The U.S. hit another immigration milestone–one not to be celebrated. Some 1.7 million people were apprehended attempting to enter the U.S. illegally in the 2021 fiscal year, a new record. 

Our southern border is a magnet for individuals seeking security and a better life. It’s understandable that people facing desperate situations are making their way here, but lax border policies are undermining our immigration system.

The Biden administration is increasingly recognizing that policies from the Trump administration worked. Keeping them in place is the right move, but too late to stop the large flows to the southern border such as the latest 60,000-person caravan from Central America.

The numbers

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) released total fiscal year 2021 (October 2020 to September 2021) data on apprehensions.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • 1.734 million people apprehended either between ports of entry by the Border Patrol or through official ports of entry who were detained by CBP officers.
  • 2021 apprehensions were nearly 4x the FY 2020 apprehensions, nearly 2x the FY 2019 apprehensions, and 3.5x the FY 2018 apprehensions.
  • 192,000 people were apprehended in September, below July and August numbers which were both above 200k, but above May and June. 
  • 61 percent of those apprehended were expelled under Title 42, the health order permitting the government to turn people away because of the pandemic.
  • The FY 2021 total eclipsed 2000 and 1986 when apprehensions of illegal migrants surpassed 1.6 million.

Between the lines

Although, the number of apprehensions slowed in September, they still remain near historic highs.

There are two big problems that the raw numbers do not address though: escapism and recidivism.

On the latter, how many people are repeat offenders, meaning that they were apprehended before, expelled, and then returned again? According to Washington Post reporting, “Recidivism rates have exceeded 25 percent in recent months, twice as high as in previous years.” Turning people away doesn’t stop them from trying again.

Increasingly, migrants believe that their persistence will pay off. The reward of gaining entry outweighs the risk of getting caught because there’s no penalty or no enforcement of the penalty for illegally entering our nation.

Many of these migrants want to be caught. They are turning themselves into border patrol and claiming asylum to gain entry right away. As data demonstrates, the overwhelming majority of these cases get denied by U.S. courts. That’s why it’s important to reinstate the Remain-in-Mexico policy immediately. If someone is seeking safety, they should do so from the nearest place of safety. That doesn’t have to be this side of the U.S.-Mexico line.

The other issue of escapism is just as concerning, although it doesn’t get nearly the same amount of attention.

How many people evaded U.S. authorities but have managed to disappear into our country? According to Border Patrol, these so-called “gotaway” incidents have reported averages of more than 1,000 per day in recent months for perhaps as many as 400,000 gotaways in 2021.

If that’s accurate, as many as 2 million people would have entered the U.S. illegally not 1.7 million.

Policies matter

The flows of migrants are different today than back in 2000 and we can point to policy changes, especially this year, as the cause. 

Two decades ago, single men from Mexico looking for work led the flows of migrants. Today, Central American families and unaccompanied minors turning themselves in to claim asylum, increasingly comprise migrant flows. 

Whether because of Biden day-one policy reversals or rhetoric that aims to distance this administration from the previous, people worldwide received the signal that America is more welcoming to illegal migrants and our southern border is open for business. The cartels have been more than willing to trumpet this message and exploit people’s desperation for their monetary gain, even if it’s not true.

America has always been welcoming to migrants, such as to me and my family. One million people immigrate to the U.S legally each year. However, we expect people to apply through legal channels and not abuse special processes to gain entry such as our asylum system that should be reserved for those truly fleeing life-endangering persecution and oppression.

Title 42 and Remain in Mexico have been powerful weapons in the federal government’s arsenal to maintain order at the southern border. Leftists are pushing to get rid of these policies, but President Biden knows they work, which is why after being forced by courts, the administration is readying for Remain in Mexico to be reinstated. Perhaps, they expect the end Title 42 soon. 

Vice President Kamala Harris has been missing in action since her brief touchdown at the southern border. Her missive while there not to come to America was taken about as seriously as her motivation to get to the root causes of migration. Just look at the next caravan working its way to the southern border reportedly with 60,000 people.

Instead of playing politics, we need our leaders to be firm and not waver for political gain. Americans deserve better than the chaos that has reigned at our southern border and an apathetic White House which only cared when mainstream news outlets pay attention to faux racist storyline.