More than half a million “known gotaways” have snuck across the U.S.-Mexico border since the beginning of the 2022 fiscal year in October. But that number is likely much higher thanks to President Joe Biden’s open border policies.
According to a new report from Fox News, the Department of Homeland Security spotted at least 55,000 “known gotaways” along the border each month this fiscal year. Despite the Biden administration’s repeated insistence that the border is under control, that number far outpaces the 389,155 gotaways reported by DHS for all of the 2021 fiscal year.
While some illegal immigrants enter the U.S. and immediately turn themselves in to Border Patrol for processing and release, gotaways are those who illegally enter the U.S. with no intention of getting caught. They actively avoid detection, often flee when pursued by Border Patrol or local law enforcement, and are more likely to have criminal records or be participants in criminal enterprises.
It’s hard to pin down the exact number of gotaways since some illegal border crossers, especially traffickers and smugglers, make it their job to evade arrest, but former Chief of the U.S. Border Patrol Rodney Scott told The Federalist that the actual number of 2022 gotaways is already likely much higher than half a million.
“The 500,000 that are documented, they do exist. But by leaving hundreds and hundreds of miles of border completely unpatrolled for days or weeks at a time, which is what’s going on currently because most agents are in processing, that number is very very, very artificially low,” Scott, now a senior distinguished fellow for border security at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, said.
That’s because the Biden administration dismantled several border practices that yielded solid statistics under former President Donald Trump, and redirected funding designed for border security to expediting processing. This took agents from working on the ground at the border and put them in processing facilities instead.
Before Biden assumed office, Border Patrol relied on calculated, hands-on, repeatable processes to determine just how many illegal border crossers were evading arrest each day. Agents used systematic patrols and timed data collection such as wiping roads clean and returning later to find clues to determine where migrants were likely sneaking into the U.S. undetected. Evidence such as footprints, pictures, footage from game cameras, and other surveillance was then submitted to a supervisor to be verified and officially notated.
“Not only was this looking at the gotaways but, in theory, it was supposed to help the Border Patrol agents be able to identify trends and then identify further certain areas where we have an advantage,” Scott explained.
It was these processes that gave Scott, when he was in charge of Border Patrol, a “higher level of confidence” in the official “known gotaway numbers.”
That all changed when Biden signed executive orders halting construction of Trump’s border wall. In doing that, Biden also discontinued a fiber optic cabling system that was designed to help agents make key decisions on which border breaches they should respond to first.
“The first thing that really would have actually made the biggest difference is the border wall system that was going into place. We picked the locations on purpose and included a robust technology suite that would let us know when anyone got anywhere near the border. Period. Even before they actually cut the fence or tried to cut it or tried to climb it.”
As Scott noted, all of that key technology went away when Biden ended the wall.
“You’ll hear a couple of news outlets were talking about ‘Oh the border wall is ineffective. People are cutting through it.’ Well, it’s because we never got to turn the technology on,” Scott explained.
Even though that technology would have been useful for accurately counting gotaways, Scott says he has “less confidence in that gotaway number today than I’ve probably had in the last five to 10 years because there are no agents patrolling the border.”
“It was all factored on putting an agent in the right place at the right time, all technology, all border barrier, even the databases that we will use, really all those investments are focused on one thing: How do you put a border patrol agent in the right place at the right time to prevent somebody from getting away?” Scott said. “There literally are no agents left to go do anything about it.”