Posted on April 6, 2021

Border Officials Say More People Are Sneaking past Them

Nick Miroff, Washington Post, April 2, 2021

Nearly 1,000 people per day are sneaking into the United States without being identified or taken into custody because U.S. border agents are busy attending to migrant families and unaccompanied children while also trying to stop soaring numbers of male adults, according to three U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials familiar with the data.

While CBP has never claimed to interdict every border-crosser, the number of “got aways” recorded in recent weeks is the highest in recent memory, said two of the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the data. The agency defines a “got away” as an individual who is not turned back to Mexico or apprehended, and is no longer being actively pursued by Border Patrol.

Counting got-aways is not an exact science, but CBP has spent more than $1 billion over the past two decades on surveillance technology and camera networks that have given the agency far greater ability to detect illegal crossings in real time. Apprehending those individuals is another matter.

When migration levels surge, as with the current influx, border agents spend significant amounts of time transporting and processing families and unaccompanied minors, who generally do not attempt to evade capture, turning themselves in and seeking humanitarian refuge in the United States.

Department of Homeland Security officials say they expect illegal border crossings to leap to a 20-year high in 2021. The number of migrants taken into custody by agents in March topped 171,000 — the highest one-month total since at least March 2006 — and included more than 18,800 teenagers and children who arrived without their parents, a record, according to preliminary CBP data.

{snip} Border Patrol Deputy Chief Raul Ortiz said during a podcast in February that the agency had recorded 1,000 got-aways on a single day, describing that as an unusual event. But since then, the figure has become a new normal.

The number of single adults caught by Border Patrol in March exceeded 99,000, the preliminary figures show. CBP returned most of those adults to Mexico using the Title 42 public health order that has been in place since March 2020. It has allowed U.S. authorities to reduce the risk of coronavirus infection inside immigration jails, but it has also facilitated a much higher recidivism rate as adults try to sneak in again and again until they succeed.

The number of got-aways has been especially high in southern Arizona, according to two agents there, as smaller groups of individuals, some carrying drugs, have been hiking through remote areas that would require time-consuming interdictions. It appears that smuggling organizations are sending “small groups of two, three or four, and that quickly occupies all the agents available to go after them,” said one agent, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because that person was not authorized to speak to reporters.


Republican lawmakers who traveled to the border last month said large numbers of terrorists were taking advantage of the crisis to slip into the United States undetected. {snip}


There is broad consensus, however, that got-aways often include previous deportees, some with serious criminal records, who pay premium rates to smugglers who can reduce their chances of capture. Under normal circumstances, repeat border-crossers with prior deportations would face the risk of federal prosecution and jail, but the Title 42 policy has removed any threat of consequences, agents say.