CBP: Continued Sharp Drop in Illegal Border Crossings

March 16, 2023

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) released data Wednesday showing that a sharp drop in illegal U.S.-Mexico border crossings that began in January has continued into February.

The report comes after stricter immigration measures were recently put in place by the Biden Administration.

The Administration said on January 5 that it would admit no more than 30,000 migrants a month from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela for two years with authorization to work. Border crossings by migrants from those four nations had risen sharply, with no easy way to quickly return them to their home countries. 

At the same time, Mexico agreed to take back the same amount from those countries who crossed into the U.S. illegally and were expelled under Title 42, the Covid-era health policy that allowed for migrant expulsions at the border.

President Biden visited the border for the first time a few days after enacting the new restrictions, and just before he embarked on his first visit to Mexico where he met with President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for a Summit of the Americas.

“My message is this. If you’re trying to leave Cuba, Nicaragua or Haiti, or have agreed to begin a journey to America, do not just show up at the border,” Biden said in a speech from the White House ahead of his trip to the border. “Stay where you are and apply legally from there.”

CBP Acting Commissioner Troy Miller said in a statement Wednesday, “The new border enforcement measures kept February’s overall encounter numbers nearly even with January.” 

Specifically, individuals encountered by CBP trying to cross into the U.S. between southwestern Ports of Entry (POEs) in February 2023 totaled 128,877. That’s slightly fewer than the 128,913 encounters in January 2023. 

Miller also touted a new app, called CBP One, which allows migrants seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border to schedule a time to approach a land port of entry.

One red flag in the new data: unaccompanied children. According to CBP, there was a 16% increase in unaccompanied minors crossing the border—10,870 incidents in February compared to 9,382 in January.

However, Border Patrol encounters with family unit individuals decreased by 13%—33,191 encounters in February compared with 38,121 in January. And that’s down 62% from a peak of 87,461 such encounters in August 2021.

Meanwhile, Border Patrol said that nationwide drug seizures by weight of Cocaine, Methamphetamine, Heroin, Fentanyl, and Marijuana increased an average 6% in February compared to January.

The CBP said that this February “marks the second month in a row as the lowest month of Border Patrol encounters since February 2021,” Biden’s first full month in office.

During his State of the Union Address in February, Biden called on Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform, saying, “American border problems won’t be fixed until Congress acts.”

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