.
Generally, presidents at least act like they’re complying with federal court orders, but Biden keeps trying to do end-arounds past that May 20 injunction. Of the nearly 207,600 illegal migrants apprehended at the Southwest border in September, fewer than 72,500 — less than 35 percent — were expelled under Title 42.
Note that DHS estimates up to 18,000 aliens per day will cross the Southwest border illegally once Title 42 ends — roughly 540,000 per month or 6.48 million per year. I originally wrote “fears” not “estimates” in the last sentence, but Mayorkas appears to welcome the opportunity to add millions of new migrants to the already overwhelmed dockets of the nation’s 589 immigration judges.
The Humanitarian Toll. Biden’s policies now have a rather significant death count. On October 22, Fox News’s Griff Jenkins tweeted:
BREAKING ** FOX NEWS EXCLUSIVELY OBTAINS ** The number that @CBP refuses to make public: 856 - the number of migrants DEATHS at our southern border for FY22.
— Griff Jenkins (@GriffJenkins) October 22, 2022
By way of comparison, Border Patrol publishes statistics on Southwest border deaths from FY 1998 through FY 2020. In that 13-year period, deaths have never exceeded 500 in any fiscal year, and only came close once, in FY 2005 when 492 migrants perished at the Southwest border.
If 856 migrants did die at the border in FY 2022, that would exceed the combined total deaths there for the three fiscal years, FY 2018 to FY 2020.
That’s on top of more than 22,000 Border Patrol search-and-rescue efforts at the Southwest border in FY 2022 — just slightly less than the combined totals for the three prior fiscal years. But for those efforts, the death toll would have been a whole lot worse.
The Process Is Even Worse than the Facts. There is a saying in Washington: “All procedural arguments are self-serving.” The purest example is in football, where fans only complain about calls that go against their own team.
Be that as it may, there is something decidedly deceptive, shabby, and unbecoming about the way CBP released its FY 2022 Southwest border statistics — late at night, nearly a week after they are normally published, and past the point voters had begun casting ballots to determine which party will control Congress.
U.S. voters deserve to know what’s being done in their name, but the Biden administration has long suffered from a “transparency” problem when it comes to its immigration policies and their effects.
As Shakespeare said, however, “the truth will out”, and now that the truth about the humanitarian disaster at the Southwest border has finally become public, it is incumbent on our nation’s leaders — on both sides of the aisle — to fix it. If not in this Congress, then in the next, which will be seated in January.