US & World

Border Update: Encounters Down From Record Highs, But ‘The Flow Is The Same’

“The migrants didn’t go away …”

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Last month, this news outlet published an extensive report detailing our trip to the Yuma sector of the U.S.-Mexican border in southwest Arizona. We also devoted an entire episode of our Week In Review program to the deteriorating situation at the border – documenting the worsening epidemic of drug and human trafficking into our country.

Since then, we’ve shared stories about the human costs associated with the drug epidemic – which is fueled by fentanyl trafficking in the Yuma sector, where 51 percent of the fentanyl in our country crosses over.

So … what’s the latest on the border crisis?

Numbers released this month by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency – which is under new leadership, incidentally – showed a decline in “southwest land encounters” from the record numbers reached in 2022 and earlier this year. The estimated 144,571 encounters recorded in June marked the lowest total since U.S. president Joe Biden took office two-and-a-half years ago.

Good news? Not really.

In an effort to get a sense of what is happening on the ground, we reached out to former Yuma sector chief Chris Clem – who was an invaluable resource to us during our trip last month. Clem – who also served as deputy chief for the El Paso sector – has spent nearly three decades of his life protecting the U.S.-Mexican border.

In addition to his institutional knowledge and extensive experience, to use his own words Clem “pulls no punches” in his assessments.

(Click to View)

Border expert Chris Clem addresses a multi-state delegation in McAllen, Texas last month. (Twitter)

“The flow is the same,” Clem told me this week, referring to the latest encounter data. “The migrants didn’t go away.”

According to Clem, migrants are using the CBP One app at America’s entry points to gain access to our country – knowing it will take years for our backlogged court system to hear their cases (assuming they show up for court or can be located by authorities).

“All they have to do is get in line, say they tried, (then they) are processed and released into the country, left to find their way until their hearings and we know those are backed up for years,” Clem said.

A backlog of more than two million immigration cases is currently clogging our court system – giving each “asylum seeker” an average of more than four years before their case is heard. In other words, border-crossers are essentially guaranteed forty-eight months in the United States before a judge even hears their case.

“So the flow hasn’t changed,” Clem added. “Still high overall numbers – just like the president saying inflation is down. Yes, from nine percent to eight percent but that’s still up from two years ago.”

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Clem is absolutely correct. Since February 2021 – Biden’s first full month as president – CBP has recorded a staggering 5.61 million border encounters (including a record 2.4 million during the 2022 fiscal year).

Encounters under Biden have averaged 193,337 per month, according to the latest data. By contrast, there were 458,088 encounters during Trump’s final fiscal year in office – an average of 38,174 per month.

So we are talking about a scarcely fathomable 406.5 percent increase …

Last week, Yuma mayor Douglas Nicholls sat down with Jeff Crank of Americans for Prosperity for a conversation about the situation in his city.

“This porous border – it opens the door for fentanyl and all these other drugs to come into our country,” Nicholls told Crank, claiming the federal government was “busy taking care of migrants instead of patrolling the border.”

Nicholls sent a letter to Biden calling on him to declare a national state of emergency – referring to the current situation on the ground as “random chaos.”

“Enough is enough,” Nicholls said. “We need you to declare a national state of emergency because that opens up resources that we currently don’t have access to and really puts this situation in the right perspective and the right light for the country – for the national discussion.”

According to data from Gallup released earlier this month, 39 percent of Americans view the situation at the U.S.-Mexican border is a “crisis” compared to 33 percent who said it was a “major problem,” 22 percent who described it as “minor problem” and five percent who claimed it was “not a problem” at all. Those numbers were “essentially unchanged” from Gallup’s 2019 polling on the issue – however the politicization of the numbers is galling.

Only 17 percent of Democrats referred to the situation as a crisis in this month’s survey – compared to 37 percent four years ago. Meanwhile 65 percent of Republicans view the situation as a crisis now compared to 52 percent in 2019.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR ...

Will Folks (Brett Flashnick)

Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children.

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