Migrant encounters at the southern border of the United States have surged past 200,000 in December, according to Customs and Border Protection (CBP) sources. With over 10,000 daily encounters on average, this marks a significant increase.
The current surge in December follows a year marked by record-breaking daily and monthly encounters, as well as a historic fiscal year with over 2.4 million encounters in FY23. This article delves into the latest statistics, the impact on border agents, and the ongoing debate surrounding immigration policies and solutions.
Record-Breaking Numbers in December
December has seen an astonishing rise in migrant encounters, with over 200,000 reported so far. This number surpasses the previous monthly record set in September at over 269,000 encounters. October also exceeded 240,000 encounters, and November’s numbers have not yet been released.
Comparatively, December of the previous year recorded over 252,000 encounters, setting a record at the time. If the current rate of approximately 10,000 daily encounters continues, it is likely to surpass last December’s record.
Challenges for Border Agents
Border agents are facing immense challenges as they cope with the surging numbers. On one day in December, there were over 12,600 encounters, setting a new daily record.
This occurred during a surge into Eagle Pass, Texas, where agents found themselves outmanned at an alarming ratio of approximately 200:1 with migrants. Another mass crossing of over 700 illegal immigrants took place in Lukeville, Arizona, highlighting the strain on resources and personnel.
State Response and Immigration Legislation
Governors in border states have taken action in response to the ongoing crisis. Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs mobilized the National Guard to assist federal officials and address the situation at the Lukeville port of entry, accusing the federal government of inaction. Texas Governor Greg Abbott has expanded efforts to transport migrants to “sanctuary” cities, including flying migrants into Chicago.
He also recently signed an immigration bill allowing law enforcement to arrest illegal immigrants, characterizing the situation as a “tidal wave” of illegal immigration.
Releases and Humanitarian Efforts
Department of Homeland Security officials reported around 670,000 “gotaways” — illegal immigrants who evade Border Patrol agents — in FY23.
The administration is also releasing an average of 5,000 illegal immigrants daily to non-governmental organizations. Additionally, up to 30,000 migrants from Haiti, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Cuba are being flown in each month through expanded “lawful pathways.”
Policy Debates and Congressional Funding
The crisis has sparked a contentious policy debate. Republicans attribute the surge to the administration’s policies, including the rollback of Trump-era border measures. They advocate for strict asylum limits and enhanced border security.
The administration contends that it is working to expand lawful pathways while imposing consequences for illegal entry. It seeks additional funding and immigration reform legislation from Congress.
A $14 billion border funding request is currently under debate as part of a broader $106 billion supplemental funding request. Negotiations center on issues such as humanitarian parole limits and asylum standards.
Prospects for Legislative Solutions
While the administration has expressed openness to a Title 42-style authority and increased deportations, achieving a deal in Congress remains uncertain. Democrats and Republicans hold differing positions on the matter, making a resolution before January unlikely.
Lawmakers involved in negotiations remain cautiously optimistic, but reaching a consensus on immigration policy reform is a complex and challenging endeavor.