The U.S. government released grim new data yesterday on illegal immigration at the U.S.’s southern border as well the health concerns of migrants amid the rapid spread of the infectious COVID-19 Delta variant. 

Americans should be really concerned. This administration is in over its head with migrant surges, yet our leaders are unwilling to reverse course on the policy changes enacted in January that are driving this spike in illegal migration. 

Even worse, as we grapple with the spread of the Delta variant, COVID-sick migrants are not being treated, but being resettled across the country. This health crisis, public safety crisis, and humanitarian crisis seems to have no end in sight. 

Border apprehension hits a 21-year high

Over 200,000 migrants were apprehended and detained along the U.S.-Mexico border in July. This is the first time in 21 years that numbers hit these highs. Here is the new data released yesterday by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) as reported by Axios:

  • 212,672 migrants were taken into U.S. custody
  • 82,966 were family members
  • 18,962 were unaccompanied teenagers and children, a 24% increase from June
  • The average number of unaccompanied children in CBP custody nearly doubled from 794 in June to 1,363 per day in July.
  • The total number of apprehensions for 2021 is 845,307 compared to 796,400 during the same time period in 2019.

The only saving grace was that most single adults and families were expelled because of the Trump-era Title 42 policy, which allows the U.S. government to turn migrants back at the border due to health concerns during the pandemic. This is a reasonable policy meant to ensure that we don’t accept COVID-sick individuals into the U.S. even as we deal with the virus and its variants within our borders. 

President Biden kept Title 42 in place despite heavy criticism by leftist groups and advocates, but we don’t know for how long. The administration had been signaling that they planned to end the policy in July, but backtracked on those plans.

COVID-19 is a growing issue at the southern border too

We reported on spiking COVID-19 cases at the southern border recently and how the problem is moving to the rest of the country. Some migrants are being moved, but not tested at or before leaving the border increasing the likelihood that COVID-positive individuals are exposing other healthy migrants as well as our border patrol agents. That also means that they are bringing COVID to other areas of the country.

A Washington Examiner commentary provided insight from former acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan who believes that “some 40,000 illegal immigrants infected with the coronavirus” have been placed into American cities.

The federal government has a responsibility to ensure that its policies and actions aren’t contributing to this health crisis. Officials claim they are putting protocols in place to mitigate the spread of COVID among these migrants. However, if border agents are overwhelmed capturing and processing migrants or overseeing the migrant children in their care, what evidence can they provide that they are also prioritizing health concerns like COVID?

Secretary Mayorkas admits the direness of the situation

In announcing the spiking apprehensions, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas stuck a grim tone calling the situation “one of the toughest challenges we face.” He added that “It is complicated, changing and involves vulnerable people at a time of a global pandemic.”

In private, he expressed that the border was in even more dire straits. According to leaked audio of the Secretary speaking to border agents, he remarked that numbers of crossings are “unsustainable.”

The administration is also admitting that these new numbers contradict their expectations of a summer slowdown. They told us that the springtime migrant flow would slow under the summer heat. The opposite has happened as migrants are willing to risk their health, safety, and life to come to the U.S. border based on the prospect that they are more likely to gain entrance under Biden than Trump. 

This is a different tone than back in March when Secretary Mayorkas dismissed talk of a border crisis. At that time he said: “It is hard and it will take time, but rest assured, we are going to get it done.” 

The job is not done yet, not even close. In fact, the spiking apprehensions signal that the situation is going in the wrong direction. There’s no indication that they will—or even can—fix the crisis.

We also have to wonder, if 200,000 migrants were apprehended, how many more got away?

The big picture

The Biden administration has bungled the border. Instead of changing course, they are continuing to barrel down a path that leaves our southern border vulnerable to drug cartels and human traffickers, our patrol overwhelmed by migrant surges, and American citizens exposed to public safety and public health harms.