SW Border Apprehensions Exceed One Million in First Six Months of FY 2024

Even while the administration funneled tens of thousands of other illegal migrants into the country, but President Biden likely owes a debt of gratitude to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R)

By Andrew R. Arthur on April 15, 2024

CBP released its monthly encounter statistics for March on Friday, and they reveal that Southwest border apprehensions between ports of entry have exceeded a million in just the first six months of FY 2024. As bad as that is, those apprehension numbers would likely have been much higher if the Biden administration weren't funneling tens of thousands of other aliens through the ports — and if Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) weren’t taking unprecedented steps to secure his state’s border with Mexico.

As a reminder, since March 2020, CBP has been using the term “encounter” to refer to both aliens apprehended by Border Patrol agents between the ports of entry and aliens deemed inadmissible at those ports by CBP officers.

Southwest Border Apprehensions. In March, Border Patrol agents apprehended just fewer than 137,500 illegal migrants at the Southwest border, for a total of nearly 1.032 million in the first six months of FY 2024.

By comparison, between FY 2008 and the outset of the Biden administration in FY 2021, agents never apprehended more than 860,000 illegal entrants total in any given fiscal year, and in most of those years apprehensions never exceeded a half million.

Border Patrol released more than 78,000 of those aliens (56.8 percent) agents apprehended in March directly into the United States last month despite the fact that section 235(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) requires DHS to detain them all.

Given that fewer than 25,500 illegal entrants apprehended at the Southwest border last month were subject to expedited removal (18.5 percent of the total), most of the rest of those aliens will likely be cut loose to live and work here indefinitely as well, assuming they haven’t already been released.

None of this stopped Troy A. Miller, CBP’s de facto commissioner, from crowing: “Encounters at our southern border are lower right now, but we remain prepared for changes, continually managing operations to respond to ever-shifting transnational criminal activities and migration patterns”.

Total Southwest Border Encounters. Why, exactly, was Miller talking about “lower” encounters when apprehensions continue to run at historical highs? As Fox News explained:

In March, the Border Patrol recorded 137,480 encounters between ports of entry along the southwest border. The encounters between ports of entry along the southwest border were 45% lower than in December 2023, and 16% lower than in March 2023.

While it was the lowest March for Border Patrol encounters under the Biden administration, CBP records show the first six months of fiscal year 2024 had 1,340,801 total encounters, exceeding the first six months of fiscal year 2023, which set a record of 1,226,254 total encounters. [Emphasis added.]

Which brings me to migrant encounters by CBP officers at the Southwest border ports of entry in March. Last month, those officers stopped nearly 52,000 inadmissible aliens at the ports of entry on the U.S.-Mexico line, a 43 percent increase compared to March 2022 and a 350 percent increase from March 2021.

Already in the first half of FY 2024, CBP officers have encountered nearly 309,000 illegal aliens at the Southwest border ports of entry, more than three times as many as in all of FY 2021 (75,480). And that massive increase is all by design.

In January 2023, the Biden administration began funneling would-be illegal entrants through the land ports by allowing them to pre-schedule interviews at those ports using the CBP One app, in a policy I have dubbed the “CBP One app interview scheme”.

Of the roughly 52,000 aliens encountered at the Southwest border ports last month, 44,000 of them utilized this scheme.

Congressional disclosures have revealed that nearly 96 percent of such aliens are subsequently paroled into the United States, despite the fact that those releases exceed DHS’s extremely limited parole authority. That means that you can add at least 42,000 more illegal aliens who were released in March.

All of these aliens encountered by CBP at the Southwest border and released into the United States are crushing not only the cities and towns they’re heading to, but the U.S. immigration system itself.

According to the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University, there are more than 3.4 million removal cases currently pending before the immigration courts, a more than three-fold increase compared to FY 2019 (1.024 million pending cases).

Given that the number of immigration judges (IJs) available to hear those cases declined between the end of FY 2023 (734) and the end of the first quarter of FY 2024 (725), hiring of IJs has failed to keep up with the backlog. I was an IJ for eight years, and if I was dealing with a docket of more than 4,700 removal cases, I’d find new employment, too.

