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By the numbers: Trump vs Biden on the border

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Since January 2021, when President Joe Biden came into office, the number of illegal border crossers and associated crimes have increased exponentially. That’s across the board, and in nearly every category.

While polling shows the border crisis is among the top issues for voters heading into the November presidential election, it remains to be seen how much time Biden and former President Donald Trump will spend on the topic during the CNN-hosted debate Thursday night in Atlanta.

Biden has blamed Trump and congressional Republicans for what he now acknowledges is a border crisis after years of saying there is no border crisis.

Trump and others argue Biden created the border crisis on his first day in office by reversing Trump-era border wall construction, the “Remain in Mexico” policy, Title 42 health authority expulsions, and key agreements with Central American countries and Mexico. Biden also reinstated an Obama-era catch-and-release policy that Trump halted and implemented over 60 actions House Speaker Mike Johnson argues created the border crisis.

Since January 2021, multiple states have sued to halt Biden’s border policies and House Republicans impeached Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, alleging he helped create the border crisis. None of their efforts stopped an estimated 12 million foreign nationals from illegally entering the country from over 150 countries under Biden’s watch.

Since January 2021, nearly every month and every year, new records are made with the greatest number of apprehensions at the southwest and northern borders, the most apprehensions of known or suspected terrorists, criminal noncitizens and gang members, and largest seizures of weapons and drugs reported in U.S. history.

When it comes to illegal entries and apprehensions, in the first full three fiscal years of the Trump (fiscal 2017-2019) and Biden (fiscal 2021-2023) administrations, Biden’s numbers dwarfed Trump’s.

Under Trump, there were nearly 527,000 apprehensions in fiscal 2017, 683,000 in fiscal 2018 and over 1.1 million in fiscal 2019, according to CBP data. Under Biden, there were over 1.95 million in fiscal 2021, over 2.7 million in fiscal 2022 and over 3.2 million in fiscal 2023, according to the data.

Five months before the 2024 election, Biden announced he was taking executive action to “secure the border,” but his plan, experts told The Center Square, would usher an additional two million illegally into the country and gut enforcement actions.

Encounters and arrests of criminal noncitizens also increased under Biden, according to CBP data. In the second full fiscal years of the Trump and Biden administrations (fiscal 2018 and fiscal 2022), more than 11,600 criminal noncitizens were encounters and nearly 6,000 were arrested in fiscal 2018 compared to nearly 17,000 who were encountered and over 10,300 who were arrested in fiscal 2022.

Former Border Patrol agents who worked under several administrations say the numbers reflect Biden policies that invite crime.

“When you look at the data, yes, there are more criminals being apprehended under the Biden administration, but that is because more criminals are illegally entering our country than ever before,” former Border Patrol supervisor and chaplain Frank Lopez, Jr. told The Center Square. “President Biden made it known that there would be no consequences for illegal entry. Criminals in other countries saw low-hanging fruit in America and weak leaders to exploit.”

What has happened, he said, is like “putting a stack of money in the middle of a park and catching the people coming in to get it. There are more criminals coming in because they were invited in. The Biden administration created the magnet for increased crime.”

Apprehensions of known or suspected terrorists (KST) also increased under Biden, with the highest on record in U.S. history reported in fiscal 2023 of 736, with the majority at the northern border.

Former Border Patrol Chief Mark Morgan has warned that a terrorist attack is likely imminent. He told The Center Square that the data “shows terrorist watch-listed individuals are coming here every day and they aren’t stopping.”

Over the past several years, Morgan, other border security experts and the DHS Office of the Inspector General have warned of heightened terrorist threats citing Biden administration policies. The policies include federal agencies not properly vetting foreign nationals, releasing them into the country, not being able to track them or know where they are, The Center Square reported.

Trump argues he created the most secure border in U.S. history and the border crisis is a “Joe Biden invasion” that is destroying America.

While Biden has blamed Trump for the border crisis, some Democrats are distancing themselves from Biden, recognizing border security is a top concern among voters.

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