You would never know it by perusing headlines in the corporate press, but the border crisis is getting worse, not better, as the summer goes on. In fact, it might well turn out to be historic.
Late last week U.S. Customs and Border Protection finally released June border apprehension numbers, which hit a 21-year high with more than 188,000 arrests last month and more than 1.1 million so far this fiscal year.
But that’s not all. Contrary to the usual seasonal rise and fall of illegal immigration, which typically spikes in the spring and then recedes during the hotter summer months, the number of people crossing the border illegally is increasing — as it has been every month since last April.
If this trend continues, we’ll break the decades-old record for southwest border apprehensions, which is more than 1.6 million back in 2000.
More than 1 million border apprehensions so far in FY2021. The last time we had more than a million apprehensions in a single year was 2006. And we still have 3 months to go in the FY. pic.twitter.com/D8l86oMTcS
— John Daniel Davidson (@johnddavidson) July 16, 2021
Beyond the sheer numbers are the changing demographics of illegal immigration. A growing share of illegal immigrants are now coming from countries other than Mexico or the Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.
CBP data for June show a sharp and sustained increase in other nationalities crossing the Rio Grande, rising from just 11,909 in February to more than 47,000 in June. Migrants from Nicaragua and other South American countries have increased three-fold since the beginning of the year, and the number of Haitians and Cubans encountered by Border Patrol is 2.5 times higher than it was in January.
In addition, the number of families and unaccompanied children crossing over continues to rise, last month surpassing the total for June of 2019, during the height of the last border crisis. Indeed, more unaccompanied children have been taken into federal custody so far this year than in all of 2019. The number of single adults taken into custody, still by far the majority of all apprehensions, declined last month for the first time since last April.
Some on the left and in the corporate press like to point out that these figures represent apprehensions, not people, because some of those who are apprehended and expelled are repeat offenders. This has always been the case, but the use of Title 42, a public health measure invoked by former President Trump at the onset of the pandemic last year, allows for the rapid expulsion of some migrants, mostly single adults. Since expulsion under Title 42 carries no criminal penalty (like deportation does), many adult migrants are making multiple attempts to cross even after being arrested more than once.
But even taking these multiple offenders into account, in June there were more than 123,000 “unique individual encounters,” as CBP puts it, meaning these are people who are crossing for the first time. (For perspective, at the height of the 2019 crisis there were 144,00 apprehensions that May.)
Then there’s COVID. Fox News reported this week that COVID cases among illegal immigrants in the Rio Grande Valley — by far the busiest section of the border — are up 900 percent in the first two weeks of July compared to the previous 14 months after 135 detainees tested positive for the virus.
For months now, border officials and nonprofit shelters have worried that COVID infection rates among migrants were higher than the 5 percent figure widely repeated in the press. Testing has been haphazard and inconsistent along the border, but COVID outbreaks in emergency shelters for migrant youth have been ongoing, with infection rates hovering between 15 and 20 percent.
Meanwhile, the Biden administration continues to reduce the number of people being expelled under Title 42. Initially, Biden maintained Trump’s Title 42 authority in order to expel single adults and families out of concern that processing large numbers of people in border facilities would contribute to the spread of COVID-19, while admitting unaccompanied minors (and quickly overwhelming federal facilities).
But now, the Biden administration is releasing the vast majority of families apprehended at the border. Out of 55,000 family units apprehended in June, only 8,000 (about 14 percent) were expelled under Title 42. That’s a drastic drop from January, when 62 percent of all family units were expelled. Although less drastic, the administration is also gradually decreasing the number of single adults it expels under Title 42, from 92 percent in January to 82 percent in June.
Corporate Media Can’t Spin The Numbers
So much for the numbers. What they point to is a border crisis of historic proportions — one that’s unfolding with almost no coverage from a corporate media establishment that wants above all to protect the Biden administration.
Amid this self-imposed media blackout, Republicans in Congress have been trying to draw attention to the crisis as best they can. This week Reps. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and James Comer, R-Ky., released a report analyzing the crisis six months into the Biden administration, including a timeline detailing all the Trump-era policies and programs Biden dismantled soon after taking office, as well as subsequent policies enacted by the Biden administration that have further exacerbated the crisis.
Among these are major shifts that largely flew under the radar, like a 62 percent drop in arrests by Immigration and Customs Enforcement during Biden’s first month in office, which indicates interior immigration enforcement plummeted just as the border was becoming overwhelmed.
The media can continue to ignore what is shaping up to be an historic crisis at the border, but ordinary Americans know something is wrong. According to a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll, a majority of Americans disapprove of Biden’s handling of the border, and in Texas, which is bearing the brunt of Biden’s immigration policies, another recent poll found that immigration and border security are the top concern of voters in the state.
One reason for this disapproval and concern, despite so little media coverage, is that every month CBP releases its border numbers, and every month for the last six months, those numbers have said the same thing: there’s a crisis on the border, and it’s getting worse.