In December, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has experienced a significant surge in migrant encounters at the southern border, surpassing 200,000 already, with an average daily encounter rate exceeding 10,000. This escalation occurs with several days still remaining in the month, according to CBP insiders.
This rise in encounters during December has broken previous records. September witnessed a record high of over 269,000 encounters, with October following closely with over 240,000. November’s figures are pending, but December’s current pace suggests a potential new monthly record, surpassing last December’s 252,000 encounters.
The year has been marked by unprecedented numbers in both daily and monthly migrant encounters, with the fiscal year 2023 seeing over 2.4 million encounters overall. A notable incident on a single day in December saw over 12,600 encounters, particularly concentrated in Eagle Pass, Texas, where CBP agents faced overwhelming odds against incoming migrants.
This surge has prompted responses from state governments. Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs has deployed the National Guard to assist federal officials and reopen the Lukeville port of entry, citing federal inaction. Texas Governor Greg Abbott has escalated his response by transporting migrants to “sanctuary” cities, including Chicago, and signing legislation to allow the arrest of illegal immigrants in an effort to stem the flow.
The Department of Homeland Security estimates around 670,000 “gotaways” in FY23 – migrants who evaded Border Patrol. They also report releasing an average of 5,000 migrants daily to non-governmental organizations. This is in addition to the daily parole of 1,600 migrants at ports of entry and the monthly admittance of up to 30,000 migrants from Haiti, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba through the administration’s expanded “lawful pathways.”
The migrant crisis has sparked debate in Washington, with Republicans attributing it to the Biden administration’s rollback of previous border measures and advocating for stricter asylum policies and enhanced border security. In response, the administration has emphasized its strategy of expanding legal entry pathways while increasing penalties for illegal entry. It also acknowledges the need for additional funding and immigration reform legislation from Congress to address what it describes as a hemisphere-wide crisis.
Currently, Congress is discussing a $14 billion border funding proposal, part of a larger $106 billion supplemental funding request. This debate includes Republican demands for tighter restrictions on humanitarian parole and higher asylum standards. While the Biden administration has shown willingness to consider measures similar to Title 42 and increased deportations, reaching an agreement that satisfies both Democrats and Republicans remains a significant challenge. Lawmakers remain hopeful, but a resolution before January seems unlikely.