Illegal immigrant encounters in February surge to record high for month

There were 189,922 total enforcement encounters in February, a figure that includes people who presented themselves to agents at ports of entry.

Juarez, Mexico, Nov. 15, 2022: Migrants from Venezuela cross the Rio Grande to surrender to Border Patrol. (David Peinado Romero/Shutterstock)

The number of illegal immigrants encountered between ports of entry or who presented themselves to customs officials in February soared to the highest level compared to any prior February on record, new data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) shows.

There were 140,644 illegal alien encounters between ports of entry along the southwest border, per CBP data released on March 22, which does not include people who evaded capture.

This is the second-highest number for any February on record — except in 2022, when 159,170 illegal immigrants were caught crossing between ports of entry.

Meanwhile, there were 189,922 total enforcement encounters in February, a figure that includes people who presented themselves to agents at ports of entry. This is the highest figure for any February on record.

This number includes 42,100 people who presented themselves at ports of entry with appointments using the CBP One app, which the Biden administration bills as an expansion of “legal pathways” for migration into the United States but one that critics say should still be counted as illegal immigration.

Mark Krikorian, executive director of the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS), has argued that the CBP One app lets illegal immigrants “essentially schedule their illegal immigration into the United States.”

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton sued the Biden administration over the use of the app, in line with a recently adopted asylum rule that streamlined the preapproval process for people who might otherwise be denied entry into the United States.

“The Biden Administration deliberately conceived of this phone app with the goal of illegally preapproving more foreign aliens to enter the country and go where they please once they arrive,” Mr. Paxton said in a May 23, 2023 press release.

The Biden administration has defended the use of the CBP One app, with CBP calling it “a key component of DHS’s efforts to incentivize noncitizens to use lawful, safe, humane, and orderly pathways.”

“Use of the CBP One™ app to schedule appointments at ports of entry has increased CBP’s capacity to process migrants more efficiently and orderly while cutting out unscrupulous smugglers who endanger and profit from vulnerable migrants,” CBP said in the March 22 press release.

Going by the rationale put forward by the executive director of CIS and the Texas AG, then the total number of illegal immigrants encountered in February is the highest for any previous February on record.

The latest data comes a day after a group of over 100 illegal immigrants was seen bursting through a razor wire barrier in El Paso, Texas.

El Paso incident blame game

A viral video posted on social media on March 21 shows hundreds of illegal immigrants rushing past a group of Texas National Guard troops trying to keep them from gaining entry into the country.

The official union of the U.S. Border Patrol, which is administered by Border Patrol agents’ personal funds, posted the video on X, blaming President Joe Biden’s policies for the desperate situation along the southern border.

“Joe Biden’s America, where anarchy is encouraged and rewarded,” the group said in its post.

“This is only going to get worse,” the group wrote in a separate post. “It’s just the beginning. The anarchy Joe Biden and his radical leftist mob have unleashed on Americans is despicable.”

Video taken near El Paso, Texas, shows illegal immigrants tearing down a barrier and overwhelming members of the Texas National Guard. (Jennie Taer/X)

The union’s criticism tracks with that often expressed by critics of the Biden administration’s border policies, including Republicans and former President Donald Trump, who recently accused President Biden of pushing open border policies as part of a cynical bid to expand the Democrat voter base and stay in power for decades.

The White House blamed Republicans and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott for the dramatic scenes when the 100-plus illegal immigrants were filmed bursting through the concertina wire barrier on Thursday.

“So on this border video, what does President Biden think should happen to adult men who are assaulting and overpowering U.S. National Guardsmen?” Fox News White House correspondent Peter Doocy asked White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre during a Friday briefing.

Ms. Jean-Pierre replied by saying that the Biden administration was “grateful” that Border Patrol agents were able to get the situation under control, before blaming Texas’ Republican governor for his hardline policies on border security.

Mr. Abbott “has made it difficult for them” and is “politicizing” the problem of illegal immigrants pouring across the border, she said, while blaming Republicans for “getting in the way” and accusing Congressional Republicans of not wanting to help by rejecting a border agreement that came out of the Senate.

Senate Republicans blocked the Emergency National Security Supplemental Appropriations Act, arguing that it didn’t do enough on border security.

Commenting on the video, Mr. Abbott said in a post on X on March 21 that the Texas National Guard had quickly regained control and was “redoubling the razor wire barriers.”

Mr. Abbott again took to X on March 22 to say that more razor wire had been installed and more soldiers deployed to El Paso.

“We continue to redouble and reinforce our efforts. Texas will keep taking historic action to protect our state — and our nation — from Biden’s disastrous open border policies,” he wrote.

Illegal immigration has become a key concern among voters this election cycle, with a recent Monmouth University poll revealing that about six in 10 Americans believe that illegal immigration is a “very serious problem.”

That’s a sharp increase from 2015 and 2019, when prior Monmouth polls found that 43 percent and 49 percent, respectively, held that view.

The poll also showed that, for the first time in the survey’s history, a majority of Americans support building a Trump-style wall along the U.S.–Mexico border.


Tom Ozimek | The Epoch Times

Tom Ozimek is a senior reporter for The Epoch Times. He has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education.