Posted on March 21, 2023

February Border Numbers Give Away Administration’s Game

Andrew R. Arthur, Center for Immigration Studies, March 20, 2023

On March 15, CBP released its border numbers for the month of February. Border Patrol’s Southwest border apprehensions last month were roughly unchanged since January, with just short of 129,000 migrants again caught entering illegally, but average daily apprehensions have spiked. In its February “Operational Update”, CBP took an unwarranted victory lap — unwarranted because when you drill down into them, the stats are giving away the truth of the administration’s game. Likely worse, however, that update reveals that Biden’s DHS either misrepresented its reasons for ending “Remain in Mexico” or doesn’t really care that much about the safety of migrants on the other side of the line.

February’s Apprehension Numbers. In the 28 days of February, agents at the Southwest border apprehended 128,877 illegal migrants, 26 fewer than they had in the 31 preceding days the month before. On average, however, agents caught more than 4,600 illicit entrants daily in February, compared to 4,158 on an average day in January — a more than 9 percent increase.

To put all those numbers into context, that’s more Southwest border apprehensions for the month of February than in any fiscal year between FY 2002 and FY 2021. To be fair to the Biden administration, it’s also more than 20,000 apprehensions fewer than in February 2022, but given that apprehensions hit all-time highs last fiscal year, it’s not much to write home about.

Notably, last month’s apprehension numbers at the U.S.-Mexico line were more than 325 percent higher than they were in February 2020 — the last month before the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic was declared, and the month before the CDC issued its first order under Title 42 of the U.S. Code directing the expulsion of all illegal entrants at the land border in response to that pandemic.

Encounters. But the news is worse yet. CBP “encountered” nearly 155,000 inadmissible aliens at the Southwest border in February, at a rate of more than 5,535 per day.

“Encounters” in this context are the sum of aliens apprehended by Border Patrol agents entering illegally plus aliens seeking admission who were deemed inadmissible by CBP officers at the ports of entry.

The 26,121 aliens deemed inadmissible at the Southwest border ports was the fifth highest number in recorded history (CBP inadmissibility records go back to October 2016), trailing only the four previous months, October through January.

That only tells part of the story, however. Last month, CBP officers at all of the ports of entry — along the Northern, Southwestern, and coastal borders, and at the interior airports — combined stopped more than 82,000 inadmissible aliens, an all-time record.

The Game. Which brings me back to the Biden administration’s current game.

For some months leading up to January 25, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) were allowed to schedule appointments at the Southwest border ports of entry for would-be illegal migrants who claimed that they should be “excepted” from the Title 42 process on humanitarian grounds. Just over 23,000 aliens were scheduled by NGOs for Southwest border port appointments in December, for example.

On January 5, the White House announced that the Biden administration would be replacing that ad hoc NGO scheduling scheme with a new protocol, allowing inadmissible aliens to schedule port appointments themselves though the CBP One mobile application (available on the Apple App Store and on Google play).

That combination of NGO and CBP One scheduling is one reason why the number of inadmissible aliens at the Southwest border ports has been running at historically high levels since October. Those aliens are still here illegally because they are still inadmissible — they just didn’t have to go through the process of entering illegally and getting caught and processed to be released. All they had to do was show up at a port.

That’s just part of the Biden administration’s game, however.

In that January 5 White House announcement, the administration also announced that it would be expanding an October program that grants two-year authorized periods of “parole” to would-be illegal migrants from Venezuela to cover would-be illegal migrants from Nicaragua, Haiti, and Cuba, too, at a rate of 30,000 per month.

Those aliens don’t have to bring their parole documents to the Southwest border to enter; rather, the idea is that they can fly directly to the interior of the United States from Caracas, Managua, Port-au-Prince, or Havana, without paying a smuggler to trek through Mexico.


Aliens who enter the United States on parole are inadmissible, not least because they lack a valid immigrant or nonimmigrant visa to enter the United States (they may also be inadmissible on health, criminal, national security, and other grounds, too).

In February, nearly 12,300 Venezuelan nationals were deemed inadmissible at the ports of entry nationwide — just over 4,100 at the Southwest land border, 34 at the Northern border, and the remaining 8,150 at interior airports.

More than 23,100 Nicaraguan, Haitian, and Cuban aliens were deemed inadmissible at the ports of entry nationwide: just over 14,900 at the Southwest border, 80 at the Northern border, and the rest (6,686) at the interior airports of entry.

Again, those Venezuelan, Nicaraguan, Haitian, and Cuban nationals who have been granted parole under Biden’s January 5 plan are still here illegally, because they are inadmissible. They just don’t show up in CBP’s apprehension stats because in lieu of entering illegally, the administration ushered them into the United States in an illegal status through the ports.


Takeaways. CBP’s contentions notwithstanding, historic numbers of migrants continue entering illegally. That agency’s disclosures reveal the administration is hiding its border crisis by funneling greater numbers of would-be migrants through U.S. ports of entry, including interior airports. Likely worse, they suggest Biden’s DHS either misrepresented its reasons for ending Remain in Mexico or doesn’t really care that much about migrants’ safety.