Illegal Border Crossings Plummet in FY 2020
FAIR Take | October 2020
President Trump’s response to the COVID-19 crisis included the closure of everyday border traffic with both Canada and Mexico. On top of already implemented policy changes to address the migrant caravans in prior years, his administration took additional steps to stop the flow of asylum-seeking aliens from entering the United States during the pandemic. Border patrol agents now immediately return almost all aliens apprehended at the border, due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The latest apprehension numbers from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) show that the number of total apprehensions is well below the 2019 fiscal year’s count. In FY 2019, CBP apprehended 977,509 people at the southwest border. In FY 2020, they apprehended 458,088. That is certainly cause for celebration, but senior officials told the Washington Times that these numbers are primarily due to temporary, emergency measures put in place because of the pandemic.
While the overall numbers are low compared to the year prior, they continue to steadily increase. April was this fiscal year’s lowest month with only 17,106 apprehensions. That was at the onset of the COVID-19 nightmare in the United States. In September, the final month of FY 2020, CBP apprehended 57,674 aliens. That number is higher than the FY 2019 total for September of 52,546. Further, border apprehensions rose every month since April, suggesting that northbound migrants are no longer concerned about the dangers of COVID-19 in the United States or the economic crisis.
The Trump administration acted decisively by closing the borders and imposing restrictions on asylum-seeking aliens at the onset of the pandemic. But there have been no fundamental changes to our easily-exploited asylum laws by Congress, and any rollback of the administration’s temporary pandemic protections would result in a resurgence of activity at our southwest border similar to that of spring and summer 2019, when The New York Times admitted that our border was at a “breaking point.” Acting CBP Commissioner Mark Morgan said in an interview that “if we were to remove [these measures] we would likely see an influx that overwhelmed even what we saw last year when we saw 150,000 illegal aliens reach our border in a single month.”
It is also worth noting that Joe Biden, the Democratic nominee for president, promises to reverse all of President Trump’s immigration executive actions, including those addressing the pandemic that reduced the number of apprehensions at the southern border.