SW Border ‘Encounter’ Numbers for September Still Not Released, But FY2021 Expected to Set Record

By Patrick Goodenough | October 21, 2021 | 4:25am EDT
Migrants cross the Rio Grande near Del Rio, Texas in September. (Photo by Paul Ratje/AFP via Getty Images)
Migrants cross the Rio Grande near Del Rio, Texas in September. (Photo by Paul Ratje/AFP via Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) – Almost three weeks into October, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) still has not publicly released the number of “encounters” with migrants trying to enter the U.S. illegally at the southwest border in September.

When released, that data will provide final figures for the just-ended fiscal year, and show whether the number of apprehensions of illegal migrants along the U.S.-Mexico border in FY 2021 sets an all-time record high.

The Washington Post reported Wednesday that the September number will be 192,000 apprehensions.

If that is confirmed, then FY 2021 will account for a record high number of apprehensions on the southwest border -- around 1,733,651.

In fact, if the figure for September is any higher than 102,028, then the total for the fiscal year will be the highest recorded to date.

(Graph: CNSNews.com/Data: Customs and Border Protection/DHS)
(Graph: CNSNews.com/Data: Customs and Border Protection/DHS)

As of the end of August, the number of FY 2021 encounters stood at 1,541,651. The previous record-highest number of southwest border encounters was 1,643,679, in 2000.

CBP data on apprehensions along the U.S.-Mexico border date back to 1960. It also has apprehension figures going back to 1925, although they apply to nationwide encounters so are somewhat higher than those for the southwest border alone.

Still, between 1925 and 1960 the annual nationwide figures only once exceeded one million (1,028,246, in FY 1954). So the record-highest number of southwest border encounters since 1960 (1,643,679, in 2000) is also the record-highest since 1925.

This calendar year has seen a sharp increase in the number of encounters on the border – from 78,414 in January, to 173,281 in March, to a two-decade monthly high of 213,534 in July.

The CBP figures going back to 1960 show than annual numbers of southwest border encounters exceeded 1.5 million just five times – in 1986, 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000.

On the lower end of the scale, the number of annual encounters fell below 100,000 nine times – between 1960 and 1968.

From 2007 the number of annual apprehensions of illegal migrant along the U.S.-Mexico border began dropping, a pattern that largely held until 2018. But 2019 saw a sizeable jump – from 396,579 to 851,508 – and then in FY 2020, much of which was affected by the coronavirus pandemic, the number fell back again, to 400,651.

If the September figure of 192,000 apprehensions is confirmed, then the fiscal year total of 1,733,651 will mark a 278 percent increase from FY 2020, and a 77 percent increase from FY 2019.

It’s not clear why CBP has not yet releasing the data for September. In recent months, figures for each month have been made public between the 10th and 16th of the following month.

Queries sent to CBP media relations officials on Monday afternoon had brought no response by late Wednesday.

‘Broken system’

Earlier this week President Biden’s nominee for commissioner of the CBP, Chris Magnus, conceded during a Senate Finance Committee confirmation hearing that the situation on the southwest border was deeply problematic.

“I agree, we have some significant challenges at the border,” Magnus said in response to questioning from ranking member Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho).

“The numbers are very high, and it is something that has to be addressed. Clearly we have a broken system,” he said. “So yes, senator, I will commit to enforcing the law.”

Under questioning from Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) Magnus, who is currently police chief in Tucson, Ariz., said “surges” of people crossing the border had been taking place for years.

“We’ve never had a surge like this,” Lankford interjected. “This is the highest number ever in the history of our country.”

“Senator, I understand your concerns and I don’t disagree with you that the numbers are – are very high,” Magnus said. “But the bottom line still remains that, you know, first and foremost we need to enforce the law.”

“And secondly, we need to have a process that’s humane and efficient, so we can deal with those who are coming across the border, whether it be to seek asylum or for other purposes.”

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