Illegal Border Crossings in May Reach Highest Single-Month Total in Two Decades


How’s addressing those root causes going, Mr. President?

Apparently not well. For the third month in a row, Customs and Border Protection announced it had apprehended more illegal immigrants than at any time in the last 20 years. In May, it was 180,034.

It was hard to find good news in the data.

On one hand, the number of unaccompanied minors was down from the March high of 18,951. On the other hand, the 14,158 apprehended in May was still far higher than the numbers before Joe Biden’s presidency; in January, during which the Biden administration had just 11 days to set policy, only 5,850 unaccompanied minors were caught. The number was still the third-highest on record, according to the Washington Examiner.

The number of individuals in family units who were caught trying to illegally immigrate were also down to 44,639 from the March high of 54,114. And then you look at January’s numbers in that category: 7,066.

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Also, all of this was offset by 121,082 single adults, up from 111,478 in April.

The CBP said this was all driven by a hefty dose of recidivism.

Keep in mind, those aren’t just individuals, they’re individual apprehensions. According to The Washington Post, 38 percent of those detained by border enforcement had tried to enter previously within the last 12 months.

“The large number of expulsions during the pandemic has contributed to a larger-than-usual number of noncitizens making multiple border crossing attempts, and means total encounters somewhat overstate the number of unique individuals arriving at the border,” the CBP said in a statement.

Is there a border crisis?

Here’s your interesting thought for the day: Somewhere, a Customs and Border Protection employee sat down at a laptop to craft a spin document explaining why we broke yet another monthly record in terms of border apprehensions. Their explanation was that we were expelling those we apprehended because of COVID guidance, but we were unable to prevent them from trying re-entry. Thus, you should know that “total encounters somewhat overstate the number of unique individuals arriving at the border,” and that’s supposed to allay some of your fears about our capacity to prevent illegal immigration.

At the very least, the new record wasn’t as quite as much of a spike as the two previous record-setting months.

In March, the 173,337 apprehensions made was a leap of more than 72,000 from February. In April, the 178,854 was a jump of 5,517. This month, the record wasn’t even broken by 2,000. Maybe the Biden administration can sell this as “15 Weeks to Slow the Surge”?

If that sounds a bit flippant and unserious, it would fit right in with the rest of the administration’s response.

Aside from a slip of the tongue in April, the president has refused to refer to the situation at the southern border as a “crisis.” He delegated a diplomatic role to Vice President Kamala Harris to try to work out a solution to those “root causes” with the so-called Northern Triangle countries of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. Well over two months into that role, she made her first international trip to Mexico and Guatemala this week.

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Upon her return, Harris gave an ill-advised interview to NBC News’ Lester Holt on Tuesday, who asked why she hadn’t been to the southern border yet.

“At some point, you know — we are going to the border. We’ve been to the border. So this whole, this whole, this whole thing about the border. We’ve been to the border. We’ve been to the border,” she answered.

“You haven’t been to the border,” Holt replied.

“And I haven’t been to Europe,” Harris said with a laugh. “And I mean, I don’t — I don’t understand the point that you’re making. I’m not discounting the importance of the border.”

I don’t see why these “root causes” aren’t just solving themselves. They aren’t, however — and that may have something to do with the fact that, speaking Monday in Guatemala, Harris sounded a little bit more like the former president than the current one.

“Do not come. Do not come,” she told potential illegal immigrants. “The United States will continue to enforce our laws and secure our border.”

Yes, but there’s an awful lot of it to secure and not a lot of fencing securing it — not in the least because Democrats have spent decades fighting physical barriers on the border.

According to the Washington Examiner, only about 8,000 of those who were apprehended in May came through a port of entry. The rest entered through unsecured areas.

So far in fiscal year 2021, which began last October, 929,868 apprehensions have been made at the border. In all of fiscal 2020, there were roughly 459,000.

The Biden administration is operating 10 emergency child care centers throughout the United States to deal with minors who arrived without parents, where they’re held an average of four weeks before they can be placed with adults.

On addressing illegal immigration, when it comes to focusing efforts on addressing “root causes” vs. border security and walls, I’d say border security and walls have decidedly won the opening rounds.

This is what happens when politicians send the message they won’t take illegal immigration seriously and find out the hard way that, lo and behold, migrants believe them.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture