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Illegal border crossers since 2021 total more than individual populations of 38 states

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The number of illegal border crossings at the northern and southern borders and all ports of entry since January 2021 totals more than 8 million people, greater than the individual populations of 38 U.S. states.

Put another way, the number of foreign nationals from all over the world believed to be primarily illegally entering the U.S. is comparable to the populations of eight Delawares, four New Mexicos, two Oklahomas or more than 13 Wyomings.

While most media attention has focused on southern, and more recently, northern border encounters, these numbers don’t account for all nationwide U.S. Customs and Border Protection encounters. CBP’s 20 sectors include U.S. territories and ports of entries nationwide that aren’t solely located at the northern and southern borders.

In an interview with The Center Square, former acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection Mark Morgan, who was also chief of U.S. Border Patrol, delved into the numbers.

“The issue I run into all the time is people only count Border Patrol apprehensions or southwest border encounters only,” he told The Center Square. “Both fail to provide the total encounters by CBP, especially [when these numbers don’t account for] the unlawful use of the CBP OneApp and parole” policies being implemented by the Biden administration, he said. “All ports of entry, not just southwest border land ports of entry are being used to facilitate encounters.”

According to publicly available CBP data, national apprehensions/encounters include those reported at all air, sea, and land ports of entry. With CBP’s fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, as of June 7, total nationwide encounters for fiscal 2021 was 1,684,586 (from January, when Biden took office, to September 2021); 2,766,582 for fiscal 2022 and 2,096,346 so far for fiscal 2023 through May.

In the first 28 months of the Biden administration, total CBP encounters nationwide are at least 6,547,514 (January 2021 through May 2023).

However, this total excludes gotaway data, which CBP doesn’t publicly report. Border Patrol and CBP Office of Field Operations agents tally gotaways in their respective internal tracking systems but the data is not released to the public. Gotaways is the term they use to describe foreign nationals who illegally enter the U.S. who don’t make asylum or other immigration claims and intentionally seek to evade capture by federal, state and local authorities.

While agents would normally attempt to track and apprehend them and report their findings, they’ve largely been prevented from doing so because they’ve been pulled from their border security duties to process illegal foreign nationals and release them into the U.S. according to new Biden administration policies, agents have told The Center Square.

There are at least 1,454,000 known gotaways reported by Border Patrol and CBP Office of Field Operations agents from January 2021 to April 2023, Morgan says, according to FOIAs he’s filed with CBP.

In fiscal 2021, there were at least 308,655 known, reported gotaways; in fiscal 2022, 606,150; in fiscal 2023 at least 540,000 so far, he says, but that number’s on track to exceed one million.

The Center Square has been reporting preliminary monthly gotaway data compiled solely by U.S. Border Patrol obtained from a Border Patrol agent on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal. Because it doesn’t include CBP OFO gotaway data, the total gotaways data will always be higher.

However, the preliminary data is being changed on the back end through a “reconciliation” process, the agent told The Center Square. After agents report their findings, for a range of reasons, sector chiefs change them, and in some Texas sectors, the agent said, gotaway numbers don’t make sense. They are significantly lower than what was previously reported with the same high volume of foot traffic.

The reported gotaway data also doesn’t adequately portray how many foreign nationals are illegally entering, the agent and others have explained to The Center Square, because they don’t account for the unknown number who get through who aren’t detected and therefore aren’t reported.

In an attempt to explain this, outgoing Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz recently testified before Congress that gotaway data is underreported by roughly 10% to 20%.

When adding 6,547,514 official CBP total national apprehensions and confirmed 1,454,805 gotaways from January 2021 through April 2023, and at least 60,327 gotaways The Center Square reported last month, illegal border crossers since Biden’s been in office total at least 8,062,646.

That’s greater than the estimated individual populations of 38 U.S. states, all U.S. cities with the exception of New York City, all U.S. counties with the exception of Los Angeles County, and the populations of over 120 countries.

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