Border apprehensions exceed 2 million this year: Enforcement increases as GOP buses migrants elsewhere

The number has already surpassed 2021, which set its own record.

September 19, 2022, 8:13 PM

The number of arrests or detentions of migrants at the border this fiscal year remains at a record high, according to data released Monday -- as Republicans level sharp criticism at the Biden administration, even as the White House says it is working to humanely manage immigration and stresses its limited influence over those seeking to enter the country.

U.S. Border Patrol's apprehensions of migrants have exceeded 2 million so far this fiscal year, including people who turn themselves into authorities between land ports of entry, according to agency data.

With more than a month still left in the fiscal year, the number of apprehensions marks a significant increase from 2021. That fiscal year, authorities apprehended migrants 1.66 million times and encountered migrants nearly 2 million times -- in what was then a new record. So far in fiscal year 2022, there have been more than 2.4 million migrant encounters.

A growing number of the migrants have been exercising their legal right to avoid deportation via humanitarian claims since the COVID-19 pandemic completely shut down standard immigration processing in March 2020.

The amount of time it takes to resolve the humanitarian claims that migrants can make to remain in the U.S. means many end up staying for months or years while their cases are adjudicated.

Authorities overall saw a 2.2% increase month-over-month in unique encounters with migrants in August, according to the new U.S. Customs and Border Patrol data. That growth came despite fewer migrants from Central America and Mexico, and it was driven by people arriving from Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, Biden administration officials said Monday.

The administration has had ongoing negotiations with multiple countries that have their own challenges with receiving migrants, the officials said. (Advocates highlight how many of the migrants face economic hardships and sociopolitical turbulence in their home countries.)

The Department of Homeland Security noted on Monday that "more individuals encountered at the border will be removed or expelled this year than any previous year."

Migrants, mostly from Venezuela, walk after being detained by U.S. Border Patrol agents after crossing into the United States from Mexico to turn themselves in to request for asylum, in El Paso, Texas, Sept. 14, 2022.
Jose Luis Gonzalez/Reuters

According to the government’s data, of the 203,598 stops along the southwest border last month, more than two-thirds involved single adults and 48% of the single-adult encounters resulted in rapid expulsion from the country pursuant to a Trump-era public health order under Title 42 of U.S. federal law, which cuts down opportunities for migrants to make legal claims to avoid deportation.

Slightly more than 1.04 million Border Patrol apprehensions resulted in a Title 42 expulsion in fiscal year 2021.

Amid the scrutiny of high immigration numbers, Biden administration officials have said that, in their view, the pent-up demand for humanitarian relief during the peak of the COVID-19 health crisis was compounded by former President Donald Trump's hardline immigration restrictions, including measures that forced asylum-seekers back into Mexico while their claims were processed in the U.S.

As the government has sought to roll back those restrictions, including the "remain in Mexico" policy, officials have also enhanced enforcement efforts, which is a driving force behind the historically high level of apprehensions.

In May, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas described a six-point plan to address border migration when the department was preparing for the end of the Title 42 order before its rescission was blocked in court.

Border Patrol agent Jesus Vasavilbaso looks into Mexico at a breach in the 30-foot-high border wall where a gate was never installed due to a halt in construction, Sept. 8, 2022, in Sasabe, Ariz.
Matt York/AP

"What we are doing is surging personnel -- both at U.S. Customs and Border Protection, specifically the Border Patrol, as well as enforcement and removal operations within Immigration and Customs Enforcement -- to bring expedited removal, that's immigration enforcement proceedings, to the fullest extent that we can," Mayorkas told lawmakers.

At the time, the secretary testified to plans that included increasing processing speeds to avoid overcrowding at border stations and a resource surge to bolster migrant transportation for those held in U.S. custody as well as medical services.

Officials said Monday that the administration continues to implement and update these plans.

Meanwhile, Republicans have denounced the White House's approach to immigration, especially as it contrasts with Trump. Conservatives claim President Joe Biden has allowed indiscriminate migration beyond what states can tolerate. The administration -- citing high enforcement numbers, in part -- has said it wants to support a lawful and compassionate system while seeking to improve conditions in migrants' home countries rather than encouraging them to travel.

GOP leaders in border states and elsewhere have used the migrants as part of public stunts to underline their criticism -- buying bus and plane tickets to send some of them to Democratic states where local officials were caught off guard.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams said this week his city needs help in receiving the migrants that have arrived so far, a request that does not appear to resonate with officials in Texas, including Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who are managing a level of migrant arrivals many times greater compared to the number they sent north.

A migrant is searched before transport after being apprehended by U.S. Border Patrol agents at the base of the Baboquivari Mountains, Sept. 8, 2022, near Sasabe, Ariz.
Matt York/AP

"We've reached out and stated that, let's coordinate and work together so we can deal with this crisis together," Adams told ABC News' Jonathan Karl on "This Week" on Sunday. "They refused to do so."

"They took the call and stated that they would coordinate -- I'm talking about Gov. Abbott -- they would coordinate, and they did not coordinate at all because I don't think it was politically expedient for them to coordinate," Adams added. "It was more to do this, basically, political showmanship that you're seeing now."

Abbott's office, which has said in August that the White House's immigration policy was "overwhelming Texas communities," did not respond to questions from ABC News about the level of coordination between officials.

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