The Customs and Border Protection (CBP) recently disclosed that the migrant numbers at the southern border for September have soared to unprecedented levels, marking the highest monthly encounters and fiscal year total on record. The recent development is a major setback for the border strategy of the Biden administration.
In September alone, Border Patrol agents reported 269,735 migrant encounters, with 218,763 trying to enter illegally. This brings the total number of migrants at the southern border for Fiscal Year 2023 to a staggering 2.48 million. This figure surpasses the 2.38 million recorded in FY 2022 and the 1.73 million in FY 2021, with FY 2020 seeing only 458,088 encounters.
A notable aspect of these encounters is the use of the controversial CBP One app, through which 43,000 individuals were processed at ports of entry, allowing them to be paroled into the U.S. Additionally, there were 18 encounters of individuals on the terror watch list between ports of entry at the southern border, bringing the total for FY 2023 to 169. This number is a new record, exceeding the total of the last six fiscal years combined.
Acting CBP Commissioner Troy Miller highlighted the agency’s efforts to manage the situation, stating that resources and personnel are being stretched “in response to high rates of encounters” at the border. The White House is seeking $14 billion from Congress to support its border strategy, which includes staffing and funds to assist migrants.
Miller also mentioned the initiation of deportation flights directly to Venezuela, a significant source of the migrant population. He emphasized the agency’s commitment to working with domestic and international partners to address the historic migration challenges and enforce immigration laws.
Despite these efforts, the recent numbers mark a setback for the Biden administration’s post-Title 42 border strategy, which aimed to reestablish “consequences” for illegal entry while expanding “lawful pathways” for migrants to enter the U.S. In July, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told House lawmakers that illegal entries between southwest border ports have consistently dropped by more than half since Title 42 ended. Although numbers initially dropped after the end of Title 42 in May, they have since surged in July, August, and September, leading to criticism from both Republican and Democratic officials.
House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mark Green expressed his concern, stating that the ongoing Southwest border crisis exacerbated by Secretary Mayorkas’ policies is jeopardizing safety and security. He emphasized the need for accountability and highlighted the potential challenge of tracking 1.7 million known but undocumented migrants.
The administration continues to promote “lawful pathways,” including establishing migrant processing centers in Central America and granting deportation protections and work permits to Venezuelan nationals.
Additionally, there have been signs of increased enforcement measures, including direct deportation flights to Venezuela and the return of over 110,000 people via expedited removal since May.
However, the situation remains complex. Mayorkas recently cited an “acute and immediate need” to waive federal regulations for border wall construction in South Texas, sparking debate over the administration’s stance on wall construction. However, DHS stated that it was obligated to spend the money due to an FY 19 appropriation, and its opposition to wall construction remains unchanged.