Border Patrol chief Raul Ortiz said this week his agents encountered hundreds of thousands of migrants from more than 140 countries — the same week he told lawmakers DHS had no “operational control” over the southern border.
“So far in fiscal year 23, the US Border Patrol has arrested 900,590 people from 147 countries,” Ortiz said. The 2023 financial year began in October.
The five countries with the most arrests were Mexico, Cuba, Nicaragua, Colombia and Guatemala.
Ortiz’s announcement came as Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced that there were a total of 154,998 encounters with migrants at the southern border in February, down from the 166,010 in February 2022 and slightly down from the 156,770 in January 2023. In February 2021 there were 101,099 encounters and 36,687 encounters in February 2020.
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While still relatively high, the number marks the lowest encounters since January 2022 and the second-lowest since February 2021. In its release, CBP said 71.4% of encounters at the southern border in February were single adults. Of those affected, 46.8% were expelled under Title 42, which allows for the expeditious expulsion of migrants due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The government has linked the drop to border measures introduced in January. It unveiled a humanitarian parole program for Venezuela, Cuba, Haiti and Nicaragua, allowing entry for up to 30,000 migrants a month. It also expanded Title 42 designations to include these nationalities.
She has also proposed an asylum rule that would automatically bar migrants from seeking asylum if they entered illegally and transited another country without seeking refuge.
This will come into effect before the end of Title 42 deportations, which allow for expeditious deportations of migrants due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The order ends May 11, along with the end of the health emergency, and has raised concerns about a new surge in migration.
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Ortiz dealt a blow to the administration’s narratives about the border crisis when he addressed a hearing of the House Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday. He told lawmakers that the border is not under operational control — contradicting statements made by DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas last year — and said he disagreed with President Biden’s decision to end construction of the border wall .
BORDER PATROL CHIEF SAYS DHS HAS NO OPERATIONAL CONTROL OF US BORDER
However, DHS said the hearing “highlights the vital work that the Department of Homeland Security does every day to enforce our laws, secure our border, and fight cartels and smugglers,” noting testimonies from Ortiz and other witnesses who “New programs” showed technology and investments are having an impact.”
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“Although this administration has inherited a dismantled immigration system and is facing unprecedented migration affecting nations across the Western Hemisphere, it has hurled resources at the border, reduced the number of encounters between ports of entry, disrupted more smuggling operations than ever before, and more banned drugs have been phased out in the last two years than in the previous five years,” a spokesman said.
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