By Mimi Nguyen Ly
The number of migrant encounters across the U.S. southern border for December 2022 reached a record high, with the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) reporting a figure of more than a quarter of a million.
That’s a total of 251,487 border enforcement encounters. The figure via CBP data surpasses the previous monthly record of 241,136, which was set in May 2022.
It marks a seven percent increase from the November 2022 number of encounters, which was 234,896. The latest figure also far surpasses the number of enforcement encounters of the month of December in the prior two years: 179,253 in December 2021, and 73,994 in December 2020.
Of the 251,487 border enforcement encounters in December 2022, 14 percent of involved individuals who have been stopped by a U.S. border agent in the previous 12 months.
There were a total of 216,162 unique encounters in December 2022, which is an 11 percent increase in the number of unique enforcement encounters from November 2022. The CBP says the increase is “driven largely by an increased number of individuals fleeing authoritarian regimes in Cuba and Nicaragua.”
New Border Enforcement Measures
Despite the record-breaking figure, CBP Acting Commissioner Troy Miller said that it shows the Biden administration’s efforts at the border have been effective.
“The December update shows our new border enforcement measures are working. Even as overall encounters rose … we continued to see a sharp decline in the number of Venezuelans unlawfully crossing our southwest border, down 82 percent from September 2022,” Miller said in a statement.
“Early data suggests the expanded measures for Cubans, Haitians, and Nicaraguans are having a similar impact, and we look forward to sharing the additional data in the next update.”
Miller’s remarks refer to the Biden administration’s recent border changes, which include a parole program that was launched in October 2022 targeting Venezuelans. The program allows up to 24,000 Venezuelans to enter the United States under parole authority, which grants them entry and work authorization for a year, but is not a legal status. A Venezuelan national must meet certain criteria to be eligible, including having a sponsor in the United States to provide “financial and other support.”
Under the parole program, Venezuelans who walk or swim across the border after Oct. 12, 2022, will be returned to Mexico under the Trump-era policy Title 42, which allows for blocking asylum claims and swift expulsion of most unauthorized border crossers under the grounds of keeping contagious diseases out of the United States.
Until Oct. 12, 2022, Venezuelans weren’t subject to expulsion under Title 42 because neither their home country nor another country was willing to take them. Prior to the new measures, migrants from Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Mexico were subject to expulsion from the United States under Title 42.
Biden Expands Parole Authority
President Joe Biden in early January then expanded the parole program to nationals of Cuba, Nicaragua, and Haiti, which means they can apply for parole, and if they meet eligibility criteria, they can receive a two-year permit to work in the United States. Now, the nationals from these three countries and Venezuela who unlawfully cross the U.S. southern border are now also subject to expulsion under Title 42, with Mexico agreeing to receive up to 30,000 expelled people a month.
Miller attributed the rising number of overall enforcement encounters in December 2022 to “smugglers spreading misinformation around the court-ordered lifting of the Title 42 public health order.” The Epoch Times cannot independently verify the assertion. Currently, Title 42 remains in effect for the time being due to a U.S. Supreme Court order in late December 2022.
Republican lawmakers have accused Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas of breaking immigration law in the way the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has implemented the parole authority.
Prior to it being used for Venezuelans, Cubans, Haitians, and Nicaraguans, the parole authority was implemented under Biden on a mass scale to alleviate swamped Border Patrol stations amid soaring illegal crossings, and to allow in tens of thousands of Ukrainians.
Mark Morgan, former acting CBP commissioner and Heritage visiting fellow, called the situation at the border a “catastrophic crisis” and said the Biden administration has misrepresented the situation there.
“What’s been happening at the border the last two years continues to be a catastrophic crisis, and the White House, Secretary Mayorkas, and the open-borders advocates on the left continue to lie about it,” he told The Epoch Times in an emailed statement. “Under the last Democratic president, 25,000 encounters was a borderline crisis—for the Biden administration, 10 times that number is simply business as usual.”
Morgan said the Biden administration’s open-border policies have all “abjectly failed, yet Mayorkas continues to absurdly claim the opposite.”
“No sane person could look at the border and claim we’re on the right course. Any other secretary would have long ago resigned in shame and disgrace, but it’s clear Secretary Mayorkas simply has no shame to begin with. So, Congress must immediately move to impeach him, begin meaningful oversight, and pass legislation to end the crisis and reduce illegal immigration.”
The House Oversight Committee on Jan. 19 launched a probe into the border crisis by issuing a request for multiple documents from Mayorkas and calling on multiple border chiefs to testify at a hearing to be held in the week of Feb. 6.
Since Biden took office in 2021 and scaled back or terminated key Trump-era policies, illegal immigration has soared to record levels.
More than 2.3 million apprehensions were recorded at the U.S.–Mexico border in fiscal year 2022, which ended on Sept. 30, 2022—up about 37 percent from the previous year.
“Joe Biden is the first president in my lifetime to intentionally un-secure the border. By way of more than 90 executive orders, he undid the successful Trump-era policies that brought illegal immigration to a 40-year low and gave us the most secure border of our lifetimes,” Tom Homan, former acting ICE director and Heritage visiting fellow, told The Epoch Times in an emailed statement.
“This president and his team were warned what would happen if they got rid of those policies. They did it anyway, and you’re looking at the consequences.
“More Americans than ever dying from fentanyl flooding across the southwest border. More women and children abused and sexually assaulted on the dangerous journey through Central America and Mexico. More migrants found dead on U.S. soil than ever. Record profits for the cartels as they traffic and smuggle historic numbers of drugs and people across the border.
“It’s inhumane. It’s a slap in the face to the men and women of the Border Patrol, who are absolutely overwhelmed, as well as to ICE agents who’ve been told they can’t detain or deport most of those who break our laws.”
Charlotte Cuthbertson contributed to this report.