October Border Numbers Drop Slightly — But Are Still Historically High

Yet, the president has done nothing to stem the tide. Does Biden care?

By Andrew R. Arthur on November 17, 2021

On November 16, CBP released its statistics on the number of migrants apprehended at the Southwest border in October. While the number of apprehensions was slightly lower last month than it was in September, the more than 158,000 aliens caught at the Southwest border in October is still the highest total for the month in the last 22 years. The question is: Does the president care? Because he is not acting as if it is a national-security, law-enforcement, and humanitarian problem, although it plainly is.

I have often made reference to a March analysis in the Washington Post that attempted to explain away the large number of migrants who had entered the United States illegally in the first two months of the Biden administration, captioned “The migrant ‘surge’ at the U.S. southern border is actually a predictable pattern.”

As the title suggests (and as I posited at the time would be the case), most of the points therein were proven to be in error. The article does, however, include a helpful chart of cumulative apprehensions at the Southwest border by month between FY 2012 and FY 2020.

That chart shows that illegal migration there hits a monthly peak in May, and then declines sharply in July, with a steady decline through the end of summer, cratering in January when the pattern starts again.

For comparison, here is a chart showing how monthly apprehensions looked in FY 2021, when the Border Patrol caught more illegal migrants at the Southwest border (1.659 million-plus) than in any year in history:

Southwest Border Apprehensions FY 2021

As you can see, that traditional monthly decline from May onward did not occur in FY 2021, although there was a slight dip in apprehensions beginning in August.

Apprehensions in September totaled 185,515, a number that fell by less than 15 percent last month to 158,575. Again, the decline was to be expected based on traditional patterns, but as noted the October total is historically high compared to previous years.

Border Patrol publishes monthly apprehension totals going back to October 1999, a month when there were 91,410 total Southwest border apprehensions. That pre-September 11th October apprehension number was the highest in the past 22 years, until October 2021 beat it — by 73 percent.

Of course, almost all those apprehensions in October 1999 were single adult males, almost exclusively from Mexico. Last month, by contrast, Border Patrol apprehended more than 41,000 adult migrants and children traveling in “family units” (FMUs) and more than 12,000 unaccompanied alien children (UACs).

Monthly Border Patrol statistics on UAC apprehensions date back to October 2009 (when there were 1,533). The prior monthly high for an October in that 12-year period was in 2018, when UAC apprehensions at the Southwest border were just fewer than 5,000 (4,964 to be exact).

Of course, October 2018 was the start of what then-DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen termed a “border emergency” in FY 2019. Last month’s total of UAC apprehensions surpassed that old record by almost 155 percent.

Family unit migration is a more recent phenomenon, and so Border Patrol statistics for FMUs only go back to October 2012 (total that month: 799).

The prior highest monthly total for apprehensions of aliens in family units at the Southwest border in an October was, again, in 2018, when they reached 23,116. In other words, last month’s FMU apprehensions beat the prior October record by 18,371 — an almost 80 percent increase.

In response to the border emergency, in FY 2019 then-President Trump instituted several initiatives to tamp down on illegal immigration. They worked, and Border Patrol apprehensions at the Southwest border fell to a pre-pandemic low of fewer than 30,000 in January 2020 — less than 22 percent of what they had been 10 months earlier.

The most successful of those Trump initiatives was the Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), better known as “Remain in Mexico”. Under MPP, aliens apprehended at the Southwest border were sent back to Mexico to await removal hearings on their asylum claims. Almost 70,000 illegal migrants were returned across the border under the program.

As I explained in a November 4 post, the Biden administration first suspended MPP just after the inauguration, and then attempted to end the program in June.

A federal judge blocked the termination of MPP in August (in a case that made its way to the Supreme Court the same month), and the Biden administration has promised numerous times that it would comply with the court’s order and start the program again (even though it also terminated MPP for a second time at the end of October, a move it is holding in abeyance pending completion of the case).

But November is more than halfway over, and still no MPP. Nor has the president taken any other steps that would stem the flow of illegal migrants to the United States.

Much like the Washington Post article, the president attempted to dismiss the significance of the growing wave of illegal immigration in the early spring, when he stated during a March 25 press conference:

The truth of the matter is: Nothing has changed. As many people came — 28 percent increase in children to the border in my administration; 31 percent in the last year of — in 2019, before the pandemic, in the Trump administration. It happens every single, solitary year: There is a significant increase in the number of people coming to the border in the winter months of January, February, March. That happens every year.

By now, even the president knows that this flood of migrants is no “seasonal surge”. Illegal immigration is up under the Biden administration to, again, historical highs, and shows no signs of abating beyond some minor monthly fluctuations. This is the new normal.

Since he knows how bad the problem is, the only logical reason that the president and his administration have failed to act to stem that tide is that he does not care about the national security, law enforcement, and humanitarian disaster that his policies and rhetoric have created. I hope that is not true, but it is the only logical conclusion.