Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on Saturday announced that migrant numbers at the southern border for the month of September had reached new levels with the highest monthly encounters on record as well as the highest fiscal year total on record, in a significant blow to the Biden administration’s border strategy.
There were 269,735 migrant encounters in September, of which 218,763 were encountered entering illegally by Border Patrol agents. That brings the yearly total for migrants at the southern border for FY 23 to 2.48 million, higher than the 2.38 million in FY 22 and 1.73 million in FY 21. There were just 458,088 encounters in FY 2020.
Of those who entered, 43,000 individuals were processed in through ports of entry via the controversial CBP One app, which allows migrants to schedule an appointment to be paroled into the U.S.
Meanwhile, there were 18 encounters of people on the terror watch list between ports of entry at the southern border, taking the total for FY 23 up to 169 — a new record and more than the last six fiscal years combined.
In a statement, acting CBP Commissioner Troy Miller said that the agency is surging resources and personnel “in response to high rates of encounters” at the border. The White House this week asked Congress for $14 billion in funding for its border strategy, including more staffing and money for migrant services.
Miller also noted the start this week of deportation flights directly to Venezuela, where a significant part of the migrant population is coming from.
“We are continually engaging with domestic and foreign partners to address historic hemispheric migration, including large migrant groups traveling on freight trains, and to enforce consequences, including by preparing for direct repatriations to Venezuela,” Miller said. “CBP will continue to remain vigilant, making operational adjustments as necessary and enforcing consequences under U.S. immigration law.”
“The supplemental funding request announced yesterday would provide critically needed additional resources, including additional CBP agents and officers to support our essential missions: from border and migration management, to countering fentanyl and keeping dangerous drugs out of our communities,” he said.
The numbers mark the latest blow for the Biden administration’s post-Title 42 border strategy, which focused on reasserting “consequences” for illegal entry while working with international partners and expanding what it calls “lawful pathways” for migrants to enter the U.S.
Numbers dropped sharply after the end of Title 42 in May after record-high daily numbers leading up to it, bucking predictions from Republicans that there would be an explosion in encounters at the border.
As numbers remained relatively low through June, the administration pointed to the numbers as a sign that the strategy was working — just as it called on Congress to provide more funding and provide immigration reform to fix what it says is a “broken” overall system.
“Our approach to managing the borders securely and humanely even within our fundamentally broken immigration system is working,” DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told House lawmakers in July. “Unlawful entries between ports of entry along the southwest border have consistently decreased by more than half, compared to the peak before the end of Title 42.”
Numbers skyrocketed in July, August and September, leading to increasing criticism from not only Republicans but also Democratic officials in large cities, like New York, which have been overwhelmed by migrants flooding into their communities.
“This fiscal year may have ended, but the historic crisis at our Southwest border sparked by Secretary Mayorkas’ policies rages on,” House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mark Green said in a statement. “These numbers demonstrate beyond a doubt that Secretary Mayorkas’ refusal to enforce the law and secure our border is jeopardizing our safety and security. Additionally, CBP and the Border Patrol continue to be completely overwhelmed by the flood of illegal immigration that has not stopped since he and President Biden took office.”
“We also can’t forget about the 1.7 million known gotaways, some of whom may be seeking to cause the same type of devastation we saw in Israel on October 7. Secretary Mayorkas’ policies have failed, but he has only doubled down on them,” he said. “He must be held accountable.”
The administration has continued to lean heavily on “lawful pathways,” including establishing migrant processing centers in Central America to help migrants identify refugee, parole and other pathways for which they may be eligible. It also granted deportation protections and work permits for over 470,000 Venezuelan nationals last month.
There have also been some signs of greater enforcement measures from the administration, which this week touted not only its direct deportation flights to Venezuela, which resumed this week, but also highlighted statistics that it has returned over 110,000 people via expedited removal since May. It has previously said that it has returned or removed more people since Title 42 ended than in the same period in FY 2019 during the Trump administration.
DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas also recently cited an “acute and immediate need” to waive federal regulations in order to build the border wall in South Texas this month, which led to claims from Democrats and Republicans that it is changing its anti-wall position. But DHS said it has been obligated to spend that money due to an FY 19 appropriation, and that its position of opposing wall construction has not changed.
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