The Number of Convicted Criminal Aliens Apprehended at the Border Soars in FY 2021

But Border Patrol arrests of aliens wanted by the law are way down. What gives?

By Andrew R. Arthur on May 26, 2021

In the ongoing crisis at the Southwest border, it’s not just children and families entering illegally. The latest CBP statistics reveal Border Patrol has apprehended an increased number of aliens with criminal convictions this year. They had likely hoped to take advantage of that crisis to return to this country, but the question is: How many reentering criminals and aliens wanted by the law aren’t facing justice?

In the first seven months of this fiscal year, Border Patrol has “encountered” 5,861 aliens with criminal convictions, more than twice as many as in all of FY 2020 (2,438), and already more than 37 percent more than in all of FY 2019 (4,269).

Projecting forward based on current trends, Border Patrol will apprehend 10,047 aliens with criminal convictions, which would far surpass the totals for FY 2018 (6,698) and FY 2017 (8,531).

Encounters with criminal aliens pose special dangers for agents, because many have a history of committing violent crimes and don’t want to be caught.

For example, on May 18, agents from the El Centro Sector interrupted a smuggling event and discovered an illegal alien wanted for homicide in Orange County, Calif.

That alien and the nine others attempted to abscond, endangering their own lives and those of the responding agents in their escape attempt. As CBP described it:

The incident occurred at about 3:51 p.m., when agents encountered a navy-blue Chevy Silverado truck near the area of Evan Hewes Road in El Centro. The agents followed the truck westbound toward Plaster City. Agents observed several individuals trying to conceal themselves in the bed of the truck.

Agents attempted to conduct a vehicle stop. The driver of the vehicle drove north onto Juliet Road, an Off-Highway Vehicle road, to attempt to evade agents. The driver was unsuccessful in his attempt and the vehicle got stuck near Superstition Mountain. Once the vehicle came to a stop, all nine individuals exited the bed of the truck and attempted to abscond on foot.

After a brief search of the area, agents apprehended the driver and the nine individuals that fled on foot. Agents determined that all ten individuals were all undocumented and illegally present in the United States. The driver and the nine individuals were placed under arrest.

This was not a one-off apprehension of a dangerous alien.

On May 17, agents from the Rio Grande Valley Sector apprehended three migrants affiliated with gangs — a 27-year-old Mexican male who is a confirmed member of the Paisa gang, a 23-year-old El Salvadoran male who is a member of the 18th Street gang, and a 21-year-old Salvadoran female who is a member of MS-13 — all present illegally.

On May 15, agents from the McAllen, Texas, Border Patrol Station apprehended a 28-year-old Salvadoran national who had received a 34-month sentence for Rape of a Child-3 in Washington State; that individual was arrested shortly after entering the United States illegally.

Thereafter the same day, agents working in south Mission, Texas, encountered a 49-year-old Salvadoran male who had illegally entered the United States.

At the McAllen Border Patrol Station, agents discovered that the alien had a 2016 New York conviction for Sexual Abuse 2nd: Sexual Contact with Person Less Than 14 Years Old, for which he was sentenced to a year in jail.

I could go on, but you get the point.

Keep in mind that those 5,861 aliens who were apprehended with criminal convictions are in addition to 1,011 other aliens who were apprehended by Border Patrol with outstanding criminal wants and warrants. The number of aliens apprehended whom federal, state, and local officials are looking for is actually down this fiscal year, from FY 2020 (2,054) and FY 2019 (an astounding 4,153).

That said, Border Patrol is on track to apprehend 1,733 aliens with wants and warrants, which would be greater than the total of such apprehensions in FY 2018 (1,550).

The decline in the number of aliens wanted by federal, state, and local authorities is puzzling, however, given the significant increase in apprehensions of convicted aliens. It is possible that fewer aliens who are wanted by the law are entering illegally. But there could be other, less benign factors at work.

For example, it is possible that hundreds or thousands of wanted criminal aliens are among the more than 40,000 “got-aways” who entered the United States illegally in April and evaded Border Patrol apprehension.

If so, it further demonstrates the degree to which caring for children and families during the current crisis has degraded Border Patrol’s ability to protect society from murderers, gang members, and rapists.

It is also possible, however, that the Biden administration has directed agents to not turn apprehended aliens with wants and warrants over to state and local law-enforcement and to other federal agencies.

I have no reason to believe that this is true, but I also have no reason to believe that it’s not, either.

Note that under the Biden administration, ICE officers are now basically barred from questioning, apprehending, detaining, and deporting any but the most dangerous criminal aliens in the United States. Those policies are set forth in a February 18 memo from then-Acting ICE Director Tae Johnson.

Most significantly, that Tae Johnson memo “prioritizes” (read: “restricts”) ICE apprehensions of aliens who have criminal arrests or warrants unless they have also been convicted of an aggravated felony or satisfy needlessly stringent “criminal street gang” criteria.

ICE officers can arrest other aliens who have pending criminal charges — they simply have to go through an unnecessarily burdensome “preapproval” process that requires a “written justification” sent up the “chain of command”. Those preapprovals (assuming they are granted) are then bundled and forwarded to ICE headquarters, where career bureaucrats are tasked with second-guessing line officers — on a weekly basis.

Officers can thus arrest aliens facing charges or wanted for sex offenses, homicide, domestic violence, drunk driving, and any number of other serious crimes. But doing so requires reams of paperwork, and risks the opprobrium of their “superiors”.

If ICE has imposed such restrictions on its officers, how do we know that CBP is not doing the same with its agents? We don’t, or at least I don’t.

Here’s the bottom line: Even though Border Patrol agents now have to babysit tens of thousands of migrant children and families, they are apprehending an increasing number of criminals. But, for reasons that are unclear, the number of wanted criminals whom agents have apprehended has gone down this fiscal year. Congress may want to ask DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas just why that is.