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Border crossings surpass 250,000 in December, reaching record high

38 people on terrorist watch list caught crossing US border

Migrants sit outside the Migrant Resource Center on September 19, 2022, in San Antonio, Texas. The San Antonio Migrant Resource Center is the place of origin of the two planeloads of mostly Venezuelan migrants who were sent via Florida to Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. | Jordan Vonderhaar/Getty Images

More than a quarter million people illegally crossed the United States’ southwest border in December as concerns about the border crisis continue to loom large for affected communities. 

Statistics released by United States Customs and Border Patrol reveal 251,487 encounters between federal law enforcement officials and migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border in December 2022. The astronomical figure marks a record high for the monthly number of illegal border crossings, blowing past the previous record of 241,136 set in May 2022.

In the first three months of fiscal year 2023, which began in October, law enforcement officials have encountered 717,660 migrants. The number of monthly border crossings has consistently remained above 200,000 since March of last year and have never dropped below 100,000 since January 2021, when President Joe Biden took office. 

In addition to concerns that the surge of illegal immigration puts a strain on the resources of small border towns and cities like El Paso, Texas, which declared a state of emergency late last year, the explosion in border crossings also poses a public safety threat. CBP data show that the number of apprehensions of individuals on the U.S. government’s Terrorist Screening Dataset, which consists of known or suspected terrorists, has reached 38 in the first three months of fiscal year 2023.

For comparison, in fiscal year 2022, federal immigration officials apprehended 98 individuals on the Terrorist Screening Dataset between ports of entry along the southwest border. The number of such apprehensions last year constituted a noticeable increase from the 16 encounters between border officials and individuals on the Terrorist Screening Dataset in fiscal year 2021. In the previous four years, the number of known or suspected terrorists captured was measured at three, three, six and two, respectively.

The news about the record number of border crossings comes less than three weeks after Republicans retook control of the U.S. House of Representatives. While the Republicans achieved a narrower-than-expected majority and failed to retake control of the U.S. Senate in last year’s midterms, the party’s capture of the House was attributed in part to Biden’s low approval ratings, particularly on illegal immigration.

The RealClearPolitics average of polls taken since the beginning of 2023 asking Americans for their views on Biden’s handling of the immigration issue show his net approval rating 31.5 points underwater, with a 62.5% disapproval rating. One of the polls included in the dataset, conducted by Quinnipiac, showed his net disapproval rating at a record high of 45 points.

The president’s net approval rating on immigration is lower than all other categories measured by RealClearPolitics and significantly lower than his overall approval rating, which is just 9.7 points underwater. Meanwhile, Biden is blaming Republicans for the border surge.

In remarks at the White House Friday, the president addressed the situation, attributing the explosion in border crossings to congressional Republicans’ refusal to embrace “comprehensive immigration reform.” According to Biden, “They can keep using immigration to try to score political points, or we can help solve the problem. Immigration reform used to be a bipartisan issue. And we can make it that again, in my view.” 

Biden visited El Paso two weeks ago, marking his first-ever trip to the U.S.-Mexico border. Critics derided his visit as “$20 billion too little and two years too late,” with Texas’ Republican Gov. Greg Abbott delivering a letter to the president reading in part “your visit avoids the sites where mass illegal immigration occurs and sidesteps the thousands of angry property owners whose lives have been destroyed by your border policies.”

Like most critics of the Biden administration, Abbott pointed to the president’s policies as the reason for the border surge. Slamming what he characterized as Biden’s “failure to enforce the immigration laws that Congress enacted” and “open-border policies,” Abbott laid out actions the president could take to solve the border crisis.

“You must stop sandbagging the implementation of the Remain-in-Mexico policy and Title 42 expulsions, and fully enforce those measures as the federal courts have ordered you to do,” he wrote. The Remain-in-Mexico policy, implemented by the Trump administration, required migrants seeking asylum in the U.S. to remain in Mexico while their claims were adjudicated. Title 42 enabled border officials to quickly turn away most migrants seeking entry into the U.S. due to public health concerns stemming from the coronavirus pandemic. 

Throughout the Biden administration, Title 42 has become the subject of litigation, with the U.S. Supreme Court ordering the Trump-era policy to remain in place while the justices consider the case of Arizona, et al. v. Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of Homeland Security. Both Title 42 and the Remain-in-Mexico policy were credited with reducing the flow of illegal immigration at the southwest border. In fiscal year 2020, where those initiatives were in place for more than half of the year, there were only 458,088 border crossings. 

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: ryan.foley@christianpost.com

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