Another 30,306 were stopped at ports of entry, including 18,743 within the jurisdiction of the El Paso and Laredo field offices, for a total of 251,481 encounters on the southern border. 14 percent of those had been encountered at least once before in the preceding year.
Encounters in Texas sectors increased by more than three percent from November. In December 2021, the number of encounters in Texas sectors was as low as 107,239. The statistics were provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in its monthly operational update.
There was a 79 percent increase in family unit apprehensions in the Laredo sector. However, there was a 29 percent drop in arrests of single adults.
Troy Miller, CBP’s acting commissioner, commented that “early data” showed illegal immigration by Cubans, Haitians, and Nicaraguans was dropping in January, like the drop in illegal border crossings by Veneuelans in October.
“The December update shows our new border enforcement measures are working. Even as overall encounters rose because of smugglers spreading misinformation around the court-ordered lifting of the Title 42 public health order, we continued to see a sharp decline in the number of Venezuelans unlawfully crossing our southwest border, down 82% from September 2022,” Miller said.
There were 33,804 encounters with Venezuelan nationals in September compared to 8,130 in December.
Less than a quarter of the “unique encounters” in December were with people from Mexico and Central America, down from 42 percent one year ago, Miller added.
Miller is again serving in an interim capacity as CBP’s chief after permanent acting commissioner Chris Magnus was forced out following Fiscal Year 2022’s report of more illegal immigration than ever.
In December, there was also a 52 percent increase in the seizure of fentanyl by border guards, in addition to a 32 percent increase in cocaine and a one percent increase in heroin. There was a four percent drop in methamphetamine confiscated by border agents.
President Biden briefly touched on border security in his State of the Union (SOTU) address, touting the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s efforts to reduce illegal immigration from Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua, and Venezuela. The president indicated the new policies resulted in a 97 percent drop in “unlawful migration” from those four countries.
In January, Biden visited the southern border for the first time during his presidency. The White House implemented a policy whereby 30,000 individuals of those four nationalities could be admitted per month via “humanitarian parole.” Among other measures, the administration indicated that those who cannot be turned back via Title 42 will be “increasingly subject to expedited removal” and a possible five-year ban on entering the U.S.
The Biden administration is seeking to end the enforcement of the Title 42 pandemic order requiring rapid expulsions. The U.S. Supreme Court has placed those plans on hold, but oral arguments in the case are scheduled for March 1. CBP stated that one-fifth of the enforcement encounters in December 2022 resulted in an expulsion under Title 42.
Gov. Greg Abbott recently called Biden’s use of humanitarian parole in this fashion “completely illegal.” The governor made the comments as he appointed a “border czar” to handle illegal immigration full-time.
During the SOTU, the president also placed the onus on Congress to implement legislation to reform the country’s immigration system, which Democrats have cited as one of the primary causes of the border crisis.
“If we won’t pass my comprehensive immigration reform, at least pass my plan to provide the equipment and officers to secure the border,” Biden said. “And a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, those on temporary status, farm workers, and essential workers.”
“Dreamers” refer to recipients of the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) executive order promulgated during the Obama administration. New applicants to DACA are currently barred due to a federal court order.
Biden also said the federal government has captured 8,000 human smugglers and 23,000 pounds of fentanyl in the “last several months.”
In a hearing last week, members of Congress heard testimony from officials including El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego, who expressed fears about some in the GOP using the term “invasion” to describe illegal immigration. Republicans railed against Biden’s handling of the border crisis, while Democrats pinned the blame on GOP rhetoric and a “broken immigration system.”
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Hayden Sparks is a senior reporter for The Texan and a lifelong resident of the Lone Star State. He has coached competitive speech and debate and has been involved in politics since a young age. One of Hayden's favorite quotes is by Sam Houston: "Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression, come from what source it may."