CHNV Parole. None of these Southwest border figures includes the 28,000 nationals of Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela who entered last month under “CHNV parole”, yet another Biden administration innovation to hide the scope of illegal immigration to the United States.

My colleague Todd Bensman helped focus the public’s attention on how CHNV parole allows up to 30,000 inadmissible aliens to fly directly into interior U.S. airports each month, increasing the burdens on cities already straining under their own migrant crises, and now CBP is having to do damage control.

As the agency explained in its “Monthly Update” for March, these CHNV parole processes:

are publicly available online, and DHS has been providing regular updates on their use to the public. This is part of the Administration’s strategy to combine expanded lawful pathways with stronger consequences to reduce irregular migration and have kept hundreds of thousands of people from migrating irregularly.

Thus far, some 404,000 inadmissible aliens from those four countries have entered the United States on CHNV parole, despite the fact that none of them have visas or a legal right to enter.

That’s a population of removable aliens nearly as large as the population of Tampa, Fla. (408,438). Ask yourself — had you even heard of this illicit migration before Bensman began discussing it, despite those contentions from CBP? Now you have.

“Operation Lone Star” and the Decline in Texas Encounters. All of which brings me to the debt of gratitude that President Biden owes to Gov. Abbott.

To address the surge of illegal migrants that began shortly after the president took office in March 2021, Abbott launched “Operation Lone Star”, a state initiative to supplement CBP’s border-security efforts.

As the governor explained when he commenced the operation:

The crisis at our southern border continues to escalate because of Biden Administration policies that refuse to secure the border and invite illegal immigration. ... Texas supports legal immigration but will not be an accomplice to the open border policies that cause, rather than prevent, a humanitarian crisis in our state and endanger the lives of Texans. We will surge the resources and law enforcement personnel needed to confront this crisis.

In the beginning, Lone Star was largely staffed by state troopers from the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) and National Guard troops from the Texas Military Department (TMD). The troops would monitor movements along the border and report to CBP and to the troopers, while the troopers would pursue and interdict smugglers and illegal migrants.

Shortly before Title 42 ended on May 11, 2023, however, Lone Star expanded and Texas began erecting concertina-wire (c-wire) barriers along the Rio Grande to deter illegal entries. For reasons that remain unclear, however, last September, the Biden administration started destroying those c-wire barriers in Maverick County, Texas, to allow illegal migrants to cross the river unimpeded.

The state’s challenge to the administration’s destruction of its property eventually made its way to the Supreme Court, which in January allowed CBP to continue cutting the c-wire barriers. Likely recognizing the bad political optics attendant to such actions in an election year, however, the administration has subsequently left the barriers undisturbed.

That was likely all for the best, because it appears that Lone Star and the barriers are deterring migrants from crossing the Rio Grande into Texas.

The Southwest border is about 1,954 miles long, and approximately 1,250 of those miles (nearly two-thirds) separate Texas from Mexico.

In March, agents from the Border Patrol’s five Texas sectors (Rio Grande Valley or “RGV”, Laredo, Del Rio, Big Bend, and El Paso) apprehended just over 54,000 illegal migrants — a 58 percent decline compared to March 2022.

By comparison, agents in the four sectors west of Texas (Tucson, Yuma, El Centro, and San Diego) made more than 83,000 apprehensions last month, a slight increase over March 2022.

The southern Texas border, and the RGV in particular, has traditionally seen the lion’s share of illegal immigration, not least because it is much closer to Mexico’s southern border and thanks to its proximity to major population centers in Mexico itself. Not last month, however.

I don’t expect President Biden to be sending any bouquets Gov. Abbott’s way, however.

The good news in CBP’s encounter stats for March is that illegal entries at the Southwest border have declined slightly of late. The bad news, however, is that illegal aliens continue to pour into the country at near record levels, overwhelming the capacity of our immigration system to handle them. If it weren’t for Gov. Greg Abbott, though, things would likely be a whole lot worse.