The volume of illegal crossings amounts to a once-in-a-generation border crisis that has yet to turn a corner. The historic amount of illegal immigration and remarks by border security professionals suggest federal policies are ineffective at reducing illegal crossings and are leaving Texans vulnerable to security risks.
United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) reported 1.66 million land border apprehensions in the American southwest from October of last year to September of this year. Included in this figure are 1.15 million apprehensions that occurred in Texas border patrol sectors, namely, the El Paso, Big Bend, Del Rio, Laredo, and Rio Grande Valley sectors.
It is important to note that this does not include people who evaded border agents, whose resources have been stretched thin as they tend to humanitarian issues arising from human smuggling, as well as illegal aliens and children traversing the South Texas wilderness and other dangerous terrain on foot.
In terms of the nationalities of the persons taken into custody, an average of 26,010 Mexican nationals were arrested in Texas border sectors during each month of the Fiscal Year. Notably, an average of 24,529 Hondurans were taken into custody in Texas sectors as well.
In other words, an average of 31 percent were Mexican nationals and an average of 24 percent were Honduran. An average of 18 percent were Guatemalan, an average of 18 percent were “other,” and an average of eight percent were Salvadoran.
An average of 95,984 apprehensions took place in Texas border patrol sectors each month, with the Rio Grande Valley seeing the highest monthly average of 45,756, followed by the Del Rio sector, which saw an average of 21,608 each month.
Chief Rodolfo “Rudy” Karisch was a CBP officer for more than three decades and was the chief of border patrol in three sectors — Del Rio, Tucson, and the Rio Grande Valley. He began his career in law enforcement in 1983 as a police officer in El Paso, then began his tenure with the United States Border Patrol in 1986.
Karisch was also at one time the Acting Assistant Commissioner of the Office of Professional Responsibility at CBP. In addition, he was the border patrol chief in the Rio Grande Valley sector when the Trump administration implemented the Migrant Protection Protocols, also known as the remain in Mexico policy.
In an interview with The Texan, the former border patrol chief highlighted the role of illegal narcotics and pointed out that the number of apprehensions does not tell the whole story.
“Back when I was around, the estimate was […] for every person that we apprehended, two were getting away,” Karisch explained. “Now you also have to factor in how many people have actually been pulled away from traditional law enforcement duties to do the humanitarian piece, which includes the care, the feeding, the hospital, lunch.”
He added, “Nobody also seems to be talking much about narcotics, because that’s another problem that you have. It’s not only the people, it’s the drugs.”
The sophistication of drug cartels is one reason it is so difficult to get a handle on illegal immigration. Karisch said that illegal drugs are a “multi-billion dollar business,” which provides criminal enterprises the resources to infiltrate the border.
“So, they can afford to buy the best technology, they can afford the engineers to be able to tunnel under the borders. They can find ways of getting over fences that we’ve got in place, they can defeat technology,” Karisch told The Texan.
“This is not simply about illegal immigration. This is for people who are coming to the United States with other intents, and we are so focused on families with children that we’re not necessarily focusing on people from the high-risk countries that are coming here,” Karisch explained.
“When I was in [the Rio Grande Valley sector], I think we were up to 62 different countries, and I’m talking about places like Syria, Yemen, China, Pakistan, so I’m sure the numbers at this point in time on what’s happening on the border have increased, and you’re probably seeing a wider range of demographics of people coming from all over the world.”
Karisch pointed to the role that the perception of the federal government’s immigration policies plays on illegal crossings.
“So, there’s going to be a lot of different factors, which I will talk about, but as long as the administration sends mixed messages on enforcement and does little to enforce the laws of the land including deporting people who do not belong here, you’re going to have a continuous flow of people and caravans that will continue to come to the U.S. borders,” Karisch said.
It was reported last month that the administration has been releasing tens of thousands of individuals in part via the use of a parole program that has previously been used on a more selective basis.
Many illegal immigrants are from countries other than Mexico or Central American countries. For example, 72 percent of the apprehensions in the Del Rio border patrol sector in September were listed as “other.” This is in large part due to a surge in Val Verde County of thousands of individuals from Haiti.
Victor Avila was a Supervisory Special Agent in the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) division of United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Avila survived a homicidal ambush by the Los Zetas drug cartel in 2011 while he and another agent, Special Agent Jaime Zapata, were delivering equipment in Mexico. Zapata lost his life, and an investigation later found “managerial complacency” on the part of officials in the Obama administration prior to the attack and Zapata’s murder.
This year, Avila has been warning Texans about the security risks of illegal immigration, especially cartel activity and the entrance of foreign nationals from all over the globe who are not being screened properly.
Similar to Karisch’s assessment, Avila also estimated that there are one to two got-aways for each illegal alien apprehended. Consequently, the 1.66 million land border arrests are not even half of the problem.
“In my estimate, and when I talked to the agents firsthand, they think it’s at least at minimum, for every apprehension they have, there’s at least one other individual that has gotten away or that got away. So you’re looking at over three to four million individuals that have entered,” Avila explained.
He added, “In my personal experience and my professional experience, it’s at one, possibly two. So if you just double the 1.7 million, there you go.”
Avila also discussed the surge in Del Rio, mentioning that if multiple surges of that nature were to occur in different sectors simultaneously “it would basically collapse the system.”
Making clear that reported apprehensions also include those who turned themselves over to custody after crossing illegally, Avila emphasized that the numbers do not reflect that fewer individuals are turning themselves in, particularly in the Laredo sector, because many of them have criminal convictions.
“No one is actually voluntarily walking up to border patrol and turning themselves in like we see in Mission, Texas, and Del Rio, which you would think they could do because that’s the policy right now — turn yourself in and get processed under the catch and release policy of this administration,” Avila told The Texan.
He explained that much of these criminal histories include prior deportations, or serious offenses such as sexual assault and drug crimes, for which these individuals have already served prison time and been deported.
CBP reported that there were 10,763 encounters with “criminal noncitizens,” which the agency defines as “noncitizens who have been convicted of crime, whether in the United States or abroad, so long as the conviction is for conduct which is deemed criminal by the United States.” Of course, that figure only represents the criminal aliens who were caught.
The Biden administration does not seem deterred from the course it set at the beginning of the president’s term. The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has authored a new memo to abolish the remain in Mexico policy, and it recently narrowed the criteria recommending who should be deported.
Previously, a federal judge in Amarillo had ordered DHS to reinstate the policy, a decision that was effectively green lit by the United States Supreme Court.
One of the variables in reinstating the remain in Mexico policy is the cooperation of the Mexican government, which is anything but certain.
In terms of border security red flags, Avila named the criminal cartels and described their power in Mexico and near the border.
Avila said, “The cartels control Mexico, not just the border of Mexico. Of course, the border of Mexico, they have a clear control of that area, but keep in mind that they have control of most of the country in Mexico and the Mexican president has done nothing about it.”
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Hayden Sparks is a reporter for The Texan. He has coached high school competitive speech and debate and has also been involved in community theater and politics. A native Texan, Hayden served as a delegate at the Republican Party of Texas Convention in 2016. He is on track to receive a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Liberty University. In his free time, Hayden is known to take walks around the neighborhood while listening to random music on Spotify.