McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Migrant encounters on the Southwest border in September and for all of Fiscal Year 2023 were the most ever recorded by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, and there were significant changes in where migrants cross from Mexico this past year, the agency reports
There were 269,735 migrants encountered on the Southwest border in September — the most ever recorded in a single month by CBP. That’s up nearly 16% from 232,963 in August, and up nearly 50% from July, according to CBP data released Saturday.
September marked the end of Fiscal Year 2023, during which the agency encountered a total of 2.48 million migrants on the Southwest border — an agency record and about 100,000 more from the 2.38 million encounters in Fiscal Year 2022, according to agency data.
The increase in migrant encounters elicited criticisms of the Biden administration, some of which might have been muted by an unusual weekend release of the numbers, which typically come out during weekdays.
U.S. Rep. Mark Green, R-Tennessee, who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, said: “This fiscal year may have ended, but the historic crisis at our Southwest border sparked by Secretary Mayorkas’ policies rages on. These numbers demonstrate beyond doubt that Secretary Mayorkas’ refusal to enforce the law and secure our border is jeopardizing our safety and security.”
Green charges that CBP and Border Patrol agents “continue to be completely overwhelmed by the flood of illegal immigration.”
Although Fiscal Year 2023 totals were up just 4% from Fiscal Year 2022, Green said the totals don’t reflect the 1.7 million “known gotaways” of migrants who crossed the border from Mexico into the United States.
He also linked the infiltration of undocumented migrants on the border with those who caused the Oct. 7 incursion in Israel and said “our country is less safe.”
CBP officials countered that more forces than ever are guarding the Southwest border.
“In response to high rates of encounters across the Southwest border in September, CBP surged resources and personnel. We are continually engaging with domestic and foreign partners to address historic hemispheric migration, including large migrant groups traveling on freight trains, and to enforce consequences including by preparing for direct repatriations to Venezuela,” Acting CBP Commissioner Troy Miller said in a statement.
“CBP will continue to remain vigilant, making operational adjustments as necessary and enforcing consequences under U.S. immigration law,” he said.
Miller added that if $14 billion in supplemental funding is approved by Congress, which was requested Friday by President Joe Biden, then he said it “would provide critically needed additional resources including additional CBP agents and officers to support our essential missions: from border and migration management, to countering fentanyl and keeping dangerous drugs out of our communities.”
Adjustments likely will be geographic as the ebb and flow of migrants into U.S. border communities changed significantly in September from previous months.
Arizona’s Tucson Sector had the most migrant encounters in September at 51,000 — up 109% from 24,359 encounters in June, according to CBP data. And for Fiscal Year 2023, the Tucson Sector recorded a 48% increase in total migrant encounters.
By contrast, El Paso saw a dramatic dip in migrants at the end of the fiscal year. In December, 55,769 asylum-seekers crossed into the West Texas border city, but that dropped 46% in September to 38,148, CBP reports.
Nevertheless, El Paso overall saw a 39% increase in migrant encounters this fiscal year that just ended with 427,471 crossing in Fiscal Year 2023 from 307,844 in Fiscal Year 2022. And the sector reported the most migrant encounters of any sector on the Southwest border.
South Texas also saw significant migrant encounters in Fiscal Year 2023. The Del Rio Sector reported the second-most migrant encounters on the border in Fiscal Year 2023, with 393,226; followed by the Rio Grande Valley with 338,337. Both of these sectors, however, saw a dip from Fiscal Year 2022: 18% in Del Rio and 27% in the RGV, CBP reports.
The Southern California sectors saw overall migrant increases with a 31% uptick in San Diego and 30% increase in El Centro.
The Laredo Sector saw the largest drop in migrant encounters, 57%, in Fiscal Year 2023.
Most of the migrants crossing into South and West Texas in Fiscal Year 2023 were Venezuelans. But that trend might end as the Biden administration has begun deportation flights to that South American country for the first time in several years.
The first deportation flight left Harlingen, Texas, on Wednesday carrying 130 migrants back to Venezuela.
On Monday, the Welcome With Dignity grassroots migrant advocacy campaign issued a statement about the new deportation flights to Venezuela calling it “abhorrent” to return asylum-seekers to a country where the United Nations has documented human rights violations.
“Venezuela is the only country in Latin America currently under an ongoing investigation at the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity. Undoubtedly, many of the asylum seekers and migrants on the plane risked unimaginable danger, including a voyage through a dangerous stretch of jungle in Panama to get to Central America and, ultimately, the U.S.-Mexico border to seek refuge and safety,” said Welcome With Dignity Campaign Manager Melina Roche.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at SSanchez@BorderReport.com.